The win was only against the lowly Cavaliers, but it was a convincing win, and a win the Lakers needed badly.
The Lakers received not just a personnel boost – but an emotional boost as well – as Dwight Howard returned to the floor tonight after having missed three games with a shoulder injury.
It was a night when each of the starters led the team in the area that they should lead: Dwight led the team with 14 rebounds; Kobe Bryant led the team with 23 points; Steve Nash led the team with nine assists; Metta World Peace led the team with four steals; and Earl Clark led the team with 36 minutes….
I can’t imagine that Clark has led his team in minutes played many times in his four-year career, but he did so tonight, playing 36 minutes while the rest of his teammates played fewer than 30.
And why not ride Clark? – he’s young, and he produces at both ends while he’s on the floor. Tonight he had another impressive line, recording 13 points (5 of 9 shooting), nine rebounds, four assists, and three blocks.
On offense, the Lakers moved the ball well tonight, and as a result they shot the ball well. They assisted on a whopping 32 of their 40 baskets, for an 80% rate. And they shot the ball incredibly well – 58% from the field, 52% (13 of 25) from three, and 74% from the free throw line.
And, on the defensive end, they held the Cavs to just 41% shooting on the night. There was good effort on defense from many Lakers tonight, but Bryant’s efforts in holding Kyrie Irving to just 15 points deserve special mention.
Kobe is the leader of this team, and if he continues to lead on defense like he did tonight, his teammates will respond.
The one disappointing aspect of the Lakers game tonight was that they turned the ball over 22 times. Fortunately, the Cavaliers weren’t able to do much damage with those second-chance opportunities.
Finally, the box score tonight was very unusual in that the Lakers won by 20, but had 26 fewer field goal attempts than the Cavaliers. Basketball is a funny game sometimes.
The Lakers go from playing the terrible Cavaliers tonight to playing the respectable Bucks on Tuesday to playing the defending champion Heat on Thursday.
Let’s hope the Lakers can step it up another notch on Tuesday, and yet another notch on Thursday. If they can turn this win into a three-game winning streak, they will have given their fans hope of better things to come.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Dwight Howard was the player of the game tonight. In a surprise start, Howard scored 22 points with extremely efficient 9 of 11 shooting, and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the team. He did commit seven turnovers, but in the grand scheme of things he helped his team much more than he hurt them, and his return was just the lift the Lakers needed.
Tonight’s Top Two Tweets in my Twitter Feed
“Earl Clark has been a beast since George Karl took him off the bench to shoot and make 2.” – @Jeronimo_Joe, late-game tweet
“Happy to hear Kobe talking about cranking up HIS defensive intensity w/the hope it trickles down. To me, that’s the #1 key to improved D. AK” – @KamBrothers, post-game tweet
Tuesday, January 15 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks, 7:30 p.m. PST