Much more below...
Should greater Los Angeles again descend on the Coliseum this June to celebrate another Lakers title, I doubt strongly anyone will wax poetic about a certain 93 seconds during the third quarter of Tuesday night's scrap with a hobbled Golden State Warriors squad at Staples. They won't even wax early high school, angst-driven pseudo-deep quasi-poetic. Between the 9:47 and 8:14 marks, the Lakers turned the ball over four times on four consecutive possessions, vaporizing a seven point lead.Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
There were bobbles all over the floor, but the Lakers buckled down at the game's most critical moments.
Kudos to the home team for exceeding the pace set only a quarter earlier, when L.A. gave up the rock three times in barely two minutes between 9:49 and 7:48, part of a six turnover frame leading to 11 points for the Warriors and whittling a 12-point advantage after one down to three at the break. Without a seven-point burst over the final 1:32, it would have been worse, as the Lakers were stuck on 11 points for most of the quarter.
I think we can all agree it wasn't the vaunted Warriors defense keeping them down.
By the end of the third, the Lakers had given the ball up 14 times, exceeding their 13.1 average with 12 minutes still to play. They'd finish with 19, as sloppy and inattentive on this night as they were razor sharp in the three leading to the break. The shot selection was often awful, as the Lakers failed to consistently take advantage of a Warriors team with almost no meaningful size down low. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Ron Artest combined to shoot 13 of 39.
And they won. Final score, 104-94.
Having won in impressive fashion in their first three games without Kobe Bryant, Tuesday they showed an ability to win ugly without him. Nobody in the Lakers' locker room will be particularly happy with how it happened, but it still counts. In the process, they showed an ability to make key plays and get key stops without 24, even when the gears pick up sand.
Of course, it was against the Warriors, and a depleted GSW crew at that. Still, not everything positive must be poetry.
The Bounce Back
For Shannon Brown, moments in the sun have been few and far between, which made participation in the All-Star weekend's dunk contest a potential career-definer (at least during his three-plus years in the NBA). Instead, Brown clanged his first attempt (a 360), looked increasingly nervous and eventually suffered a first round elimination. An athleticism showcase disappointingly anticlimactic, but in the meantime, he remains a developing player equally defined by upside only now being tapped. Thus, it was fitting Kobe Bryant's inability to suit up presented Brown an immediate chance to put LetShannonDunk.com-Gate in the rear view mirror.
He responded with quite literally a career-night. A career-high 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting. A career-high 10 rebounds. His first career double-double.
No doubt a terrific performance for the game's leading scorer, but what made it additionally interesting was how the often efficient, occasionally brilliant play was also marked by sequences likely to earn Shannon a note from the coaching staff.
His shot selection, particularly when creating for himself off the dribble, was sometimes wonky, most evident when a self-concocted third quarter miss from downtown drew Sasha Vujacic's ire. At the risk of insulting The Machine, it says something when he's got a legit beef with your choices. And while driving the lane late in the game, a pass he threw to Pau Gasol (maybe one foot away) was hotter than Gisele BŁnchen sunbathing topless in 110 degree heat while lying on a stolen towel.
El Spaniard somehow managed to corral the ball despite risk of decapitation and earn two freebies at the stripe, but the sequence was anything but pretty.
Then again, Brown contributed six points during an 8-0 first quarter run and book-ended that start with a dozen points in the fourth frame. The good definitely outweighed the bad, the most you can hope for from a young player very much a (hopeful) diamond in the rough with an expanding role.
"Understanding the offense and handling all the parameters of what's available, he's still working with that," said Phil Jackson during his postgame media about the areas Shannon is still learning the most. I asked if these growing pains must be accepted for a player boasting Shannon's raw potential.
"Yeah," said PJ. "And we can live with that."
Plus, as Jackson noted, the youngster typically needs more offensive prodding than a leash. Brown's take on the matter reflected his coaches' desire to see him develop, even if that means enduring bumpy patches. "The coaches always tell me if I'm doing too much, they'll let me know."
In any event, the timing of this night couldn't have worked out any better for Brown. When a reporter wondered why he didn't attempt another 360 on Saturday, the query was brushed off as yesterday's news.
"I've actually forgotten about the dunk contest. I'm on to the next game."
Rebounds. Lakers 53, Warriors 36, and just as it was against Portland, L.A. kept Golden State away from the offensive glass. Only three ORB on 49 misses for the visitors. L.A., meanwhile, had 11, good for 15 second chance points.
Free throws. Lakers 31, Golden State 19. The Lakers didn't take enough advantage, missing nine, but it was enough to help keep the home team ahead.
63.3%. The combined shooting percentage of Andrew Bynum and Shannon Brown (19-30).
34.5%. The combined shooting percentage of everyone else in a Lakers uniform.
15.5. Lamar Odom's rebounding average over L.A.'s four game Kobe-free winning streak.
Bynum's Big Night
My wife, admittedly not a big basketball fan, has the same reaction every time I mention a good night from Bynum. "Oh," she says. "He's not hurt?"
Such is Bynum's lot in life after missing huge chunks of the last two seasons with injuries to each knee. His ability to bounce back from and play through physical ailments and discomfort has been openly questioned. Tuesday night, running with a badly bruised right hip and fluid-filled bursa sac in the joint that may still require draining, provided a response. Bynum started strong, dominating Golden State's undersized forwards for 11 points in the first quarter, but as the game went on he was clearly feeling some pain.
"Definitely. I had to sit out, I think, mid-way through the third to put ice on it," he said. In a perfect world, the Warriors would have folded their tent and gone home, giving Bynum a chance to rest. Unfortunately for the Lakers, the game didn't cooperate and Bynum was forced back into the fourth quarter. "I wanted to go back in. I had the ice on it and calmed it down a little bit, but I'm going to have to play with it," he said.
On the night, Bynum finished with 21 points and seven boards on eight of 11 shooting, and kept his hands active (three steals). Bynum ought to have success against a team like the Warriors, and did despite a bum leg tightening up on him as the night went along.
Bynum, on playing with pain:
Jackson on the win, Shannon Brown:
Jackson, on Gasol, Bynum, and Artest: