The fourth of a seven game road trip leaves the Los Angeles Lakers in Washington. Both teams are streaking, but unfortunately in opposite directions. The Lakers (17-7) have won two out of three on the road and four of their last five overall, while the Wizards (6-16) are on four game loosing streak, lost nine of their last ten, and are on course for another loosing season. The Lakers came into this game eager, not because they have been stringing together wins, but because the long awaited debut of center Andrew Bynum will be made tonight. Pau Gasol has taken the brunt of Bynum’s injury, logging 40 min a game, playing predominately center, and having to do things on the court he is unaccustomed too. The presence of Bynum alone relieves some of the stress Gasol has taken on through 25 games.
Throughout the game Bryant showed his excellent footwork. One play specifically in the first quarter on he pump-faked Nick Young, reverse pivoted then knocking down a step through floater over seven foot Yi Jianlian. It was a tough shot, but Kobe made it look easy with his great body control and court instincts. He is one of the hardest players to defend because he does so many things well, Al Thornton found out the hard way. While over playing Bryant to the baseline, he saw that Kobe splits double teams just as effectively as he finishes plays, creating a gap in the defense through a hesitation dribble, then finding himself at the rim. Bryant showed that he isn’t just efficient at getting to the rim, because his jumper came to fruition also, knocking down a 17 foot shot off glass after a two dribble post on Thornton, burying four three point baskets with defenders in his face, and showing he is the best scorer in the league ripping off 14 in a row during a 17-2 third quarter run by the Lakers.
Kobe played 24 minutes; this was a collective team win, as Brown came off the bench for 16 along with Bynum who played 17 min scored 7 pts, 4 rebs, and 2 blks. It was Pau Gasol who put on a show, dropping 7 assists all for lay ups, collecting 9 rebs, and scoring 16 pts. He’s definitely an integral part of the Lakers and after Bryant is the most important piece to this team. We can’t leave out the outstanding play of Lamar Odom, who recorded another double double with 18 pts 10 rebs. His play is surprising because over the course of a year he had a deep playoff championship run, played all summer with team USA, and through 25 games playing hasn’t shown any signs of exhaustion or fatigue. He hasn’t hit the wall yet, and with the return of Bynum, his minutes will decline, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The Indiana Pacers play host next as the Lakers have won 3 of 4 on their seven game road trip, as they look for payback stemming from an early loss in LA a few weeks ago.
The Lakers seem focused, are playing great team ball, have fluid movement with in the triangle, and players seem to be learning their roles. The acquisitions over the summer (Barnes, Blake) are also starting to blend in, which helps the cohesion and forcefulness of this team. They have players on the bench that could start on most of the teams in the league, which adds to the depth they need while defending their back-to-back championships.