1. The Lakers ended their four-game losing streak. The significance of the Lakers' 113-80 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday at Staples Center is fairly minimal, considering that the Kings (4-13) entered the contest having lost 11 of their last 12 games and had a limited Tyreke Evans and tons of youth.
But here's where the victory is significant: It would not be healthy for the Lakers (14-6) to wait four days before playing a game after a loss. The Lakers already showed a stoic and levelheaded demeanor following their fourth loss in a row, but piling on another one would only have increased the frustration and tension. Having to then sit with that before a game Tuesday against Washington would only heighten their antsiness to get out and end that streak. After all, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson readily acknowledged that the team felt "frustrated" with losing four consecutive games for the first time since April 2007. So now instead of furthering that streak, the Lakers have a half-week stretch in which they don't have to field questions about their latest loss and they don't have to overly scrutinize their weaknesses.
Still, it's critical to consider the opponent.
"It's hard to make a judgment," Jackson said. "Have we broken free from the bonds that have held us, or are we still mired in what we're doing and we just got a weak sister in this particular time of the year?"
It's typical that Jackson gives his players a day off after a large block of games, particularly when the schedule shows a three-day cushion before the next contest. But the Lakers want center Andrew Bynum to practice as much as possible, so on Saturday, he'll take part in a half-court four-on-four scrimmage to test his surgically repaired right knee. With the Lakers' starters planning to rest, however, Jackson said he doesn't really know how valuable that practice will be. He also said he plans to keep the practice short because afterward the Lakers have their annual holiday event, sponsored by East West Bank, that entails hosting a clinic and providing gifts for underprivileged children. Jackson also said Monday's practice might be fairly limited because the Lakers have a holiday party.
(In an interesting aside, Jackson didn't seem too concerned with correct spelling when he wrote this on the white board in the locker room following the game, specifying Saturday's schedule: "11 report, Children Holiday, Joyfull ,Blessed, Gift, Xmas party, 1230ish").
Jackson's mild complaint about the Lakers adjusting their practice times based on the team's "social calendar" prompted a reporter to jokingly suggest that Jackson is exclaiming "Bah! Humbug!" a la Ebenezer Scrooge.
"It just turned December," Jackson said, smiling. "I begin celebrating Christmas on the 21st."
The Lakers certainly wouldn't have been in much of a festive spirit Saturday, however, without a win.
2. Pau Gasol proved healthy enough to play. He had spent all Friday morning receiving treatment and stretching his strained left hamstring, but the routine almost proved pointless, considering he arrived at Staples Center 35 minutes late in connection with an undisclosed personal matter.
It turned out the team's warm-up was all Gasol needed to determine he could play, though he later said the hamstring "felt a little sore and a little tight." His 16 points on six-of-eight shooting showed he could overcome that discomfort. He displayed his usual post efficiency, such as when he saw a cutting Shannon Brown through the lane and pivoted a few steps before banking in a jumper. Gasol was in slow motion running up and down the court, but considering how efficiently the Lakers played on offense and defense, it was good enough.
I didn't push it too hard," Gasol said. "I was able to play through it."
"He looked all right," Jackson said. "I thought he moved OK, played inside the framework we were trying to do tonight. It was a real aggressive offensive game for him, but he did fine."
Most important, Gasol played only 27 minutes, after logging at least 40 minutes per game in four of the last five contests. Always eager to find a way to needle Gasol, Jackson told him he might to reenter the game after rookie Derrick Caracter picked up his fifth foul with 3:53 remaining.
Said Jackson: "He got quite animated and asked Derrick to watch his fouls. It was the most animated he was all night in a lot of ways."
Even though Gasol knew Jackson was joking, he didn't want to take his chances and told the coach, "Ron [Artest] is ready" before also offering a warning to Caracter.
"He [Gasol] just said play smart the last four minutes," Caracter said, "and don't get the last foul."