Yes, the Lakers beat the Timberwolves. They outlasted visiting ‘Wolves 106-98 to up their post all-star record to 11-1. And when you combine the Lakers’ win with losses by the Mavs, Celtics, and Bulls the Lakers were able to gain ground in the playoff standings taking a full one game lead for sole possession of 2nd place in the West while also picking up a game on teams in the East that were ahead of them in the standings. Looking at the game from this perspective, this was a good game that has yielded some positive results for the Lakers.
That said, this wasn’t that pleasant a game to watch. A brief rundown of the negatives before we get back to the good stuff:
*Kobe shot only 6-17 and was almost completely ineffective in the first half. If not for two late three pointers in the closing minutes of the 2nd quarter and some solid passing early in the game, Kobe was completely shut down by the long and athletic Wesley Johnson. Kobe relied to heavily on wing isolations early on but struggled to get clean looks against the strong contests of the Wolves’ rookie. And while Kobe recovered in the 2nd half to knock down shots, get to the FT line, and ultimately have a positive impact on the game he didn’t come out of the game unscathed, hurting his neck in a collision with Martell Webster and seething in the locker room after the game.
*Besides Kobe’s general struggles, the rest of the team also had a general sloppiness to it. The team committed 16 turnovers on the night which directly led to 18 Minnesota points. The Lakers also surrendered 17 offensive boards and lost the overall rebounding battle. And considering that going into this game the two aspects of the contest that the Lakers needed to control were the pace of the game and their defensive glass, I’d say playing poorly in these specific areas really helped the ‘Wolves hang around.
*For all the praise he’s gotten lately, Andrew Bynum now deserves some scorn. After being frustrated by the lack of a whistle on a couple of his offensive moves and dealing with some general fatigue after playing the first 16 minutes of the 2nd half, Bynum committed a flagrant 2 foul and got ejected from this game. The foul occurred when Michael Beasley drove baseline, elevated to attack the rim, and Andrew Bynum jumped into him shoulder first and simply laid him out. While I appreciate Bynum’s aggression in wanting to challenge the shot, he made no visible play on the ball and the foul was simply reckless. To the credit of Rambis and Beasley, they both shook off the play after the game and commented that it was just a hard foul and left it at that. But watching from home I was able to view the play multiple times over and I thought the play was overly aggressive and in many ways needlessly dangerous. Beyond the danger though, situationally the play was truly bad. At the time of the foul the game was tied and Bynum was having a major impact on the contest. To that point he had 10 points and 14 rebounds and was controlling the paint. To commit a foul and risk being ejected (which he was) put his team in real jeopardy to lose the game.
For all the above hand wringing however, the Lakers didn’t play all that poorly and there were several good aspects to this game that deserve recognition.
*The bench really did play well. Led by Steve Blake, the 2nd unit really helped settle the game down and got the Lakers back on track to win this game. Early on the Lakers found themselves down by 11 but Blake came in, ran the Lakers sets, hit a three, and at the end of the 1st quarter they would only trail by 6. Over the course of the rest of the game, Blake would hit a couple of other shots ending the night with 9 points on 3-4 shooting including making both of his three point attempts. Plus, as has been the case lately, Blake also played very good D, hustling around the court and doing a very good job of limiting his man’s penetration. Besides Blake, though, Barnes, Odom, and Shannon also did well in this game too. Barnes was especially active and probably had his best game since returning from his knee surgery. He chipped in 9 points, grabbed a couple of rebounds, and also added two steals. He ran the floor well and provided his usual heady play by slashing when needed and spacing the floor for the bigs when the got the ball in the post. As for Brown, he had some of his typical defensive lapses (he gambled for steals too often and shot the gaps on passes that he had no business going for) but did shoot the ball well scoring 13 points on only 8 shots. Plus, when Kobe was delayed coming out of the locker room to start the 2nd half, Shannon started the 3rd quarter with 2 made three pointers that truly helped LA start to find a needed groove on offense.
*Pau Gasol was a monster on offense. He made 12 of his 17 shots and scored a team high 25 points. As has been the case for what seems like months, his jumper was silky and he did damage against every defender that the ‘Wolves through at him. Realistically, Pau should have gotten the ball more and easily could have gone for over 30 points had the Lakers simply looked for him more in the 2nd half and used him as a closer. I’d have liked for Pau to be a little less loose with the ball (5 TO’s on the night) and for his rebounding numbers to be better (another contest with only 5 boards) but overall he played well. His defense was solid (4 blocks) and he held his own on the perimeter as the Lakers often found themselves needing to switch screens on the wing with Pau finding himself on an island against Ridnour or Beasley or Webster.
*The Lakers outside shooting was also good tonight. They made 8 of their 19 attempts from deep and all them were timely. I mentioned Kobe and Shannon’s two, but Blake also hit two (one a bailout three after Kobe gave him the ball with 3 seconds left on the shot clock), and Odom hit a big three down the stretch that pushed the Lakers lead up to 6 with only 2:32 left in the game. I’ve often said that when the Lakers make their threes they’re a very difficult team to beat and tonight that was again true as without some of those timely deep shots, this game could easily have gone in the other direction.
