Back on track
After opening Tuesday night's game against the Raptors at Staples flirting with the three pointer like a sailor on leave, the Lakers settled down for the final three quarters, controlling the game and cruising to a relatively easy 117-108 win. Hopefully the final 36 minutes put memories of Sunday's loss and the first twelve minutes of tonight's game, and everyone can get some solid z's. Kobe led the way with 34, LO chipped in with a very solid 20/9. Fish hit some big threes, finishing with 18 to go along with five dimes, and the supporting cast (led tonight by Ronny Turiaf, Luke Walton, and- seriously- Coby Karl) gave the Lakers a big boost.
Sorry for any formatting issues with the breakdown below. There were some web problems at Staples tonight, accounting for any potential goofiness.
- Lamar Odom: 20/9/3 including a huge third quarter where he was the catalyst for the Lakers offense. 13 points on 6-8 from the floor. Odom showed the full range over that 12, finding his way to the rim on the dribble, with the post up, and by cutting off screens, then tossing in a three for good measure.
- Luke Walton: When he plays well, this is the sort of game he'll have. In the second quarter with the Lakers struggling, he, along with a very active Coby Karl, helped get the Lakers moving, and moving the ball. Walton found guys out of the post and cutting into it, racking up four dimes in just over nine minutes on the floor. In the fourth, he provided some stout D, forcing an early turnover on Kris Humphries, then teaming with Kobe on the next possession to force another. I'm not a believer in allowing +/- to tell the full story of a player's performance, but +9 in only 17:45 minutes indicates good things were happening with Walton on the floor.
- Ronny Turiaf: More than simply an energy guy tonight, Ronny provided 9/4/3, along with a block, hit a couple of big shots from the perimeter in the second quarter as the Lakers started to get their act together on that end.
- Kobe Bryant: I didn't love the performance early, despite some gaudy Q1 stats, but as the game went on, I thought Kobe played very well. Six points, three dimes in the second on 3-3 from the floor, a mellow third while LO dominated offensively (though Kobe did set up one of Odom's baskets with a sweet feed off a slip screen), and a massive fourth. Twelve points, three more assists, and a really big block on a TJ Ford layup attempt. More importantly, he didn't turn the ball over in the final three quarters.
- Coby Karl: He doesn't get a lot of minutes outside of garbage time, but when PJ turned to him tonight, likely out of frustration with how his more established players were mucking things up, Karl was ready. He played in control, moved himself all over the floor, penetrated and kicked, and helped jump start the offense. Three points, two boards, and a block in seven minutes isn't a massive line, but he made an impact tonight. I'm sure he felt better about that contribution than all the trash minutes put together.
Generally speaking, as soon as the Lakers stopped their love affair with the outside shot (eight of their first 14 shots were triples), or at least stopped shooting without either a penetrating pass or drive first, things got a lot better offensively. It's something Kobe says they "absolutely" need to remember to do, and did well as the game went on. "Especially in the start of the fourth quarter, I just told the guys, "Throw the ball to me in the post. Let's not play around with it." Just throw it in and make the defense do something. Then when Pau got in the game, it was throw it in to me, or throw it in to Pau. This way you make the defense collapse or make them make some type of decision and then we can get easy opportunities. Early, we were just hoisting them up. If you make them, fine. But you're not going to make too many of those at a high enough clip to be successful at them."
- Vlad Radmanovic: 19 minutes, 0-5 from the floor, 0-3 from downtown, no rebounds, no assists. Only a blocked shot in the third ruined what would have been a fabulous "bagel line." It wasn't like he didn't have a chance, either. PJ stuck with him a lot longer than he normally does when Vladdy is piloting his own personal space shuttle.
- The First Quarter: Because the Raptors, without Chris Bosh, aren't a particularly powerful bunch, the Lakers managed to escape the frame down only three. That doesn't mean they deserved such a tight score. Seven turnovers, including four from Kobe, who, while he scored 13 points, on 5-8 from the floor, wasn't all that great early. He spent a lot of time working one-on-one, and like everyone else on the floor, became totally enamored with the three point shot. Just as there are times when he doesn't score and totally dominates (he'd get much better as the game went along, and was awesome in the fourth, as noted above) there are others when he does, but the numbers are deceiving. The Lakers had a flat first twelve, and allowing their mistakes to give Toronto a boost. Even with the easy giveaways, they still held the Raptors to 41.7% from the floor. Take away the miscues, and they leave the quarter with a seven or eight point lead. Big difference.
Unfortunately, the postgame audio with Phil accidentally got erased. I'm not going to mention any names or hint at where the fault lies, but BK did want to mention that he's sorry. At any rate, Phil mentioned that he was fairly pleased once the team got beyond the first quarter, which he thought was too shot happy, particularly from distance. Hard to argue that contention, considering the Lakers shot ten from behind the arc during those opening twelve minutes. "I thought we came out and played ourselves into a deficit by playing too fast." Jackson thought the team might have been trying to a little hard to deliver a knockout punch from the outset, which resulted in the barrage of bombs.
A little of that mentality still remained going into the second, and it didn't take long for Phil to pull Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic in favor of Luke Walton (a typical second quarter substitution) and Coby Karl (who would be anything but). "We needed a small defender, a guard defender," explained Jackson of the unusual move. "Sasha was not doing what I wanted done on the floor and at that particular time we were just cranking up shots against their zone." To his credit, Karl acquitted himself nicely over seven minutes of early action, garnering praise for his decision making, a key three pointer and doing an adequate job on the defensive end. I also wondered if inserting Karl at that particular time was as much about sending a message that he'd demand guys play the right way even if he had to look down the bench. Phil confirmed my suspicion. "I think so, but that's the one thing you have as a coach, playing time as the ultimate, 'if you want to play, do the right thing' type thing.
But these turn of events did create the opportunity for Karl to do the rare post-game interview (and you'll hear Luke Walton congratulating the rook for getting stopped by yours truly). Karl's a coach's son and no dummy on top if it, so he understood from the outset Phil's use of him as a "pawn" to some sizable degree. But at the same time, he was also psyched to get some meaningful minutes, human "message" or not. In his words, it's "1000%" better than garbage time. "I enjoy the appreciation by th the fans, but I really strive to be in there with the game counts. You practice for situations like that and you stay ready for situations like that. Fortunately, he gave me the opportunity." What does he take away from a night like this, where he played well but also knows he wasn't necessarily playing to win a spot in the rotation. "It's like giving your bird a little snack. It keeps me hungry and helps me out a lot."
If anything, it beats all the running Karl usually does day in and day out.
Said the other Kobe on Coby: "I told him I was very proud of him. I told him at halftime I was proud to be called Kobe because of the way he was playing. I think he came in and did a great job, it's always tough in that position, he doesn't know when he's going to go in, and I think Phil kind of shocked him a little bit, but he came in and did a great job."
Cool little post-game item. As I was entering the locker room, I saw Ronny Turiaf in the hallway taking a few pictures with a kid about probably 5 or 6 years old. About ten minutes later, Turiaf was giving the little man a tour of the locker room, pointing out Kobe and introducing him to Lamar Odom. As I was leaving, Ronny was snapping a picture of LO and his buddy. I imagine this kid was pretty amped the entire ride home.
Also, Mike Bresnahan is reporting that the Lakers might ink Ira Newble. The official K Brothers stance? We'd support the move. Dude's a smart, good defender and could help pick up some slack if Ariza either isn't available or takes a while to round into game shape.