Lakers 117, Bulls 109: Deep dish win
No word as to whether the Lakers celebrated last night's 117-109 victory over the Bulls with a pie done up Chicago style (thick crust, boatload of cheese and typically with a beer in proximity), but either way, the night served as a reminder that the Lakers, at the top of their collective game, are one deep squad. And that entire reserve of folks were needed to help reverse the results of a messy first half.
62 points surrendered, lowlighted by a backbreaking runner at the buzzer by John Salmons. Too many buckets given away off transition and not enough execution on the offensive end. But after the halftime chalk talk and refreshments had been enjoyed, it was all about erasing a 14-point deficit, often through the efforts of the less heralded Lakers.
It's always crucial to get significant contributions from those not named "Kobe Bryant" (who hardly played "lousy," but struggled once again from the floor). Case in point: Eighteen points from Trevor Ariza, sixteen for Lamar Odom and a Pau Gasol double-double. But ultimately, the players most in need of a personal pick me up not only found personal salvation, but came through to lift the entire roster.
There's been tons of chatter- including on the latest 710 ESPN Lakers Podkast- these days about the struggles endured by the Laker bench mob, a group that displayed some flickers of hope against Golden State on Tuesday but were a long way from being certified as once again "money." Last night brought them a little closer to such lofty status.
With nary one starter on the floor (Odom), Jordan Farmar, Josh Powell, Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton sparked one mother of a rally, a 21-6 run that ultimately preserved the contest. Farmar took the advice of Phil Jackson and played more aggressive on both sides of the ball, a mindset that amounted to thirteen points and a trio of steals. Vujacic and Walton each chipped in five points in the final frame, the latter also setting up a pair of Laker buckets, a sign that he can in fact keep the pine boys as hoped.
In bigger picture terms, each bit of success takes the mob one step further from their recent days as a hazard to leads built. As Farmar conceded, this hasn't been an easy period for the second unit. Uber-bench player Ben Gordon knows these cats are anything but "average," but no doubt, they've been reduced to feeling that way. Little by little, they're resembling again the mirror images of their old selves.