Lakers 97, T-Wolves 92
The trading deadline brought the Lakers a new look and renewed hope for an NBA title. Don’t ask why the Cleveland Cavaliers thought it was clever to send Ramon Sessions (and Christian Eyenga) to the Lakers for Luke Walton (huh?), Jason Kapono (what?) and a first round pick (possibly the 30th pick in the draft?). The Cavs got nothing for a point guard that several teams coveted. But that’s why the Cavs are the Cavs.
Also, Lakers stalwart Derek Fisher was dealt to Houston with another first-round pick for Jordan Hill, a young athletic power forward who plays a mere 14 minutes a game. Can’t have too many young athletic big guys. Fisher has had a brilliant career but Sessions and Steve Blake render him expendable, and Hill gives the bench more versatility. Fisher has since been bought out by the Rockets and is a free agent.
The game against the Wolves, Sessions‘ first in a Lakers uniform, was an impressive debut for the talented point guard. In 19 minutes he scored seven points, had five assists, four rebounds, and showed quickness, aggressiveness and creativity.
The Lakers entered the 4th quarter with a 13-point bulge but had to hold on to beat the Wolves, who were missing Ricky Rubio and Michael Beasley. The Lakers are consistent winners this year in part because they have been injury-free. Typically, the Lakers are at full strength while their opponent is missing its star player and/or a key player.
The Wolves hit 4-22 on 3-pointers and the Lakers were 10-22 and that was the big difference in this one, folks. Otherwise, everything else was about equally subpar.
The next biggest difference was Matt Barnes, who took up the slack with a 17-point night in 19 minutes, including 3-4 from 3-point range.
Kobe only took 20 shots, which was refreshing (hitting nine) but there was no corresponding increase with the Towers. Bynum and Pau each took only 13 shots.
Jazz 103, Lakers 99
The Lakers turned the ball over ten times in the first quarter alone. At the half, they had 17 turnovers and by the end of the third quarter made 24 turnovers.
Kobe, as he did two days earlier against the Wolves, took only 20 shots, which is usually a good sign but, as was the case against the Wolves, Bynum and Pau didn’t take correspondingly more shots. Against the Wolves, they took 26 shots combined (13 and 13), and last night they did the same thing—26 shots, Bynum going 12-14 and Pau 8-12. Meanwhile, Kobe, Creator of the Universe and Emperor of All Things, was 3-20 from the field, committing seven turnovers (some of them embarrassing), and playing with a sort of desperation.
When asked after the game why Bynum (who scored 33 points, nine of them from the foul line) didn’t take more shots (no one asks why Pau doesn’t take more shots and they should because Pau is just as much of an offensive threat as Bynum), Mike Brown made a good point—that Bynum gets double-teamed a lot and fouled a lot, both of which reduce his field goal attempts. Well, yeah, but that’s not the whole story. He’s still not getting enough touches. It’s as though there’s a ceiling the Lakers have on how much Bynum gets involved. Why not every time the Lakers have the ball? Until they stop it at least once, especially toward the end of the game when you need baskets.
Bynum took 12 foul shots. Let’s say two of them were And-Ones in which he did get his shot off. That leaves ten foul shots, which represent five trips to the foul line. If he hadn’t gotten fouled and had taken those five shots, that would have given him a total of 19 shots. Heck, that’s still not even near Kobe’s average number of shots per game. So why are the Lakers holding back? Especially against a team whose starting lineup didn’t even have a center because Al Jefferson, the team’s best scorer and rebounder (19 and 9 per game), was out of the lineup, attending a funeral.
How odd that the injury-free Lakers should play a team that is missing its leading scorer and rebounder!
Props to the much-maligned (mostly by me) Enes Kanter who has gone from SuperKlutz to legit NBA (backup) center. Pressed into service to slow down Bynum, the dude delivered offensively with 17 points. Alec Burks was also a revelation, and Paul Millsap is one of the great power forwards. In fact, he and Pau are the two best power forwards in the NBA. (I dig Blake Griffin but if I’m choosing sides, I pick Millsap.)
Matt Barnes had one of his best nights in a losing cause—12 points, eight rebounds, six assists. Except for over-amping once in a while, dude has no weakness. He’d be first-string All-Bench if the NBA had such a thing.
Ramon (I’ll try to get used to pronouncing it ra-mahn) Sessions missed six of his seven shots and still looked good, getting to the line a lot (going 8-10 there) and dishing six assists.