To Phil Jackson, the key to Wednesday night’s game in Houston is anything but complicated.
“Energy,” he explained in a word. “Just simply being able to recover and come out there and lay it down in a 48-minutes game.”
It’s not about recognizing Houston’s scheme – the Lakers got an extended look in the Western Conference Semis – or X’s and O’s at either end of the floor. Just effort.
The Lakers know that won’t be easy after a tough overtime game in Oklahoma City, particularly against a Houston team that is both playing very well would like nothing more than to “Beat L.A.” (as the Toyota Center crowd will frequently remind them).
Key for the Lakers will be the play of their bench, which produced just six points in limited action against the Thunder. Meanwhile, Ron Artest played 47 minutes, Lamar Odom 43, Andrew Bynum nearly 49, Kobe Bryant 46 and Derek Fisher 35.
Heavy, to quite heavy.
Of course, the absence of Pau Gasol – who is not expected to miss much more time – has a major affect on the bench with Odom stepping into his starting slot. As such, Jackson isn’t worried about the pine.
“They’ll get it back,” he said after the OKC win. “We have to dedicate some real minutes to them. Right now they are just patching it up and filling the gaps, and without Pau it’s real difficult because we don’t have someone to anchor that group out there that has the ability to be a go-to person in a situation where they need some settling down.”
Moments later, Bryant agreed with his head coach.
“It’s not a concern,” Kobe offered. “We’ll pick them up. There have been times that (the starter’s) rhythm was off and they came in and made big contributions … We just try to pick each other up so that when the playoffs come around the bench and the starters are clicking.”
On the other hand, boding well for L.A.’s bench is that two players – Jordan Farmar and Josh Powell – had their respective best games against the Rockets last year; Jackson and his staff are hoping that one or both are able to channel that towards Wednesday’s game, which could change the game’s story entirely.