Lakers Use Balanced Effort To Overcome Mavericks In Overtime

Here are a few aspects of last night’s 112-108 victory over the Mavericks we will analyze:

Rebounds – We always discuss the rebounding, so let’s just get it out of the way first. The Lakers out-rebounded the Mavs 52-42 (15-6 on the offensive glass). The Lakers’ big men took care of business down low, as did Matt Barnes. This type of rebounding must continue for the Lakers. Despite having two seven-footers, the Lakers are a very capable rebounding team, and have shown this over the course of the season. As long as they continue their collective aggressive pursuit of the basketball, the Lakers will make games much easier for themselves.

Andrew Bynum – Andrew Bynum’s game has obviously taken a huge step this season. However, Bynum has stepped up his level of play even more lately. Two games ago he grabbed 30 rebounds, and one game ago he had 30 points. Yesterday afternoon, he mixed it up and had 23 points and 16 rebounds. His defense has picked up significantly as of late as well, which is going to be equally as important as his scoring output going forward into the playoffs. As long as Bynum maintains his focus on defense, his offense will come and he will be an absolute force for other teams to deal with in the playoffs.

Pau Gasol – Pau Gasol has also stepped up his play in the absence of Kobe Bryant. Gasol is seemingly the most underrated player on the Lakers’ roster. On Sunday he had 20 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists and barely anyone seemed to notice. When he is playing poorly, fingers start pointing in his direction, but when he is playing well, it seemingly goes unnoticed. The Spaniard is playing brilliant basketball right now and will be relied upon greatly in the playoffs.  Knowing Gasol, however, he likely doesn’t care about the criticism or the credit as long as his team is winning.

Matt Barnes – There aren’t enough words to describe what Matt Barnes brings to this Lakers team. Against the Denver Nuggets, he put up 24 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, and Sunday he nearly earned a triple-double. Not to mention his relentless energy and the game-changing plays he makes down the stretch of games so often. How many players can have that much of an overall impact off the bench? Not many.

Metta World Peace – We briefly spoke on Metta World Peace’s elevated level of play in “The Breakdown” after the Lakers’ victory over the San Antonio Spurs, but we’ll do it again here. Over the last six games, World Peace is averaging 18 points (on 53 percent shooting and nearly 40 percent shooting from three-point land), 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Although that is only over a short span of six games, Metta World Peace hasn’t averaged numbers like that since he was with the Houston Rockets in the 2008-2009 season.

Most of this increased productivity has come while Kobe Bryant has been on the bench with an injury, but it is great to know that the former Ron Artest still has a lot left in the tank. He has shown an array of offensive moves (from three-pointers, post-up moves, drives and dunks, etc.) but has also maintained his defensive prowess. When World Peace is rolling, other teams simply don’t know what to do with him.

Ramon Sessions – Ramon Sessions continues to improve and become acclimated as a Laker. After being first traded to the Lakers, Sessions fit into the system seamlessly. However, he has continued to improve and become even more effective than he was before. Now, he is learning to play off of other players while also setting them up for easy baskets, driving into the lane for easy buckets on occasion, and hitting open shots in crunch time. His decision making down the stretch appears to be very solid as well, as he is assertive but controlled at the same time. Sessions appears to be a weapon with multiple facets to his game and will be extremely crucial for the Lakers going forward.

Assists – One thing the Lakers don’t always do is manage to rack up a ton of more assists than the other team. Yesterday, however, the Lakers boasted a 27-19 advantage in the “Assists” column. With Bryant out of the game, the Lakers have had to rely upon each other, and in turn have played extremely well together. They have moved the ball very well, and really look for one another on offense. Hopefully the ball movement will remain when Kobe returns.

Coach Mamba – With Bryant unable to play due to a lingering shin injury, the Black Mamba has impressed us all with his leadership and coaching. Although we don’t truly know how effective his coaching has been, we can deduce that he has been extremely involved during his extended stay on the bench. He sits next right next to the coaching staff and continuously converses with the assistant coaches and head coach Mike Brown during games. He was seen drawing up plays and taking over huddles as well.

Additionally, he mentioned that the communication between the coaches and players is excellent right now. He has likely voiced his concerns about certain aspects of the offense and/or defense he previously had issues with and worked them out with the coaching staff. This will be invaluable going forward, as now Bryant is able to see the behind-the-scenes thinking of the coaching staff and give his opinions and suggestions in the process. He is essentially a part of the coaching staff now, and will be able to work with the coaches even more now as he has gained credibility with them, and vice versa.

Similarly, now that Bryant is so involved in the coaching aspect, other players will have more confidence in the coaching if they hadn’t already. On top of that, Kobe can act as a liaison between the coaches and players alike when he returns to the court.

Yesterday’s victory was another exhibition of the Lakers continued growth this season. With various players taking on added responsibility, Bryant’s increased vocal leadership role, and yet another grind-it-out type victory, the Lakers are truly evolving before our eyes.

They appear to be evolving back into championship form.

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