And there, ladies and gentlemen, was the Lakers’ bench.
Much-maligned for its recent poor play, the Mob needed a strong performance heading into the playoffs like Sasha Vujacic needed an absolutely nasty one-handed hammer dunk in traffic to put a tasty point of emphasis on a big Lakers win.
Wait a second … A “absolutely nasty one-handed hammer dunk in traffic” from Vujacic? Not Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza or Shannon Brown?
“D.J. (Mbenga) saw me cut to the hoop, and it was two points,” said Vujacic. “And yes, it felt good. The guys on the bench aren’t used to that, which is probably why they were so excited.”
Vujacic’s destruction of the rim that had the starters pushing each other around capped his personal 12-point final quarter and highlighted a 42-point outburst from the bench, boosted most notably by Luke Walton’s nine assists, 11 points and three boards. Josh Powell chipped in eight boards with six points, Shannon Brown came in for nine points and two steals, and the starters weren’t bad either as the Lakers outscored their opponents 105-75 after falling behind by 12 in the first quarter.
“We built up a reputation of having a very consistent, solid bench and we feel like we’re getting to that level of play,” said Walton. “I like to get people involved, especially with the bench, (where) we have our best success when we’re playing at a (high) pace … We did a great job of that tonight.”
Pau Gasol made 11-of-16 shots en route to a 26-point, 12-rebound double-double, while Lamar Odom (15 and 11) and Kobe Bryant (22, five and four) got to spend the whole fourth quarter with ice on their knees thanks to a bench that truly played its best game in months.
The Lakers uniformly conceded, however, that this is the type of bench performance they need to bottle up and carry not just into the coming back-to-back with Denver and Portland, but into the playoffs.
Turnovers in a Mr. Clean game for the purple and gold.
Points scored by L.A.’s second unit (Farmar, Vujacic, Walton and Powell) + Pau to open the fourth quarter, turning a 10-point lead into 17. L.A.’s bench was similarly effective in the second quarter, when Farmar’s three capped a big run that turned a 12-point deficit into a two-point lead that would become 16 at the half.
More free throws taken by the Lakers (29) than the Kings (19).
How good was Luke Walton on Tuesday? He finished the game at an absurd +/- of 32. The next highest Laker was Josh Powell at 17, while Trevor Ariza, the starting small forward, was -10. The fast tempo of the game certainly played to the strength of L.A.’s bench, but give Walton credit for playing QB like Peyton Manning.
Points scored in a fantastic second quarter for the Lakers, who held the Kings to just 18 in the period.
Bench points for the Lakers, which dwarfed Sacramento’s 22.
Wins for L.A., tying Cleveland for the league lead. The Cavs are up a game in the loss column, however, 15 to 16.
Points in the paint for a Lakers’ squad that was getting good shots throughout the evening.