Reality Check A Good Thing For Lakers
After allowing 54 points in the paint to a Denver Nuggets team without two of their frontcourt stars – Kenyon Martin and Chris “Birdman” Andersen – the Lakers got a much needed reality check Thursday, falling to the Nuggets 118-112.
Ty Lawson led the Nuggets’ charge off the bench, scoring 17 points on 5 for 10 shooting and simply torching the Lakers defense in the second half.
In lieu of their blasé win over the Timberwolves, Thursday’s loss can only be classified as one of the Phil Jackson's lessons.
Pau Gasol, who played all but four minutes in Thursday’s loss, was completely gassed at the end of the game, while Lamar Odom sat out the entire fourth quarter.
Although Odom’s 1-6 shooting night was subpar to say the least, he managed to grab 12 boards in just 26 minutes and could have at least given Gasol a much-needed breather down the stretch. Instead, Gasol was manhandled late by a persistent Al Harrington and rendered mostly ineffective.
Though frustrating at times, one thing I’ve learned in my extensive years as a Lake Show enthusiast is not to question the "Zen Master's" motives.
Personally, I don’t mind his unwillingness to call a timeout after the Nuggets scored 10 unanswered in the fourth or his tendency to leave bench players in down the stretch of regular season games.
In fact, I’d fancy to say that yesterday’s loss was Phil’s way of reminding his red hot Lakers of their mortality.
But a perfect 82 was not going to happen this season. And although the Lakers were in position to win yesterday at Denver, they didn’t deserve the victory down the stretch.
Despite the mile-high loss, the Lakers still have much to celebrate. Not only was their 8-0 start just the third in franchise history, but Stu Lantz’s “Killer Bs” are emerging as a stalwart force off the bench.
Steve Blake is deadly from downtown, Matt Barnes is the team’s energizer bunny and Shannon Brown’s much improved mid-range game is contributing to the Lake Show’s early season success.
I wasn’t sold on Barnes when the season began. But his knack for getting his hands in opponents' passing lanes and his commitment on the defensive end of the floor has made me believer, domestic violence aside. Most importantly, Brown’s time in the Illinois gym of his alma mater, Proviso East High School, in the offseason has paid off. His straightaway jumper at the end of the third was indicative of his work – Brown peeled off a high screen, body faked right and rolled into a clean shot from just outside the free throw line. No doubt he practiced that move all summer.
Over the past two games, the Killer B’s of Barnes, Blake and Brown have combined for 43 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists and 3 steals. Not bad for a Lakers bench that is often considered weak.
And as of Thursday, the Lakers were first in the league in points, point differential and 3-point percentage.
Though they lost to Denver, Kobe Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to score 26,000 points in his career.
I doubt anyone would question the Lakers' dominance in the Western Conference throughout the beginning of the 2010-11 season.
A perfect season is out of the question. But do I think 72 is still in reach?