The Lakers pulled out another game that was a bit closer than expected, beating the Warriors for the second time in a week, this time 120-112. There were some ups and downs, an injury scare, and guys stepping up when their numbers were called. So, while there’s still improvements to be made it’s nice to get a win and move on to the Nets on Tuesday.
After a horrid shooting day against the Hornets just 24 hours earlier, Kobe Bryant bounced back in a big way by pouring in 40 points from all over the court. He hit 16 of his 28 shots (including all three(!) of his 3 pointers) with a variety of moves that we’ve seen so many times before but never get old. And while Kobe made a fair amount of jumpers in isolation or off screens in delayed, what I was most impressed with was his movement off the ball and the work he did to make his catches in positions where he could do damage. Early in the game he went into the post against Klay Thompson and showed that he simply wasn’t going to settle for the same shots he’d been missing for several games. He also ran the floor well and made smart cuts in early offense to shake free from his man so he could be rewarded with passes that would lead to baskets right at the rim. Getting easy baskets is key for any scorer to have a good night but considering how few of them he’s gotten recently, it was nice for Bean to get so many tonight.
Kobe wasn’t alone in playing well, though. Ramon Sessions had himself quite the game too by scoring 23 points and handing out 9 assists. It wasn’t just his numbers though, but how efficiently he got them. He made 7 of his 10 shots (including 2 for 3 from three point range) and also got the line 9 times (making 7). And while he totaled 3 turnovers, none were egregious and all were the product of aggressiveness as he was either attacking his man off the dribble or looking for a wide open teammate that he just missed with an errant pass.
Gasol also played very well tonight. With Bynum going down with a sprained ankle (more on that in a second), Pau had more room to operate on the court and took full advantage to the tune of 26 points on 11-17 shooting. He was able to float all over the court – from the post to the wing – and hit shots of every variety against every defender sent his way. His 6 assists also show how integral he was to helping run the Lakers’ sets, dishing dimes to his mates when he drew extra attention and picking them out within the flow of the game. When you add in his 4 offensive rebounds (11 total for the game), Pau was a terror on offense and gave the Warriors little room to breathe with his well rounded attack.
As mentioned Andrew Bynum suffered a “moderate” sprain of his left ankle in the 1st quarter and didn’t return the rest of the night. And while post game reports say that he’s feeling okay now and that x-rays were negative, he’ll be reevaluated tomorrow. The hope is that he’ll be good to go by Tuesday but if not the Lakers will have to make due with McRoberts and Murphy. Speaking of those two, they deserve some words of recognition for their solid play tonight. McRoberts numbers don’t look that great (2 points on 1-3 shooting, 8 rebounds) but he hustled all game, pushed the ball into the front court after securing rebounds, and protected the rim well by challenging shots (even if he mostly gave fouls). Murphy’s numbers were better – 8 points on 3-5 shooting to go with 11 rebounds – and his impact can’t be overstated. He spaced the floor well by knocking down his jumper, hustled on defense, and hit the defensive glass hard. The rebounding was especially key because it allowed the Gasol to get into the front court quickly and set up on offense where he was hurting the Warriors whenever he got a touch. So, while Bynum was missed tonight, the guys that filled in for him did their best to provide solid production and were successful doing so.
The Lakers defense had a rough night. They surrendered 112 points to the Dubs and their defensive efficiency for the evening was 121.7. The argument could be made that the Warriors just hit shots but that would be more of an excuse than a reason for their effectiveness on O. The Lakers played ball screens poorly, often getting picked off too easily and leaving the ball handler open for rhythm jumpers. Off ball screens weren’t defended much better as Klay Thompson shook free on multiple occasions on simple pin downs where he could either curl for his J or flare into open space when his man tried to cheat on the pick. David Lee was also very effective in isolation against whoever was guarding him, either shooting his jumper or attacking off the dribble and getting to the rim where he was able to finish over the top of the defense with nifty flip shots and strong lay ins. Yes, the Lakers were missing Bynum to protect the paint but his absence had little to do with how often the Lakers wings got caught watching the ball while their man made a smart cut behind them or how poorly they played against simple screen actions. I don’t want to be too harsh here, but as the Lakers’ offense has gotten better their focus on defense has waned and that’s a bad habit to pick up going into the stretch run of the season. The Lakers’ D must play better, it’s as simple as that.
The Play of the Game:
While I was quite fond of Ramon Sessions’ Tyus Edney impersonation to end the 1st half, I liked this other full court attack a bit more. After getting the rebound from Josh McRoberts, Sessions saw a Warrior defense in full retreat mode, turned on his speed, and attacked the rim with reckless abandon for the finish over a contesting defender. This is the added element he brings to the Lakers and is sure is fun to watch: