With the Lakers’ 86-78 victory of the Atlanta Hawks, there are a few key aspects to examine more closely.
Pau Gasol – Gasol had a great, aggressive game for the Lakers on the road in Boston last Thursday, and the Lakers won. Gasol had an aggressive game last night, and the Lakers won. Notice a trend? In both games, Gasol attempted 20 or more shots, and also had 13-plus rebounds. With Gasol, it seems to be a matter of being aggressive. He may not always get the touches he wants within the offense, but when he is aggressive, he manages offensive rebounds (eight big ones last night), which in turn lead to put-backs and tip-ins. Similarly, when he’s aggressive, his teammates are more inclined to throw him the ball as well.
It’s no secret that Pau Gasol needs to be aggressive for the Lakers to be successful, the question is simply can he do it on a consistent basis? As the season progresses and the trade deadline passes, Gasol should feel more comfortable about his situation with the Lakers and focus purely on basketball and getting wins. It’s definitely good to see him picking up his level of play as of late.
Rebounds – We visit this subject after each game, and that will probably continue. When the Lakers rebound well, they win most of the time. Tonight, the Lakers out-rebounded the Hawks 52-47, but were out-rebounded on the offensive glass, 17-14. Gasol and Bynum did their respective jobs, combining for 28 rebounds (12 offensive), but the Lakers continue to have problems with giving up offensive rebounds and second chance points. Luckily, last night they were still able to get the win.
Turnovers – The Lakers appeared to be looking for one another (which is a good thing), and had 20 assists in the process. But, they also had 17 turnovers. They must address this and clean up the turnovers going forward.
Bench – The Lakers received solid production from each reserve that played last night. Andrew Goudelock continued his efficient, aggressive scoring with 10 points in less than 14 minutes, and Matt Barnes’ high level of activity was a huge boost in just over 21 minutes. However, Steve Blake and Troy Murphy played big minutes (approximately 30 each), which allowed none of the starters to log more than 35 minutes.
Goudelock and Blake were key players in the fourth quarter, hitting big shots that helped maintain a Lakers’ double-digit lead down the stretch until Mike Brown eventually brought back Kobe and the rest of the starters to finish out the game. Steve Blake’s six assists were also a huge plus, as he looked to control the second unit and get other players going; alleviating the pressure off of Bryant and the other starters.
The bench as a whole didn’t score a whole lot with 28 points, but they did manage to hold the Hawks’ bench to just 25. They played with a purpose and looked to be aggressive while they were out there. More importantly, they played well in the fourth quarter. This type of play, obviously, is a must in order for the Lakers to be successful down the road.
Overall, the Lakers played a solid game. They defended well, and although they didn’t score a lot, looked much more fluid offensively than they have in the past. If Pau Gasol can continue to be aggressive and involved, and the bench can become more consistent, the Lakers have a lot to look forward to. If they can continue to rebound well and clean up their turnovers, the Lakers give themselves a chance to win each and every game.