Here are a few aspects of last night’s 99-87 victory over the Warriors we will examine:
Rebounds – Rebounds have been a constant topic in our discussions, so let’s get it out of the way. The Lakers out-rebounded the Warriors 55-40 last night. They did what they were supposed to do, and it paid off for them.
Assists – The Lakers notched a season high 34 assists, compared with Golden State’s 23. The Lakers have stepped up their ball movement since Kobe Bryant has been out, and it has paid dividends for them. Last night was the best example of this as the ball movement was excellent. Yes, they had more turnovers (14 compared with 11) than the Warriors, but the fact that the Lakers are looking for one another is a great sign. On plenty of occasions we witnessed pick-and-roll dishes, crisp passing to cutting players, and multiple interior passes resulting in high percentage shots. Pau Gasol (11 assists) and Metta World Peace (nine assists) were right in the middle of it all. We can only hope most of this will remain when Bryant returns.
Pau Gasol – Let’s take a look at one of the men who was in the middle of all this passing; Pau Gasol. Gasol notched a rare triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. Recording double-doubles is old hat for Pau, but how many power forwards/centers in the league right now can dish out 11 assists? Not many. Gasol may not be the most dominant player in the league, but he remains the most skilled big man in the league by far. In the last edition of “The Breakdown” we touched on how little recognition the Spaniard receives around the league and even in Los Angeles. Hopefully, his incredible performance last night will get a few people talking.
Andrew Bynum – All the talk of Andrew Bynum’s immaturity has seemingly evaporated over the last couple of weeks. The reason? He’s playing incredibly well. Bynum once again put on a dominant performance and abused the Warriors en route to 31 points on 12-for-14 shooting along with nine rebounds. With Bynum and Gasol playing the way they currently are, they are going to be an absolute dominant force in the playoffs.
Small Forwards – We have spoken on how well the small forwards (Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes) have been playing lately in multiple recent editions of “The Breakdown,” and they continue to deserve praise. Last night, Metta World Peace continued his aggressive offensive play with 18 points, but also dished out nine assists! Metta World Point Guard? Maybe not just yet, but World Peace has stepped up his level of plays on both ends of the floor significantly as of late.
Matt Barnes– who is averaging 14.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists over the past four games (including last night’s game)–has also stepped up his play in a big way. Last night, he again stuffed the stat sheet with nine rebounds, six assists, four assists, and three steals along with providing his ever-present energy and hustle. As Lakers Nation’s own Jabari. A. Davis notes, World Peace and Barnes have been renaissance men for the Lakers lately.
Both players are receiving additional playing time with Kobe out, so it will be interesting to see how each performs once he returns. World Peace’s increased level of play in particular should definitely help the Lakers going forward in the playoffs if he can maintain his assertiveness once Bryant returns. With him playing the way he is now, the Lakers have arguably the most formidable starting unit in the league.
With the Black Mamba set to return Friday night against the Spurs, it will be interesting to see how the players who have been playing so well in his absence will adjust.