If the play-offs were to start today, the Lakers would be in.
In fact, the Lakers entered the play-off picture by winning what looked very much like a play-off game, besting the defensive-minded Chicago Bulls 44-40 in the first half, and then 46-41 in the second.
The Lakers out-rebounded the Bulls 50-46, and they had nine blocks and five steals. They held the Bulls to 37% shooting, including 25% from beyond the arc.
Their great defensive effort helped them overcome their own poor outside shooting, as the Lakers shot just 5-26 (19%) from deep.
For whatever reason, the offense was unusually evenly distributed for the Lakers tonight. The five starters plus Jodie Meeks all attempted between 9 and 16 shots, and all scored between 10 and 19 points.
Kobe Bryant had a team-high 19 points to go with a team-high nine assists, while Dwight Howard had 16 points and a team-high 21 rebounds.
Steve Nash scored 16 points on just nine shots, to go along with four assists and two rebounds. Ten of Nash’s points came in the third quarter, and were a big reason the Lakers were able to open up – and hold – a significant lead on the Bulls.
Metta World Peace struggled from distance (shooting 0-6), but he still had 12 points, seven rebounds, four blocks, and a steal. In fact, that steal moved him past Charles Barkley and in 20th place in career steals, with 1,649.
After falling to a season-worst 17-25 on January 23, the Lakers have gone on an impressive 16-6 run. And perhaps even more impressive is that, with today’s win, the Lakers have moved to 10-0 in their last 10 games that have been decided by single digits.
The Lakers are now heading into a dangerous part of their schedule, because on Tuesday they will open a stretch of five games in seven days, including two back-to-backs, with four of those games being on the road.
If the Lakers can go 3-2 over those five games, then they’ll likely be all right – today’s big win against the Bulls has provided them with a little bit of well-earned slack.
Lakers Player of the Game
Dwight Howard is today’s player of the game, for leading the Lakers defensive effort in what was a defensive-minded game.
Howard scored 16 points (8-14 FG, 0-5 FT), but more importantly grabbed 21 rebounds, blocked four shots, and had a steal. This was in addition to his defensive activity in altering many shots – a big reason why the Bulls shot only 37% today.
Top Two Tweets in My Twitter Feed
“There’s help on defense today and it’s making all the difference” – @Lakerholicz, post-game tweet
“Lakers happy to beat up on a beat-up team. Been done to them so many times, nice to return the favor.” – @kbookid, post-game tweet
Tuesday, March 12, at the Orlando Magic, 4:00 p.m. PDT