Bucking the Bulls
Posted by hiphopmama on March 21, 2009
LA Lakers 117, Chicago 109
I get it now. We just don’t like big leads of any variety. It doesn’t matter who’s leading, us or them, we’re not going to let a lead of any size last the whole game. Tonight, it worked to our benefit as we fell behind by as many as 16 in the first half and went into the locker room down 14. After jumping out to an early 9 point advantage, someone flipped the switch off and we went into hibernation until the third quarter. One apparently very motivating halftime speech later, the Lakers reemerged a new team, playing with energy, vigor, and all those other words you hear in toothpaste commercials.
The nicest thing about the comeback was how distributed the scoring was throughout it. Coming out of the break, we got points from all five starters on our way to cutting the deficit to 2 points. Kobe didn’t have to completely take over to get us back in it, although he played a big role in getting us started by making two jumpers straight out the box. After that, though, it was mostly the bench players who got us over the hump and gave the Lakers their first lead since the opening quarter. The Bulls responded to our initial burst by running the lead back up to around 6 points, leaving us some work to do in the fourth.
Then the subs went to work. As ridiculous as it sounds, Sasha got into it with Ben Gordon and – no joke here – it worked to our benefit. It was stupid on Sasha’s part, completely out of place, but he bugged him just enough to really unnerve him, and on top of that it got Sasha going as well. After picking up some clear fouls, which he of course argued about, he started making shots, including a three-pointer and a long two with defenders hanging off him. Jordan Farmar added a few huge threes to the mix, and Lamar Odom even got in on the act, adding some versatility to the offensive attack. Luke Walton was the final piece that helped push us in front, as he finally got his post game working against a smaller Chicago team.
It was only after all this work by the bench that Kobe and Gasol came back in and closed it out. 117-109 ended up being a quite generous scoreline which could have been much worse. Salmons capped a good game with a three-pointer in the last seconds to make the spread more reasonable, and Gordon had another just prior to that too. The Bulls overall played a fairly solid game. They just peaked at the absolute wrong time. Derrick Rose still looks likely to emerge into the top-flight point guard class that currently includes only Chris Paul, Derron Williams, and Tony Parker, and I see him eclipsing Parker and possibly Williams as well. He’s explosive and a more natural scorer than either of them, and he has a good feel for the game to go with the perfect temperament for a floor general. He doesn’t get phased, and he doesn’t back down for anybody, both qualities that make him even more endearing.
Tyrus Thomas was another revelation. I had pegged him to be more successful than his LSU teammate Glen Davis when they left college, but he has taken a while to warm up to the NBA. Another reason for the quiet start to his professional career is the team he’s on, which is understandably lower profile than Davis’ Celtics. He’s always been an incredible athlete, but tonight he showed that he has added some more skill elements to his game, and if he can keep building on that, he has a huge upside. Did I use the word “explosive” to describe Derrick Rose? Then I guess Thomas needs a different adjective, because the man practically pulverizes the floor with his take-off. Especially if he can develop something close to that Chris Webber elbow jumper, which he showed flashes of tonight, he will be quite a threat indeed.
That’s more analysis than I usually do of the opposing team, but the Bulls deserved it. They really outplayed us for much of the game, but they were too young and erratic to carry their first-half momentum through the full 48. This was a big win for us, being the first of a season-long seven-game road trip, and I’m hoping it points to more good things in the games to come. The Lakers have two days off before heading to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, followed by their second-to-last back-to-back of the year in Detroit and New Jersey.
A few notes:
- Five players in double-figures tonight (Kobe 28; Pau 23; Ariza 18; Odom 16; Farmar 13)
- Only 10 turnovers, which is miraculous considering how sloppy we were in the first half
- We were somewhat disturbingly out-rebounded 45-39. Not huge, but it’s a statistic I’ve grown accustomed to seeing us dominate. We had Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom; they had Tyrus Thomas and a prayer. We should have won that battle.
- How did John Salmons end up on Chicago? And why didn’t the Bulls start him on Kobe Bryant?? He did as good a job as you can against him in two games with the Kings, so the decision to try to match Kobe with Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose is a strange one.
- I liked the focus on the post-up game tonight. It was like there was a team memo that came down demanding everyone try out the post-up before resorting to anything else, and it worked. Luke finally started hitting that little turn-around he likes, Kobe looked typically unstoppable over his bevy of shorter defenders, and Pau was money as usual. Am I the only one who would like to see more of this?