The Lakers did something they haven’t done all season. By beating the Blazers 113-106, the Lakers finally won on both nights of a back to back. More importantly of course, was the fact that they stayed a game ahead of the Jazz in the loss column and were able to push their lead up to a full game with only three games left to play for both sides. The Lakers now head home for a three game home stand with only their opponents standing in the way of a playoff berth, not having to worry about what the Jazz do to close the season.
Much like Tuesday night’s win over the Hornets, this game wasn’t very easy on the eyes for a lot of the night. The Blazers started the game red hot from the floor, playing a loose brand of basketball that enabled them to simply flow into their offense at the tempo that they wanted. Damian Lillard (who was brilliant most of the night) began the game hitting everything he threw up at the basket, especially his shots from long range. Joining him were nearly all of his teammates who also found the bottom of the net at an astonishing rate, feasting on the Lakers’ defense (or lack thereof) to the tune of 41 first quarter points and 69 by halftime. The Lakers looked more like a team who thought they could outscore their opponent rather than needing to dig in on defense to win the game.
Luckily for the Lakers they were able to somewhat keep pace on the scoreboard. Early in the game Kobe was aggressive in looking for his own shot and it paid off to the tune of 28 first half points. Mixing in aggressive moves to the paint and a clinic of jumpers (pull ups, spot ups, turnaround fade-aways), Kobe was able to hit baskets and earn trips to the foul line to score in bunches. His attacking ways didn’t cease after the first half either. As the game went on, he stayed aggressive and ultimately poured in 47 points while also dishing out 5 assists and grabbing 8 rebounds. And, after a shaky first half of defense, Kobe picked up his intensity on that end as well, racking up 3 steals and tallying 4 big blocks to add to his line.
All told, this was one of the more complete games Kobe played as his aggression never waned, but neither did his commitment to ensuring that the game never tilted all the way in his direction.
It’s that latter point that made this game winnable as Kobe certainly wouldn’t have been able to win this game alone. He needed help and got it in the form of his two big men. Pau Gasol continued right where he left off from the Hornets’ game, scoring well and facilitating the offense from the elbows. The Spaniard connected on 11 of his 15 shots to score 23 points while also grabbing 7 rebounds, but even more importantly was fantastic in setting up his teammates by dishing out a game high 9 assists (Lillard also had 9). Of those 9 dimes, 5 of them were to Dwight Howard who had a very good, if somewhat quiet, night of his own. Howard scored 20 points on 9 of 11 shooting while pulling down 10 rebounds. While Kobe and Pau were great at having the offense run through them, Dwight was great at finishing plays, using his superior size and athleticism to score easily inside off great passes from his teammates.
When your three best players combine for 90 points on 34-53 shooting, that’s pretty good. And while the team defense struggled in the first half and had issues controlling dribble penetration for a lot of the evening, it was good to see some adjustments made at the half where the big men played higher on the P&R to help deter penetration which cut down on the number of open jumpers the Blazers got off kick-out passes. The Lakers’ defense still wasn’t that great in the 2nd half, but when their offense was humming at the level it was, all they needed was an uptick in effort and execution on the other end to slow the Blazers down to get the game going in their direction. The Lakers did just that and were able to come out with the win.
And, really, that’s all that matters. There are no style points; no reason to fuss over all that went wrong in getting this win. The Lakers needed a win and got it. They now move onto the next game and will simply try to do the same, aesthetics be damned. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to see Kobe play such an amazing game, Pau continue his resurgence, and Dwight score so efficiently while taking advantage of an overmatched Blazers’ front line. But, even if none of those things would have happened, if the Lakers were still able to win that’s all that would have mattered.
There will be a time where more extensive breakdowns and full evaluations are performed on what this Lakers’ season has been. But that will happen when the year is over. This win tonight put them in position to fight another day and delay that type of analysis a bit longer.
