A result Robert Louis Stevenson might have authored, were he a sports novelist
Why? Because this 115-111 fall to the Warriors closely resembled the plot line of "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," one of his classic and timeless works. Split personalities to the strongest of degrees. The first half was the Mr. Hyde" persona, the one completely out of control and often beyond hideous to look at. Scary as all get out, too. The second half, however, was all about the more refined Dr. Jekyll. And like that quack when he wasn't drinking his bad seed elixir, the Lakers were sophisticated, refined, efficient, crowd pleasing and earning the town's respect during that time period. Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom were the biggest purple and gold Jekyll's down the stretch, making some huge plays to transform what appeared to be a blow out into a seriously contested showdown. And for a while, a happy ending appeared in the works, despite all odds. But in the end, this game and the novella shared one distinct element in common.
Things don't end well for Jekyll, Hyde or the Laker box score.
The breakdown is below.
The second half discipline: After spending the opening 24 minutes attempting to pass themselves off as a Run n' Gun Warriors Xerox (one where the machine needed a LOT more ink to produce a useful copy), the Lakers settled down and began forcing their will upon Golden State. More looks inside. More ticks allowed on the 24-second clock before firing (which typically produced better and more successful shots). More defense (The Warriors were held to 26% from the field). More care of the ball (only four turnovers). Had the Lakers adopted this mindset from the jump, or at least by a few minutes into the second quarter, there's no doubt in my mind they'd have come out on top. Phil Jackson would seem to agree. "We had a large gap to make up in that third quarter. Probably took a lot of energy to get there, but we just couldn't make a stop down the stretch."
Lamar Odom: A career-high 22 boards (13 of which came on the offensive side) reflects a night where LO, even by his own high standards, was all about cleaning the glass. But after a first half featuring 2-6 shooting and four turnovers, LO really came on strong. The faulty shooting continued throughout the evening (6-19), but he kept attacking and visited the stripe seven times, where he earned a 100% mark. He tapped back a Luke Walton miss to tie things up 101. One of his four blocks nixed a Baron David layup what would have put Golden State up by 6 with under two minutes to go. All in all, LO was all over the place down the stretch and typically making good things happen. I understand why fans worried that Pau Gasol's injury would simultaneously hurt LO, given how Odom hasn't consistently succeeded when thrust into a "second option" role. I think it's fair to say that, all in all, the dude has stepped up not just tonight, but since that unfortunate game in The Big Easy.
Kobe Bryant: Let's be honest. Bryant's first half was hardly Mamba-riffic. 4-12 shooting. A trio of turnovers. The same propensity to huck some quick (and bad) shots as his supporting cast. But man alive, did Kobe play himself some sick ball after the halftime Gatorade and orange slices. 9-18 shooting (3-7 from distance) for 27 points. Nine rebounds. Five assists. A clean turnover clip. A three ball sunk to bring the team back within one with just under a minute left. Another three ball to bring them back within one with just under 30 seconds left. Just the kind of monster performance that's keeping Kobe in the thick of the MVP race (and if you read Don Nelson's comments below, you'll see some Bay area support coming his way).
Kobe's behind the back-spin-regain the handle-wrap around to Ronny for the "and one" dunk that tied things up at 95: If you actually read this description, need I really explain why this fell into the "good" category?
Everything in the first half: I'm not saying this to either make use of hyperbole or avoid being specific. I'm just being blunt. Little, if anything, happened in that first half would remotely qualify in my mind as even "mediocre," much less good. The events taking place left little to be desired. Horrible, rushed shots with zero ball movement in any direction, much less inside. Fourteen turnovers trying to ride with Golden State's break-neck pace, a few of which were actually startling (Walton with careless turnovers on consecutive possessions, Ronny Turiaf leading Sasha Vujacic about six rows into the stands on another). 25 points scored by the Warriors off those turnovers. Defense that wasn't great to begin with, but made worse by continually remaining on their heels as a result of the pace on display (18 Golden State fastbreak points). Way too much Monta Ellis in the paint. The Lakers got completely caught up in Golden State's tempo and abandoned their game in the process. No Laker that stepped on the court wasn't guilty on some level.
When asked about the issues in the first half, both PJ and LO reflected upon what I just talked about, the inability not to play in Warrior fashion. "I wasn't happy that we didn't get the ball inside the right way and do the things that make us a team that has always hurt (the Warriors). We just got away from it. We got a little helter skelter trying to run with their tempo a little bit too much. The second unit got a little wacky out there and lost their poise." Lamar Odom concurred that the Purple and Gold opted for rapid jumpers over a methodical, balanced effort. Any by the time they did something about it? "It's too late," admitted Lamar with a shake of his head.
Interestingly enough, Kobe had a different take. From his perspective, the problem wasn't the Lakers trying to play like the Warriors, but rather the way the Warriors were guarding them. "We're pretty dedicated to our style of play. That first half took us a little getting used to, in terms of how quick their hands are. They're really, really, quick, so you really have to be careful with the basketball." I'll agree with Bryant on that particular sentiment, but I'm going to have to politely disagree when he assessed it as his team having more problems with the Warriors' defense than their O.
Ronny Turiaf passing up a few too many inside: All in all, Ronny played himself a nice game (and has by in large done a very good job filling in for Pau Gasol). But there were a few occasions during the game where he passed up a pretty good look inside to pass out. The results weren't good and, in one case, led to a three-second violation called. As the back-to-back career assists (6) hit by Ronny against Utah and Seattle, Turiaf is clearly capable of finding an open man. But sometimes you need to take what's in front of you and on these occasions, Ronny appeared either gun shy or just intent on making one too many passes.
There was also a heated exchange at one point between Turiaf and Jordan Farmar, which didn't exactly make The Zen Master pleased as punch. He was willing to chalk up these "disturbances" in team play to youth and kids not always knowing "how to keep their mouth shut and take advice and not retort immediately." In and of itself, not a panic button situation. But also not the composure you're seeking out during a comeback.
The guarding of Stephen Jackson with a minute or so to go: Back to back Jax from behind the arc. The first three ball came after some miscommunication between Fish and Walton after both pursued Monta Ellis heading towards the rack after a switch. I can't confidently say for sure who was at fault on the play (Walton's explanation is below), but somewhere, a breakdown took place. Jackson's next three was just Fish providing a guy red hot from distance way too much space. Dude ain't afraid to take a big shot like that and if you offer it, the ball's going up.
The effects of Easter: I'm not knocking the holiday itself, of course. But it's safe to say, the observance of this holy day didn't necessarily meld with focused round ball. "It was Easter Sunday," lamented Jackson. "I didn't have a shoot around this morning. Sometimes you just have to honor that day. It was one of those things where they just weren't focused when they came."
On what happened on the defensive end of Stephen Jackson's first three-pointer during the final minute
"He (Ellis) went away from the pick and then they reset it, and to me it looked like Derek kind of got hit and was a step behind, so I called out "switch," and Derek was playing the centerfield. Then (Ellis) knocked me off balance, and then at that point Derek came to him to pick him up, because I was backpedaling. I was in the key at that point, and that's when (Ellis) kicked it out. I didn't see if there was anyone back there that could have rotated to Stephen (so he tried to close). There's different ways to defend it- you can switch, you can plug and recover to your own guy, you can show and recover- it kind of depends on the personnel and how much time is left on the shot clock. At that point, I felt that I saw that Derek on the other side of the screen, so that's why I tried to pick (Ellis) up. We practice on all of those scenarios."
On it often being hard to hear
"It is sometimes, but you yell as loud as you can and hope that your teammate can hear you."
On what could have happened if Walton didn't lose his balance (which PJ said after the game he thought was an offensive foul)
"Then he would have stayed on Jackson. I felt I did a good job of stopping the initial penetration. I had my body squared up to him and then I felt like shoved a little with his forearm, and that's when Fish probably made the judgment, "Well, he's wide open from 15, so let me run at him and make him make the extra pass."
WARRIORS COACH DON NELSON
On Kobe's validity as an MVP candidate
"He's my vote for MVP. He's the best of the best and deserves the award more than, I think, anybody else and I hope he gets it. He's a marvelous player, makes everybody else better. There isn't anything that he doesn't do. He's a pretty sensational player. I have enjoyed watching him all these years and I have enjoyed coaching him in one All-Star game when he got MVP."