When’s the last time L.A.’s bench completely turned a game around and produced a purple and gold victory?
Still thinking … ? Uhh … Last season?
Try Saturday night in Chicago.
Behind a furious fourth quarter run inspired by the Jordan Farmar – Luke Walton – Sasha Vujacic – Josh Powell with Lamar Odom combination, L.A.’s second unit turned a six-point deficit into a nine-point lead before Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol returned with about six minutes left in the game. Inspired by the subs, Bryant and Gasol pushed the lead up to 15 almost immediately, and ultimately led L.A. to a 117-109 win at the United Center.
What exactly inspired the bench? At first thought, perhaps Odom’s inclusion brought some familiarity to the unit, which had been playing often with Gasol since Andrew Bynum’s injury. Yet, that’s just a thought, because as Josh Powell explained after the game, it was more simple: “We just brought it on defense.” That defensive intensity led to guys sharing the ball and scoring at the other end, and Chicago had no answer.
“Defensively they got some turnovers, and when you do that, you can get some run outs and some easy things happen,” said Phil Jackson of the second unit. “They got loose balls, they got on the floor and they helped each other out. Guys played together … It was good to see from them.”
Leading the way for the bench was Farmar, who played his best game in weeks while scoring eight fourth quarter points and twice setting up Walton on isolation mismatches that helped get L.A. going. Vujacic added two perimeter jumpers and two dimes plus some aggressive defense, while Powell and Odom anchored some tough, active interior defense for the road team.
The 21-6 run to start the fourth came after L.A.’s starters opened the third quarter with a lil’ run of their own, outscoring the Bulls 23-8 to all but erase a 14-point halftime deficit, thanks also to some tough D.
All the more impressive as L.A. became the first team since Feb. 12 (Miami) to beat Chicago on their home floor. In fact, since acquiring John Salmons and Brad Miller from Sacramento, the Bulls had beaten Denver, Orlando, Houston Golden State, Milwaukee, New Orleans and Boston at home, and seemed to have the Lakers in a meat grinder at the break.
Yet all nine players that saw court time in the second half made a solid contribution, and L.A. had their 55th win.
Field goals made in the second half by the Bulls, after 26 makes in the first half.
Points off the bench from Jordan Farmar, eight of which came in the fourth quarter.
Straight points reeled off by the Lakers early in the fourth quarter as the second unit took control of the game. In the third, L.A. had used a 12-0 run to get back into the mix.
Bench points in the second half for the Lakers after just seven in the first half.
Fastbreak points in the game for the Bulls, which tells a clear story since only seven of them came in the second half.
Three-point percentage from the Lakers, including 2-of-2 from Trevor Ariza, 2-of-3 from Lamar Odom, 2-of-3 from Sasha Vujacic and 3-of-6 from Jordan Farmar.
Chicago’s shooting percentage in the first half, producing 62 points to just 48 from the Lakers.