(Editors Note: Long time reader and new contributor Phillip is the author of this post. He’ll be joining us here at FB&G more frequently this season with lots of goodies for all of you. Please welcome him and enjoy his first post.)
The Lakers went into Wednesday night’s wire-to-wire rout of the Jazz winners of two consecutive games without Kobe Bryant. The Jazz came into the game winners of nine straight and 13 of their last 14 games.
The Lakers came out firing on all cylinders and closed out the first quarter with two huge stops with a fast break dunk and a buzzer beating three after each stop to take a 31-18 lead going into the second. At the half, the Lakers would have a 56-41 lead, but didn’t go into intermission until D.J. Mbenga got loose on two fast break dunks. The Lakers took advantage of Utah’s lack of energy coming out of the half to raise the Jazz deficit to 19 going into the final period. And, after a Utah run at the beginning of the fourth, the Lakers were able to close out the last 6:50 of the fourth quarter out scoring the Jazz 17-13.
This third straight win can be attributed to how well Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom have played together on the floor. For the second straight night, both Gasol and Odom lit up the box score, both bigs recording double-doubles in the 96-81 victory. Gasol dropped 22 points while adding 19 rebounds and five blocks for the second straight night. Odom finished with a game high 25 points and chipped in 11 rebounds.
For those who missed the game, the Lakers Blog at Lakers.com had a running diary of the game, highlighting all of the major events by quarter.
Here, Brian Kamenetzky over at Land O’ Lakers explains how the Lakers got back to moving the ball and making better decisions sans Kobe.
“You could see it in the final sequence of the first quarter. With 27.4 seconds remaining, the Jazz came up the floor looking to get the frame’s final points. Utah’s Ronnie Price waited just past half court, allowing time to come off the clock before making his move against Jordan Farmar. With about 10 ticks left, he did, trying to come over a Carlos Boozer screen at the top of the arc.
Rather than lose Price on the drive, Farmar delivered a foul the Lakers had available. Off the inbound with 8.4 seconds remaining, Ronnie Brewer tried to penetrate, and was blocked at the rim by Pau Gasol.
Pau fed Sasha Vujacic, streaking up court with under four seconds to play. With just over a second remaining, Sasha dished to Farmar, who alertly had filled the right wing behind the arc. Farmar stepped into a rhythm triple, which he drilled, putting the Lakers up 31-18.”
Also, the K-Bros discuss Kobe’s injury and the Lakers’ reserves collective mindsets going into games without KB on their podcast.
Over at the Salt Lake Tribune, Gordon Monson does a great job in putting the Jazz’s nine-game winning streak in perspective and some analysis of Utah’s streak-ending woes for the Utah’s faithful:
“Still, playing the Lakers without Bryant is better than most of what the Jazz had accomplished in their hot streak, a span during which they had won 13 of 14 games. There were, indeed, some nice victories mixed in, but beating New Jersey, Sacramento, Milwaukee, the Nuggets without Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony, Portland without its big men and Brandon Roy, and the Clips, doesn’t inspire a whole lot of legitimate chatter about a bona fide move toward greatness.”
Just a couple of other game notes:
*Against Utah, Lakers point guard Derek Fisher competed in the 1,000th regular season game of his career. Both Fisher and Bryant, who were both drafted in 1996, were sitting on 999 wins going into the game against the Jazz. Maybe, for the first time in their long histories together, this was the first time Fish was able to beat Kobe to something.
*Also, the Lakers Lamar Odom, along with Kobe was named as one of 27 players to the 2010-2012 USA National Team. This summer, the team will be competing in the World Championship tournament in Turkey. The U.S. National team hasn’t won the tournament since 1944. Andrew Bynum declined a spot on the team.
Good job, Phillip! Congrats on joining the FB&G team.
I can’t help but wonder if the Denver loss really helped this team. It was one of those losses that makes a team realize that their half-hearted effort will not be good enough to win the title let alone the western conference this season. While we shot the ball fairly well against DEN, our defense was horrible. Even when they tried to play some defense in the 4th quarter in that game, DEN shooters, particularly JR Smith, got so hot that they were making all the HORSE winning shots. I think that loss really motivated the team to play better defense in the next three games in which we’ve won mostly with defense and teamwork. Yes, Pau and LO are the leaders of this resurgeance, but they are also two of the leaders in laid back attitude on our team. I think we should all thank the Nuggets for lighting fire under their butts.
