After their first road trip of the season the Lakers were back in Southern California on Sunday night looking to extend their winning streak. After a perfect 3-0 on the road trip the Lakers were faced with another challenge tonight, as the Golden State Warriors were in town. The Lakers were looking to not only extend their winning streak, but gain another gain in the Pacific Division standings over the Warriors.
The Lakers came out strong in front of their own crowd. Obviously glad to be back in front of the Los Angeles faithful, the Lakers didn’t disappoint the ticket holders at the beginning of this one. The Warriors lack a serious front-court presence, and the Lakers obviously were looking to take advantage. After a relatively sub-par game from Pau Gasol in Minnesota on Friday, it was no surprise that he showed up to play tonight.
For the Lakers the biggest story was the bench. While they got a sizable lead on the Warriors with their starters on the floor, it was their bench that maintained and ultimately extended the lead. In what has been a major achilles heel for Los Angeles in the past, the bench has turned into a very formidable force thus far in 2010. After the end of the first quarter the Lakers were enjoying the home cooking, and led the Warriors 37-21.
For the Warriors, the second quarter was even uglier than the first. Not only did the Lakers increase their lead, they nearly put Golden State away. Led by Pau Gasol and a hearty effort from the bench, the Lakers extended their lead to 30 in the second quarter. By the time the quarter was over they had put up nearly seventy points. Golden State is certainly not known for their defense, but this was ridiculous. The Lakers couldn’t miss and the Warriors couldn’t think of anything to make them miss.
As was mentioned above, the continuing story for the Lakers has been the play of their bench. Players like Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, and Shannon Brown have been major assets for the Lakers in games like these. In the past, after the starters had amassed a sizable lead, the bench would barely be able to hold onto it, and sometimes would lose it altogether. This year has been a different story thus far, as Barnes, Blake, Brown, and the rest of the reserves have had major impacts on the games.
By the time the teams finally got to head to the locker rooms, the Lakers were up 69-41. Good ball movement and hot shooting built the lead for Los Angeles, and heading into the second half this thing was all but decided.
The third quarter was similar to the first two for the Lakers, as the Warriors just couldn’t muster the amount of energy to make a serious comeback. Phil Jackson left the starters in for most of the third, but you got the feeling they would be getting very familiar with the bench come the fourth. The highlight of the third was when Jeremy Lin came into the game for Golden State. Lin was looked at by the Lakers in the off-season before eventually signing with Golden State.
As Jackson began to empty the bench the lead remained steady. This game is certainly one that can be considered part of the grind, as it was over early and never really got close. By the end of the third the starters were getting friendly with the ice and the Warriors were ready to leave town, as the Lakers led 95-60.
In a run-out-the-clock scenario the fourth quarter was certainly one of the less-inspiring twelve minutes of basketball you will see this season. Both teams emptied the bench and waited for the game to come to a merciful end. While the bench certainly didn’t have a lot to play for, they still maintained the lead and let the Lakers coast to victory.
All the starters did exactly what you and I did in the fourth, watched. With a tough game coming up on Tuesday versus Chicago, the extra rest will certainly be appreciated. The bright spot for the Lakers in the fourth were the rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, both of who made tough plays. While they are still fairly raw, it’s nice to see the rookies get in some playing time.