Here are a few aspects of last night’s 104-101 victory over the Golden State Warriors we will analyze:
Rebounds – We almost always talk about rebounds, and last night was no different. The Lakers out-rebounded the Warriors, 52-35. In Sunday night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers lost the battle of the boards, 42-38. Notice a trend? Last night the Lakers did what they are supposed to do every night, and it helped result in a win. It was a team effort, though, with six players pulling down five rebounds or more. The Lakers know where their advantage is, and must continue to use it in order to keep winning games.
Kobe Bryant’s Leadership – After being benched during a crucial stretch of the Lakers’ loss to the Grizzlies, Bryant took the high road and gave a politically correct answer. He acknowledged he was upset, but only at the thought of not playing in crunch time. When asked about Mike Brown, he repeated his alliance with Mike Brown, saying as a leader it wouldn’t be wise for him to start a war between him and his head coach.
With Derek Fisher gone, Bryant has realized that he must take on a more politically correct leadership role; at least in the media. He realizes that he must be a buffer between the coaching staff and the players because he commands respect from his guys, and if he goes against the coaches, his teammates may follow him in that regard as well. Kobe has never been the greatest vocal leader, but he will have to take on that role more often for the rest of the season if the Lakers wish to be successful in the playoffs. He may have to start by talking to Andrew Bynum.
Andrew Bynum – Speaking of Andrew Bynum, what is going on with him? We’re not going to sit here and overly criticize Bynum, but something was up last night. He threw up an ill-advised three-point attempt which resulted in Mike Brown sending him to the bench, and when he came back in the game, he looked disinterested. One game isn’t going to take away from everything he’s done thus far, however.
The big fella has worked extremely hard this year and has become the Lakers second option offensively, while also being the defensive anchor. His rebounding has diminished over the past few games, however, as he is averaging just 6.4 boards over the last five games as opposed to a season average of 12.2. Perhaps there is something going on between him and Mike Brown, but he’ll have to check himself before he wrecks himself and just go out and play hard on the court as he has most of the season. He is too major of a player for the Lakers this year to let any drama get in the way of the Lakers winning. At the end of the day, it was probably just one bizarre incident.
Hopefully we will see a different, more focused Andrew Bynum come Thursday. He can start by getting his average on the boards back up.
Pau Gasol – In contrast to Andrew Bynum’s decline on the boards has been Pau Gasol’s overall increase in production. Over the same past five games, Pau Gasol is averaging 18.6 points and 12 rebounds as opposed to his 16.8 point, 10.6 rebound average. Gasol played extremely well last night, and looked comfortable. On several plays, we saw Gasol get touches and go to work in the post. This season has seen Gasol take a back seat to Andrew Bynum offensively, and left him to gain points on offensive rebounds and put-backs instead of having the offense run through him.
It has been very encouraging to see Gasol play well over the last handful of games. Part of this could be due to the trade deadline passing or an increased comfort level with his role amongst the team. Whatever the reason, Pau is looking aggressive and is asserting himself throughout games, including his willingness to make big plays towards the end of games. This is the Pau Gasol we have learned to expect in the playoffs, and it is a great sign to see him in that form.
Small Forwards – Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes played extremely well last night. They each hustled, and did the intangibles en route to helping the Lakers get a win. Although they were both on the floor together at times (and down the stretch as well), the two combined for 29 points, 15 rebounds (six offensive), and six assists at the small forward position. If they can both contribute in a similar fashion more consistently, the Lakers will be a very formidable opponent going forward.
One positive we can take from Andrew Bynum’s benching is the revelation that Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes can play some really scrappy, hard-nosed defense and be extremely active offensively as well when they are on the floor together.
The Lakers managed to pull out a victory on the road, which is always a good thing. Even without Andrew Bynum in the second half, they managed to get the job done by having everyone else step up big. Now they need to just get back to winning with Andrew Bynum dominating throughout the whole game.