From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Trevor Ariza came into the Lakers’ locker room afterward to see his former teammates, prompting Lamar Odom happily to feed Ariza’s son, Tajh, some candy. DJ Mbenga came in later and fell into a warm embrace with Kobe Bryant. For a night, the Lakers again looked like the team to be with and the team to beat in the NBA. They executed their offense methodically — committing just one more turnover than the franchise-low three — and beat the New Orleans Hornets, 101-95, on Saturday night.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The best we ever saw from Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal was when their differences were complementary. Shaq dominating early, Kobe closing the door late. Shaq making it fun, Kobe showing the fire. Shaq sticking with the system, Kobe bucking for more. Opposites often attract. The trick in any relationship is for that contrast to evolve in such a healthy way that mutual respect leads to individual growth. That means you see the positives in what the other person is and does, and you wind up lifting a few pages from that playbook to yours. At their best, Bryant from O’Neal better understood the benefits of sticking with the script and O’Neal from Bryant better accepted that creativity won’t kill the cat.
From Broderick Turner, LA Times: The start of a seven-game, 13-day trip for the Lakers proved to be anything but easy, even against an injury-depleted New Orleans Hornets team. It meant the Lakers had to dig down on defense. It meant they had to take care of the basketball. And perhaps more important, it meant leaning on Pau Gasol to deliver. The grind-it-out 101-95 victory over the Hornets on Saturday night at the New Orleans Arena could be a harbinger for the Lakers because of the difficult road they still must travel on this trip. For now, the Lakers will take starting out 1-0, happy that Gasol was the aggressor once again after his talk with Kobe Bryant in which he demanded that the 7-foot forward be a force. Gasol had a season-high 34 points on 13-for-17 shooting. He missed only one of his nine free throws.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: First half offense. A few of L.A.’s 22 first half field goals (on 39 tries, good for over 56 percent) were fortunate. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol each hit some very tough floaters in the mid-post late in the shot clock, for example, but for the most part the Lakers posted an offensive efficiency of 140 over the first 24 minutes (thanks for the number, Forum Blue and Gold!) thanks to top shelf shot selection, good ball movement, and better recognition. Start with the first bucket of the game, where the Lakers found Andrew Bynum with Aaron Gray in his hip pocket, in great position. Nice feed, easy move, bucket. Or Kobe Bryant setting up Marcus Thornton in the mid-post, feeling what was supposed to be a double from David Andersen and casually spinning away from the paint before rising and kissing the jumper off the glass. Or a great sequence in which Gasol kicked from the right block to Derek Fisher in the corner, only to instantly get the ball back as the Hornets lost defensive spacing. Dunk.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: That’s because for most of the night, the Laker offense could not be halted. The champs executed splendidly with the rock, turning it over just four times and using fast, smart ball movement to attack the paint and earn plentiful visits to the free-throw line. Pau had his best offensive performance in eons. He had everything working: spot-up jumpers, hook shots, baseline spin moves, finishes in transition. Along with his 34 points (on only 21 shots, including free-throw possessions), he collected 10 boards and had three nooice assists. Just as influential were the contributions of Kobe Bryant, who scored 32 points on 26 shots and whose five assists led the team. When Pau and Kobe are both this sharp and are working in rhythm with one another, the Lakers are too much for almost any opponent. It’s a testament to how well the Hornets played that they hung close until the final moments.
From Zach Lowe, The Point Forward: The Lakers are 0-4 combined against the Spurs, Heat and Celtics after Thursday’s loss to San Antonio, inspiring an unusual form of panic among both the high-strung die-hards and the intelligentsia, some of whom are speculating that perhaps the Lakers should deal Andrew Bynum for Carmelo Anthony. Here are some things about the 2010-11 Lakers: They are on pace to win 56 games. Last year’s championship team won 57 games, and though this group has benefited from an easy early-season schedule, it’s still close to last season’s win pace. Their average point differential, per 100 possessions, is +7.3. Last year’s number: +5.1. They are 9-10 overall against teams above .500. They went 25-20 against winning teams last season, and they’ll have plenty of chances over the last 31 games to jack up their current mark.
Lastly, LakersNation.com’s latest podcast features a segment with Kurt Helin and another with John Sally. Make sure you check it out.