Tonight’s game vs. the Kings was filled with lots of ups and downs, just like the city of Las Vegas itself. Pulling away to a 22 point lead was just like that hot streak of black jack, followed by putting it all on black…and then all of a sudden your only up $3, or 3 points in this case. Regardless, if you are smart enough to stick to your guns and walk away while you are ahead, you come out a winner even if you are only up by 5 in the end. Tonight the Lakers did just that, hanging on to their single $5 chip and escaping the Thomas & Mack arena with a 98-95 victory over the Kings.
Andrew Bynum was once again the player of the game, finishing with 24 points on 7-13 shooting, and 8 rebounds. The Lakers are continuing to make a point of establishing Andrew in the lost post from the start. Phil Jackson has made it clear that this type of strategy is something they have wanted to exploit for some time, yet have never had a healthy enough or physically in shape Bynum to make a legitimate threat. Tonight was a great opportunity for Bynum to show that he could provide a singular lost post presence without the distraction of Pau Gasol (out with an injury) to open up opportunities for him. As I mentioned in my pre-game Road to the Repeat, we have seen limited amounts of Bynum in back to the basket scenarios…until tonight. Not only did his teammates make a concious effort to feed the big man in the post, but Andrew opened up the tool kit and went to work with a variety of quick post moves and and sweeping runners. His free throws were equally strong, shooting 10-12 from the charity stripe.
The starters in general came through tonight, each producing reasonably close to the potential you would hope to see from them in a pre-season game. They took advantage of a very young and inexperienced Kings team in the early goings, stretching the lead into double digits. Kobe in particular seemed to be having fun out there, converting a between the legs pass to LO on the break for a monster slam, attempting to bounce alley-oop the ball to a streaking Bynum, and throwing down a few break away dunks of his own. These are all positive signs from the starting group that chemistry is indeed building back to the level it must be at to repeat as champions.
As for the reserves, it was the same old story from a year ago, big leads being given back by the “Bench Mob”. I am not even totally sure they deserve any type of nick name at this point, their luck luster play has been nothing to write home about thus far in the pre-season. Granted as Andrew Bynum noted in the post game interview, there are still players on this roster who do not know the offense, making it extremely difficult to control the later stages of the game, the players who were part of last years championship team are getting a bulk of these minutes and need to maintain control on the court.
However, signs of life from “The Machine” were a pleasant suprise in this game as he shot 4-5 from the field for 10 points. More importantly, tonight I felt Sasha was being patient when looking for his shot, the anxiousness appeared to be somewhat tapered back, and his shot selection proved to be much better, leading him to take less shots overall as well. Any type of small contribution from Sasha this season would be a huge bonus, it would be incredibly value if the Lakers were able to count on him for a 4-5 night whenever they were in need.
Another year in Vegas is in the books, as the Lakers now head back to Southern California for a Saturday/Sunday Staples Center Shoot-Out which includes the Bobcats, Clippers and Jazz. First tip will be at 4:30pm on Saturday for the Clippers vs. Jazz, followed by Lakers vs. Bobcats at 7:30pm.
[phpbay]Lakers, 6, “”, “”[/phpbay]