If the Lakers are showing us anything in their recent stretch wins, it’s that they’re willing to scrap to pull out games. Yes, they’ve lost leads, but for the most part they’ve also been able to settle down and find a way to pull out the victory. Against the Nets, the Lakers did it again, with the Kobe dunk above sparking the team down the stretch to help them win the game 92-83.
Before we get to the rest of the game, however, this win also came with a loss. With 4:21 left in the game, Pau Gasol challenged a Brook Lopez shot and instantly went to the ground clutching his right foot. While he writhed on the ground in pain, there was a question if whether it was Pau’s ankle or even his knee, but the replay showed little contact to either. After the game, it was reported that Pau has a strained plantar fascia and will have an MRI tomorrow in Boston. Kevin Ding reports that Pau heard “a pop” and that the fear is that he ruptured the fascia. Obviously, we’ll have more updates as we get them, but this doesn’t sound good.
Without Gasol, though, the Lakers still found a way to win this game and for that they deserve immense credit. As they did the entire game, they battled and scrapped their way into a position where they could hold a lead. And when the Nets threatened with a run where it looked like they would take control, the Lakers were able to answer back with a big play of their own. Kobe’s dunk was a prime example, but so was Jodie Meeks’ jumper that turned a one point deficit into a two point lead in the middle of the 3rd quarter. As was Steve Blake’s jumper that pushed a two point lead to four in the 4th quarter. Earl Clark’s two free throws that tied the game at 80 before Kobe’s dunk also qualifies.
In essence, the game was filled of moments where the Lakers just battled back and never let the Nets seize the game the way they wanted to on their home court. Given the fact that the Lakers were shorthanded, resulting in wonky lineups (at one point the Lakers trotted out Blake, Duhon, Meeks, Clark, and Sacre), it’s really quite amazing that they were able to push back as often as they did to keep the game close enough where they were never out of it (and, actually, seemed to control it for most of the contest).
This really was a team win. Credit Kobe for his all around play and willingness to fight through an elbow ailment that obviously affected his jumper (he shot only 9-24). Credit Nash for hitting some big shots, but more for his ability to control the game on one end and not get overrun by Deron Williams (5-13, 15 points) on the other end defensively. Give huge credit to Earl Clark who once again came up bigger than anyone could have ever expected, scoring 14 points 6-9 shooting and grabbing a team high 12 rebounds on top of that. I could go on and on (Blake, Jamison, Sacre, Meeks all played well in spurts) but you get the picture. Everyone stepped up at one point or another and given the chance made the play in front of them to help the team.
And, ultimately, that’s why this game will likely be one of the team’s best wins of the year. Despite being down two starters and seeing Gasol go down in one of the most crucial parts of the game, the team rallied around each other and made the key plays to win. The Nets are a good team — especially at home — but the Lakers (and a nice contingent of Laker fans in the Barclays Center) rallied and didn’t let this game slip away. They kept the momentum going on their season going and did so in a way that is, for lack of a better word, inspiring. With Boston waiting in the wings and with Pau ailing potentially missing a good chunk of games, they certainly needed this emotional boost.
- One of the key reasons the Nets lost this game was because they couldn’t take advantage of the matchups that favored them all night. Deron Williams couldn’t make Nash pay defensively and while Brook Lopez had a good scoring night, he got his points rather inefficiently and couldn’t take advantage of Earl Clark on the block down the stretch.
- Gerald Wallace’s poor play was also can’t be ignored. Kobe roamed off Wallace all night like he was Rajon Rondo, but Wallace couldn’t make the defense pay by hitting shots. Wallace went 3-10 from the field (1-5 from behind the arc) and only scored 9 points.
- The difference between Steve Blake running the show and Chris Duhon can’t be overstated. Blake is just a much better floor general and also looks much more confident in what he wants to do on any given possession. At the start of the 4th quarter, Blake scored the Lakers’ first 7 points and was generally huge for the team tonight.
- Go watch that Kobe dunk again. Really, go.
- One of my favorite phrases to tweet during games is “Earl Clark, doing things”. Tonight, that statement couldn’t be more true as he was all over the court, hit some big shots, and played plus defense down the stretch. He still has holes in his game and can lose his concentration at times, but he does enough in so many different areas that he really is a valuable player for this team.
- Ebanks is so buried, you can see his feet sticking out on the other side of the earth. Guy simply can’t find any burn. As I’ve said before, it’s not like he’s not gotten his chances (under multiple coaches, too) so I’m inclined to believe he’s simply not a player or there are other issues holding him back.
- Steve Nash’s running lefty hook shot is one of the more amazing shots you’ll see. And he makes it look easy.
- Also on Nash: 17 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds. 6-11 shooting and 5-6 from the foul line. Every time he shoots I think it’s going in.
- Only 13 turnovers for the Lakers and the Nets only scored 6 points off of them. If there’s a hidden key stat from the game, this is it.
- Those who watch a lot of league pass know the Nets have a great announcing crew. Tonight, if you watched the game on NBA TV (as I did) you got to hear them do their work. Unbiased, balanced, and knowledgeable. Just a great duo.