So the Lakers and Bobcats came out to Staples Friday night, and a Penn State-Northwestern game broke out (#big10CBBjokesIveusedbefore, #hi-yo!, #besuretotipyourwaitress)!
As has been the trend for the Lakers of late, they buoyed a spotty offensive effort with some shutdown D, controlling all but the first few minutes of the game and earning a 92-84 win, their sixth straight coming out of the All-Star break. But while it was, to say the least, an inelegant 48 minutes of ball, filled plenty of physical play and a raft of missed three-pointers (the teams combined to make only six threes on the night ... exactly the number San Antonio's Matt Bonner hit in the Spurs' blowout win over the Heat) it still counts as a positive night for the champs.
Here's how it broke down...
1. Andrew Bynum. Dude was a monster. He contributed nine points -- not exactly a Dear Diary night in that regard -- and was big on the offensive glass (five ORB's) but it was on the other end where he truly changed the game. When he wasn't cleaning the boards to the tune of a season-high 17 rebounds, Bynum completely obliterated any semblance of Charlotte's offense near the bucket. He blocked six shots (another high for '10-'11) on the night and altered what seemed like two or three times as many. His mobility was particularly impressive, as Bynum was able to contest shots and still recover for a rebound, or in some cases get after more than one shot in a possession.
Just as it was against Atlanta in L.A.'s first game out of the break, Bynum demonstrated how he can dominate a game without scoring much in it.
2. Ron Artest. Among his seven misses in 10 tries from the floor were some out-of-control forays into the lane, and a completely ill advised early clock stepback jumper against Stephen Jackson in the third quarter. He had four rebounds, two assists, and a block in his 27-ish minutes of play. Again, not stats that'll light the world on fire. But his value Friday night is measured less in what he did than in what Jackson didn't do offensively. Artest was in Captain Jack's jersey all night, forcing tough shot after tough shot, or simply denying him the opportunity altogether. Jackson finished with eight points -- his second lowest total of the season -- on a very modest three for 10 from the field, and while some of the low output is likely due to the injured hammy forcing him from the game in the third quarter, Artest deserves credit as well.
3. Pau Gasol. Save Bynum, who hit three of his four shots, Gasol was the closest thing to an efficient performer offensively the Lakers had in the opening 24 minutes. Four-of-six from the field, along with a stellar no-look pass to Shannon Brown to cap off a great run up the right wing, in which Gasol again connected to his old point guard roots. (Watching a seven-footer work the break like that is itself worth the price of admission.) In the second half, Gasol's percentage slipped a little, but he still managed to push his point total to 20 points (eight-for-14), while adding 10 rebounds, four assists, and a pair of blocks.
4. Defense. The Lakers loosened up a little in the fourth, but by then the game was fairly well in hand. Over the first three quarters in particular, they took a marginal offensive team and completely extinguished all hope. A great deal of credit goes to Bynum inside and Artest for his work on Charlotte's best player, but the Lakers were generally very strong in their rotations, aggressive on the boards, aggressive with their hands, and quick to loose balls. Add in a willingness to absorb charges, and it's a very good night.
Charlotte was limited to just 39.8 percent from the floor, and only 36.1 through three.
The Lakers put the Cats on the line nine times for the game- four through the first three.
12 blocked shots for the Lakers on the night, the aforementioned half-dozen coming from Bynum.
When you consider the Lakers did all this while doing themselves very few favors offensively, their performance on that side of the ball is even more impressive.
5. Turnovers. Probably the best thing L.A. did with the ball Friday night was not give it away. Only three turnovers in the first half, six through three, and seven overall. Charlotte earned a lone point off the home team's giveaways.
1. Offense. The Lakers too often were sucked into inefficient one-on-one play. They didn't move the ball or themselves particularly well (though when they did, the results were strong). As it's been through different points of the season, L.A.'s offense totally lacked any rhythm.
2. Shooting. Probably could have tacked this onto the last item, but here we are. Overall, the Lakers were under 40 percent from the field, but when you take away the chippies at the rim, things get even worse. Five-of-25 from downtown (a number boosted by a couple late makes). Overall, it was a shooting performance the local bricklayers union would appreciate.
3. Steve Blake. Another tough shooting night (one-for-seven), made worse by an elbow sprain suffered by Derek Fisher in the second half. Should Fish miss any time -- he'll be re-evaluated again Saturday, though in the locker room to a man his teammates thought he'd play, and Phil Jackson was also optimistic -- the pressure will be on Blake to perform, something he hasn't managed to do at this point of the season with any consistency.
4. Injuries. I mentioned Fish, but there was another nugget of bad news. Matt Barnes, expected to play Friday night, tweaked his leg in warmups and didn't suit up. He's listed as day-to-day, with what he described as a nerve issue in his thigh. So the Lakers potentially, at least, could be down two players heading into Sunday's game in San Antonio.
More to come...