Since Pau Gasol was traded to the Lakers in February 2008, the Lakers have never won a game where both players didn’t play. Against the Kings that changed with a 113-102 victory that offered a lot of highlights and some big performances from nearly every player who got onto the floor.
This win really was a team effort. Nearly every player — basically everyone except Jodie Meeks — gave close to a peak performance and, more specifically, were able to play to their strengths in a way that really accentuated their value to the team. Consider the following:
- Steve Nash racked up 12 assists and added 19 points on efficient shooting.
- Dwight Howard totaled 17 rebounds along with 5 blocks while doing a good job of establishing the post on offense.
- Antawn Jamison came off the bench providing an excellent scoring punch, scoring a team high 27 points on a variety of inside and outside shots.
- Steve Blake was the consummate floor general in running the 2nd unit, but also added very good production with 16 points and a very impressive 8 assists.
- Earl Clark was energetic and provided a little bit of everything from a stats standpoint with 11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and a blocked shot.
Only Ron with his 22 points on 10-13 shooting really stepped outside his normal role (defense first) to provide a real offensive spark and a creator of offense in isolation and in hitting his spot up jumpers. Don’t get me wrong, Ron is capable of this type of performance, but he actually played more of a Kobe-lite role than the one he typically plays for the Lakers.
But every other player essentially played his normal role but did so at a level that was at or very close to their peak level play for the team. When you get that type of play from nearly every player who sees the floor, the expectation is that a win would follow. That was exactly the case for the Lakers tonight, even though the Kings were a very game opponent (as we mentioned they would be in the preview).
Really, that total team effort is what made this game so fun to watch. These guys were having fun out there and were really playing for each other, producing results in the process. You could see it in every extra pass (which there were plenty), in every high five, in every smile when a teammate did something great.
And, there were plenty of great moments. Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison were stunning in their ability to hit shots and, more simply, just execute the play in front of them by being better than their man. Jamison was not just hot from the outside, but he timed his cuts perfectly and did a great job of finishing on the move. Blake was not just hitting shots as a spot up shooter, but was creating looks for himself and his teammates off the dribble. On one memorable play, Blake dribbled along the baseline and underneath the hoop, took a b-line up the side of the paint, and then threw a nifty lob to Dwight who laid the ball in for an easy deuce. The play looked so much like one the other Steve would make that you had to double take to make sure it actually wasn’t Nash.
And the night was filled with moments like that from every player. Whether it was Nash hitting leaning jumpers coming out of the pick and roll or Dwight protecting the paint for the entire 2nd half (while playing 20 of the 24 minutes) to make sure that the Kings would have to win this game from the outside, there were just countless big plays from so many different guys that it’s hard to single anyone out.
Everyone was good; everyone helped get this win. Even Meeks and Clark — who weren’t nearly as sharp as the rest of their teammates — soaked up some valuable minutes and played hard when they were on the floor. And even though they didn’t have the same positive results, they were right there trying their best and cheering on their mates who were producing.
That’s what this game was about. The Kings aren’t a world beater and the Lakers, though short handed, were favored to win this game for a reason. But the way they went about their business — not letting the Kings’ shot making get them down; never giving in — was just a great sight to see. The ball moved, guys were cutting hard off the ball, and no one seemed to worry about anything besides making a good play. Efforts like this not only make you smile while you’re watching it, but make you proud too. Just a very good team win for the Lakers.