Control the boards, control the game.
Basketball can sometimes be that simple, and it proved to be the case in L.A.’s 100-90 drubbing of the New York Knickerbockers that saw the Lakers dominate the glass 60-36.
L.A. was Mt. Everest to New York’s Santa Monica “Mountains;” L.A. was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar* to New York’s Danny Devito; L.A. was Shannon Brown’s hops to those of New York’s Spike Lee.
*In “Airplane!”, obviously.
“They took a lot of threes, and we rebounded the ball,” said Ron Artest (New York made 11-of-33 triples).
Not that it was a major surprise … after all, the Lakers came into the game ranked second in the league in rebounding, the Knicks just 25th, in part due to their style of play.
“The up-tempo that they play with helps with more shot attempts,” added Pau Gasol. “They didn’t shoot a high percentage tonight so there were more rebounding opportunities” (N.Y. shot 39.8 percent).
L.A.’s control of the glass at both ends and what Kobe Bryant called “exceptional defense” allowed the Lakers to take a 21-point lead into the fourth quarter, and while New York would take advantage of 16 second half turnovers to cut L.A.’s lead in half late in the final period, the contest was never in question.
“They’re really aggressive on defense, made it hard for us to catch the ball easy,” said Knicks forward Wilson Chandler. “They pushed our offense back a little farther than we usually do so it was harder to get a decent shot.”
When Bryant hit two free throws to close the game while boosting his game-high total to 34, L.A. had sealed its fourth-straight double-digit win.
“We’re playing really well,” said Bryant. “We know what we can do, we know where we’re at, we’ve done it many many times before.”
Back to the glass: likely the league’s longest team (OK, definitely), the Lakers got 16 boards from seven-footer Pau Gasol in 28 minutes, 12 rebounds from 6-10 Lamar Odom in 32 minutes, eight glass cleans from seven-footer Andrew Bynum in 32 minutes and seven window swipes in 37 minutes from 6-7 Ron Artest.
“They had a lot of length on us and the only way we are going to beat them is if we made some jump shots,” said Knicks Head Coach Mike D’Antoni. “Probably the biggest thing is, they are good.”
Arguably D’Antoni’s best player, David Lee, was certainly impressed.
“I think, and it’s only my opinion, (that) they’re the best team in the league,” he said. “I think until somebody proves otherwise, at this point they’re the best team in the league because of their depth and the weapons that they have.”
The Lakers, now 11-3, have three days until their next game on Saturday in Golden State, when they’ll resume their attempt at proving Lee right.
Until then, your numbers:
5 Lakers starters in double figures, led by Kobe Bryant’s 34, 17 each from Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest, 12 from Derek Fisher and 11 from Pau Gasol.
9 Bench points for the Lakers, compared with 41 for New York’s pine unit, which in fairness received considerably more playing time.
9 Fourth quarter turnovers by the Lakers, helping New York outscore the home team 28-17 in the period.
24 L.A.’s edge on the glass (60-36), not surprising as the Lakers are the 2nd-best rebounding team in the NBA and New York ranks 25th.
25 Times Kobe Bryant has been named Western Conference Player of the Week after he earned the honor for his 29.8-point, 6.7-assist, 6.7-rebound performance in a 3-0 week … sort of. The NBA used to honor only one player for POW honors until the 2001-02 season, when they split it up between conferences. Bryant earned two such honors prior to that season, and now has 23 in the West.
25Times Michael Jordan won Player of the Week honors in his career, which was the all-time high before Bryant matched him last week. Bryant further surpassed Magic Johnson’s 18 NBA POW awards as the franchise’s all-time leader.