With three minutes to go last night the Lakers latest reset season almost hit the pilings. Fortunately, they dug down and found enough energy and purpose and a few extra points and held off the Pelicans. The seven-game Grammy trip starts now and regardless of who they’re facing, this team simply can’t afford to take a quarter or an eighth or a sixteenth off. The Lakers are playing for the right to make the playoffs and the margin for error has long since left the building.
One of the obvious storylines last night was the benching of Pau Gasol late in the fourth quarter – the same stretch that saw New Orleans coming perilously close to stealing a win. It’s highly doubtful that Mike D’Antoni intended any slight at all. It’s a telling reminder however, that deeply ingrained habits can be tough to break. D’Antoni’s talking a good game about defense and collaborative efforts but his instinct was to go with Antawm Jamison whose own ingrained habit is to score the ball. It ultimately worked but it was a risky gamble at a time when newly-regained team chemistry is still tenuous.
Mark Medina for Inside the Lakers also writes about Pau’s frustration.
Brian Kamenetzky on Sulia, relays Mike D’Antoni’s explanation for Jamison over either Metta or Pau.
Kevin Ding at the OC Register examines Kobe’s latest twist – the playmaker.
Metta World Peace has been all business on the court this season. Off-court is another story – Eric Pincus at the L.A. Times brings the story of MWP’s foray into the world of reality TV.
It’s Steve Nash’s first return to the US Airways Center tonight – Ben Bolch at the L.A. Times speculates about the fans’ reaction.
The Great Mambino at Silver Screen and Roll put together a writers roundtable on the subject of Dwight Howard – franchise or not?
Greg Beacham for AP Sports and Yahoo gives a nice recap of last night’s game.
Rey Moralde at NBA Sports City offers a recap of last night’s slate, including LAL/NO and the late Portland rally against Dallas.
Ernest Tolden for ESPN Stats & Info; Lakers thrive as Bryant lends a helping hand.
The Dallas Mavericks somehow managed to blow a 21-point lead in Portland last night. As of right now, the Lakers have moved into 10th place in the west. It sounds fairly ridiculous but it’s better than 12th which is where they were a week ago. Ahead of them though? Portland, whose buzzer-beater win against the Mavs puts them three games up on the Lakers. This is what it’s going to be from here on out – a mind-numbing game of inches for the eighth seed and it’ll get downright ugly not to mention confusing, before it’s done.
Kobe Bryant has worn every hat this season – scoring leader, defensive specialist and now the assist man. He has been emptying the clip so to speak, one way or another. His efforts have not just been on the court. He has pushed the guys and has bolstered them and when things were at their worst, brokered what the coaches had been unable to – a meeting of the minds. It was as it usually is with Bryant – showing by doing. Much has been made of his latest role but make no mistake – Kobe Bryant is a restless and shape-shifting basketball spirit, driven by an all-consuming need to win. One of the best things that Mike D’Antoni can do is to fully buy in from his own end – resist the hunger for instant offense and let Bryant call the game on the floor.