It’s nice to go into the all-star game break with a winning streak!
Mbenga link – funniest thing I’ve seen in a while…watched it 30 times! hahaha
P.S. – How fun has this team been to watch lately?
This link is a great article about Lamar. If more Laker fans read this maybe they will understand him better. He is so important to the team but most people get lost in what the term “Inconsistency”. The guy can flat out play. That’s why he is part of The U.S. National team.
These last three games have given the rest of the league something to gnaw on during the All Star break.
Anyone that was thinking, “Those guys aren’t much without Kobe.” is now wondering.
Cannot say enough about the great effort, and clean, glorious team ball the Lakers have been playing with.
Enjoy the rest and get well Kobe and Andrew.
Well, to rehash the same old chatter…
It’s great that we look so good without Kobe & Drew, now if we can just look that good with them.
For me, the hardest thing to ascertain is where that delicate balance between Kobe’s aggressiveness and the rest of the team’s execution goes awry. Obviously, Kobe is Kobe because of that aggressiveness, but I think that I speak for many of us when I say that it looked like late last year he finally got that balance just right, throttling back a bit in order to trust his team and the system. It looks to me like he’s not doing that this year, but it’s hard to tell if he is the instigator of that, or if it’s his teammates being too timid that propels him into that more aggressive role.
The injuries are obviously a factor, but it would seem from the outside that the team would have been better served for him to basically become a role player during most of the course of the games that he is hobbling through, to trust the team and the system more, which have now proved their effectiveness over the last three games.
Anyway, I’m in love with Kobe as a ballplayer as much as any diehard Laker fan, but this stretch is definitely making me wonder, if Kobe is really that much in synch with and an extension of Phil on the court, then how is it that we are playing better team basketball when he’s not there?
Maybe he did hit that sweet spot last year, but never really turned the corner in terms of coming to a complete mastery of understanding how to channel his aggressiveness to best serve the team.
Count me among those that thought he had, but now I’m not so sure…
1 pb, interesting that you call not only Lamar but ‘Pau’ laid back. I haven’t been paying attention but perhaps Pau too was guilty of being overly passive instead of aggressive. Any thoughts anyone?
Texas Rob says
I see it the same exact way… but I have to include Bynum not being in the line up as well… Maybe our answer is see how the team plays without Bynum.
Interesting quote from PJ about Lamar possibly starting at the 4 and bringing Bynum off the bench, got this from Espn.com:
“My coaches are kind of pushing me in that direction, but I’m not ready yet to do that,” Lakers head coach Phil Jackson told The Orange County Register. “We won last year with Andrew when he came back at the end of the season, going out there and playing the first quarter and starting the games. Even though he wasn’t 100 percent when came back off his injury last year, he still gave us a lot; he gives us a big front. So I have to measure that and see what’s going to happen with this team in the next couple weeks.”
¿Laid back? The level of criticism of Gasol in this forum is absurd. Up to now, the only player whose absence demonstrably means an automatic dip in the team´s performance is Gasol.
That´s not to say Kobe is not the better player. What I mean is that we should appreciate Gasol for what he is, enjoy watching him now that we can.
Praise for him is hard to come by, even when he has monster nights and leads the team.
I have the lingering suspiction that had Bynum had two nights in a row like Gasol´s last ones (21-19-5), people would be raving about him, calling him beast, the next Wilt and whatnot. When it is Gasol who does that, it looks as if it was nothing special.
Enjoy him as you enjoy Kobe. They are THAT SPECIAL. Being realistic, when Kobe and Gasol retire, our Lakers will probably go through painful rebuilding and will probably struggle to even qualify for the playoffs. Even if Bynum develops I don´t think he´ll ever be better than big Al, and look how well the timberwolves are doing.
I have to man up and admit that I was one of those who didn’t believe the Lakers could compete without Kobe in the lineup. Our offense has looked a lot more fluid, although I believe that is more due to the absence of Bynum rather than Kobe like everyone has been saying. I think our spacing is there and there appears to be more room to operate without Bynum clogging the lane.
I have also been one who often criticizes Pau for his soft play but can’t argue with the way he’s played these past 3 games. I do think in order for us to beat a team like Cleveland, he has to hit that mid range shot like he was doing last night. He won’t get good post position against the more physical players.
The only negative (I hate to do it) I have seen these past 3 games has been Shannon Brown. He is just simply playing out of control. I don’t mind the jump shots he takes, but too many times he losses the ball because he’s playing too fast. He just needs to play more under control.
Also, Odom has looked like a top 15 player in this league these 3 games. Lets all pray he can continue this when Kobe and Bynum come back.
Avidfan is right on with his points on Gasol. Today, Dave McMenamin wrote about Gasol’s on court demeanor and how it’s completely different from Kobe’s. In the article, LO had this to say about Gasol’s “laid back” demeanor.
“I don’t think people really understand his will to win. Maybe that’s because he plays finesse. If he beat his chest every play and dunked it all the time, people would be like, ‘Oh, he’s a fierce competitor.’ But when he first came here, the first thing I noticed was how much he wanted to win. And he obviously proved it.”
Let’s face it, Gasol is arguably the most talented big man in the league right now and he has a proven leadership style. I guarantee Spain doesn’t make it to the Gold Medal game with Bynum or Dwight Howard leading that team.
I wasn’t questioning Gasol’s underlying character or will to win, I was saying that for a stretch he may have been playing passively, instead of attacking with the aggressive mentality that I know he possesses. I don’t think a finesse game equates with ‘soft’ or lack of ‘fierce competition’, but rather that a finesse game, or any game, requires an aggressive mentality to execute effectively. He doesn’t have to beat his chest, but he does have to be constantly active and ready to attack. And perhaps the Den loss and/or additional offensive burden with AB/KB being out catalyzed this mentality.
Trust me, I am as happy as anyone that Pau has been playing the way he has the past 3 games.
Phillip – but maybe they do with Tim Duncan.
I’m not sold on Howard being the “next dominant big man”. He’s freakishly athletic and a defensive monster, but as shown in the Finals last year, he’s really only got one offensive move–the dunk. The Lakers took that away from him defensively and Turkoglu became their most important player by far.
Mind you, I think anyone with any sense would take him over nearly any other starting center in the league, but I think his ceiling is “one of the best big men of his era”, not “one of the best big men ever“. Patrick Ewing, not Moses Malone.
Sadly, Pau is not immune from attacks that label him as soft when he is stuffed at the rim by Andrei Kirilenko. However, I could care less about what his “demeanor” is. Sampras and Federer were/are two of the most laid-back competitors and they happen to be the top two players when it comes to the number of most major wins.
Let’s face it. Pau has been a winner on every stage he has performed in, be it the Olympics or the European championship and the NBA. His play against Dwight last year in the finals was not a fluke. I firmly believe that when the chips are down, he will come through for us no matter who’s guarding him.
Also, I tend to think that while Kobe is on the downside of his career, Pau is still climbing toward his peak. He even said so himself after yesterday’s game. It might be tough for Kobe who didn’t want to play 2nd fiddle to Shaq even during Shaq’s prime to let Pau be the main facilitator of the offense, but I would like to see Kobe demand the ball less and let Pau be the main option.
Well said avidfan.
Pau Gasol is a winner. He’s led spain to championships and make no mistake- those were his teams.
i love his style of play and to be honest seems like a better teammate than Kobe. Obviously not a better player, but a better teammate.
This team has been a blast to watch. Kobe has said it himself- he eats first. That’s basically a quote. While that is what makes him a killer late in games when you need to close a close one out- I think it also hampers the teams ability to play team ball. I hope we find the right balance because of they play like this with kobe in the lineup ‘drew wouldn’t even matter. i love how athletic LO makes the first unit.
Phillip, was it Fish’s 1000th game or win? You mention it both ways.
It was his 1,000th game, sorry for the confusion.
It is so rediculous to read so many comments here and in other sites about how this team is better without Kobe Bryant, or making so many assumptions about the team based on 3 games.
It seems memory does not allow people to go back to the whole season and see how many games Kobe had to shoot a lot because no one else was making anything. How many games he has turned around.
Now, consider this, and I think PJ also said it. No opposing team currently has been prepared to take on a Kobe-less team. Once they prepare for it, after they have seen it for a games, they will be better prepared.
Look at all the teams that have gone on long winning streaks when they lose their main player. Houston comes to mind (remember the 22 game win streak). Portland has been winning as well. But eventually that fades. How many of those teams have gone on to something significant in the Playoffs?
I have had a lot of fun watching the last 3 games without Kobe and Drew, and have also been pondering (as many of you have) the reason we are winning. I have come to some conclusions:
1. For opposing teams facing Kobe, the face of the Lakers team and arguably the best player in the league, increases their intensity on their quest to dethrone the “top dog”. So their is a bit of a let down when they hear he is not playing.
2. Blazers, Spurs, and Jazz neither of them played well, missed wide open jumpers, turnovers, etc. This can be attributed to many factors including #1, injuries, back2backs…
3. Defenses have not adjusted to this new look the Lakers are forced to implement. Defenses think Pau+Kobe= Double team. Coaches have not made changes to compensate for the great play of LO, Farmar, Shanwow, and Ron Ron. Once teams tighten up thats when having Kobe, who can dismantle opponent’s defensive schemes, proves a vital asset.
4. The main reasons the Lakers have been playing well are because of the flow of the offense, the extra passes, the aggressiveness, lack of hesitation, and plain execution of the game plan.
Also, I think Kobe’s intensity and desire to win is so high sometimes that maybe LO, Farmar, and Pau hesitate to take certain shots or make certain passes knowing Kobe will be in their ears the next dead ball. This increased freedom with Kobe out lets them play better and learn from mistakes without being admonished.
When Kobe comes back I hope he has more confidence in his guys after watching them play and adjusts his leading style so they can build upon what the team is doing without him.
(9) Thank you!!!
LO is playing inspired BB like he did the last year here in Miami. Nice to see that again.
All of this talk about Pau reminds me of what they used to say about Kareem, another seemingly laid back, ridiculously skilled skinny big man who nevertheless just kept on winning.
I was shocked at just how active Pau is the first time I saw him play in person. His personality may be ‘laid back’, but I didn’t realize until I was in the same room with him what an incredible bundle of energy he is on the court.
I didn’t mean to put Pau and LO in the same category of being “laid back.” Clearly, LO is the epitome of that description whereas Pau is not. LO has been consistently inconsistent. Pau has been consistently good, but his level of aggressiveness is on and off from game to game. I don’t doubt either players’ ability or character for that matter. But do they sometimes get cute with the basketball? Yes, they do. Their massive talent sometimes allow them to play less intensive at times because they play it so “effortlessly”. If they play every game like they have in the last three games, that Bulls record of 72 wins and the Laker record of winning 33 straight games could fall to this group of Lakers!
New post up. You can keep commenting in this post on anything Jazz related or in response to other comments on this thread.
Wow, it was busy here while I was away. 🙂
After a 6-hour drive, I got to watch the Lakers live, the first NBA game I’ve ever been to. It was great!
Kobe’s absence made me sad, since I was really looking forward to seeing him play. the win made me very happy and energetic.
Oh, if the Laker fan in section 127, row , who had to leave half-way into the game reads this: Congratulations on your new baby! We got the win for you to make it extra sweet. 🙂
That would be “section 127, row 1”
The Lakers are not Better without Kobe. But they do Play harder. They feel like they have to. Now to get them to play Harder with Kobe. They ARE better without Bynam. He clogs up the lane where Odom and Gasol excelled the past 3 games. Also Pau can and will pass while Andrew thinks shoot only. On defense Andrew stinks on picks and reacts very slow under the hoop. They past 3 games the team was much faster on defense and had more tipped passes and steals then anytime this year. Keep Kobe and start Odom and let Andrew grow up.
It’s not that simple that the Lakers are better without Bynum. Reed had a great set of stats in a comment made in a previous thread:
As those stats show, this team plays just as well with an Odom/Bynum frontcourt as with an Odom/Gasol. I think it’s up to the coaches to try and find the right mix more often as the season progresses. I trust they will and that this team will find its stride and start to peak at the right time.