That’s More Like It
Posted by hiphopmama on November 18, 2008
Chicago 109, LA Lakers 116
Lesson learned, at least for now. After a listless game against the Pistons in their last outing, the Lakers pulled it together and played a solid 48 minutes against a young Chicago Bulls team. It wasn’t a particularly remarkable win – this is a team they should have beaten – but the consistency of play and concentration front to back was a good sign after the complete lack thereof in the last game. They still gave up over 100 points, which is mildly troubling, but the subs played much of the second half, especially the fourth quarter, after the Lakers secured a good margin. Of course, they managed to give up a late run to give Chicago a glimmer of hope in the fourth, but they strung together a few baskets to make it comfortable again. When the Bulls cut it to 10, my first thought was that Phil would not bother to bring any of the big guys back to try to prove a point, both to the NBA cognoscenti and the second team players who will have to be counted on at some point in the future. He did, however, deign to re-insert Kobe into the line-up, and he promptly drained a long three with a hand in his face to up the lead to 13. The outcome was never really in doubt after that.
Pau Gasol answered my prayers with a big performance, particularly in the first half when he had 24 points on something like 10-of-14 shooting. It was all Pau all the time in the first half, and he helped get them out to a 17 point lead which they squandered with lax defending. Luckily, they did not repeat that in the second half, going on an early run to reestablish the lead and held onto it fairly well. Gasol finished with 34 points, going 14-for-21, and gave them a much needed presence down low. He wasn’t on the block the whole time, as his wide skill range allows him to roam free, but he was down there enough to keep the defense honest. Bynum also had a good game with 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. He also went 8-for-10 from the free throw line. It sure is nice to have a big man who can make free throws, isn’t it? Kobe had exactly the kind of game we needed from him – rock solid (21 points, 5 rebounds), efficient (9-for-18 shooting), and unselfish (6 assists). He’s finally starting to act like the kind of leader the team needs.
Derrick Rose, who was the night’s human highlight reel, still sliced and diced the Lakers, getting into the lane at will, but with Luol Deng having an off night and little to no offense to be had from Tyrus Thomas or Joakim Noah, Rose and Gordon were left to carry the load alone and it was not enough to overpower the 12 Lakers players who got in the game. Rose finished with an impressive 25 points and 9 assists, shooting over 50% and only giving up 2 turnovers. Beyond the statistics, he was all over the court, slashing into the paint, sprinting along the baseline, dishing, juking, and firing from the hip. Barring some major catastrophe, there’s no way this guy won’t be Rookie of the Year. With all respect to Deron Williams, I haven’t seen a young guy play with this kind of vision and composure from the point since Chris Paul (I know, what a long time, right?). He’s certainly going to be up there with those other two in coming years, perhaps even this one.
But tonight was ultimately the Lakers’, and they did what they had to do. They started this marathon streak of games with a good win and got back on track for what lies ahead, which is the Suns in Phoenix on Thursday and the Nuggets in LA on Friday. Not a horrible back to back in terms of distance but a good early test for the team to see how they handle their first intense batch of games this season. This game doesn’t completely allay my fears over their soft underbelly, but it was at least a good bounce-back performance. Can’t wait to see how the Shaq drama plays out on Thursday.
First half highlights (for now):