If it weren’t already official after L.A. stormed through the Western Conference playoffs last season and won 34-of-42 games to start this season, as of January 25, 2009, the Lakers are officially the best in the West.
“(The Lakers are) a hell of a team and it’s going to be a hell of a team for a long time,” said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “They’re young, athletic, long, and deep, inside game, outside game. It’s a hell of a squad.”
A bit sluggish in the first half in their first early start of the season, the hell-of-a-squad still managed a six-point lead at the break before opening up a 15-point lead in the third quarter that would grow to as many as 21 in the fourth.
There were positive signs aplenty on this Sunday afternoon as the Lakers again protected their perfect record while wearing white jerseys, most notably in the form of Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar.
Bynum backed up consecutive terrific efforts against the hapless L.A. Clippers (42 points, 15 rebounds) and Washington Wizards (23 points, 14 rebounds) with 15 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and some tough defense on Tim Duncan in only 24 minutes of action. And, while Bynum’s level of play is of paramount importance for L.A.’s second half of the season, perhaps more impressive on this day was Farmar’s performance after coming back from a knee injury in half the expected time.
After missing the last 17 games and barely practicing, Farmar totaled 14 points, two assists and a steal in 17 minutes on the court. He made 5-of-7 shots, including 2-of-3 three-pointers, and seemed to already have his burst back. So that surgery went well, huh?
“(We miss Farmar’s) tempo change in our ballgame,” said Phil Jackson. “I think the effect is to open games up and to put pressure on the defense, particularly while we have starters like Fish and Kobe on the bench. It helps us a lot.”
Let’s get to the numbers:
Swats for Andrew Bynum, tying a season high. Bynum also served as the primary key in holding Tim Duncan to 15 points for the game, and played only 24 minutes to get his 15 and 11 double-double.
Field goals attempted by Pau Gasol, so low a number in part because the Spurs fouled him five times, resulting in 8-of-9 free throw makes towards his 16 points.
Games throughout the entire season in which Trevor Ariza has failed to come up with a steal, including this one.
Average rebounds in the last three games for Bynum. In his previous six games, Bynum had pulled down just 3.83 rebounds per night. Meanwhile, Bynum’s been more effective offensively (42, 23 and 15 points in his last three) as well.
Points scored by Ariza in 26 minutes, tying his season high. Ariza made 5-of-8 shots and all five free throws he attempted.
The most points scored by any Spur came from Tony Parker on 8-of-17 shooting (47 percent). Parker added six assists and three boards.
Points in the paint for both teams.