Sweet victory! We now control our own destiny. The stars stepped up big-time tonight. This team is finally gelling and is establishing an identity. …. Vino Mamba & Go Lakers!!
Craig W. says
At 34 years of age, after 17 seasons – playing 48 minutes on the 2nd night of a back-to-back, 47 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, 3 steals, 1 turnover. Oh, and he scored 23 points the previous night in the 4th qtr.
There isn’t a whole lot else anyone needs to say about a true leader, except that we have him and no one else does.
it really is a pleasure following this Laker team, starting from 96 when they traded for Kobe.
How time flies, and his age from draft day has now doubled. he can really be compared to a fine wine, which turns special as it ages. I just hope that no one will drink that Vino and it will not be left open so it will not go to waste. if we can surround him with solid lineup for a couple more years, he can get that elusive 6th ring. with Kobe’s game, he can still play at a high level even after his contract expires. I wish we could secure him again, and he will accept not-so-max-salary.
again, vintage Kobe tonight.
now get us to the playoffs team. from there we can start – where anything can happen.
Harvey M says
serious non-facetious question here….can someone explain to me why there is the assumption that Memphis phones it in against Utah in the last game? how does the seeding and home court work? Is the idea that if they can’t pass Denver they are locked into the 5 spot with no chance of passing the Clips and no home court in that series even with a better record against them?
blue guevarra says
Interesting quote from Pau Gasol after the game:
“It’s bittersweet,” Pau Gasol said when asked about Bryant’s dominating performance against the Blazers, in which he played all 48 minutes in a non-overtime road game for the first time in his career. “Because, I think it’s spectacular and it’s very impressive and it’s remarkable to be able to play 48 minutes and score 47 points. That’s incredible. On the other hand, I’m a player that likes to see a little bit more ball movement and better balance. I’ve always been [like that]. That’s just how I perceive this game. But again, he was incredible tonight. He scored a tremendous amount of points that I never scored in my life. So, like I said, it was very impressive and it’s not something that you do every night, of course.”
The constant whining from this guy is really irritating. I would be a happy camper when he’s finally traded next year.
Kenny T says
Kobe, Kobe! The man always rises to the occasion. Results may not always be there, but he never shortchanges the fans or the game with his effort.
Harvey M, even though the Clippers can’t go lower than the 4-seed, they still lose home-court advantage to Memphis if they have a worse record (such a pointless rule). The Clippers at Memphis is an important game, as Memphis can clinch the tie-breaker with a win. If they win that game, they’ll probably be locked into their matchup (“5th” with homecourt against the “4th” Clippers) by the time they play Utah.
el lungo says
remarkable performance by Kobe and Pau and Dwight complimenting.
This is how it should be,run plays over Kobe and Pau,feed D12 with silver plate.
Oh Pau and ESPN quit whining play on the low block.
Exactly. Clips must win that or will see Gasol, Z and Conley with mysterious flu-like systems in final game against Utah.
Utah should win both against Minn. Lakers Should beat GS. I fully expect Pops to cruise into the playoffs in 2nd place. He knows health is more important than standing. That leaves Houston game up in the
Last night Kobe and Pau were giant. Blake smart in last quarter. I
must have missed the Dwight thing. Last quarter when they needed him 2 rebounds, missed his 2 big free throws, 2 fumbles and another offensive foul. His 4 points came from great passes by Pau or Kobe and stand aline dunks. It was Kobe and Earl not Dwight blocking shots
in the 4th(one block out of bounds on a bad shot).
Unless I missed it Dwight was a NO SHOW in the 4th and I watched the game twice. Yet to see thus guy show when they really need him.
Craig W.: you’re on point like a needle. Kobe definitely ‘Showed Out’ last night in the Rose Garden.
Altemawa: In regards to the last 2 sentences within the 2nd paragraph of your comment, some would think that’s looking too far ahead. I don’t and I also have some thoughts on the topic. But respectfully, and due to the fact that he’s talking about the possibility of retirement after next season (which I don’t believe for 1 second unless a severe injury takes place), I’ll refrain from speaking on that subject .. For Now.
