Lakers Try Team Ball, Beat Hornets 87-78 to Even Series


Win or lose, the Lakers continue to unimpress. They are simply much bigger and better and, especially at home, should have their way with the David West-less Hornets.

Instead, the Hornets hung around, and if they hadn’t stunk it up most of the game, committing 16 turnovers, missing 12 free throws (several in the fourth quarter) and shooting 39%, the Hornets might have won this one too.

After Game One, I imagine Phil Jackson saying, “Okay guys, that didn’t work, so instead of Kobe taking 35% of the shots, let’s try spreading the offense around.” Maybe it was Kobe who said it. Give him his due.  Whatever, spreading the offense around is a great idea when, like the Lakers, you have a lot of good players.

Dig the difference. Game One features Kobe taking 26 shots with the next four guys combining for 27 shots. The Lakers lose by nine points. Game Two features six Laker players taking between nine and 14 shots—with neither Kobe nor Pau in the top three! The Lakers win by nine points.

The Lakers’ three leaders in shots taken were Ron Artest (14), Lamar Odom (12) and Andrew Bynum(11), followed by Kobe and Pau, who each took 10 shots. Derek Fisher took nine shots. Like I said, the Lakers didn’t look great but they had a winning formula going for them.

Against the Hornets, the smallest front line in the NBA, the Lakers obviously need to post Bynum low and go to him. They did it just enough to win. He led the team with 17 points but only took 11 shots in 32 minutes. But the Lakers happened upon the easiest way to win.  Go to Bynum low and spread it around. Kobe shmobe.

Bynum showed some dominance and a smooth shot but I’d give the game ball to Ron Artest (15 points, six boards, two steals and two blocks).  It’s beautiful watching him box out bigger guys on the boards. Stuff like that. He’s just really smart out there, and creative.

Lamar Odom showed why he was named the NBA’s best Sixth Man, scoring 16 points inside and out on 8-12 shooting with seven rebounds.

Matt Barnes had a nice 12 minutes, scoring eight points on 4-4 shooting with two steals and his usual fiery play. Steve Blake had a team-high five assists in just 18 minutes. Fisher shot only 2-9 but played a hard-nosed 30 minutes.

In re Gasol: He did look off his game, and here’s why. In trying to respond to his image as “soft,” he is playing more out of control in the guise of being “aggressive.” But Pau is essentially a finesse player who likes to get near the basket and beat bigger, more “aggressive” guys with either hand. In fact, of his ten shots, I believe that not a single one was with his left hand, and he’s one of the best at that. Pau was 2-10 and took some funky shots, long-range turn-around jumpers, stuff like that. He needs a point guard who can get him (and Bynum) the ball.

The low-score and the unpretty play was a result of the defensive intensity on both sides. It was a war out there and the refs were letting them play, a little too much, I thought, because that favored the bigger team.

The Lakers did some good things. They came out with better energy than in Game One. They made a conscious effort not to let Chris Paul in the paint, and they stopped switching on pick-and-rolls with Pau winding up guarding Paul.

Kobe was 2-10 and looked off his game, too. Always the focus of the team’s offense, it’s understandable that he would be a bit off when he is not.  So Kobe and Pau go 5-20, score a combined 19 points, and the Lakers win by nine. It will be interesting to see if the Lakers are serious about this communist idea of spreading the offense around, or if this game was just an aberration.