Lakers 110, New Orleans 99: Feeling seven up, they're feeling seven up
I'm not sure that lighting does me any favors.
Anyway, the breakdown, plus heaps of video, is below...
-Andrew Bynum: One sign a player had a good night? Part of his postgame interview centers around trying to figure out exactly what went wrong on his one miss from the floor. After a little searching, Bynum as able to remember the one miss in his 10 attempts. "Oh, it was a jump hook! And you know what happened on it? It was short, because I didn't come on (with) balance. I stepped too far across, and had no lift. I had my right foot in front of my left, instead of being parallel to the basket." And there you have it. The final line- 21 points, nine boards, three dimes in only 33:44 of playing time, was obviously productive, but I also liked the way Bynum moved aggressively on the screen and roll at the other end. There were breakdowns at times (Phil Jackson notes as much in the video below), but clearly Bynum is making a more concerted effort to be active in that aspect of the game. It's the sort of thing that'll help him earn more PT in late game situations, or at the very least make PJ feel comfortable with the possibility.
-Derek Fisher: Seven assists in 24 minutes is certainly nice, but the five steals indicate how active his hands were. Fish stepped in front of passing lanes, knocked balls loose, was credited with a blocked shot, and did a decent job using his strength against the lightning quick Darren Collison. NOH's rookie PG still managed to score 20 points on 7-14 shooting, but also had four turnovers to go with five dimes. Overall, Fisher's game has come around in the last couple weeks after a brutally slow start. He's directing traffic well, starting to knock down perimeter shots with greater consistency, and has played a major part in the run of solid defensive games thrown down by the purple and gold (seven straight wins, seven straight games where the opposition failed to crack the century mark).
-Kobe Bryant: With Gasol back, Kobe has done a great job exerting influence without consistently needing to do it in the most overt way (scoring). More Michael Corleone, less Sonny Corleone (which, by the way, also makes Kobe far less likely to be gunned down at a toll booth by Barzini's goons). As it was against New Jersey a couple nights back, Kobe had the range from the perimeter, found creases into the lane, and set up his teammates effectively. Best of all, he sat down for good having only worked just over 32 minutes.
Incidentally, Ron Artest also had a nice game. 16 points on 6-8 shooting, in only 27 minutes. He continues to improve over the early weeks of the season. Jordan Farmar had some strong moments, as did Lamar Odom, who finished with eight boards and six dimes in only 24:31. (LO also suffered from some wonky shot selection when he hung out at the perimeter, but clearly wasn't passive all night offensively, because passive people don't do this:
Poor, posterized Hilton Armstrong.
One Big Issue (Depending On Who You Ask):
If any sticking point prevents John Q. Laker Fan from getting "Repeat" tatted across his or her chest during this dominant stretch of victories, it's a trend of fourth quarter leads decreasing as the Laker bench is emptied. Tonight was no different, as the Hornets managed to chop an eighteen point lead down to eleven over the final five minutes and change. PJ said after the game that he would've kept the reserves in no matter what, emphasizing a theme consistent with The Zen Master's career. Bail out plans may suit the government, but not his coaching approach:
"I was going to suffer the consequences tonight," insisted Jackson. "I thought it might be a 10 (point) game with two minutes to go, and it ended up being an 11 point game and we stayed at that level for the rest of the game. That is the area that gets to be tenuous, but I thought one way or the other, they've got to take responsibility for it, that crew that was out there... That's surely a teachable moment, a loss is, for sure. But there's a responsibility for what your actions are, too, that's important for guys to have to take some credit or responsibility for how they play."
that Laker fans often- and by "often," I mean "always"- expect
perfection from their purple and gold, there's been predictable grumbling of
late over the reserves' inability to maintain big leads. It is
important, however, to frame the issue properly, which hasn't always
been the case from where I'm sitting. To me, the question isn't so
much the second unit maintaining leads as the third. When Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and Lamar Odom- the Lakers' true "bench," for all intents and purposes- have taken part
in meaningful PT, they've generally kept the pace established by the
starters (and it helps, of course, that they're playing with
starters). When tonight's lead evaporated, Farmar and
Brown may have been on the court, but they were joined by Adam Morrison, Josh Powell and Sasha Vujacic, all inserted cold into the action. With all due respect, HUGE difference.
As I stated during Monday's practice report, I'm not all that worried about those guys being able to hold down the fort in truly critical moments, because they're not gonna be asked to do so. But even if you don't agree, some slack probably needs to be cut, because what they're being asked to do isn't very easy. Asked if the issue was confidence, Kobe immediately shot down that notion:
"I don't think so. I think finding their identity is going to be. It's tough coming off the bench, getting sporadic minutes here and there. It's tougher than it looks. But they'll figure it out. They figured out last year. They'll figure it out this year."
expressed similar sympathies about the "degree of difficulty factor" in
play, noting how the third string was matched up against Hornets in the
rotation, which gave the latter party an advantage of already being part of the game's flow:
"The (Lakers) who are put in the game sit down for three hours and then get into a game, where (the Hornets) the whole time they're in a rhythm, they're trying to come at us, they're trying to get their stats up and all that kind of stuff. We're trying to play a system where it's not like you can just spread it out and go by them like they do us, but we're trying to work together. Missed timing here, missed timing there, the shot clock's against us, we take a bad shot, they run out. It's definitely a lot tougher than it (looks).
In practice, we beat the first team every day. I'm just playing-- but we beat them some days. It's really competitive. The starting five are the world champions. They're the best five in the world, so if we can compete with them and beat them on occasion, we should be able to handle (late minutes) as well. We just have to continue to play for each other, get comfortable, and try to get the guys who just get into the game to go up and down, get into a lather, and then make the right plays."
Bynum's take felt a little more "tough love," but probably wasn't without merits. "They really gotta start running the triangle more,
getting organized. That's a big issue." Granted, it's considerably easier to make the
offense hum with the team's most talented players and two seven-foot
focal points, but when during troubled times, there's a reason "bread and butter" is
often a recommended meal.
PJ, on the rotation: "We have a really good eight man rotation that's going right now. We have to figure out how to get a nine-man rotation in there, but it's working at this level. Usually we like to get at least nine guys in the rotation to keep everybody hungry and active to play good basketball."
Jeff Bower, Hornets coach, on why it sucks to have to play the Lakers: "Their size and the quality of their size and the depth of their size is a problem for every team. It was a problem for us. Their deep post ups were hoard to handle, they were big factors in the free throw differential, which was a huge thing to overcome."
Kobe, on the winning streak, goals, and tacos:
PJ, on the bench taking responsibility, and evaluating the game:
PJ, on Farmar's growth, getting starters rest, and having the W.C.'s best record (the lead question asked about JF using clock late in the game, rather than looking to find more points):
Odom, on the winning streak, beating lesser teams:Shannon Brown, on what the reserves need to do late in games: