Much has been made over the recent struggles of the Los Angeles Lakers. Many know that everything the Lakers do is blown out of proportion, and sometimes one win or one loss carries more weight than it should. However, after three straight losses that saw the Lakers blown out, the fans were nervous heading into tonight’s game with the New Orleans Hornets.
The Hornets have all the elements that spell disaster for the Lakers. Their strong point guard play and ability to run the pick and roll both are troublesome for Los Angeles, and it would take an all-around effort for the Lakers to end the losing streak.
It seemed that the Lakers were as frustrated as anybody coming out of the locker room to start the game. They had a sense of energy and purpose that has been lacking the past few games, and for most of the season. However, that doesn’t mean that they played perfect basketball. In fact, they still were making careless mistakes that cost them in the opening quarter. Despite hot shooting and solid ball movement, the Lakers were turning over the basketball and giving too many free possessions to New Orleans. This was a troublesome sign for the Lakers, as turnovers have spelled doom for them in nearly every loss this season.
The main difference for the Lakers was the play of Andrew Bynum. The young center made his first start of the season for Los Angeles tonight, and his impact was immediate. He scored 6 early points and gave New Orleans trouble defensively. The Hornets had been on a rebounding tear, out-rebounding their last several opponents by wide margins. The Lakers clearly had a plan for this going into the game, and were able to win the rebounding edge and use it to benefit them offensively.
At the end of the first quarter the Lakers had a slight 26-23 lead, but considering how well they had shot the ball it seemed a disappointing lead. Too many turnovers allowed New Orleans to stay in the game, and Los Angeles would have to fix that heading into the next three periods.
After a strong first half that only gave the Lakers a three point cushion, Los Angeles was looking to put some distance between themselves and the Hornets. For the first time in a long time they were able to do just that. Los Angeles used solid team basketball and hot shooting to build a big lead against the overwhelmed New Orleans squad.
All the elements that had haunted the Lakers for the past week seemed like distant memories, as they were able to execute their style of play in almost every aspect of the game. The struggling bench mob provided a huge lift as well, something that has been nonexistent over the past three games. After a horrendous shooting night in San Antonio on Tuesday, Kobe Bryant also bounced back with a much more efficient first half. By the time the second quarter was over the Lakers had established a 59-41 lead over the Hornets.
Next: Second Half