Lakers “Got A Feeling” In Silencing Thunder

58990803Watch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.

A few hours before L.A. tipped off against Oklahoma City, Lakers Executive Vice President, Player Personnel Jim Buss was asked to what extent the current Lakers squad was designed with superior size in mind.

“Absolutely,” he said. “One hundred percent.”

While there is no overstating the impact that Kobe Bryant makes on a basketball team, the thing opposing teams have literally had no answer for when facing L.A. is the combination of size and skill in seven footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum plus the 6-10 Lamar Odom off the bench.

It’s like trying to eat ice cream with a butter knife. You can do it if you have to (full dishwasher?), but it’s probably not going to end well.

When adding Ron Artest to that frontcourt, neither Jim Buss nor his father Dr. Jerry Buss, when addressing L.A.’s beat reporters, could think of a better front line dating back to the 1986 Boston Celtics that featured Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Bill Walton off the bench.

58989868Last June, even with Bynum still making his way back from a midseason knee injury, the Lakers took the Bryant + Bigs formula all the way to a championship.

This season, after waiting 11 games for Gasol to begin his 2009-10 campaign, the recipe appears to be back in full effect after L.A. backed up a running of the (Chicago) Bulls on Thursday with a silencing of the Thunder on Sunday.

The game was so clearly over early in the fourth quarter that of the Black Eyed Peas performed an impromptu version of “I’ve Got A Feeling” as Fergie, Alex Rodriguez from the Yankees and B-Real from Cypress Hill flanked him at courtside (only in L.A., right?).

Oklahoma City didn’t have to wait long to see what the Lakers can do when firing on all cylinders; L.A. put together perhaps its best quarter of the season and bursting to a 35-16 lead. Bryant began what would be a particularly entertaining evening by converting three fantastic displays of offensive skill that including a behind-the-basket, um, floater?** Meanwhile, Bynum put up 11 points and five rebounds, while Gasol kicked in six points, three boards and three assists.
**Like, from behind the basket while standing almost on the baseline. Bryant said that he hadn’t made such a shot in a game since high school.

“It was pretty crazy tonight,” said Bryant, referring to his moves, the Black Eyed Peas and two more ridiculous Shannon Brown hammer dunks***. “Pretty crazy. We had our rabbit foot on.”
***See postgame numbers for explanation.

As it were, OKC didn’t quit after the early barrage, but L.A.’s lead wasn’t remotely threatened as a 14-point second quarter differential would be as close as the visitors would get.

“Any time you play against the Lakers it’s a humbling position to be in,” said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. “We weren’t making shots tonight and that was because they were defending us throughout the game very well.”

The Lakers found good shots, the Thunder finished the game at a 37.2 percent clip. Kevin Durant, the league’s fifth-leading scorer, made only 2-of-9 first half shots with Ron Artest draped to his hip, finishing with 19 points on 8-of-20 shooting thanks only to a 6-of-11 third quarter.

58989873“I thought there were some inspiring basketball actions tonight,” said Phil Jackson. “There were some things that we felt we did really well defensively … I really like the way Ron plays defense. He got out there and really shut down some of their scorers and it really helped us.”

Artest added seven points, seven boards and three assists to his defensive effort, while Bryant finished the game with 26 points on 11-of-23 shooting, plus seven assists and six boards.

The twin towers? Bynum (despite being a game-time decision after jamming his ankle late in Thursday’s game) was a beacon of efficiency in nailing 9-of-11 shots for his 25 points, plus nine rebounds and two blocks, just missing his 10th double-double in 11 games. Though Gasol rimmed out more than a few times, he still managed 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting with six assists, seven boards and a block.

To good, too long, too strong.

The Lakers go for their third straight terrific all-around effort on Tuesday against New York, but until then, your numbers:

1 L.A.’s new streak of victories while wearing the white jerseys, which ended last week against Houston after the team had won all of their Sunday and holiday games last season.

3 Absurdly cool moves by Kobe Bryant in the first:
A) While falling out of bounds after he thought he was fouled, Bryant floated a jumper over the backboard and straight through the net.
B) Starting on the right wing, Bryant flew past his defender, twirked his body around a few more bodies and finished a reverse layup.
C) To end the quarter, Bryant corralled a loose ball and quickly threw it up from 15 feet … with his left hand. Off glass, then net.

9 Lakers turnovers in an impressive display of ball control. By comparison, Oklahoma City had 19.

45 Approximate inches jumped by Shannon Brown when throwing down Jordan Farmar’s alley-oop with one hand. “I honestly didn’t know how high the ball was. I knew he was going to throw it, so I made eye contact. I saw him make an undercut on one side so I did an undercut on the other side and when he threw it up there I just tried to get it.” Moments later, “TNT Legs,” as Bryant described him, added another baseline one-hander for good measure.

81.8 Andrew Bynum’s shooting percentage with an impressive 9-for-11 performance that netted 25 points.

2,382 Consecutive games officiated by Dick Bavetta after Sunday, currently in his 35th NBA season. Bavetta will be 70 years old on Dec. 10.

Watch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.