“(Lamar Odom) absolutely, quietly tonight has been rock solid at both ends … the hero (of the game) for me.”
- Color commentator Fran Fraschilla
Lamar Odom’s all-around effort in Team USA’s 89-79 quarterfinal win over Russia at basketball’s 2010 World Championships in Turkey was something Lakers fans have seen before.
On Thursday evening in Istanbul, the lanky lefty did a little bit of everything to help lead a second half charge that put the Americans into Saturday’s semifinals against Lithuania.
Seven of Odom’s game-high 12 rebounds (five offensive) came in that second half, when the U.S. turned a five-point lead halfway through the period into a 70-56 margin entering the fourth quarter.
Odom added two steals and six points to his box score line in 30 minutes of work, but much of his production came outside the stat sheet. He was effective in limiting Russia’s 7-1 center Timofey Mozgov (who will play for the Knicks), rotated fiercely off the ball (as he did in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals) to help teammates, turned many of his defensive boards into transition opportunities at the other end and simply filled in any gaps that were needed.
Just like he does for the Lakers.
Odom was able to focus on such things thanks in part to Kevin Durant, taking on Kobe Bryant’s role on the Lakers (and his own on the Thunder) by scoring 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Odom’s co-veteran leader Chauncey Billups added 15 points and five assists, while Russell Westbrook was the key spark plug off the bench, scoring 12 points – 10 in that critical third quarter – with three steals.
When Odom plays his best basketball, the Lakers almost never lose, and through the quarterfinals of the World Championships, the same seems to be the case for Team USA.
If Odom and his teammates can put forth the same effort for two more games, they’ll be in prime position to bring back their country’s first title since 1994.