3 games to go. All @ home. No back2backs.
Simply Put: Just Win Out & We’re In.
no complaints that it takes 23 points by kobe in the 4th plus huge game by gasol to beat avg. team missing 4 players…lakers win win next 3 games and go into the playoffs hot
Guevarra: Pau is a very intelligent player on and off the court. He is just using the press to deliver a message he probably can’t deliver to Kobe face-to-face, or if he did, Kobe would ignore. Not saying he is right or wrong, just saying why I think he made the comment.
In terms of the offseason, I’m sure Pau would not be offended if he was traded. At this point, he is probably tired of the relentless pressure that comes with being the Laker’s #2 option. I’m sure he would be happier in a market that offered less pressure.
the other Stephen says
Really neat piece on Ray Allen’s shooting, which is guided by the principle of “perfect practice makes perfect.” http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/training-day-diy/201304/ray-allen-three-pointers-shooting-miami-heat-nba. We can all take notes, some of our shooters in particular.
I have no problem with what Pau said. We aren’t going anywhere if we’re overly reliant on Kobe isolations.
blue guevarra says
@MannyP: He’s being smart by paying backhanded compliments to his teammate through the media? After the said teammate played great in a must-win game? with no rest in a second game of a back to back? Okay.
Re: Kobe and Pau: Respect is a two-way street, as they say.
this is the best pau has played in 2 years. some great passes to dwight. let’s hope he can keep it up for another month. what’s unfortunate is that if dwight is not dunking or making a layup in the 4q, his free throw issues greatly reduce his effectiveness. It makes more sense to foul him and watch him clank at least one. That will kill us in close games.
Darius, what’s FB&G’s rule regarding sharing links?
I think what Pau said last night was more of a good sign. It shows a confidence he hasn’t had all year. But had Kobe not topped Lillard’s great game with his Lakers would’ve lost. They gave up 41 pts in the 1st quarter in Dwight was in foul trouble. So Pau would have more of a point if Lakers weren’t down big so early. And if Kobe hadn’t feed him for easy baskets and hockey assists to him for lobs to Dwight all night. That quote is probably Pau being more confident in himself than a slight to Kobe.
Gasol is right…Kobe hero ball barely worked against a avg team missing 4 players….In fact when kobe was shooting alot in the first half the Lakers were actually losing….If the ball was moving last night the Lakers win easier….Anyone who knows Basketball that players play better on defense when they are involved in the offense…Lakers defense last night was bad…. reason??? Ball wasnt moving…Kobe makes it harder the it has to be…Genius of Phil…didnt allow Kobe to play like last night…Not impressed by barely beating Portland to try and stay in the 8th spot…expectations have fallen eh???
Matt R. says
I don’t get the need to defend Kobe from what Pau said. I think that you’re misreading things when I doubt that Kobe is taking any offense.
Kobe TOLD the other players that they need to demand the ball and call him out when they want the ball. And if you read Pau’s comments with Metta’s comments, I don’t see them calling out Kobe, I see them calling out the rest of the team who see Kobe getting hot and start to fall into spectator mode.
Yes, it all works very well for the Legend of Kobe, but we can’t rely on Kobe playing 48 minutes a night in the playoffs. We need guys to be moving around and looking to make things happen that don’t always involve “Where’s Kobe?” Even Pau falls victim to it, as Metta and Kobe have both pointed out.
“We have to share the ball” isn’t just telling Kobe to pass it. It’s telling the other players to pass it to people other than Kobe or to sometimes just take their shot.
Darius Soriano says
There are no “rules” per se. Linking to things that are insightful that others may not have seen is always welcomed. I guess if there’s one rule it’s that you don’t copy and paste entire articles (especially those behind a pay wall) into the comments. I’m just going to delete that.
