When Sasha Vujacic replaced starter Andrew Bynum in L.A.’s lineup last night, 4:16 remained on the game clock as the Lakers held a 102-84 lead.
When the final whistle blew, L.A. was up 110-99.
Selected postgame questions and respective answers from Lakers players suggested that the bench suffered a minor meltdown of sorts, but was that really the case?
Sure, the Hornets threatened to halt L.A.’s streak of beating teams by double-digit points when a Darius Songaila layup made it 108-99 with just 6.3 seconds remaining, but Shannon Brown’s free throws preserved the 11-point win (crisis averted).
One thing to consider regarding the Hornets’ “comeback:” L.A. was playing an extremely small lineup. Adam Morrison was essentially at power forward and Josh Powell at center, leaving Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown and Sasha Vujacic around the perimeter. Not big (in related news, seven-footers D.J. Mbenga, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and 6-10 Lamar Odom were on the bench). Meanwhile, New Orleans had a legit center (Hilton Armstrong, 6-11), a legit power forward (Songaila, 6-9) and a lengthy three in Julian Wright (6-8).
Not too shocking, then, that the Hornets scored 12 of their final 15 points in the paint, the other three coming on free throws*.
*In fairness, some of those paint points were a result of transition opportunities out of missed Lakers shots and turnovers.
Furthermore, it was L.A.’s bench trio of Odom, Brown and Farmar that helped put the game out of reach in the first place. Here’s a quote from last night’s postgame story:
The starters were their usual long, almost-too-skilled selves, and the bench trio of Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown gave New Orleans fits particularly during a 31-15 second quarter that was the difference in the game.
The bench seems to be just fine.