Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant both had very good nights in the Lakers 99-92 win over the Washington Wizards. Gasol finished with 28 and 12 to go along with three assists and a block. He was able to get to the line 14 times, making 12, putting pressure on the Wizards front line all night. Bryant scored 24 with three rebounds and four assists. The 24-3-4 seems like a rather mild Kobe-line, but 20 of those points came in the second quarter, when he outscored the Wizards by five himself.
From the Press Enterprise: The Lakers needed only about 5 ½ minutes of Kobe Bryant’s absolute best to give another shove to the stumbling Washington Wizards. Coach Phil Jackson will need a whole lot more out of Bryant and his teammates when they head out on a late-season trip that will provide the final big test of their fitness to defend their NBA title. Bryant scored 20 of his 24 points on a variety of jump shots during a dynamic second quarter, and Los Angeles sent the Wizards to their 11th straight loss, 99-92 on Sunday night. Pau Gasol had 28 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who won their sixth straight after a three-game skid. They had little trouble with woeful Washington in the first three quarters, jumping to a 26-point halftime lead after another memorable quarter by Bryant, who did all of his second-quarter scoring from at least 12 feet away, including three consecutive three-pointers in the final moments.
From the OC Register: Kobe Bryant wasn’t quite on target with his predicted NCAA Tournament winner, as Kansas fell in the second round. Bryant was much sharper doing what he does best Sunday night — making his own baskets. His second-quarter barrage spurred the Lakers to a 99-92 victory over the Washington Wizards at Staples Center. Bryant had 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the second quarter, when Washington as a team managed just 15 points on 7-of-19 shooting. The Lakers let up later but went into halftime with a 59-33 lead after the Wizards committed four consecutive turnovers without making a shot. Bryant hit three 3-pointers in that time. Bryant finished with 24 points, one shy of Alex English’s 25,613 for 12th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring chart. With starting center Andrew Bynum missing his first game because of a strained left Achilles’ tendon, the Lakers had little trouble running their offense through Pau Gasol (28 points) and Bryant.
From The Lakers Nation: On this Noche Latina at Staples, L.A.’s favorite Spanish representative, Pau Gasol, dominated quickly and accurately inside. Pau’s stroke of late has looked exceptionally smooth. He’s going at the basket strong, his mid-range jumper looks sharp as can be and even his free throws are finding their way into the hoop. Finishing the night off with 28 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and one block, Pau appears back to his usual, quiet dominating self. With the absence of Andrew for the next couple of weeks (hopefully no more than that), the quality of Pau’s time on the floor needs to be as efficient and pristine (minus the four turnovers) as it was tonight. Kobe Bryant, who for the last few games has taken on the role of facilitator, locked in offensively in the first half tonight. His 3-point shooting has been somewhat M.I.A. since his return from injury, but tonight he launched and hit three 3-pointers in a row without breaking a stride. With 24 points on 10-17 shooting, not to mention four assists and three rebounds, Kobe’s obviously aware of what he needs to contribute without another scorer like Andrew on the floor.
I’ll begin this section with Pau Gasol again. I’m not going to take anything away from his very complete game last night, but I would like to see him finish more of those shots around the rim when he is fouled. Like I said, he went to the line 14 times, and not one of those trips to the line was an And-1. I didn’t really start paying attention to this until the fourth quarter, so I’m not sure if he’s not keeping the ball high enough to where he’s not able to get a quality shot off when he’s fouled or if he was just being soft, but either way, I’d like to see him finish some of those plays with a bucket and a foul shot.
If there was an ugly portion of this post, it would be the fourth quarter where the Lakers put their collective games in cruise control and just played the time instead of the Wizards. The Wizards scored 92 points, 32 of which were scored in the fourth quarter. After taking a 26-point lead into the half, there was no reason this game should have finished under a 15-point difference. These are the kind of games the Lakers need to dominate from beginning to end instead of doing just enough to finish the game with a win.
From the OC Register: It makes sense that there is a post-championship hangover, because it’s human nature to relax after success. It also makes sense that a team so incapable of sustained greatness might just not be great, after all. Perhaps the Lakers will still get to the top floor, but they’re on such a slow-moving elevator that they’re beginning to wonder themselves if something is broken here. And Lamar Odom is the perfect poster boy for this season of confusion. Odom was the one to speak out angrily after the lethargic effort two weeks ago against Toronto, ripping his team for looking lax and standing soft. But Odom just a few days before that had sounded a positive note about the team’s identity being patience. And for months before that, Odom had laughed off the Lakers’ problems, cavalierly admitting the team was “playing with too much swag,” cockily suggesting a switch on the locker-room wall could be flipped to send in another gold trophy.
