Man, it feels good to be writing on a back-to-back win.
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in a thrilling 105-96 victory behind a strong team effort and another great performance by Kobe Bryant.
To sum up the game: The Lakers are clinging to a 1-point lead halfway through the 4th. Kobe calls for an isolation, drives to meet a scrambling double team and instead of shooting like everyone on the Thunder team expected him to, he finds Earl Clark for a huge slam which regained momentum for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant has been playing more efficient team basketball and less hero-ball the past two games, and he’s collected 14 dimes both times.
During their long losing streak, Kobe’s shooting has been abysmal. Bryant looks to elevate his game to more than just being the league’s leading scorer. He’s no longer shooting a hundred contested fade-away jumpers and the like, he’s picking his spots well-behind the arc and seems to have taken a little bit of Steve Nash‘s magic when it comes to finding his teammates. He finished the game just 1 board shy of a triple double, with 21 points, 14 dimes and 9 rebounds.
This doesn’t take away anything from an overall, strong team effort which gave the Lakers the W. Everyone made great plays and clutch baskets down the stretch. Despite Kevin Durant‘s 35 points and Westbrook’s 17 points, 13 dimes and 9 rebounds, the Lakers came up on top. Westbrook’s shooting performance (6-22 fg) was an eyesore on their box score but the Thunder are still one of the best teams in the NBA and they were just outplayed by an energized Lakers team.
Nash also held his own against Russell Westbrook with a great shooting performance. He dropped 17 points and a respectable 5 dimes. It was great seeing Antawn Jamison getting his touches, making full use of his 12 minutes – he scored 12 points off the pine.
It was just beautiful seeing the pick-and-rolls inside the arc being used effectively. Everyone was getting good looks, and the overall energy which stemmed from their offensive rhythm translated in to the defense.
I personally enjoyed glimpses of the old, dominant Pau Gasol we all missed. He was making running hooks left and right, to end up with an impressive 16 points, 4 dimes, 4 rebounds and 1 block. This lineup seems to be working for the Spaniard, as he’s put up numbers we’re no longer used to seeing.
We saw the good ol’ 2-man game Bryant and Gasol played to perfection back in their title runs and it was every bit effective today as it was back then. And it wasn’t just Gasol, it seemed that every time Bryant would drive baseline, he would find someone cutting to the basket whether it was Dwight Howard, Gasol, Clark or Nash.
Perhaps the lone disappointment of the game was Howard. He ended up scoring 8 points and grabbed 10 boards but he only shot 2-10 from the charity stripe. He just didn’t have a good offensive rhythm the entire game which is probably the reason for his limited playing time.
I can’t say enough about how well the Lakers are when they play this way. When Kobe plays with a more facilitator role, everybody on the team benefits. Having the reputation of a ballhog works in his favor because everybody scrambles to defend what they expect to be a bad shot, and end up leaving their man open.
Does this victory mean the Lakers are back on track to becoming a championship team? Absolutely not.
It simply shows everybody that they are moving forward from their losing streak, the trade talks and all the locker room turmoil. They’re playing Lakers basketball and if they can keep it up, the rest of the league won’t be so excited to come to Staples Center anymore.