In the end, a win is a win and I’ll not turn it down. These last couple weeks of the season mean too much to be overly concerned with how the wins are earned, just that they’re earned at all. But the grind it out nature of the contest, Bynum’s foul (and potential suspension – the league will surely review it), Kobe’s struggles, and overall play of the team certainly left me wanting. Against many other teams this game may have ended the other way, so I’m just going to be happy for the outcome and look forward to Sunday where I hope to see a better performance that still yields the same result.
It is important not to give up any ground that we just earned tonight to Portland. They just might be our first round playoff foe.
By being a true basketball fan, I will occasionally read about (or watch) what our competition does. I respect San Antonio’s organization. They just picked up Daniel Green for the rest of the season from the D-League. While it may not seem like much, it shows how they develop their players and make sure they both see the big game up close at the end of the year, but also find out what their roles are and what they should be working on the following year. The Lakers did the same thing with Shannon but they at least afforded him some playing time. I would love if we did this with Azubuike (without the playing time of course). I would love to see what he could do in Walton’s role as a spot player next year.
Conversely, I don’t trust Boston. I see them sitting both Shaq and JO for the explicit reasoning to rest them and have them be playoff fresh. They both will probably come back five to 10 games before the end of the season for conditioning and fine tuning. At that point they become the Celts two headed monster center. I’m not afraid (though Shaq does tend to get Drew in foul trouble), I guess my disdain for (and distrust of) them is reaching playoff level intensity too.
Craig W. says
While I agree with you on Shaq, I think Kristic is a much better option than is JO at this time in their careers. Nobody mentions that the Celtics got Kristic in the trade, but he is really the key piece, for this year anyway. While he won’t dominate, he is not a black hole and he gets some rebounds. and can be somewhat athletic.
Craig W. says
I see where Rick Adelman might be leaving Houston. Now there is a good and proven coach I would definitely consider for next year, if I were Mitch. I realize Brian Shaw has first look, but just sayin’…
1, Just looking at the schedules, Portland has:
PHI @LAL WAS SAS @OKC @SAS @NO OKC DAL GS @UTA LAL MEM @GS
Compare that to New Orleans, who has:
BOS @UTA @PHO @LAL POR MEM IND HOU PHO @MEM UTA @DAL
Portland plays a lot more tough teams, like @LAL, SAS @OKC @SAS OKC DAL LAL, with only PHI, WAS, GS, and @GS being relatively easy games.
But New Orleans plays a lot low playoff teams fighting for the final spot, with @UTA @PHO POR MEM HOU PHO @MEM UTA all being games that will affect the lower Western standings.
So while I would say New Orleans has an easier schedule, they’re playing teams that will scrap hard to get a win. From here on out, every game is an important game.
I love that foul by Bynum. I honestly have been waiting for him to show a bit of a mean streak, to throw his weight around, and to be assertive. A good, hard, slightly dirty foul can wake up the referees and get some whistles going on both ends.
That slows the pace, and protects your aging, and battered, superstar. As well as protecting your very skilled, but oh so gentle, power forward. And, unlike a lot of big men, Bynum is not afraid of the free throw line.
It shows he is taking his game seriously and beginning to accept a role as one of the team’s tough guys.
Even if he is (justifiably) suspended it sends an absolute message.
Go into the paint when Bynum is defending it and be prepared to pay the price. Play the foul game on defense and Bynum won’t just slap your forearms, he might knock you out of the air like a hummingbird hitting a plate glass window…
All in all, in my opinion, that was a very professional, well delivered, dirty foul.
Bynum is ready for the playoffs.
I would agree with you if it was against any other team. Especially on we are likely to meet in the play-offs. But against the Timberwolves? No.
Craig W. says
I think Phil put it correctly – Andrew was frustrated. At this stage in his development – yes, he is still a very young player – I suspect he will remember this incident; especially if he has to sit out a game.
Did anyone notice something Beasley did to piss off the lakers? After that hard foul by Bynum, odom and barnes got in his face and acted like they were sending him a message and he deserved it. Beasley most have done something or said something to piss them off
The Dude Abides says
@9. My best guess is that he and Ron-Ron were trash talking the entire game, so that might be part of it. Also, when he got up off the floor so quickly after Drew’s hit, LO and Barnes immediately got in front of Beasley to keep Drew from getting involved in any escalation of hostilities.
Igor Avidon says
That was not a good flagrant foul by any stretch. Poor choice and poor timing. Drew didn’t even try to pretend like he was going for the ball.. and he added something extra after the hit on his way down (the little elbow shove as Beasley was on his way down). I would be surprised if there is no suspension. This all with the Blazers up next, the second-most hated team by me in the organization. Great.
That’s what I thought too Oscar. Something must of happened beforehand because it seemed like all the Lakers were on the same page after that hit.
I suspect Beasley did or said something before that play that had the Lakers riled up.
After the Laker time out at 5:57 of the fourth the Lakers outrebounded and outscored the T’Wolves, 8-3 and 16-5 respectively. I think that was awesome.
