Lakers 99, Wizards 92: Running Diary

59976671Lakers – Wizards Gameday Page
We took a look at the Lakers – Wizards contest in Los Angeles while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked to win for the sixth straight time.

Inactives
Lakers: Luke Walton (back)
Wizards: Josh Howard

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Wizards: Shaun Livingston, Mike Miller, Al Thornton, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee

How L.A. Plays Without Bynum
Before the contest, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson discussed how the Lakers are different sans Andrew Bynum, who will be out at least a week after straining his Achilles tendon in the third quarter of L.A.’s Friday night win over Minnesota. In tonight’s running diary, we’ll keep primarily focused on how the Lakers play without the big man, which Jackson suggested would mirror almost precisely what the team did last season when Bynum was out for more than two months (the gist: more inside-outside than inside-inside).

59976672First Quarter
8:04 Andrew Bynum’s absence was notable in the early portion of the first, since that is often when he gets the majority of his shot attempts. Without the big man to feed, five different Lakers attempted a shot, mostly from the perimeter, making 3-of-9 to take a 6-4 lead (the Wiz missed their first five shots).

4:11 It goes without saying that L.A. would much prefer to have Bynum playing, but one by-product of his absence that’s positive for the Lakers is the increased touches for Pau Gasol. So skilled is the Spaniard, the Lakers nearly always benefit when he has the ball on offense, as shown with his 10 points and four rebounds in the first ten minutes to put his team up 14-10. His hoops included a pretty baseline hook and an up-and-under layup that should be illegal for 7-footers in fairness to the rest of the league.

0:18.9 An obvious necessity for the Lakers is some additional help off the bench with Lamar Odom in a starting role, and Shannon Brown provided as much at the close of the first by backing up a baseline jumper with a right wing 3-pointer that put L.A. up 24-16. Wizards guard Randy Foye managed a buzzer-beating jumper at the other end to make it a 6-point margin after one.

Second Quarter
6:17 Josh Powell and D.J. Mbenga will each see minutes in Bynum’s absence depending on the matchup, and since the Wizards are a smaller team, that meant more Powell and less Mbenga on Sunday. In his first eight minutes, Powell was effective, adding an and-1 layup off a nice move in the paint* to a swished perimeter jumper. After the and-1, Kobe Bryant and Odom ran over to Powell and alternately slapped the back of his head in approval, which shouldn’t surprise as Powell is one of the most popular guys in the locker room.
*Powell’s been working on that move in practice all season.

4:25 A more aggressive Kobe is to be expected, and we saw as much as No. 24 put up 12 shots in the first 18 minutes he played, making six to get to 13 points with his team up 44-29 after a 3-pointer from the left wing. Minutes later, he’d nail back-to-back triples once again to get to 19 points, not to mention putting the Wizards in 54-33 hole.

1:10 Let’s make that four three-pointers for Kobe in the quarter, who caught fire NBA JAM style (it’s coming back soon!) by nailing his first three and felt compelled to jack another while on fire (swish). Bryant keyed L.A.’s 13-0 run to close the second quarter, affording the Lakers a 59-33 lead at the half. Note that Washington is among the worst teams in the league, but the first half showed that the Lakers know how to play without Bynum at least for a short time.

59976728Third Quarter
11:40 Against certain bigger teams, the Lakers will certainly miss Bynum’s defensive paint presence, but the Wizards barely run anything through center JaVale McGee and many of Andray Blatche’s touches come outside of the paint as well (think Kevin Garnett’s plays in Minnesota, since Flip Saunders is the coach). With Gasol able to leak into the paint and cut off potential drivers, Odom held Blatche to just 2-of-10 shooting in the first half, then swatted his first shot of the third. This is notable as Blatche came into the game averaging 20 points and 7.5 rebounds a game in March.

4:15 Mentioned earlier why it’s always good to get more touches for Gasol, which he continued to prove by throwing down a dunk after establishing great post position, his seventh make in 10 attempts. He also made all eight of his foul shots to reach 22 points with seven boards and three assists is his first 25 minutes of burn.

0:29.1 To continue the theme of collectively stepping up as a unit, Ron Artest got hot in the third quarter, making 5-of-6 shots to score 11 of his 16 points. His defense of Al Thornton was also notable, netting three steals for the team’s leader in thefts.

Fourth Quarter
9:00 Perhaps in part to keep rotations in order without Bynum, Jackson started Gasol and Bryant in the fourth quarter, but the Lakers still managed to go three minutes without scoring a point. The Wizards went for seven straight at the other end, but Brown’s ensuing 3-pointer and two foul shots quickly pushed the lead back to 20.

5:23 To their credit, the Wizards didn’t roll over despite being down by 20 for most of the game, even getting to within 13 on a Nick Young 3-pointer. Brown promptly answered with his third three of the game, however, and Bryant (40 minutes) finally left the game at the 4:02 mark.

0:45.2 Per usual, the final minutes of a sure win were more interesting to assembled fans looking for Jack In The Box tacos. Those assembled often seem to think that the Lakers need to score 100 points in order to assure the two free tacos, but actually, L.A. needs only to win and hold their opponent under 100. Yet when Sasha Vujacic missed a technical and Gasol missed the second of two, the Lakers stayed at 99 points (Washington with 89), producing a collective groan at STAPLES. Any frowns would soon be turned upside down upon receiving coupons at the exits, of course.

With the 99-92 victory (the Wiz outscored the Lakers 32-17 in the fourth when L.A. stuck their car in cruise control), L.A. improved to 52-18 on the season, winning for the sixth straight time heading into the team’s 5-game road trip.

In summation, it’s difficult to judge how the Lakers will look for the duration of Bynum’s absence after just one game against a team like the Wizards, but the team’s all-around talent clearly remains superior and is more than enough to keep the team on a positive course until the big man returns.

Until next time, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
1 Point Kobe Bryant needs to tie Alex English for 12th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Bryant needed 26 to surpass English, and scored 24 through three quarters. He played for eight minutes and change in the fourth without attempting a shot.

12 Free throws made by Pau Gasol, who began the game 10-of-10 before missing two of his final four.

13 Rebounds for Lamar Odom, helping the Lakers to a 37-31 edge on the glass. He added a team-high six assists.

20 Points for Kobe in the second quarter alone on the strength of four 3-pointers and 8-of-11 shooting.

28 Points for Gasol to lead the Lakers, matching his season high. The Spaniard, sliding over to center in the absence of Andrew Bynum, added 12 rebounds and three dimes with a block.