Letâ€™s get the important stuff out of the way first â€” Iâ€™m not sure the last time I laughed as hard as when Latrell Sprewell hurt himself on his own dunk. In case you missed it, he got up on a fast break, threw the ball down but when it came through the net it came back to hit him in the face, giving him a cut on his nose. Sure itâ€™s schadenfreude, but I think Spree still has some of that coming.
As for the gameâ€¦.
Going into the season, many of us thought that one of the strengths of this team would be its depth â€” sure there would be Kobe and Lamar, but the bench could be a strength. This is the first game the role players really won for us â€” the fivesome of Atkins, Butler, Jones, Cook and Mihm won it.
Kobe did his part â€” if not for his early 7 of 9 shooting, while the rest of the team was 2 for 22, the Lakers would have been so far out of it early that a comeback would have been impossible. Also, at the end of the game, he got to the free throw line and helped closed the game out â€” which is what he gets paid the big bucks to do.
But what the real difference was in the fourth quarter was defense. Minnesota sagged off Laker shooters and appeared to dare them to shoot the three â€” the Lakers shot 45.7% from beyond the arc and for the game had an impressive eFG% of 53.7%. (I donâ€™t mind taking threes when your open like Atkins often was, itâ€™s the ones where a player just steps back and fires away with a man on him that bother me.) Meanwhile, Minnesota had an eFG% of 50% for the game, but in the fourth quarter there were hands in their face when they took a shot, and from three-point land they shot 35.7%.
Another big key for the Lakers â€” 12 offensive rebounds (the T-Wolves had just 5), they gave themselves a lot of second chances and this was one of the few games this season the Lakers took more shots than their opponents (82 to 79).
Let me say for the record Iâ€™m not sure we make this comeback against last yearâ€™s T-Wolves. And things were not perfect for us, for example KG made Odom disappear (he does that to a lot of good players). The Lakers still had five more turnovers than their opponents.
That said there were a lot of positives to take out of this win. Mihm had another good game and Jumaine Jones continues to be a great spark off the bench hitting threes and playing good defense â€” the Lakers were +16 when he was in the game. They were +13 when Cook was in. Atkins, in a game where he needed to step up, did (although he couldn’t stop Troy Hudson). And the offense showed plenty of variety â€” isolation, triangle, pick-and-pops and more. That variety can make the Lakers a difficult team to defend.
If we can just keep playing defense like we did late, this can be a tough Laker team to beat.