Before last night's 118-96 win over the Indiana Pacers, I appeared on the 710 ESPN's Kia Motors Lakers Shootaround Show with Steve Mason. One of our guests was Dan Dakich, who covers the Pacers for 1070 The Fan. Dakich wasn't sure if Coach Jim O'Brien would opt to go small with Troy Murphy at center (the way the Pacers play most effectively) or outside their comfort zone with Roy Hibbert at center to match the Lakers size. That indecision struck me as indicative of the Pacers' central problem against the Lakers: Playing either dwarfed or uncomfortably. As it turned out, the answer to "WWJO'BD" was "a fair amount of both." As it also turned out, neither approach was "the answer."Ron Hoskins/Getty Images
A lot of this happened while the Lakers beat Indiana.
With Murphy kicking off at the five, the Lakers wasted no time shuttling the rock to Andrew Bynum and working the size/"Murphy can't defend a stationary bike" advantage. Drew's first five shots were good and even with Hibbert eventually inserted to check him, didn't really matter much. 12-14 shooting for 27 points (although Hibbert wasn't exactly stymied in the reverse matchup). Phil Jackson admitted afterward to being surprised by the call to go small, but like I said earlier, "damned if you do, damned if you don't" for O'Brien. Eight points, Nine Seconds provides a terrific breakdown of why the Pacers coach faces a classic "no win" situation.
Kinda like the poor souls dispatched with the task of guarding Kobe Bryant.
Bad news for Dahntay Jones (starting specifically because of his prowess at "stopping" the Mamba) or anybody else drawing the typically Herculean assignment: Kobe is feeling good these days. The back spasms are gone and the metallic splint seems to be cooperating with the fractured index finger. This development tickles the Black Mamba pink, and the L.A. Times' Mike Bresnahan shared Kobe's buoyant mood:
- "You see me out there on the court, I'm bouncing around a lot more because I'm healthy," Bryant said. "I can move around the court with a lot more energy and be more active. I'm feeling good." In the Lakers' 118-96 victory Wednesday over the Indiana Pacers, Bryant made 10 of 15 shots and finished with 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, the second time this week he came close to a triple-double. He had 27 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and nine assists Sunday against Toronto.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson attributed it to the new splint. "He wasn't getting the support he wanted," Jackson said. "I think they got that straight."
Victory's aftermath wasn't all sunshine and moon pies, however. L.A.'s big men may have found statsy triumph- Pau Gasol scored 21, Lamar Odom grabbed 14 rebounds- but PJ wasn't entirely satisfied. He was quick to tag their protection of the middle "soft" and called for an immediate clampdown. It's not the first time Jackson has gotten on his bigs over defense (particularly Bynum), so would such criticisms perhaps prevent either from a trip to Dallas in February? Well, All-Star bids typically have jack to do with defense, but the Press-Enterprise's Jeff Eisenberg shares Drew's concerns over what might get in the way:
- Bynum was the top vote-getter among true centers in the West but finished second in the fan balloting behind Amar'e Stoudemire, a power forward who plays some center in Phoenix's small-ball system. The only way Bynum can make his first all-star appearance now is by winning the support of the coaches, no slam dunk with Clippers center Chris Kaman enjoying a career year and a multitude of deserving power forwards.
"If I didn't make it, I think it would be political more than anything," said Bynum, who made a late push with a season-high 27 points and 12 rebounds on Wednesday. "That's just something I'll have to deal with. They've got people who are not centers who are listed at center."
Either way, Bynum considers his season All-Star caliber, and there's some degree of solace to be found there.
Finally, lest anybody worry the blowout reduced Indianapolis' paying customers to a moody, sulking cluster of sadness, fear not. Indy Cornrows reports of a predictable (if understandably disappointing) contingent gracing the seats.
- Conseco "Reggie Miller" Fieldhouse sold out for the fourth time this season, and I write "sold out", I literally and figuratively mean it. For most of the game, the large Lakers contingent spent the evening shouting M-V-P for their savior when he went to the free-throw line, swished another picture-perfect jumper or just breathed on the sidelines. By the end of the game, when most Pacers fans were strolling to their cars, the Lakers fans stayed and were annoyingly loud for their team.
When the fans at Conseco weren't cheering on Kobe, they were screaming for the Indianapolis Colts players that made appearances in the arena. Colts players Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Matt Stover received a standing ovation when they were announced before the sellout crowd.
-Adam Morrison is named to the Joe Toucan Diabetes Project advisory board.
-Sasha Vujacic is trying to remain positive in the wake of smaller minutes.
-No word yet on the severity of Tony Parker's ankle sprain, but he's likely to miss a little time.
-Dwight Howard could live with a few more touches.
-Jason Terry may be out out of the 6MOY race.
-For that matter, who knows what happens next for Antawn Jamison and the rest of the Wiz?