I guess when Pau Gasol said that the Lakers (44-15) get “too comfortable” during games, he wasn’t identifying the problem but giving a warning of things to come. Yes, they defeated the visiting Philadelphia 76ers (22-36) 99-90 and swept the season series 2-0 for only the third time the past 10 years. But the defending champs pretty much slept through the entire game until there were less than 2 minutes left in the game as if to only put away the Sixers for good.
Time-and-time again, Philadelphia strolled through open lanes for uncontested layups, and the Lakers seemed unconcerned about how they were playing defense. They gave up 56 points in the paint to a team averaging just 40.1 per game. The purple and gold usually allows only 40.9 points in the paint per contest, so it’s safe to say they didn’t give much effort on D.
The good news for the Lakers, however, is they only turned the ball over 10 times and scored 64 points in the paint themselves. They made 45.1% of their shots and allowed 44%; hit 35.7% of their threes while holding the Sixers to 18.8%; and converted 12 of their 14 free throws at 85.7%. But they allowed Philly to match their offensive board total at 16. Not good when you consider the size and length advantage the Lakers have over the Sixers.
The game was Kobe Bryant‘s first game at home since missing 5 games due to his ankle/leg injury. Obviously, he got a rowsing ovation from the Staple Center crowd. Bryant spent much of the first half setting up his teammates and only started putting up shots when he recognized the team is having a tough time separating from the Sixers. Expect more of him just getting his teammates involved in the offense early in a game until he sees a reason to get busy in scoring or if he feels him coming out of the gates firing is important. Kobe finished with 19 points, team-high 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals.
The Lakers’ twin towers pretty much carried the scoring load the entire night. After putting up only 17 shots and grabbing 17 rebounds between Pau and Andrew Bynum in a loss against Dallas on Wednesday, the Lakers made sure both 7-footers get fed well against the Sixers. Gasol made 10 of his 17 shots for a team-high 23 points on top of 11 rebounds (6 on offense), 5 dimes, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Bynum added 20 points, 13 rebounds (4 on offense), and 1 block shot.
Ron Artest gave his share in controlling the glass with 5 boards but only tallied 4 points on 2 of 6 shooting. Defensively, he was lukewarm and looked a step too slow against Andrew Igoudala and Thaddeus Young. But interestingly enough, the two forwards combined for only 26 points.
Lamar Odom almost had a double-double again with 11 points and 9 rebounds. His best contribution of the night, however, was on defense. He had a game-high 3 blocks and did a better job than anybody at guarding former Clipper teammate Elton Brand go 1 of 6 for a game-low 2 points. Expect Odom to continue to maximize his minutes by working hard on both ends of the floor the rest of the season and into the playoffs. Sure, he may have a bad game here and there, but I really think Lamar has grown up since getting his first taste at a championship. I do believe his sincere about wanting more rings in his fingers.
As for the rest of the bench, Jordan Farmar had 10 points but 0 assists and 0 turnovers. Shannon Brown put up only 5 points. And that’s about it.
After the game, Phil Jackson expressed what he thinks about the way his team has been playing. But he didn’t say anything new that no Laker fan or blogger hadn’t noticed. At this point, I think the Lakers are sifting through their schedule to choose which team they’ll show up to play (or at least try to) and just wait out the remaining 23 games of the regular season.
The danger there, however, is they’re counting on that so-called switch they believe they can turn on and expect to get by every team that stands in their way of their 16th overall title.
Hopefully, they can give us all a preview of that switch being on this Sunday when the team who wants to be the new Celtics to our Lakers returns to town.
NEXT GAME: Sunday, Feb. 28th vs. Denver Nuggets at 12:30. TV: ABC Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN.