The Lakers spent the 3rd quarter against the Bulls on Sunday afternoon building and sustaining a lead instead of trying to overcome one. In a defensive battle versus a squad also without a key piece of their championship aspirations, as Pau and Derrick Rose creep closer to returning, Dwight shook off recent foul plagued performances and went to work. Howard patrolled and dominated both paints in a slug fest with Joakim Noah for 16 points and 21 rebounds, 7 on the o’glass, en route to a 90-81 victory.
The win, granting LA sole possession of 8th place in the West, represented a solid and complete team effort. Six Lakers scored in double digits. Kobe didn’t scratch until the 7:15 mark of the 2nd quarter as Dwight and Nash picked up the load, letting Vino breathe after two-straight 40-point explosions. Kobe did eventually lead the Lakers with 19 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds, but in clearly less dramatic fashion than the last two games. Nash would eventually take over the 3rd, scoring 9 of his 16 points, to establish a 73-61 lead. Metta, one of the Lakers that couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean from deep, valiantly fought Boozer and Noah for position in the pivot all day. Although his 0-6 effort contributed to the 19.6% LA shot from three, his grit and determination kept the Bulls at bay. Blake distributed 4 dimes and Meeks put up 10 points off of the pine. Everyone played their part well.
The Lakers, officially now a part of the playoff picture, will need these balanced performances in order to make any noise beyond the Spring. Their prospects in the post season include the Spurs, Thunder, or Clippers. These are teams with depth, defense, and purpose, the same focus that the Lakers have showed recently. However, the Lakers cannot look ahead and must remain vigilant, as the remaining 18 games will now allow their opponents to knock the vaunted Lakers out the playoffs.