Here are a few aspects of last night’s 98-84 victory over the Spurs that we will analyze:
Rebounds – If you’ve been following our “breakdowns,” you saw this one coming. The Lakers out-rebounded the Spurs 60-33 and held a 16-1 advantage on the offensive glass. With that kind of disparity in rebounds, it would be almost impossible for the disadvantaged team to win. Additionally, when the other team is limited to just one offensive rebound and they’re a three-point shooting team that sees a lot of long-rebound opportunities, you’re doing a great job of taking them out of their comfort zone. There was one big reason for the huge disparity, and we’ll get right into that next.
Andrew Bynum – Yes, he’s had some incidents on and off the court this year, but the Lakers’ center has been an absolute beast for the Lakers this season, and last night proves this. After Monday night’s win over the Hornets, we suggested that Andrew Bynum recommit himself to rebounding and defense to finish off the season, and it appears he took our advice. Bynum pulled down 30 (yes, 30!) rebounds (eight offensive) last night and was a defensive force throughout. He didn’t shoot particularly well, as he converted on just seven of 20 shots. As he put it after the game on live television, “I shot the ball like ****.” Good thing he was committed to defense and rebounding, though.
Metta World Peace – You never know what you’re going to get with World Peace, but apparently that’s a good thing because defenses don’t know either. World Peace is averaging just seven points per game this season on 38 percent shooting (29 percent from three). However, over the last four games, World Peace has averaged 19 points on 64 percent shooting (53 percent from three). Additionally, over the last three games, he is averaging 62 percent from three-point land. Combined with his tenacious defense, when Metta is being aggressive and shooting the ball well, there are no limits to the heights in which the Lakers can reach.
Bench – Although the bench was outscored last night (42-25), two players performed well. Matt Barnes and Steve Blake each provided energy, hit timely shots, and filled up the stat sheet. As the playoffs approach, rotations are going to shorten for all teams. This will actually benefit the Lakers because they simply aren’t as deep as other teams. If they can get solid production from two or three players off the bench each night, they will be in good shape. Other teams will likely play no more than four bench players in their rotation, unlike San Antonio’s seven played last night. Barnes and Blake are likely going to get a designated amount of minutes unlike Josh McRoberts or Troy Murphy, so if they can continue their consistency they will greatly help the Lakers going forward.
Road Win/Coach Kobe – We lauded the Lakers for coming back against the New Orleans Hornets on Monday and winning the game down the stretch without Kobe, but, we also mentioned that it was a game they should have won. However, a road victory against the Spurs without Kobe was unexpected by many, and a blowout would have been deemed nearly impossible by most. The Lakers somehow managed to come out and rout a high-powered, well-coached team that is also closing in on the Oklahoma City Thunder for the number one spot in the western conference. Metta World Peace credited Kobe’s coaching from the sidelines as one reason the Lakers won they way they did.
Whatever the reason, many concerns over the Lakers’ road woes have suddenly disappeared. Not only are they winning on the road, they are winning without Kobe. Not only are they winning on the road without Kobe, but they just beat one of the toughest teams in the west on the road without Kobe.
One difference between Kobe’s current injury and injuries of the past are that Kobe is able to be on the sideline during the games. Previous injuries had relegated him to treatment in the locker room or rest at home. This injury, however, just requires that his leg remain in a boot. This has allowed him to be there for his teammates on the sidelines, and give the kind of advice and motivation he usually would during a game in which he is playing.
The question now is whether Bryant can implement himself back into the offense without disrupting the ball movement and production the Lakers are currently utilizing, when he comes back. At least other players are stepping up and getting into rhythm while he’s out. Hopefully they will maintain their new found autonomy when Kobe comes back, and hopefully Kobe will ease his way back into the offense rather than shoot his way back into it.
Last night proved to be a huge road win for the Lakers as various players stepped up big. With the Lakers set to play the Spurs two more times within the next nine days, it will be interesting to see what transpires next.