Steve Blake was setting up the offense and knocking down threes, Shannon Brown hitting open shots and Matt Barnes filling lanes in transition and hitting the offensive glass. All three played a very aggressive style on defense, and leads attained by the starters were being maintained or built upon.
Then, in January, Barnes hurt his knee. From that point on, the bench wasn’t able to establish the same level of consistency, despite getting terrific all-around play from Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom.
Barnes, at last, is finally starting to feel like himself, and the result has been very palpable in L.A.’s Round 1 series with New Orleans.
When he struggled in Game 1 and Blake sat out with the chickenpox, L.A. got entirely outplayed by the Hornets’ bench. But in Games 2 and 3, Barnes has simply looked more healthy, Blake has returned, and the Lakers returned the favor:
LAL – N.O. BENCH PRODUCTION:
Lakers: 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal on 8-of-16 FG’s (50%)
Hornets: 39 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals on 16-of-22 FG’s (72.7%)
Lakers: 27 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals on 13-of-20 FG’s (65%)
Hornets: 13 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals on 5-of-17 FG’s (29.4%)
Lakers: 20 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, on 7-for-18 FG’s (38.9% FG’s)
Hornets: 9 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, on 4-for-17 FG’s (23.5% FG’s)
Barnes made all four of his shots in Game 2 to score eight points with four boards and two steals, then picked up two more steals and boards with a single bucket in Game 3. After Saturday’s practice at the Hornets’ facility, Barnes spent some time with us to explain what exactly has been working better.