Certainly not the smartest play by Drew, although I think it was more of the “old school hard foul” variety rather than a dirty play, especially since no player or coach on either team seemed to have too much of a problem with it after the game.
Even if there’s a one game suspension, I really don’t have a problem with this. I think the Lakers can handle Portland at home without Drew, and that the team is going to come out looking much sharper on Sunday night.
And long term, I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all for opposing players to have an extra dose of apprehension when they take it to the basket against Drew. We used to see this all the time when Shaq was in the middle – the potential threat of bodily harm was just as much a deterrent to opponents as the actual defense that was being played. Every seed of doubt counts.
Rick Adelman next lakers coach??
I don’t think so.
Shaw, rambis. Lakers/championship pedigree required
And considering Kurt Rambis and Bill Laimbeer are both sitting on the Wolves bench, I wouldn’t really expect Beasley to cry about that foul too much, but I give him credit for taking it in stride.
While I agree that the play occurred at a bad time, I have to say that i liked what I saw out of Bynum there. Season after season the lakers have been labeled as soft. Even after the addition of Artest last year and Barnes this year, the laker defense especially early in the year have been known to give up uncontested layups. Now Beasley was dunking all over the laker defense or lack there of last night and I have no problem with Bynum trying to send a message. I mean, didn’t Fisher do the same in the playoffs 2 years ago against Scola? And wasn’t he applauded for what he did? Bynum’s rising play on the defensive side has shown the league that he is a force to be reckoned with. I mean just look at how he held his own against “the best center in the league”. But last night, the Lakers were once again back to there old ways and playing poor both offensively and defensively and something needed to be done. Bynum just took matters into his own hands. Now while some might argue that this will make things tougher against Portland on Sunday, I completely agree. Without Bynum’s defensive presence down there, the Lakers will be facing a tough game. However, I think that what Bynum has done will be noticed around the NBA and come playoff time, teams will be a little hesitant to go inside on the Lakers. Yes, the Lakers are on a defensive tear but that is completely different than a player who’s willing to dish a little hurt out.
I hate to say it but it was a Shaq foul. I personally loved it. Beasley was talking crap the whole game. Until of course, he got the crap knocked of him.
@Craig W #3
My point is that they will have three centers Shaq, JO, and Kristic, plus three power fowards in KG, Big Baby, TMurphy. We are actually thin compared to them. I also agree that Kristic is better than anticipated after watching him eat Kaman and DJordan alive when the Celts played the Clippers. He can shoot from outside, which causes a big to come outside with him plus he rebounds better than I thought. He had over 5 ORs against the Clips. Hopefully JSmith has something left in the old tank. I would love to pick up a big just to have someone there other than Walton (the next tallest player).
Like the idea of Bynum’s play, hate the execution. A hard foul is one thing, but taking an airborne player out by such a shove is wreckless. Imagine if it was the other way around, Milicic decking Lamar Odom for example.
A hard foul would have been coming down on Beasley’s arms or wrapping him up, leaving him the chance to keep his legs under him. But giving such a strong shove to a player completely in the air is just irresponsible. With just a little less luck, Beasley breaks his wrist or tears something in his left shoulder because that arm was caught under his body on the landing.
I also wasn’t too excited by Kobe’s performance again. I’m sure the ankle was bothering him, but to me that should be one more reason to act more as a decoy and not get into the duel with Wes Johnson as much.
Was I hallucinating or did the Lakers’ color commentator call Johnny Flynn “Griffin” for most of the first half?
Sorry if it is a wrong place for this kind of question.
we are thinking to go to the Laker/suns game on Tuesday. The game starts 7:30pm LA time. when do we need to be there and is it easy to find parking?
We stay in a hotel not too far from the staples center (~5 miles).
thank you for your help.
If this was the 80’s we would not be talking of any suspension. Have the NBA gone too soft? On another topic, here’s to those guys who easily wanted to trade Bynum for Melo http://bit.ly/f58IBO
Palani @ 21 – One option is to buy a pass to a nearby parking lot (on Blaine) from Ticketmaster. Search “Lakers Parking” and select the date you need @ $20 per car. Blaine parking is a short walk from Staples or Nokia theatre.
If you are a first time visitor to Staples, you are in for a treat. There’s a really nice display of sports memorabilia in the venue, no extra charge for admission to it. Hope you have a great time!
I have to say I love the Bynum foul. It’s not close to being bad enough to warrant a suspension and the Lakers were most likely going to win that game with or without him since the Wolves don’t have a physical Center. Teams have to know that Bynum is someone to fear in the paint aside from his dominant defense.
Re: Phil Jackson
I don’t see him leaving the Lakers as long as he thinks they have a great shot at winning championships. He isn’t in the business of turning down rings.
Is there any video of the hit Kobe took? I can’t seem to track any down.
Hornets had the Celtics in the bag in the first half, a shame they let them back out.
The Dude Abides says
The Hornets need to stay in the 7th spot and not move up 😀
Lol. Haha. The Aaron agrees.
Darius Soriano says
A new post is up.