Hollywood Drama: Lakers Top Blazers in 103-92 Victory

Here are some aspects of the game to analyze:

The Drama – Following Bryant’s comments regarding the possible trade of Pau Gasol, all eyes were on Gasol and the rest of the Lakers to see how they would respond. Gasol didn’t have an overly dominant performance numbers wise, but he played focused and created a lot of positives for the Lakers. However, the Lakers’ balanced attack is possibly a better sign. They played together and constantly looked for each other on offense, showing that they have each other’s proverbial backs. If Gasol’s teammates continue to support him and help him stay focused on basketball, perhaps he will be able to perform more consistently and not focus on the uncertainty of his situation.

Which Team Is It? – After having a horrible performance versus Phoenix on Sunday night (particularly in the first half), and having an exceptional first quarter in last night’s game, Lakers fans are baffled and wondering which team is the real team. Was the loss against Phoenix just a result of mental and/or physical fatigue, or was it an indication of how poorly the Lakers play on the road?  Or, perhaps, was it just a result of missed assignments on defense which were corrected the following night? Only time will tell. So far, the Lakers have been horrible on the road, but consistent at home. Can they somehow transfer their home court focus to road games? We all hope so.

Steve Blake  – The bench wasn’t particularly effective last night, but Steve Blake made up for it. While draining five of six three-pointers en route to 17 points, Blake proved he can be a consistent outside threat. It would be great for him to be more of a play-maker as well, but he operated within the offense and was a huge boost off the bench.

Inside Play – The Lakers’ big men got off to a great start, establishing themselves early. In the second half, they didn’t get as many offensive opportunities, but were still very effective. Part of this was due to the higher number of fast breaks for the Lakers (a rarity this season). This resulted in less half-court sets involving Gasol and Bynum.

The lack of inside play down the stretch essentially helped the Trail Blazers cut the lead, but the Lakers were still able to hold on. The rebounding was a huge plus for the Lakers, as they out-rebounded Portland 51-37. Bynum’s 19 rebounds were huge, as punctuated with a defensive rebound and a quarterback-like throw to a streaking Kobe Bryant for an easy transition basket. The Lakers must continue to feature their big men down the stretch, however. Often times they establish their seven-footers early, and then stop going to them down the stretch.

Defense – The Lakers’ defense was exceptional in the first quarter, but later in the game allowed the Trail Blazers to get hot from three-point land and get back into the game. The good news is the Lakers have the ability to play smothering defense when they are focused on it, however. Their offense looked good last night, but is still a work in progress. They must dedicate themselves to defense in order to be more consistent.

The uncertainty surrounding the Lakers and Pau Gasol this season will remain, at least until the trade deadline. However, last night was a great exhibition of a team playing together and in support of each other. Perhaps it may even allow this team to bond and will pay dividends down the road. For a season that has been relatively quiet by Lakers’ standards, maybe a little drama is exactly what they need to play inspired basketball going forward.

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