Shannon Brown- The Magic clearly didn't have a ton of respect for Shannon's jumper- at least early- and he made them pay. He hit four of the five shots he took in the second quarter, including a triple, and took 11 points with him into the break. What was so encouraging, though, was the way Brown sustained the effort through the second half. 11 more points, on 4-7 from the floor, plus a pair of steals. The Lakers have been short bench production all season, consistent bench production in particular. For Brown to step up as he did and provide a steady dose of quality production was a huge boost. Add in Jordan Farmar's burst in the fourth- nine points and a steal- and L.A. was the beneficiary of well-rounded backcourt play. Derek Fisher started strong, hitting his first three shots, and the younger guys finished the job.
Lamar Odom- He's quick to remind anyone who asks- and probably those who don't- of his belief that games can be influenced in ways that go beyond scoring. And tonight, he once again proved his point. Odom didn't reach double digits in points, but was all over the floor in his 33:12 of playing time, and was particularly influential in the second half. Six points, nine boards, two assists (he finished with 9/16/5), plus a steal. Moreover, the guy worked. His two fourth quarter buckets were emblematic. The Lakers started the quarter down four, and Odom brought them back to square with pure effort on the offensive glass. First he grabbed an errant Pau Gasol tip, missed, and followed his own shot with another ORB and finally the putback. Then after grabbing a Jason Williams miss on the defensive glass followed a Famar miss with a tip. Full backboard-to-backboard play from Odom.
Later in the quarter after the Magic had crept back to within six, Odom made a great alley oop pass to Gasol, who drew the and-one in the process. It was a huge bucket, and a major momentum killer for Orlando.
Gasol on Dwight Howard: Statistically, it wasn't Pau's best game (not that 17/10/2 is garbage, mind you), but where he really made an impact was on the other end. Howard had a huge first half, primarily working against Andrew Bynum but really opening things up with easy dunks thanks to good position and nice passing from his teammates. He even showed touch on a 14-footer rarely seen from the dunk champ. (Bynum laid off and let him take the jumpers. I'd have done the same thing.) In the second half, and particularly late, Howard was very quiet. Only one field goal in the final 24 minutes. Some of that was LA's team D, but a lot of credit should go to Gasol.
"I think it's the length. I think his length bothers (Howard). He can get around and get to the ball a little bit, and make (Howard) protect the ball," Phil Jackson said. "Then he's always moving his feet so he draws charges, which puts (Howard)-- he's a little bit concerned about drawing a charge. As a consequence, sometimes (Howard) settles or kicks it out." Gasol was extremely effective against Howard last June, but still is in the process of rehabilitating his image as a defensive player. The Lakers are far less effective on that end of the floor without him, and tonight Gasol again showed an ability to body up and marginalize a star player.
Second and Third Quarter Offense: In the first quarter, the Lakers had 10 assists on 14 field goals. In the fourth, it was five on 12, but could have been more had L.A. not missed a few looks (putbacks don't do much for dimes). In the middle two frames, the Lakers were limited to four assists... and only had nine field goals. It was, to say the least, unattractive. "We were doing things on one side of the floor instead of changing sides of the floor. Everybody was trying to do things individually," Jackson said. It's strange how this sort of thing happens, but as a group the Lakers seemed to decide how many times they could shoot off one pass, or run an iso, or try to break down their man one-on-one. The 5-22 third quarter was particularly unsightly.
I don't really care who's on the floor- when the Lakers stop moving the ball and themselves, they look extremely ordinary offensively. Or worse.
The sliver lining? While Lakers scored only 31 points over those 24 minutes, they only lost 12 points on the scoreboard. L.A. held Orlando to 41.7% shooting in the second, 33.3% in the third. Nor did they foul, as the Magic went to the line a grand total of twice in that span, and a total of two turnovers kept the visitors from accruing easy points in transition. Sand may have infiltrated the offensive gears, but the Lakers kept things clean in other areas, keeping them in the game.
Kobe Bryant: He finished with seven assists against two turnovers, but any night Kobe goes for 11 points on 4-19 shooting, it's not a success. While Kobe said after the game his back was fine, there's no question his finger was bugging him. Asked how it felt, Kobe shrugged. "Fractured," he said. The hope was Kobe's finger would be getting close to healed by now. It's not. It may not be for a while, simply because the index finger of a right-handed player is a tough thing to keep out of harms way.
To his credit, though, by only scoring 11 points Bryant gave a brief reprieve to all those writers working on stories related to the 25,000 career points threshold he's soon to pass. Not that I'm in that crew. Oh no. I'm, like, totally done with that story. Sure.
Andrew Bynum- He left the game with 3:53 remaining in the third and didn't return, suffering from a GI issue that Jackson said had him tossing cookies in the locker room. Bynum returned to the bench, but didn't take off his warm ups from that point on. But lest you think it was a forced benching or something similar, now you know. Overall, he finished with eight points, eight boards, and two blocks- not all that bad in only 21:37 of play.
Jackson, on Brown: "He's a young man who's very diligent about his work. He puts in the effort and it's paying off for him."
PJ, on the bench: "I told them they're the reason why we got this game. From the position we did, to be able to come back, take a lead and turn a game back around."
Kobe, on the back: "The back felt fine. It felt fine."
Bryant, on the finger: "It's doing. It's fractured. It's doing fine, then I get hit on it and it's not doing well. I just take it as it comes. It's not quite there yet, so every time I hit it pretty good like I did tonight, it feels fractured. When you have that feeling, and it's throbbing, it's tough to shake it loose."
PJ, on Brown, the bench, and the bad offense in the second and third quarters:
Jackson on Gasol, Howard, and Bynum:
Brown on his improvement in L.A.:
Kobe on his health: