Some things never change; there’s still that annoying cowbell at Arco Arena, Kobe’s all-around brilliance, Derek Fisher’s clutch shooting and the Lakers reigning supreme over the Kings. The House that Mitch built continued its early season steamrolling of the league tonight, this time knocking off Sacramento 112-100 to improve to 5-0. Let’s take a look at some of the keys to the game…
* His knee is 100%. Or so he says. If you’re the rest of the NBA, you better hope Kobe is telling the truth, because if this is #24 at only 80 or 90%, it’s going to be darn near impossible to knock off L.A. this season. Bryant decided before the game that it was time to turn the Kings’ franchise into his personal playground, pretty much shooting, passing and rebounding at will while Sacramento’s defenders remained mostly helpless for the 36 minutes he was on the floor. The results: 30 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists for Bryant’s 17th career triple double and first since Jan. 21, 2009. Other than a down stretch in the first half of the fourth quarter, Kobe absolutely dominated this game in every which way.
* Admit it; you breathed a sizable sigh of relief when Odom quickly returned after wincing in pain for several minutes during a key stretch the third quarter — apparently the result of re-injuring his thumb. That is how much a consistent Lamar means to this still short-handed Lakers squad right now. Odom is in full beast mode through five games, playing at a level he has historically reserved more for big game atmospheres. Once again, he had the full arsenal on display, tallying 18 points to go along with eight boards.
* The young Kings remind me a little bit of the Thunder in that they’re a talented, hard-working bunch who have shown a lot of potential in a short period of time. With Tyreke Evans at the helm and some promising players like DeMarcus Cousins, they are starting to build a foundation for what could be a very solid team in maybe two years. Even after going down big in the second half, they refused to concede to a clearly superior Lakers team, fighting all the way back to within seven in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. They actually out-hustled the Lakers on the glass, winning the rebounding battle 49-43, including a 12-7 edge in offensive boards. L.A. quickly reminded the Kings, though, that one of the most important attributes to a winning team is poise. It doesn’t hurt to have Derek Fisher on your side either, who did his best impersonation of his fourth quarter performance during Game 3 of last year’s Finals against Boston.
* L.A. closed out quarters and halves just as championship teams are expected to — decisively. Just when you thought Sacramento was about to embark on a game-changing run, there Odom, Fisher and Co. were, quickly erecting brick walls to counteract the Kings’ offense. It was a balanced attack, too, as perhaps for the first time this season, the bench (only 5-19 shooting tonight) wasn’t a key story in deciding the outcome of the game, while all five starters scoring in double figures.
* Guard penetration remains a problem spot for the Lakers. Evans, who was plagued by foul trouble for much of the night, still managed to charge his way down the lane for 21 points, with Francisco Garcia following closely behind with 17 off the bench. You have to think Bynum’s return will rectify this some, but L.A. will eventually find themselves on the other side of victory if they continue to let the Evans’ of the league bobsled their way uncontested through the heart of their defense.
* All things considered, the Lakers mostly aced their first back-to-back test of the season. The requisite energy was there, even if it led at times to a bit of a track meet with the Kings. Letting the Kings and the Arco crowd back into the game is a no no, but the talent disparity between the two teams made up for the L.A.’s defensive lapses in the fourth quarter. It worked tonight and will probably work against a struggling team like the Raptors this Friday, too. Portland on Sunday is another story, though.
* Lastly, congrats to Kobe for breaking the Lakers franchise record for regular-season minutes played tonight, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s previous record of 37,492. Another game, another amazing career feat for Bryant.
Great wrap-up, but let me write a brief abstract for you:
The Lakers won–and the game was lots of fun–for everyone.
I agree with most of your comments.
The key difference this year, for me, is that Lakers no longer give me heartburn for their play. Last year’s version was playing so poorly a lot of the times that even they win, they give a lot of heartburn. During mid-season I even declined to watch them so I maintain a regular heartbeat.
This year is different. Lakers is playing with a lot of poise. Almost the result does not matter, as long as they play controlled like this game. Now I am can watch the games with peace.
It is funny that ESPN almost refuses to cover Lakers. They would rather put Clippers on their front-page rather than the Lakers. CLIPPERS!! And they completely ignore the Lakers’ game in their Daily Dime, and they have an article on Heat even they DID NOT play today. Hilarious!
But I think it helps Lakers to “fly below the radar”, which helps.
kobe had such a great game… he is clearly getting healthy fast. im amazed by the fact that he had almost no lift in europe just a couple of weeks ago and now he is just dominating again… he deserves so much respect for what he is doing.
btw: who else thinks its very funny how pierce celebrated his 20000 points? first the gestures at the ft-line and then the picture on the daily dime…
it is a great accomplishment, but still…
and last but not least: has garnett managed to be even more unlikeable with his recent comments?
god, i hate the celtics
4. I still think they should have brought out the wheelchair for him before those free throws.
As for KG, I was surprised people some people were actually reluctant to believe he said what Charlie V said he did. C’mon, could there possibly be something KG would be less likely to say on the court than “You are a cancer to your team and the league?”
Maybe he was just telling Jerryd Bayless something like “I shall make your offensive ineptitude clear to all by defending you on all fours.”
Sorry, got carried away there. Masterful performance by Kobe, and a win is a win. I’m pumped up by the fact that even though the offense is firing on all cylinders we still have a ton of room to improve on D; when it inevitably (hopefully?) tightens up, some good times will be had.
T. Rogers says
Remember Fred Sanford and his mock heart attacks on “Sanford and Son?” Well I felt one of those coming on at the sight of Lamar leaning over in pain clutching his thumb. The first thing that crossed my mind was Mike Miller and his January return date.
I let out a huge exhale when I saw Lamar back on the floor with a smile on his face.
Joel B. says
mwl20…that gave me headaches but heartburn. lets just hope we don’t have to suffer too much throughout the season. I don’t know the deal with ESPN. They never show respect to the Lakers.
But last nights game was entertaining. I like this new Pau. He’s playing with confidence and should I say killer instinct that we aren’t accustomed to seeing. Pau is on the attack almost every single possession. Everybody talking why or why not the lakers will repeat. But if Kobe is healthy and Pau continues how he’s playing, they will be extremely tough. One more thing to note, I think Pau’s playmaking as increased because he’s seems to always be in attack mode. I think he’s figured out how not to be passive but still be a team player.
The lakers look good so far. They should go to 6-0 and then they have a real test versus Portland Sunday.
Phillip Barnett says
The Morning Links are up:
Don’t mean to be a fact-finder, but Fisher’s dominant performance in the 4th quarter during the 2010 finals was in game 3, not game 2 (3rd bullet point).
Jeff Skibiski says
#9 Thanks for catching that typo…I’ve updated the post.
Great recap! The difference between this year and previous years…. our depth is amazing. When we have Blake, Barnes, and Brown out there (in lieu of Sasha and Luke thank goodness!) I LOVE it.
We’re able to play at a high level for the full 48 minutes now!
Even though you’d expect the Lakers to coast for most of the year, their depth will keep the wins piling in. What I’m saying is that this could be the winningest team Kobe’s ever been on, besting the 2000 squad.