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Lakers 115, Warriors 110: At the buzzer

1/13/2011

After Tuesday's snooze fest, kinda fun to watch a barn burner, huh?



Three good

Kobe Bryant

His six turnovers (three alone in the first quarter) played a role in the team's initial struggles, but man alive, did he blow up in the second half. 30 points over the final 24 minutes and 17 in the final 12, despite recording just 14 shots over the entire duration. Dude was simply unstoppable, whether driving to the cup and drawing fouls, drilling from outside or capitalizing at the line (11-11). And in crunch time, when Kobe's often counted most, he didn't disappoint. 14 points over the final 3:54, plus a key assist to Ron Artest for a corner three, set up beautifully on a step-through dish while splitting a double.

It was one of those legendary "zones," the kind where opponents are reduced to praying Kobe either runs out of steam or attempts too much.

Unfortunately, for the Warriors, Kobe's cup runneth over, and was apparently bottomless.

Pau Gasol

After the first quarter ended, I was concerned about a quiet game setting up for El Spaniard. Two points on just one make in four tries. Three rebounds and two assists obviously brought something to the table, but Pau nonetheless needs to piece together a string of forceful performances before the masses will take a deep breath and become convinced his December slump is truly a thing of the past. One grows particularly paranoid about failing to dominate against a team with no interior resistance to speak of.

Fear not.

Gasol immediately came to life once the second frame commenced, working his way towards a 24 point, 11 rebound, three dime showing. And beyond the stat line, I loved Gasol's energy as the game chugged along. Seven of his boards were on the offensive glass, and one in particular the result of running down about half the court to snag a miss from Derek Fisher. Several other loose balls were tapped to teammates to create fresh possessions, and he forced some misses on Golden State's end with quality challenges.

Lamar Odom's fourth quarter

Pau's first quarter had me uneasy, but the opening trio from Lamar Odom were just blah. Four points on two-of-five shooting, too few takes or makes for my taste. Plus, he was a minus-15 over this period, by far the lowest of his teammates. Perhaps LO, quite the Lenovo enthusiast, got word of his jarringly negative standing, because along with Kobe, he tore up the fourth quarter: 15 points on six-of-eight shooting, plus three boards and a few terrific defensive sequences.

Even more impressive, LO went to the line after drawing contact on a drive against Andris Biedrins. The foul sent the Latvian big to the bench for good, but Odom landed on his still-tender left shoulder. The southpaw remained on the ground for a second as Lakers fans worldwide held their breath. Then he got off, dusted himself off, and calmly drained both freebies.

All of the attention Kobe has received over the years for playing hurt is well deserved, but Odom is no slouch in this department, either. His willingness often flies under the radar, but dude's got serious heart.

Three Bad

Turnovers

The Lakers did a horrible job taking care of the ball at the outset. The rock was coughed up seven times in the first half, which led to 13 points for Golden State. By the end of three quarters, they'd turned the ball over 13 times. Combined with opportunities allowed on the break in general (20 points alone in the first half), this carelessness allowed the Warriors to push back whenever the Lakers rallied.

Without question, these gaffes were the biggest reason the Lakers were engaged in a continual battle from behind. Thankfully, the best was saved for last. The fourth quarter was entirely clean, which was ultimately the difference between surviving Golden State's 35 points during the frame or allowing Kobe's and Lamar's heroics to go wasted.

Point guard shooting

Fisher contributed six dimes, and Steve Blake a pair in 13 minutes, so the traditional positional duties were filled nicely enough. Still, both are counted on two provide outside shooting and a little scoring punch, and neither was up to the task. Two-for-nine between them, with four misses in as many tries from downtown. Over the last few seasons, point guard has been the Lakers' most glaring weakness. Granted, it's a relative red flag, since they've clearly managed to get by on the virtue of their strengths. But it's never easy when a starting and backup tandem can't be counted on to hit shots, and for the time being, both remain too streaky (or in Blake's case, not even that steady) for the Lakers' comfort.

Three point line defense

I can live (to a certain degree) with Monta Ellis' 38 points, in part because they were often the result of turnovers (as opposed to lazy D) and in part because the man was born to fill a bucket. Allowing the Dubs to connect on 43 percent of their treys, however, sits worse. Particularly when you consider the bloated figure was dragged down by Steph Curry's five-of-six showing. Plus, I warned everyone about Dorel Wright before the game, so his quintet from distance makes me feel like the Lakers don't actually read my scouting reports. Next thing you'll tell me, they don't read "At the Buzzer" for tips on how to improve!