LA Lakers 105, Phoenix 92
This will just be a short overview since I live-blogged the whole thing (see below), but a game like this deserves a proper write-up. For the first time this season, I’m starting to buy into this Lakers team. I know they were easy favorites preseason to win the Western Conference, and they got to the Finals last year, but their performance against the Celtics was almost pitiful and left me a little troubled about our future. Despite the tremendous start, the beginning of this season has done little to convince me we have overcome the problems that did us in last year. Tonight was the first step in the right direction for me.
We came out of the gate at a trot rather than a run and looked like our typical selves, shooting poorly and scrapping by on defense. Over time, however, a trend was set. The Suns could not get their offense going, aside from ramming it down our throats via Shaq, and Nash never got into the rhythm of the game. They surely missed Barbosa, who was out following the death of his mother in Brazil, but he would not have made much of a difference in this game. We steadily improved our offensive attack, getting sharper in our build-up and execution, and eventually the shots started falling. Kobe was mediocre again in his shooting, but he still carried the team and set the table for everyone. And “everyone” responded by having a great game. Fisher was pulling up with confidence. Sasha drained mid-range shots. Ariza dived about for 10 points. And, shocker of shockers, Vladimid Radmanovic stole the show with a 5-for-5 shooting performance from beyond the arc and 15 points, behind only Kobe’s 21. Odom played wonderfully off the bench, taking over the offensive leadership role when Kobe and Pau were out, and Farmar put in a solid 22 minutes as well.
Only Pau Gasol was mysteriously out of the flow tonight. He didn’t really play terrible, but he didn’t seem to play much at all. After Chicago, I was hoping to see him be that involved more often, but tonight it was not to be.
No matter, because tonight it wasn’t necessary. The defense, while not looking overly stingy, was effective enough to keep the Suns out of their comfort zone the whole game, and as we got better on the offensive end our defensive efforts looked that much more impressive. This is the kind of game we need to see more often, not just in our grudge match with Shaquille. They still have a good string of games – at home, no less – in which to prove this wasn’t a fluke. At 9-1, it really shouldn’t be.
Highlights, just first half again (seriously, what is the hold up?):