Lamar Odom, despite shoulder injury, displays usual skills in Lakers' victory over San Antonio Spurs
It's not an issue he wants to talk about, knowing his problem isn't unique to the Lakers and figuring there's no use complaining about it as the team tries to defend its NBA championship. Lakers forward Lamar Odom had actually kept his left shoulder injury undisclosed for 14 games, but then Coach Phil Jackson mentioned it after the Lakers' victory last Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Odom matter-of-factly explained after Saturday's practice how he expects the shoulder to prevent him at times from scoring and rebounding the ball, but he promised he wouldn't use the injury as an excuse. He didn't take the bait after the Lakers' 99-92 win Sunday over the Washington Wizards. He also didn't take the bait when asked about his injury after Tuesday's practice.
Clearly, Odom will be asked about his injury throughout the rest of the regular season and during the postseason. And if his play during this 16-game stretch serves as any indication, it's that he's not going to hold back his effort in grabbing rebounds, making outside shots, driving to the basket and providing matchup problems. In the Lakers' 92-83 victory Wednesday over the San Antonio Spurs, he recorded his 21st double-double this season with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
There's plenty of things you can break down from the Lakers victory, including how Kobe Bryant responded effectively to double teams and finished with 24 points and six assists, Ron Artest's defensive effort including five steals, Pau Gasol's limiting Spurs forward Tim Duncan to six points on two of 11 shooting, or the defensive adjustments the Lakers made in limiting San Antonio guard George Hill to one point in the second half after he exploded for 20 first-half points.
But Odom's performance seems the most compelling because of the obstacles he had to fight. Below is a breakdown of how Odom didn't limit his contributions despite his injured left shoulder.
First quarter, 10:56 - 10:41
After posting up Duncan inside before cutting to the baseline, Spurs forward Richard Jefferson cut the left baseline, Duncan kicked the ball out to Jefferson and then set a screen on Bryant. Jefferson's jumper hit off the front rim. Odom positioned himself slightly toward the right side of the basket, and grabbed the board despite Antonio McDyess' effort to grab it. Odom's angle toward the basket didn't require him to box out, a good thing since it minimized contact on his left shoulder. After Odom cleaned the glass, he led the break and drove the lane past McDyess for the left-handed layup. The basket gave the Lakers a 4-2 lead.
First quarter, 9:07
After Bryant set a backscreen on Duncan on the left block, Gasol cut through and received an entry pass from Artest on the right side of the paint. Artest initially cut toward the baseline and Jefferson tried to cheat by going backdoor. But Artest turned back and took a dumpoff from Gasol and drove the lane. He met a double team from Jefferson and McDyess, but that left Odom open by the left wing. After Odom received the pass, he took one dribble to back himself up in front of the basket for the left-handed layup, which tied the game at 6-6.
First quarter, 8:30 - 8:20
After Bryant missed a jumper on the left block, Odom grabbed the rebound over Duncan. Odom didn't box out, but it was actually better that he didn't. The ball's elevation appeared to be toward Odom, who was slightly behind Duncan below the circle. Boxing Duncan out would've given him a better angle to get the rebound. Instead, Odom grabbed the board with his right hand, dribbled out to the left corner, and then fed Gasol in the post. Moments later, Gasol squared up in triple threat position over McDyess, who gave him space for the 16-foot jumper. Gasol sank the shot and gave the Lakers an 8-6 lead.
First quarter, 7:37 - 7:33
After Derek Fisher missed a a 26-foot three-pointer, Bryant grabbed the rebound up top. Though the Lakers grabbed the offensive rebound, McDyess didn't get back to paint, leaving Duncan alone inside with Gasol and Odom. Duncan positioned himself down low so Gasol couldn't score off an entry pass, but that left Odom unattended on the left wing. After Bryant fired a pass from the top of the key, Odom slammed the ball home with a left-handed dunk, giving the Lakers a 10-6 lead.
First quarter, 2:54 - 2:45
Spurs forward Matt Bonner drove the right lane past Odom, but he didn't have a good enough angle to make the layup. Odom grabbed the rebound over an inattentive Duncan and Bonner, but fell on the ground doing so. Nonetheless, Odom dribbled his way back up, led the break and then pulled up for an 18-foot jumper at the top of the key. The basket reduced San Antonio's lead to 23-16.
First quarter, :05 - :01
Jefferson tried driving the baseline as time ticked away, but Odom simply took the ball out of Jefferson's hands when he went up for a shot. Odom then went coast-to-coast for the right-handed layup, closing the first quarter with the Lakers trailing 25-22.
Second quarter, 4:56 - 4:39
As Duncan posted up on Gasol on the far end, Odom already started boxing out McDyess. So when Duncan's shot rimmed out, Odom easily grabbed the board. Odom brought the ball up the floor and then posted up Bryant on the right side. He squared up in trouble threat position, jabbed right and then sunk a 20-footer over Hill, reducing the Spurs' lead to 40-34.
Second quarter, 1:24 - 1:13
With Artest on the near corner, Odom initially posted up but then went out to the perimeter as Bryant moved out toward the top of the key. McDyess didn't respond right away, leaving Odom open outside the three-point line. Odom drove left, dribbled between his legs, saw the separation and then drove toward the right side of the basket. He muscled his way in using his left shoulder, injured and all, and made the layup with his left hand, cutting San Antonio's lead to 44-41.
Third quarter, 2:34 - 2:08
Despite meeting a double-team from Artest and Gasol, Duncan attempted a hook shot. Odom grabbed the board and fired an outlet pass to Lakers guard Shannon Brown on the far end. After driving the lane, Brown kicked the ball out to the top of the key where Artest misfired on a three-pointer. But Odom tracked the loose ball almost to the far corner, met a double-team and then passed the ball out on the far side to Brown. He nailed the 25-foot-three pointer, tying the game at 63.
Third quarter, 1:49 - 1:30
Hill drove to the lane, but couldn't score on his layup and Odom was there again to grab the rebound. He ran the break before making a well-placed left-handed bounce pass to Artest, who quickly drove the lane but didn't convert on the layup. Gasol grabbed the rebound and kicked it out to Odom up top. He quickly found Brown left unguarded on the far end, and he drilled his second consecutive three-pointer to give the Lakers a 66-63 lead. It was the team's first lead since holding a 12-10 edge with 6:16 left in the first quarter.
Third quarter, 1:00 - :51
While Artest drove past Jefferson, Odom positioned himself inside over Spurs forward DeJuan Blair. But when Artest was met with a double-team from Bonner, Odom cut outside to the near corner behind the three-point line. Artest brought the ball back out behind the perimeter and then passed to Odom nearby. Though Bonner guarded Odom, he was given enough space to easily knock down the trey to give the Lakers a 69-66 lead.
What this means
There may be days Odom doesn't have a game like this, and that's to be expected as physical limitations might get the best of him. But what's most impressive about Odom's performance against San Antonio isn't the numbers he produced, but the effort he put forward. His down-to-earth and laid-back personality sometimes overshadows his relentlessness on the floor. The game film shows he's not holding anything back.
The plays described above show that Odom proved instrumental for the Lakers establishing an early first-quarter lead, before San Antonio responded. The plays also reveal he was a critical component in the Lakers' third-quarter run to get them back in the game. The Lakers are fortunate to have offensive options such as Bryant and Gasol and defensive options such as Artest. But Odom will usually be dependable in ensuring that fluidity, even with an injured left shoulder.
-- Mark Medina
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