The Renegades/ Killers B’s/ Bench Mob or whatever is their nom de plume of choice played at a sustained high level all night and actually built a huge lead in the 4th quarter instead of squandering it like they are apt to do. In the first half, there was a sequence of fantastic plays showcasing the Lakers’ athleticism and commitment.
Lamar Odom had a great move running the length of the court for a layup and then hitting a pull up jumper on the ensuing possession. Next up was Shannon Brown, chasing from behind to swat a monster block out of bounds. Matt Barnes got in on the action by jumping the lane and almost coming up with a steal.
The fourth quarter only got better: Steve Blake came up with a turnover, ran the floor into the paint and kicked out to Shannon for a three. Andrew grabbed yet another rebound, which led to a three by Barnes. Matt followed that up with great pressure D at half court with Lamar to force Orlando’s 17th turnover. When the Lakers couldn’t capitalize, Matt gave them another chance with a block/steal sequence ending in a high flying Shannon Brown layup. The bench outscored Orlando’s 24-15 but more than that was the sustained effort and the pulsating energy they brought to the court.
While the shooting was poor in the first half especially, L.A. showed grit and determination and battled back with a mixture of great defense, keeping the ball alive, and taking care of the ball. Pau led the Lakers with 21 points and 5 players ended in double figures. The team also had 20 assists and only 4 turnovers, while making Orlando their latest defensive victim: the Magic were held to 84 points. Gasol and Bynum were both fantastic against Dwight Howard and proved yet again why our bigs are so valuable and so imperative to our continued success. They are the game changers and can control whether we will flourish or flounder come playoff time.
The Lakers are a second half team in more ways than one; they lose games and win games in the second half, and they turn up the intensity and focus in the second half of the season. When asked why the Lakers’ play was so improved, Pau Gasol responded simply, “It’s getting close to the end.” They have been amazing for the past few weeks and look like they will only get better. I’m really excited and anxious for April to arrive!