(Courtesy: L.A. Times)
No Phil. No Kobe. No problem for the Lakers as they defeated the new-look Golden State Warriors 120-99 at the historic San Diego Sports Arena. The win is their most decisive victory in pre-season so far because of two things: 1. The Lakers made their shots. 2. They’re playing the Warriors. Don Nelson is no longer coaching Golden State, yet they still looked like he’s still pacing back and forth on the sideline in front of their bench. The Warriors were dead last on defense last season giving up nearly 113 points per game, and I don’t think that will change much this season.
The 2-time defending champs took control of this game from tip-off surging to a 11-0 lead until Andris Biedrins got a layup under Pau Gasol‘s arm. But, the Warriors got it going in the 2nd quarter cutting down the lead to a 55-52 deficit at the half thanks in large to their bench. Former Heat Dorell Wright (11 points/6 assists), rookie Reggie Williams (14 points), and big man Brandan Wright (14 points) provided instant offense with their offense struggling against the Laker defense.
But the second half didn’t look any better for the Warriors as the Lakers just destroyed any hope of a comeback. The depth of the Lakers were too much for Golden State as they started running away in the final quarter taking a 87-76 lead at the end of the 3rd to a 28-point blowout.
Asked about his first head coaching duty in place of Phil Jackson (who stayed at home in L.A. with flu symptoms), Brian Shaw played it down.
(AP) “To tell you the truth, it felt the same,” Shaw said. “My demeanor isn’t one where I’m demonstrative on the sideline. I did have to rattle a couple of guys at halftime to get them going…”
It’s not a surprise Shaw had a cool exterior. Look who he learned it from.
The Lakers were led by Pau Gasol with 23 points and added 7 rebounds in 26 minutes. But it was the production of Lamar Odom on both ends of the floor that drew attention with his 16 points, 12 boards, 3 blocks and a steal.
Odom is usually the care-giver for the team, but he was very aggressive on offense as Shaw decided to put him in the post to either score or, better yet, pass to cutting teammates. Phil touched on this issue before even as early as his first year with the Lakers when he experimented on having the point-forward Lamar run the offense from the block much like how the Heat utilized him in his first and only season in Miami. But, Phil deemed it a failure because Lamar didn’t have the kind of grasp of the Triangle back then. Well, he does now and the coaching staff is hoping things will be much different this time around.
You could see that Phil is try to add a few things on his playbook this season. Having Lamar act as a facilitator/scorer from the post does give a new dimension to the Triangle that a lot of teams will have trouble dealing with. But I think that move is mainly to promote movement in the offense for the second unit when he’s on the floor for eithe Pau or Andrew Bynum.
Ron Artest had 10 points and 5 assists, but his shooting stroke and finding his place within the offense are the two biggest difference for him this year. Credit his better shape and better understanding of the Triangle for that.
As for the Bench, they were piloted by Steve Blake‘s 18 points (8-of-10 shooting) and 7 assists. Seeing this guy play in certain situations gives me goose bumps just thinking about how much he’s going to help the Lakers. His court vision, his athleticism, shooting and intelligence on the floor are invaluable to what this team is trying to do this season.
Shannon Brown is also starting to be a consistent presence off of the bench for the Lakers. His offense is doing great, but I noticed his defense is coming along, too. There were 3 to 4 shots that he challenged without fouling that missed the mark. He didn’t do this quite as often or as effectively last season. He’s also moving his feet better on defense and relying on reach-ins much, much less so far. That will help him stay on the floor immensely if he sticks with it.
The tattooed enforcer Matt Barnes just looks better and better each passing game. He scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including 2 long-balls. But, it’s his work on the defensive end that’s becoming to be a very welcomed norm for the Lakers. A couple of time he stole the ball on an in-bounds play. Yeah, you could factor in the carelessness of the Warriors, but it takes skills and superb timing to intercept passes — especially on those type of plays.
Devin Ebanks got the call over fellow rookie teammate Derrick Caracter. He was on the floor for only 8 minutes, but he turned those minutes into an efficient performance. He scored 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting and chalked in a block. It’s all about what he does with little minutes he gets and what he applies from what he learned from the Triangle on the floor for Ebanks right now. That’s what it takes to get him some crucial playing time from Phil. I, for one, hope he does.
The newly-engaged Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton returned to the Lakers against the Warriors. Sasha started for the resting Kobe Bryant and did great! He played just about 15 minutes and knocked down all but one of his 5 shots, including a 3-pointer, for 9 points and grabbed 3 rebounds. Vujacic was his old active self but, oddly enough, he never once played too eager to do too much. It also looks like he wants to add another value to himself with rebounding because he was pretty active around the boards. He even got a loose ball foul called on Monta Ellis after he snuck up in front of him to get an offensive rebound. This is something to keep an eye out on with Sasha this season.
Walton also had an impact in his return to action. Watching him control traffic on offense is exactly the very thing the bench missed the whole time he was gone since last season. This is also why no one should be surprised if he gets a lot of minutes during the regular season over Barnes or Ebanks. Phil still values his knowledge of the Triangle and unselfishness.
Overall, the Lakers gave an extra effort on offense and were visibly getting it together on the defensive end as well. Player movement on both sides of the court is a major factor for this team to function well. They did that very well against Golden State. Other than that, it’s just pushing forward with other areas and for the new players on this team. So far, things are looking good!
One more game left in pre-season for the Lakers Friday night before they get down to business starting next Tuesday. I can’t wait to see Ron’s face when he gets his much, much-deserved first championship ring.
NEXT GAME: Friday, Oct. 22nd vs. Golden State Warriors at 7:00 p.m. (PST) at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA. TV: KCAL-9 Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN.