Archives For Game Recap

As I wrote in my game preview, games against the Celtics just mean more. We know the Lakers aren’t a good team and that the Celtics are battling for a playoff spot in the newly rejuvenated East, but that just makes the prospect of getting a W that much more enticing. So, to see the Lakers play one of their better games of the year and pull out the victory was sweet.

To see them do it in Kobe’s last visit to Boston was even sweeter.

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The most entertaining Lakers games as of late have been where the Kobe of old reappears to distract from any notion of an otherwise “old” Kobe. Tuesday’s win over the Nuggets was one of those nights. And, early on, tonight’s game seemed to be heading in a similar direction. Kobe earned his first two points with a vintage step back jumper along the baseline, which was soon followed by an open dunk in transition and then an infinite number of those still mystifyingly effective head fakes to bring him to the foul line.

Bryant scored 17 in a first half highlighted by a few fun-spirited back-and-forth jabs with Kevin Durant. Yet, as one would expect in the second night of a back-to-back, Kobe’s legs fell flat in the next half and this development could serve as an exemplar for the entire Lakers team on the evening.

After trailing by a relatively modest 11 points after the first two quarters, the Lakers allowed OKC to (or perhaps, more accurately, OKC chose to) go on a 23-0 run to open the second half and the deficit ballooned to 31 points by the end of the third quarter. In the end, the Lakers fell 120-85.

This is a result that, truthfully, isn’t all that surprising, especially when considering a few other factors: Julius Randle and Nick Young were forced to miss the game due to an ankle and illness, respectively; the Thunder had just beaten the Lakers by 40 points five nights prior to this one and the Lakers entered the matchup with a meager 1-5 record in games held on the second night of back-to-backs.

Perhaps the lone bright spot of the evening was D’Angelo Russell seeming to have regained a bit of his rhythm after his recent down stretch. Russell got the second-most minutes on the team Wednesday (28) and shot 37.5% from the field and 57% from three en route to a partially garbage time-aided line of 18 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.

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Admittedly, I didn’t watch a large chunk of this game. Got home late in the third due to Los Angeles’ unforgiving traffic and didn’t finish eating until mid-way through the fourth. In reality, this isn’t a game I should be recapping. But with Darius receiving a DNP (Family Time) and Kobe playing well down the stretch to help seal the Lakers fourth victory of the season, I’ll drop in a few highlights and all you guys to enjoy a rare victory.
Before we get into the highlights, there were a few things that stood out while watching the game down the stretch:

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The Lakers have not had many, if any, nights like Tuesday’s at the Staples Center. Having only 3 wins prior contributes to that for sure, but it was even more than the fact the team banked another win in an account which has been too barren this year. It was, instead, in the process of getting the win how much of the action the team controlled and how the game captured the essence of what most would have hoped for this season.

A look at the box score tells a lot of the story:

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The Lakers lost to the Raptors 102-93, falling to 1-4 on their current road trip. This, in and of itself, is not news. After all, the team was 3-17 heading into the game. Leaving 3-18, especially after playing a team over .500 in their gym on the second night of a back to back should not raise any eyebrows.

Kobe Bryant shot 50%, making 8 of his 16 field goal attempts en route to 21 points. He also added 8 rebounds, 4 assists and two steals. Statistically, this was probably his best (and one of his more well rounded) games of the year. This is news. We don’t need to rehash Kobe’s level of play this year, but shooting that percentage and cutting his 3-point FGA’s to 4 is worth noting as a true positive. Yes, he still led the team in field goal attempts and dominated the ball down the stretch, but those things aren’t really going to change much, if at all, this season.

The biggest news, though, isn’t about Kobe (or another L on the schedule), but the decision by Byron Scott to remove D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle from the starting lineup in favor of Lou Williams and Larry Nance, Jr. The decision was made this morning and did not involve a sit down with either player to explain the reasoning. When Byron was asked (both before and after the game) he noted that neither Russell nor Randle were playing poorly, but, rather, that the team has been. He cited their 3-17 record and noted there needed to be a change.

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This does not mean the Lakers have no chance. And, at some point, the team is very likely to have a game where they break through, shoot well, get a few timely defensive stops, and pull out a win. Tonight would be as good a night as any to make this happen. After all, the Wizards did travel from Cleveland last night while the Lakers only came from Philly. There is a chance they will be as tired or more than the visiting team. Or maybe I’m reaching. We shall see.

The above paragraph was from Wednesday’s game preview against the Wizards. I’m not saying I can tell the future, but if you’re interested in tonight’s lottery numbers, hit me up in the comments and I might share them with you.

No, but seriously, the Lakers were due for a win. They have been a bad team this year, but coming into the game against the Wizards they were on pace for about an 11 win season. That win total would be the worst by any NBA team ever. The Lakers may be bad, but they’re not that bad.

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Over at the 76ers blog Philadunkia, I participated in a four question preview (Fo’ with the Foes) for Tuesday night’s game between the Sixers and the Lakers. One of the questions I was asked was about Kobe’s retirement announcement and how I felt about it. This was part of my response:

Now that the announcement is made, I’m most interested in seeing how it impacts the rest of the team and the tenor of the season over the final 60+ games.  Let’s face it, the Lakers are a bad team, but now they can be bad and at least have some cover that it’s Kobe’s final year and collect some goodwill that way.  But, at some point there will be calls to get the young guys more burn and I’m interested in seeing whether Byron Scott has it in him to hand over the keys to the car while Kobe is still around.

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Hours before the game started, Kobe Bryant announced he would not play beyond this season. We’ll get to that another time, but that was the backdrop to this game. The farewell tour would begin in earnest at home, two days before the team will play in Kobe’s hometown of Philly.

The crowd was ready, but the players were not. Both teams started out poorly, missing countless shots they would normally make. By the end of the 1st period, only the Pacers would have found their stride, taking a 16 point lead to the break that they would never relinquish. As I have written several times before, a game can just as easily be lost in the first 12 minutes as it can in the last 5 and tonight was a prime example of that. The Lakers would miss their first 11 shots and that was that.

Only, it wasn’t. Kinda. Sorta.

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