From the Los Angeles Daily News: Phil Jackson wasn’t happy Sunday night. Sure, the Lakers won their sixth consecutive game. No question, they outclassed the Washington Wizards for extended stretches en route to a 99-92 victory at Staples Center. Undoubtedly, they jogged to the finish line. “It was an awful second half,” said Jackson, the Lakers’ Hall of Fame coach. “There was no intensity. We didn’t play right. We didn’t play with a full functioning group of guys. Kobe (Bryant) took one shot in the second half, and that was it. “It just says something about our lack of intensity.” Jackson also said he “talked to the team about playing the right way” and he groused about their lack of efficiency offensively, adding, “The offense is really easy to run. You swing the basketball and change sides of the floor. “The offense stalls when there’s no rhythm.”
From the Los Angeles Times: He didn’t give an opening statement as he normally does after a game. Instead, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson plopped down in his chair, looked at the media assembled before him in the interview room and said: “Open for questions.” His team had just seen all but seven points of a 28-point third-quarter lead against the hapless Washington Wizards evaporate, the Lakers sleepwalking to a 99-92 victory Sunday night at Staples Center. When asked for his assessment of his team’s overall play against a Wizards team that has the fourth – worst record in the NBA, Jackson quickly and decisively lit into his team for its lackluster play after the Lakers opened a 65-37 lead early in the third quarter. “It was awful,” Jackson said. “It was an awful second half. “There was no intensity. We didn’t play right… We just didn’t play with a full functioning group of guys. ” Kobe [Bryant] took one shot [in the second half]. Made his shot [and] that was it. So we weren’t going to come out there and play with the kind of intensity you have to play with.”
Basket Blog has a running diary of last nights game with major plays by quarter with some analysis. The Los Angeles Times has post-game interviews from PJ, Gasol, Odom and Fisher. Land O’ Lakers has some game analysis and some post-game interviews, too.
From Silver Screen and Roll: Why does the NBA think slapping the word Los in front of a team name is the way to celebrate Noche Latina? It makes little sense. It’s not like the jerseys usually read “The Lakers,” so what’s with adding a definite article? And if “Lakers” doesn’t sound especially Spanish to you, it turns out you’re right. The translation (courtesy of PAGFL) is Lagoneros, which would actually look quite cool on an alternate jersey. Why not go that route? It would offer linguistic integrity and not look like something drawn up at Taco Bell corporate headquarters. That’s the most interesting discussion topic arising from tonight’s game, a 99 to 92 Lakers victory over the Wizards of Washington. A desperately boring affair this was, wrapping up four straight contests against the NBA’s great unwashed. The Wizards have little talent and even less motivation. They presented an opportunity for the Lakers to notch an easy win, pile up some stats and get used to playing without Andrew Bynum, and sure enough, that’s how it all went down.
From the Los Angeles Times: If it’s spring, the Lakers must be waiting for Andrew Bynum, as they’re now resigned to doing for the third season in a row. Who knows, maybe someday they’ll find him! As homestands go, this one was uneventful, give or take the loss of their 7-foot starting center. They ran their winning streak to six games, however unimpressively, blowing 21 points of their 28-point lead and beating the hapless Washington Wizards by just 99-92. Showing the urgency everyone realizes the Lakers need, the fans were on their feet in the closing minutes as the Wizards closed to within eight points, cheering for … tacos. The Lakers, themselves, have talked a lot recently about their lack of urgency. Sometimes they even played like they meant it, but just when they started making headway, especially on the key issue of Bynum and Pau Gasol playing together, there went half of the tandem.
Finally, from my new website, Momma There Goes That Man: We’re just under a month away from the playoffs and the Lakers are still one of the most banged up teams in the NBA. Kobe has his busted finger, Lamar Odom has his busted shoulder, for Bynum it’s his Achilles, Luke Walton’s back is damaged and Shannon Brown has hand problems – yet, they’re still on a six game winning streak and have extended their lead to five games over Denver and 5.5 games over Dallas for the top spot in the Western Conference. With the Lakers gearing for their third road trip of the month, I think it’s time for Phil Jackson to start playing with some of the rotations. For me, I think the Lakers have too much talent to not have at least three of their top six (Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, Odom, Fish and Artest) on the floor at all times. I also feel that some players have better rhythms on the floor together than others. Remember that short stretch of basketball when both Kobe and Bynum were out with injuries? Do you remember how well Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol played together? How about when Pau Gasol was out to begin the season, remember how well Kobe and Bynum played together? I do. And I think this is something Phil Jackson can take advantage of.