Here are a few aspects of the Lakers 105-102 victory we will analyze:
Inside Presence/Rebounds – The Lakers dominated the defensive (45-34) and offensive glass (17-10) last night, as they should have. With Kevin Love, who averages 25.5 points and 13.8 rebounds, out due to injury, the Lakers did exactly what they should have done, and dominated the paint. Although Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams combined for 23 rebounds, the Lakers as a team were still able to control the boards. Andrew Bynum dominated and found different ways to impact the game whether it was a block, a steal, a post move, or simply running the floor for an easy alley-oop. Pau Gasol wasn’t hugely aggressive, but kept his head in the game and came up with a huge defensive play to end the game. Hopefully the Lakers don’t trade the guy.
Bench – The bench combined for just 15 points and 12 rebounds, but were able to contribute at various times throughout the game and provide energy. Sometimes it isn’t always about the stats, but also about the energy and execution when it comes to the reserves. The numbers obviously don’t jump out at you, but they at least played more under control than in the previous two games. Mike Brown went with a different look last night by playing McRoberts and Kapono instead of Goudelock and Murphy, so it will be interesting to see what rotation he chooses next game.
Road Test – The Lakers looked pathetic in two consecutive road losses to the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards prior to last night’s game. A victory over a Minnesota team without their star player hardly negates the two losses, but some credit is due. The Lakers came out flat and were down early, but managed to fight their way back into the game, and eventually pull out a much needed victory. However, there is something seriously wrong when it comes to the Lakers on the road.
Many assumed the Lakers had finally turned the corner after defeating the Miami Heat last Sunday, and thought there was an easy road trip ahead of them to prove their improvement. However, the fact that the Lakers struggled on a trip which featured no teams above .500 exposed to the rest of the league that the Lakers still have a huge weakness. Beating great teams at home will do nothing for the Lakers until they are able to prove they can at least beat mediocre teams on the road. They will have to attack this problem with focus and trust in each other.
What’s Next – Up next on the schedule for the Lakers are the hated Boston Celtics on Sunday, at Staples Center. The last time the two teams met, the game went to overtime, resulting in a Lakers’ 88-87 victory. There is never a shortage of fireworks when it comes to these two teams, and we expect nothing less come Sunday. When the Lakers face their most hated rival, they typically tend to play with a sense of togetherness and truly focus on the task at hand. Every play is a big play, and “role players” often come up big (Example: Metta World Peace in Game 7 and/or Derek Fisher in Game 3 of the NBA Finals). This type of urgency and trust in each other will have to be present once again for the Lakers to be victorious on Sunday.
They have shown their ability to play this way as recently as last Sunday, so we can at least expect a close game with lots of tenacity. However, the Lakers will have to somehow summon that passion on the road, as they have a quick, two-game road trip in which they will visit Memphis and New Orleans on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
Even though the Celtics (21-18) are no longer an Eastern Conference powerhouse, if the Lakers can once again come out victorious against their hated rivals, all will be well in Lakerland…at least momentarily.