Also, if you’re trying (not you, but you know what I mean) to spam the comments of this site in order to promote something you wrote via a link to it, I’m not too fond of that. We do a links post nearly every day here and if there’s something you want me to read that your wrote to potentially be included in our links, you can email it to me.
But, overall, if you see something that’s a good read — Lakers related or not — feel free to link to it in the comments.
What Pau said is not what you are saying. So please don’t use his quote as support for your overly Kobe-centric view of the team’s problems.
lil pau says
In fact when kobe was shooting alot in the first half the Lakers were actually losing
Give me a break– you’re not even going to put that into the context of Portland’s unbelievably hot shooting (and for that matter, the Lakers defensive struggles) and just simply imply direct cause and effect? Okay….
No need to get your undies in a bunch Blue… just telling you what I think. What would you rather have Pau say? “Oh Kobe, you are the greatest. I’m blessed to play by you. We should do this every night!” Do you really think that is the way to get in to the playoffs? Plus, Kobe has said Pau needs to be more like the “Black Swan” and demand the ball… I think you need to take a chill pill and consider other points of view beyond your own.
blue guevarra says
I’m pretty sure what ‘demand the ball’ means is demand the ball DURING the game
Joe M says
Most possible scenario for us is to win 2 of the next 3, most likely against Golden State and Houston as we are not likely to beat the Spurs. Then we just need to hope Utah loses 1 more game. I think winning the next 3 against 3 good teams will be mighty difficult.
david h says
darius: just want to take this opportunity to thank you in particular for all the hard work you put in day in, day out, year in and year out. must say, it’s a pleasure reading through your comments and analysis of all things lakers.
as the regular season winds down, there are moments to pause and take a deep breath. today is one of those days. to breathe a sigh of relief before we take another deep breath prior to tomorrow’s game versus them bay area boys from up north, the warriors.
then of course we got them spurs coming round the corner this sunday and we wind the regular season versus them rockets from houston next tuesday evening.
no matter the outcome of this laker season, never before and will be too soon if this ever happens again has the investment of time and fortitude been more exhaustive due to high expectations coupled with the multitude of untimely injuries and to a lesser degree, the early season coaching change. encapsulated together, we are still laker nation and the bond you’ve created here at forum blue and gold will last a laker lifetime.
Keep up the hard work for the greater good.
late to the party but wanted to address a couple of things.
1. Very happy to get the win. First back to back consecutive wins this season came at a great time.
2. Kobe had an amazing game statistically. I mean, the ability to do what he did was amazing.
3. Pau is right. It really shouldn’t have to come to Kobe playing that way. There should be a system in place that is in place to take advantage of our strengths which is 1 amazing low post big man and 1 above average post player big man. Last night in the first half, I wanted to see the Lakers go into the post more to take advantage of Pau and Dwight.
4. I don’t see why it is difficult to think that going Kobe centric in a game can have a negative impact to the team winning. Michael jordan didn’t win any championships without the structure in place of a triangle offense that required team work and reads. Same with Kobe. Kobe is an amazing player and unmatched with offensive arsenal. That confidence he has in his game is definitely a strength, but he is also VERY DEMANDING of the ball and has been most of his career.
5. OFFENSE is not an issue with this team and has not been all season. The biggest issue as a team is our team defense. I see Dwight getting more frustrated on the defensive end because he is trying to help out but doesn’t get help on the weak side when necessary, and that is where his frustration comes out. If the Lakers TEAM defense can get better.
6. I read Pau’s comments as this: It is bittersweet. Kobe played an amazing game. But it shouldn’t have to come to him having an amazing game playing 48 minutes for us to beat Portland.
Looking at the remaining games of Utah and the Lakers, Minnesota appears to be the only opponent for either team that isn’t playing for the playoffs. The other opponents are playing for the playoffs. I find Minnesotas home and home games against Utah to be the key games. Minnesota will be able to play spoiler. At least, I hope they want to play Spoiler.