Lakers gore Bulls, 96-87: Kobe gives his injury the finger
Remember when we've used lines like "Lakers ground Rockets," "Lakers cut down Nets," "Lakers 86 76ers," "Lakers dethrone Kings," "Lakers grind Pistons," "Lakers clear skies of Thunder," "Lakers stuff Bucks for display purposes, but respect the animal enough to use the meat," and "Lakers use effective rolls of 20-sided die to defeat Wizards?"
This header is kinda like those. But really, after LA's 96-87 win over the Bulls Tuesday night in Chicago, it could/should just as easily read: "Kobe Bryant's finger won't keep him from scoring." After testing and re-testing a variety of splints to protect the avulsion fracture on his index finger before the game, Kobe and trainer Gary Vitti clearly found one that worked as 24 went off for 42 on 15-26 from the floor and 11-15 from the line, all of which you can watch below:
(Via BallerBlogger. I'm always amazed at how fast stuff like this gets cut up and YouTubed) But while Kobe's jumper was spot on, for the team as a whole it was an inelegant affair. The Lakers were a step slow following the opening tip, and never got it going on the defensive glass, evidenced by a box score revealing 14 offensive boards for Chicago's Joakim Noah alone. (He had six blocks, to boot.)
When it was all over, Phil Jackson made it clear Wednesday's recipe- heavy on Kobe, not enough ball movement, not enough rebounding (only three boards for Andrew Bynum, for example), poor opening energy, etc.- wasn't the one he'd like to use going forward. Still, he'll take the win.
Beats the alternative.
One thing the Lakers did get right, albeit against an offensively challenged group, was defense. After an opening quarter in which Derrick Rose had VIP access into the paint and the Lakers surrendered 31 points, they tightened up considerably. Chicago scored only 17 in Q2, and a scant 14 in the decisive final 12 minutes. On the aforementioned offensive boards and the second and third chances they created kept the Bulls in the game.
Chicago was limited to 38.5% shooting overall, and just 2-11 from beyond the arc, and they kept Chicago off the free throw line (just 16 attempts as a team). A first quarter injury to Rose certainly contributed to those numbers, but it is, as they say, what it is. 86 points is 86 points.
-Shannon Brown, playing for the hometown crowd, was 4-4 including this dunk finishing on the break.
-Given his revelations about drinking before games while a member of the Bulls, it's not surprising that Ron Artest was a popular guy before and after the game, covering a very wide variety of subjects. He also lent a supporting word to Tiger Woods, speaking openly of his own infidelity in the process. All part of what I've described on the blog and the podcast as a sort of cleansing process. His own personal therapy, where verbalizing mistakes and character flaws helps him put them behind him and improve as a person. But as Kevin Ding of the OC Register notes, sometimes the nature of the messenger can distract from his message.
-The Lakers head to Milwaukee tonight to play a Bucks squad that has fallen off after a fast start (5 pm PT, KCAL). Bucks center Andrew Bogut hopes the home crowd looks like a home crowd, meaning they're actually supporting the home team. This is what I was talking about when I wrote the other day how road trips for the Lakers, even when the schedule puppetmasters aren't kind, don't always look the same as they might for other teams.