I think that the Lakers need to win big. This is a team that the Lakers have to jump on early, and ride the momentum throughout. The starting five have been playing way too many minutes as of late. We haven’t seen the taco unit end a game since the afore mentioned game against the Warriors. The Kings aren’t big, so to jump out early, Gasol and LO have to get touches early and often. For the reserves, it’s as simple as knocking down shots. The shots that Barnes, Blake and Brown haven’t been any different in recent games than they were at the beginning of the season. A few knocked down shots from those guys will go a long way for the overall efficiency of the Lakers offense.
That’s what Phillip wrote in the game preview for tonight’s match up against the Kings. Well, Phillip got exactly what he wanted tonight as the Lakers manhandled the Kings 113-80 to end their four game losing steak in dominating fashion.
Really, not much went wrong for the Lakers on either side of the ball. Offensively, they got almost any shot they wanted when they wanted it. The Lakers moved the ball expertly and took advantage of a Kings team that over helped and consistently got caught ball watching rather than sticking to their respective man. Whether on back doors, off simple cuts, or from good solid screens, the Lakers found ways to get open to receive passes in the paint that they converted into easy baskets. And when they weren’t torching the Kings in the half court, the Lakers got out and ran to get their easy baskets at the rim. Whether it was Shannon Brown’s highlight finishes or Matt Barnes streaking for a lay in, the Lakers punished the Kings in transition and took advantage of their easy opportunities. On the night, the Lakers dominated the inside outscoring the Kings 68-30 in the three-second area and it was even worse in the first half where the Lakers held a 34-4 advantage in the paint.
But where I thought the Lakers were really good on offense was in their want to attack off the dribble and not just settle for the jumpshots that availed themselves to the team. Whether it was Kobe, Fisher, Blake, Odom, or even Artest, the Lakers as a team were consistently moving forward with the ball and trying to get something going to the rim. Obviously the points in the paint statistics speak to that, but when watching the game this aggression really stood out as much as the resulting close shots that completed the plays. Kobe especially seemed determined to get to the basket tonight as he had two dunks and several other plays where he bulled his way into the paint to get off a shot, often times absorbing contact before making the bucket.
Defensively, the Lakers were just as good as what they provided on offense . Even though the Kings hit their first four shots from the field, they also turned the ball over 3 times in that same time period against an active Lakers’ defense. The Lakers’ wing defenders pressured ball handlers and made the Kings work the ball around the court before they could get an open shot – and even most of those looks were well contested. So even though the Kings were having success by knocking down shots, they never really looked comfortable on offense as everywhere they went their position was contested by what seemed like swarms of Lakers defenders. The key defender, though, in the middle of all this action was Lamar Odom. In the first half he recorded 3 blocks, had a steal on a play where he rotated beautifully to pick off a high-low pass, and also picked up a charge on a driving King. Again, the points in the paint stat tells a lot of this story because whenever the Kings did get the ball down low there were Lakers there to block or contest the shot or give a foul to make the Kings earn their points at the foul line. This led to the Kings settling a lot from the outside because their success down low was so uneven throughout the early part of the game.
And while there was very good play on both sides of the ball, I’d be remiss if I didn’t sing the praises of the bench. The Lakers’ reserves combined for 52 points and every substitute that saw game action contributed positively. Every single Laker scored and the only bench player that didn’t get an assist was Devin Ebanks – though he did have 9 points in his 9 minutes of play in the 4th quarter. But the rookie that impressed me most was Derrick Caracter. Recently I’ve questioned if he’s truly ready to play and mentioned that one of the reasons that Pau has had to log heavy minutes is because Caracter wasn’t showing enough on defense to warrant minutes. Well against Houston that started to change and tonight his performance was even better. He showed good instincts on D with his rotations, hit the glass hard, and showed the polish in his game from the Summer that had us all so high on him. He finished the night with 10 points (a career high), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 2 blocks in 21 minutes of game action and did it while more than holding his own against Samuel Dalembert and mostly outplaying his fellow rookie DeMarcus Cousins. Whether or not this serves as a breakout game for Caracter remains to be seen but it was good to see him get extended run and play well in those extra minutes.
In the end, though, while it’s great to get a blowout win, I’m unsure as to how much you can really take from this game. The Kings were clearly overmatched and seemed to check out of this game once the lead grew to double digits. Most NBA games are marked with at least one run by the team that gets down big but tonight Sacramento couldn’t seem to muster up the effort to ever really threaten to get the lead back into that 10-15 point range that would be considered striking distance. What is obvious, though, is that the Lakers were motivated to win this game and do so in convincing fashion. During the off-days there were several reports that spoke of the Lakers getting in more film time and discussing many of the things that they were doing poorly that led to their consecutive losses. Tonight, many of those bad habits were gone. Whether they return in the next game remains to be seen but for one night (at least) they showed that they still remember how to play winning basketball on both sides of the ball and that they can execute their schemes efficiently and with good effectiveness.