(NOTE: Tonight's Lakers Late Night replay won't be available. Unfortunately, we ran into a technical glitch after the show, and the file was lost. Apologies.)
The Lakers did yeoman's work defensively Sunday afternoon against the Heat, and came away with a big 93-83 win. Kobe Bryant led the way with 33 points, including 18 in the first quarter and nine in the fourth, and was supported not just by Andrew Bynum (16 points, 13 rebounds) but Metta World Peace (17/7/3, plus four steals).
Without blowing it out of proportion, the Lakers were clearly satisfied by the quality of the win. It continues a quiet-but-clear upward trend -- L.A. has now won eight of ten -- aided by their continued growth in understanding and comfort in Mike Brown's system, but also Brown's willingness to loosen up on the reins a little.
Here, Kobe talks about why that's happened, and how it has impacted the team:
Fair to say after his performance Sunday, Metta was rightly feeling confident. Bryant spoke of his increased fitness, as did Mike Brown, and MWP agreed his body is as good as it's been in a long time, dating back to last season when he dealt with a variety of physical issues.
His response to the question of how he managed to make a guy like LeBron James work hard for his numbers was vintage.
"I've been playing defense [since] before I met LeBron."
From there, World Peace explained why he was, relatively speaking, able to contain James. "I'm going to answer this as honest as I can, but I'm one of the best defensive players ever... on the wing," Metta said. "I think that's the answer."
No question MWP has been a truly dominant defender, but the accuracy of his statement, whether historically or as a reflection of his current skill level is beyond the point. We've heard moments of swagger from Metta at different points this season, and last as well. Now, though, he's backing it up with much better play on the floor. MWP has long used interviews with the media almost as affirmations, reminding himself of one thing or another and reinforcing messages important for his overall well being.
If his Twitter account means anything, his inner monologue (which never stays inner for long) is heading in a positive direction, as it relates to the quality of his play. The Lakers have to hope this sort of talk is self-fulfilling. Good games lead to more confident proclamations which lead to more good games, because nobody in L.A.'s supporting cast can change the team's complexion in a positive direction like a productive World Peace.
Click below for more video, from Bryant, Andrew Bynum, World Peace, and Andrew Goudelock.
Kobe, on the win over Miami with Chris Bosh:
Kobe, on the Lakers gaining an understanding on their identity:
Andrew Bynum on the win over Miami, the Lakers defense:
Kobe on Metta World Peace:
Metta World Peace on his offense:
MWP on his conditioning:
Andrew Goudelock on the win over Miami, his scoring: