On Wednesday night versus the New Orleans Hornets, the Los Angeles Lakers rebounded–literally and figuratively–to end, at least momentarily, all panic that resulted from three consecutive double-digit losses over the course of the past week. With their 103-88 victory down in the Big Easy, the Lakers reminded fans of their championship potential when their minds are focused on playing solid team basketball.
The tone was set before the opening tipoff when coach Phil Jackson announced that Andrew Bynum would make his first start of the season; as a result, Lamar Odom would return to the bench in a role that was familiar to him and crucial to the team last season. Bynum, coming off a very encouraging performance last night versus San Antonio, injected some life in the Lakers offense. The big man played 10 minutes in the first quarter and scored 6 points on 3-of-4 shooting. He was able to establish strong position down low early in Lakers possessions. He had a nice array of moves, including his turn-around jumper and his baby hook. In the second quarter, he showed off the length that the Lakers desperately missed during his absence; on one particular possession, Bynum missed an easy layup but his long arms allowed him to snatch the rebound and convert the easy put-back. Bynum finished the night with 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting with 6 rebounds in 30 minutes. Bynum
With Bynum in the starting lineup, Odom was forced to come off the bench, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Purple & Gold. Odom scored a game-high 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting and added 5 rebounds and 2 assists. He even got himself on the highlight reel with a spiffy behind-the-back, off-the-backboard layup in the fourth quarter. Most importantly, Odom gave the Lakers an invaluable change of pace off the bench and someone who can easily create his own shot. During the Lakers’ losing streak, the bench played terribly; Steve Blake disappeared, Matt Barnes had little to no impact, and Shannon Brown forgot how to shoot. Odom gave/gives the Lakers a clear leader for the second unit.
- The Lakers shot an assassin-like 58.6% from the field (41-for-70). They shot 67.6% in the first half. From a simple numbers perspective, this was the most important stat in the game. In their loss to the Spurs, they couldn’t find the bucket at all.
- Derek Fisher played very well tonight. I feel like Fisher has been missing lately. Against the Hornets, Fisher scored 9 points and added 8 assists. Furthermore, Fisher was active on defense all night, which resulted in 3 steals and multiple pass breakups.
- The Lakers out-rebounded the Hornets 44 to 24.
- Kobe still looked like he was forcing the issue a bit after his frustrating night in San Antonio. While he scored 20 points and shot relatively well (8-for-14), Bryant committed 7 turnovers and his shot looked flatter than usual. He was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc and only 4-for-7 from the free throw line, including one attempt that barely hit the front of the rim.
- Pau Gasol continued his struggles. In 35 minutes, Gasol only attempted 5 shots. Fortunately, he still attracted double-down defenders and was able to make nice passes to open shooters. Gasol offset his mediocre offensive output by doing a decent job on the boards (12).
- Defensively, the team had trouble, especially early, stopping Chris Paul, whose aggressive penetration resembled that of Tony Parker’s last night. At times, CP3 was able to weave his way through the defense at will and throw up floaters, layups, and step back jumpers. The Lakers big men also had issues defending pick-and-rolls involving CP3.
Ultimately, the Lakers got a much-needed “W.” They come home Friday and host the lowly 76ers to start a three-game home stand. Hopefully, the team will carry the momentum from this impressive (and expected) performance into the new year.