Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Lakers 99, Warriors 87
By Andy Kamenetzky
Anti-climactic, as well as this should have been against a team missing nearly every player of notable talent. Tension can make for a fun basketball game, but against a bottom feeder, it's mostly frustrating. Thankfully, the Lakers just beat the snot out of their hapless hosts from start to finish. Here are three takeaways from the game.
1) The Lakers used size to their advantage
Even at full strength with David Lee and Andris Biedrins, the Warriors are ill-equipped up front to properly slow Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Rolling out the likes of Mickell Gladness, Jeremy Tyler and Mikki Moore (Yep, that Mikki Moore!), the odds become microscopic. The Lakers wisely recognized this advantage, and appeared determined to milk every facet of it.
Bynum took over the scoring reins for a ridiculously dominant performance. He drained the Lakers' second basket after slipping a screen and getting fed by Gasol, and never looked back. Whether on jump hooks, bulldozing spins to the rim, or shots off glass, the only way the Warriors "stopped" Drew was by fouling him. 23 first half points were notched on 9-for-11 shooting and five freebies drained in as many attempts. Little time passed after intermission before Bynum had thrown down another dunk, a reminder of how easily everything came all night. The night ended with 31 points on just 14 shots, a dozen of which dropped. It's like Bynum was playing against the UConn kids he bypassed the opportunity to make his teammates back in 2005.
In the meantime, Gasol may have scored the Lakers' first bucket on a dump off at the rim from Metta World Peace, but even with a solid 22 points, Golden State's inability to check Pau was manipulated first and foremost to grease the offense. From all spots on the floor high and low, back-to-the-basket or faced up, Gasol picked apart the Warriors' defense with surgical precision. Teammates who remembered to move were generously rewarded by a power forward who seemed to have eyes on the back of his head. Even under duress, his temperature remained cool and his mind active. Early in the third quarter, under the pressure of a double team, Gasol lost his balance and fell backwards. But before his keister hit the court, the ball was shuttled to a cutting Devin Ebanks, who glassed the layup for an easy bucket.
It was just one of those nights where everything was coming up "El Spaniard," and this all-around excellence was commemorated in the form of a triple-double. By halftime Gasol notched 12/6/5, and the way he continued to overwhelm the Warriors, it became not an issue of "if" Pau would hit the trip-dub milestone, but rather "when." Every player relishes adding this particular notch to his belt, and early in the fourth quarter, likely aware of having accumulated double figures in scoring and assists, Gasol moved rather quickly to collect a missed 17-footer from Klay Thompson for rebound #10. I think he may have even boxed out Steve Blake in the process.
It's about as selfish as Pau ever plays, and I doubt anybody begrudged him.
2) Metta World Peace was nearly as versatile as Gasol.
With Kobe Bryant in a suit (and tonight featured perhaps the nicest of this entire injury stint, which says a lot if you've seen the threads he's been wearing), we've grown accustomed to seeing MWP pick up the scoring slack. Thus, 18 points feels kinda ho-hum. But the facilitating prowess was arguably unexpected, if not necessarily a shocker. A penchant for goofy statements -- and occasionally, goofy decisions with the ball -- typically obscures the fact Metta World Peace is actually a very good passer. Underrated, I'd go so far as to say. Tonight's nine dimes were a nice reminder of what MWP can do with steady touches and his head on a swivel. Like Gasol, Metta was conscious of teammates in motion, and made sure the rock met them in stride. Rare is the night when a team's starting forwards rack 20 dimes between them. Then again, rare is the team with the Lakers' team-wide ability to move the ball.
In the meantime, MWP spent a lot of the game guarding Klay Thompson, Golden State's best (one might even argue only) scoring option. The rook's made good, prolific use of his increased PT and touches in the wake of Monta Ellis' relocation, but tonight, he learned how tough life can be with the Lakers' designated stopper shadowing him. 17 points on 22 shots is anything but efficient scoring.
3) Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris each recorded 4:19 of run
For that matter, Jordan Hill got 2:33 of burn. What each did with his time on the floor is completely without consequence. What matters is that the trio, typically buried on the bench, actually removed their warmups. Too often, we've seen these Lakers screw around against an inferior opponent and allow what should be a blowout to evolve into a game where Mike Brown is forced to play his core players all 48 minutes. I'd be lying if I claimed the Lakers played with their proverbial "hair on fire," but they quickly took control of the game, built a large lead, and never allowed it to become even remotely threatened. On the few occasions Golden State chipped the deficit down to a semi-uncomfortable margin, the Lakers promptly centered themselves and created a brand new cushion. Against a lousy host, that's exactly what's supposed to happen.
Bold play of the game: That Bynum has exceptional coordination and even exceptional-er hands has never been a government secret, but late in the second quarter, these gifts were displayed in seriously impressive fashion. Stationed at the baseline, Pau whipped a hot pass to his center, who was basically stationed under the rim with bodies nearby. No matter. Drew stretched out to make the difficult catch in traffic, then somehow contorted his body to where he could flip the ball into the net. I wouldn't say Bynum made the sequence look easy, but then again, it hardly was.