For Old Times’ Sake: Lakers Defeat Celtics in Overtime Thriller

The Bench – The reserves continued to struggle last night, scoring just 18 points. Luckily for them, the Celtics’ bench only scored 19. However, there were some positives to take away from the game.

Matt Barnes scored 11 points in just 17 minutes, and had three big offensive rebounds. His hustle and mentality to slash to the basket have given the Lakers something they sorely need. His athleticism and ability to finish at the basket are huge positives for the Lakers, as they are lacking this type of play. Whether he is cutting to the basket off-ball and finishing at the rim, or crashing the offensive glass and getting second chance points, his hustle is a definite plus.

Steve Blake returned, and played a crucial role down the stretch for the Lakers. No, he didn’t take over the game or hit a game winning shot, but he stepped in when he was desperately needed. Derek Fisher, who normally plays in crunch time, had a horrible shooting night. Had Steve Blake not suited up tonight, Mike Brown likely would have had to stay with Fisher as Andrew Goudelock is too inexperienced and still makes mistakes throughout the games, despite his recent success. Blake hesitated on an open three-pointer in overtime (something Fisher never does) and missed, but shot the ball with confidence on the very next shot and made it (resilient!). His return allowed Mike Brown to have a different option at the point guard position down the stretch.

Blake played his part in crunch time, allowing Kobe to set the table, but what was also encouraging was his play with the second unit. He appeared very aggressive with the reserves, looking to create shots for others instead of just standing on the perimeter as a shooter. He didn’t get a single assist, but he had the correct mentality. He had a good run last night (30 minutes), but perhaps after a few games back, he will get back to where he was before he went down and perhaps even better.

Consequently, with Steve Blake back, Andrew Goudelock saw limited time (eight minutes) and Jason Kapono saw none. Hopefully the return of Blake can actually help Goudelock. The Mini-Mamba (the nickname given to him by Kobe) was getting used to handling the ball and creating his own shot, and was becoming relatively good at it. With Blake back, he won’t be handling the ball as much. However, this can help him as he will no longer have the responsibility of trying to get other guys involved, and can focus on what he does best: score. If he can learn to play off of Blake, he can get some of his minutes back at the expense of Kapono.

Troy Murphy scored just two points on 1-5 shooting, but made up for it with nine rebounds and several solid defensive plays. Murphy was able to get a couple steals, deflections, and overall was able to help disrupt Boston’s defense. He kept his head in the game, and made a positive impact on the outcome of it.

Rebounds – Speaking of rebounds, the Lakers out-rebounded the Celtics 55-45, and 15-12 on the offensive glass. Led by Andrew Bynum (17) and Pau Gasol (14), the Lakers’ superior rebounding proved to be a difference maker for the Lakers. As Kobe said after the game, “It’s the glass, we’ve been horrible giving up second chance points and opportunities to the opposition and tonight we did a much, much better job” before stating that if they can continue to rebound as they did last night, they’ll have a much better chance of winning on the road.

In the large scheme of things, last night’s win over the Boston Celtics doesn’t mean much in terms of the rivalry, as those moments can only be scripted and forever cemented in the playoffs when it comes to these two teams. However, for the Lakers, in this season, and on the road, this win can be significant. They were able to battle and outlast a formidable opponent on their home floor; something they can’t say of their previous two games.

Maybe it just took seeing their old rivals to bring out the fire.

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