If, at the start of the night, I were to tell you the Lakers would win by 11 points and do so pretty comfortably, I think we all would have exchanged high fives and gone about the rest of our Friday night. Well, guess what? The Lakers won by 11 (111-100) and did so fairly comfortably. So, high five, right?
Because while the Lakers won this game, it was the flow of the contest that many will likely have a hard time letting go of. Early in the game, the Lakers came out bombing away from long range, defending on the other end, and built up a big lead in the process. It really was as simple as the Lakers not missing shots.
After the 1st quarter, the Lakers were up 37-24. Six minutes later, the Lakers were up 61 to 32. If there was a shot to be taken, the odds were that the Lakers weren’t only finding a way to take it, but were going to make it. Three pointers fell from all over the floor and from any Laker that was taking it at the time. This really isn’t an exaggeration. Of the 8 players who had seen game time for the team, 7 had made a three pointer, including Pau Gasol. The only blemish was Jamison’s 0-1, but the team as a whole was 10-13 so we’ll excuse him.
That said, even though the Lakers were rolling, you could see things weren’t necessarily going to stay that way. The Timberwolves, though down big, were actually playing well on offense and you had to figure if they kept playing that way and the Lakers stopped making every shot taken, the game would start to turn. And, well, that’s exactly what started to happen.
With the Wolves unable to slow the Lakers in man to man situations, Rick Adelman made the coaching decision of the game by switching to a zone D. Instantly, the Lakers started to look like a different team. The shots they were taking in rhythm started to bounce off the rim. The Wolves, able to rebound rather than take the ball out of the bottom of the net, were then able to push the ball up court and attack the Lakers in the open court. Of course, with this being the Lakers’ weakness, the Wolves started to make a push. By the time halftime came, the Wolves had cut the lead down to 19 and had grabbed some momentum for the second half.
In those final two periods, the Wolves stayed in the zone and the Lakers just couldn’t find a way to break it consistently. Sure, they’d get some baskets here and there, but for the most part the Lakers settled for jumpers and, unlike the first part of the game, those shots didn’t fall. The misses allowed the Wolves to duplicate their success from the latter part of the 2nd period and continue to shave points off their deficit.
The Wolves got as close as 4 points before the Lakers finally just decided they were no longer going to settle for long jumpers and were going to get shots closer to the rim. They moved the ball inside to Gasol or grabbed an O-rebound or simply drove hard to the paint. And while that wasn’t an every play occurrence, the attacking style did set up the types of outside jumpers that the team made in the first half rather than the off-the-dribble variety that they missed in the middle part of the contest. When those shots started to fall again, the Lakers opened back up their lead and seized control back.
In the end, this wasn’t the most fun game if you sat through the entire thing. Watching the Lakers struggle with the zone and lose the majority of what was close to a 30 point lead was certainly frustrating. However, the win is what matters most and the Lakers were able to get it done. Plus, there are some real positive takeaways too. Pau Gasol filled in well for Dwight, playing well offensively and doing a reasonable job defending Pekovic. The team controlled the backboards, allowing only 8 offensive rebounds while still being able to win the battle of the glass by 17. Despite having issues with the zone, the Lakers were good at taking care of the ball with only 12 turnovers on the night.
So, overall, while there were things to be upset about, the result is not one of them. The Lakers really do need every win they can get and, despite the up and down nature of the game, this contest counts just the same. So, just remember it this way: the Lakers won a road game by 11 points and did so fairly comfortably. Sunday they get another chance to do it again.