The Skid Stops At Two
Posted by hiphopmama on March 3, 2009
Memphis 89, LA Lakers 99
Two words: D. J. Mbenga. (Forgive my Michael Scott impression.) With 4 points, 2 boards, 3 blocks, and 1 steal in 19 minutes, he was emblematic of the difference maker in this game, which was the bench. Our vaunted subs have been noticeably absent for a number of games now, and it has exposed our weaknesses without Bynum in the line-up. Because really, without Andrew, we’re just a talented offensive team that happens to be backed by a solid bench. With neither Bynum nor bench production, we are quite vulnerable to teams putting together big runs while Kobe and Pau are on the bench.
But tonight, the bench was back, scoring 32 points and extending the lead in the fourth quarter to put it beyond Memphis’ reach. Of course, they then turned around and let them claw back to within 8, but they steadied themselves with the insertion of Gasol and closed the game out with the double-digit lead in tact.
I’m tempted to say this was a game whose outcome was never in question, but I know better. There is no such thing as a money game, especially for this Lakers team, so a relatively comfortable victory against a horrible road team is good enough for me. In addition to the good bench play, our defense was passable, holding the Grizzlies to 41% shooting. Memphis is one of the worse shooting teams in the league, but we didn’t look as susceptible to defensive breakdowns as we have in recent games and the rotations seemed to be on target more often than not. And although the Grizzlies finished at 50% from three, we defended the outside shot much better tonight. I rarely saw us scrambling after the ball was swung to the weak side, a play which has caught us out many a time this season, and this is quite a comforting development.
Players just showed up and filled their roles tonight. Kobe sensed that the team needed a good start after some poor showings, so he came out firing, finishing with 31 points in 30 minutes. Luke was aggressive offensively, hitting his open shots often enough and finding the open man as niftily as usual. Lamar had a terrible shooting night (1-for-8), but he made up for it with 13 rebounds, 8 assists, and 6 blocks in yet another energetic effort. He kept himself on the right side of the officials as well. Pau seemed a little out of sorts battling his brother, even shooting 50% from the free throw line, but other players picked it up, including Josh Powell (8 points) and Sasha Vujacic (11 points).
This little two-game homestand is just what we need before setting off on the road again, so with Memphis under our belts we can turn our attention to Minnesota on Friday. It will our second and final game of the week, which should hopefully allow us to refuel before heading out to take on Portland, Houston, and San Antonio. After that we have three games at home followed by a ridiculous SEVEN GAME road trip that includes stops in Detroit and Atlanta.Of the final 21 games, only 8 are at Staples, which has to be one of the toughest home stretches of any team in the league. If we intend to challenge for the title, though, we ought to be up to that challenge. We shall see.