The Lakers shook off a slow first half to outscore the Sonics by seven in a mostly uninspiring 106-99 win. The victory successfully ended the Lakers season-long three game losing streak and generated much-needed momentum heading into Thursday night’s showdown with the Denver Nuggets and Sunday’s game with Eastern Conference powerhouse Orlando.
Kobe finally regained his shooting touch, scoring 35 points on 12 of 22 shooting to make up for a series of lackluster nights in which he has shot the ball poorly. Lamar Odom also played his best game since his 25 point outburst against Detroit almost two weeks ago, scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Andrew Bynum met his double-double average with 12 points and 10 rebounds even though he was plagued by foul trouble for most of the night.
Coach Phil Jackson said after the game that he was not particularly happy with the process the team went through to win the game, but was pleased with the outcome. After a first half in which the Lakers appeared as if they were sleepwalking, L.A. came out in the third and quickly built a 15 point lead with solid energy and improved execution on offense. However, Jackson chastised the Lakers for allowing the Sonics to climb to within five in the final minute, blowing a once comfortable double-digit lead.
The Lakers coach said that the Lakers-one of the youngest teams in the league even before drafting another 19 year-old in Javaris Crittenton-are still taking their bumps as they grow into their roles and become more professional. Jackson said that it is primarily his duty to foster those attributes in the team before they are prepared to graduate to a more consistent team.
Jackson also addressed the Lakers’ struggling second unit who had another pedestrian outing with only 23 points. After quickly being labeled as one of the deepest benches in the league in the opening weeks of the seasons, the Lakers’ bench mob has lost much of their feel-good momentum, something the Lakers coach said he blames on injuries and changing rotations. With Kwame Brown out indefinitely, the team has been forced to start Bynum at center despite the fact that he often looked much more comfortable as the anchor of the second unit.
Vladimir Radmanovic has also replaced Turiaf as the team’s starter at power forward-another shift that has changed the outlook on the Lakers bench. In addition, Jackson also singled out the backup guard spot in wake of the trade that sent primary two-guard backup Maurice Evans to the Orlando Magic. With no defined backup for Kobe, Sasha Vujacic and others are still settling into their expanded roles, sometimes disrupting the bench’s chemistry.