In a battle of two depleted teams, the Lakers were able to beat the Sixers, 111-98. With this win, the Lakers salvaged their road trip by going 2-2 and won their second consecutive game for the first time since November 20th when they beat the Nets. This game, while having several outlier performances that aren’t likely to be duplicated too often, still give the Lakers what the they’ve lacked for much of the year — a bit of momentum. They now get to go back to Los Angeles and play only two games in the next six days, with the hope that both Pau Gasol and Steve Nash rejoin them soon.
But that’s a discussion for later. Tonight, the Lakers showed that a few standout performances can make all the difference in the world on offense while also showing that, when focused and committed, the defense could also hold up for longer stretches. Here are some takeaways from the game…
MWP = most wonderful player. Ron really brought his “A” game tonight and was the Lakers’ best player against the Sixers. Kobe may have had more points, but Ron’s 19 on 6-10 shooting was quite impressive and really helped keep the team in the game early. Ron scored 11 of his 19 in the first period and were it not for his efforts on that side of the ball, the Lakers surely would have found themselves behind after 12 minutes. Instead, they led by four.
Even more impressive than his raw point total, was how he scored them. His outside shooting (3-4 from behind the arc) was a key component of the team’s offensive attack. He also had a very nice drive and finish where he started from the right shoulder and beat Thad Young with a power drive to the middle where he used his left hand to put in the scoop. His work on the glass was also excellent with this 16 total rebounds (5 offensive) a career high. Add his stellar defensive work — his 4 steals were a game high and his off ball rotations were especially crisp — and Ron was simply fantastic in this game.
Dwight Howard had a really good game, even if the numbers don’t stand out. After the first quarter Howard had missed all three of his shots and hadn’t scored a single point. Kwame Brown was bothering him in the post and his offensive attack looked awkward at best. As the game wore on, Dwight started to find his stride and his 17 points on 7-13 shooting (and 3-3 from the FT line) reflect that. In the 2nd half, Doug Collins played Spencer Hawes more and that led to Dwight being able to establish deeper post position and get off the types of shots that he converts with regularity.
One of the reasons that Hawes saw more time, however, was due to Dwight essentially ignoring Kwame on defense in order to be a terror in the defensive paint. Dwight was rarely late in responding to dribble penetration and he changed countless shots on the evening simply by showing up early and elevating as a Sixer tried to get a quick shot off. His 3 steals and 2 blocked shots speak to some of the disruption Dwight caused to Philly offense, but they don’t do his night nearly enough justice. Howard was everywhere defensively and, simply from the standpoint of equity, I’m glad he got some offensive touches down the stretch as a reward for all the work he did on the other side of the ball.
The point guards were excellent. I’ll let commenter RR take it from here because I think he did an excellent job of putting Chris Duhon and Darius Morris’ nights in the proper perspective:
Duhon and Morris: 29 points, 6 assists, 1 turnover, 7-15 from three. For people who think Nash will not make much of a difference, or a better backup 1 would not make a difference, or who think that D’Antoni, Kobe, or Howard is the biggest problem, this is Exhibit A. Yes, the Lakers caught a big break with Holiday being out, but those numbers (which are obviously not sustainable) are great for those two guys in any context. And look what happened–a 13-point win on the road.
Morris hit his first five shots, including three from behind the arc before an ankle sprain towards the end of the half helped sap him of his effectiveness the rest of the night. Duhon, meanwhile, went 4-10 from behind the arc and was a solid floor spacer all night, mostly getting shots on the weak side and playing one pass away from the P&R action being run opposite of him. Again, you can’t expect these numbers nightly, but when both the PG’s play well, the Lakers will be very difficult to beat.
Kobe Bryant gave us another one of those nights we too often take for granted. 34 points (12-21 from the field), 6 assists, and four rebounds are fantastic numbers, but still don’t really tell the entire story. His night started out kind of rough as his ball handling issues popped up again with him losing the ball on the dribble or getting stripped as he drove to the rim to get a shot up. But as the night went on, those problems vanished and we were only left with Kobe make quick, sharp decisions on nearly every possession. His shot/pass choices were spot on most of the night, especially in the P&R where he’d either make the cross court pass quickly or engage defenders and attack the creases of the D to get a good look. Oh, and he also had two great shots in this game. The first being a double (triple?) clutch shot that he banked in after avoiding a defender and the second was a fantastic rolling hook that looked a bit like Magic’s game clincher against the Celtics all those years ago. You don’t get to 30K points without having a bunch of different shots in your arsenal and these two epitomized the totality of his repertoire.