When we previewed L.A.’s Black Friday matchup with the Jazz in Utah, we took a look at the disparity in production between the team’s respective benches.
On the surface, the Lakers are getting key contributions especially from their Killer B’s particularly on the scoring front: 11.8 points from Shannon Brown, 9.4 from Matt Barnes and 5.9 from Steve Blake, not to mention 5.6 boards from Barnes, two assists from Blake and active defense from all three. On the other hand, while Utah is getting 11.4 points from C.J. Miles to match Brown’s scoring production, it’s received only a total of about 10 points from the rest of a second group that includes Ronnie Price, Earl Watson, Francisco Elson, Gordon Hayward and Kyrylo Fesenko.
But those numbers don’t do justice to what’s actually been a valuable Jazz pine unit of late.
As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune, the 11-5 Jazz have had notable recent success with a non-traditional second line up with two point guards (Watson and Price) and two centers (Elson and Fesenko), featuring Miles and his scoring on the wing.
“They’ve been instrumental in a lot of our wins,” Deron Williams told the Tribune’s Brian T. Smith. “The first group’s still sluggish to start games and that group gets out and runs. They run; they get after people defensively. It’s something we need to get that first group to do.”
During Utah’s current three-game winning streak, the bench has contributed notably in each victory, starting with 25 points from Miles and six assists from Watson in a 103-94 victory over Portland. Next came 20 more Miles points as well as nine from Price in a 94-83 win against Sacramento, and finally a total of 28 points between Watson, Elson, Price and Miles in the team’s most recent 105-87 win against New Orleans.
“Instrumental” is an adjective that could also be used to describe L.A.’s bench throughout the team’s 13-2 start to the season. Its most impressive performance may have come on Tuesday evening against Chicago, when Brown scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half, and Barnes and Blake (two) nailed three consecutive three-pointers during a critical fourth quarter run to put the Bulls away. The Lakers ended up with a 39-10 edge in bench scoring in a 98-91 victory.
In short, whichever bench unit proves to be more instrumental in Salt Lake City could go a long way towards determining the winner.