Lakers 102, Nuggets 95: Three up, three down

As it was Wednesday in Sacramento, the Lakers turned in a pretty solid effort Saturday in front of the home crowd at Staples. Final score, 102-95. In the mood to re-live it all? Here's the box score, and a link to tonight's in-game Lakers Live! chat.

Three up:

  1. Kobe Bryant- Everything about Kobe's recovery from offseason knee surgery has looked pretty good. He's played in every preseason game, not always with a sleeve, has moved freely, gone into the post, cut off screens, and generally looked like a guy feeling pretty good physically. Everything except the 4-of-28 shooting mark he sported through three preseason games entering tonight's action, that is. Saturday, Kobe made a whole lot of fans feel a whole lot better. Yes, he only made five of the 13 shots he took, but the night was extremely positive. In the first half, he beat J.R. Smith to good post position on the left block, spun into the lane and buried the short jumper. Later, Bryant drilled a bread-and-butter turnaround baseline J, and in the second half a mid-range turnaround near the right elbow. Add in eight rebounds and five assists in only 24:26 of playing time, and you get a rock solid total floor game.

  2. Ball movement- Kobe wasn't the only guy moving the ball well. In the first half, the Lakers had 17 assists on 23 field goals, an extremely healthy ratio helping explain how they shot 57.5 percent from the floor over the first 24 minutes. In the third quarter, the Lakers were only eight-of-18 shooting, but registered assists on all eight field goals. Nine players recorded helpers, and the Lakers did a great job moving off the ball to facilitate the easy looks. Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks were especially effective cutting through the lane to make themselves available.

  3. Lamar Odom- He drilled a jumper 15 seconds into the game, putting the Lakers on pace to win 288-0. Unsustainable, perhaps, but Odom didn't really slow down for the rest of the night. His final line- 14 points on seven-of-10 shooting, six rebounds, seven assists along with a steal and a block- was vintage "good L.O." Odom was smooth with the jumper, but also got himself close to the basket. Perhaps his most impressive play of the night came at the end of the first half, when he corralled a near-floor length pass from Kobe over the shoulder like an NFL wide receiver (one undoubtedly on the Giants, he'd tell you), and with virtually no room available gathered and finished at the rim, just before the buzzer. Serious athleticism.

Three down:

  1. Derrick Caracter- His performance wasn't all bad, improved in the second half, and certainly wasn't wanting for effort, but in his first stint we got to see how a rookie can struggle at the NBA level. Caracter, whose bugaboo in Summer League play was foul trouble, picked up three quick ones in 5:22 of run in the second quarter. All three were classic rookie mistakes. A reach, an off-ball foul when he backed into a screen on defense, and an incredibly obvious push on Nene attempting to get position for an offensive rebound. With Andrew Bynum sidelined, Caracter is in position to gain minutes here and there, much as Josh Powell did last season. Two things will prevent that, though: poor choices defensively, and bad fouls. He was working hard, but in those five minutes at least learned another lesson about the transition from college to the NBA.

  2. Three-point shooting- On the night, the Lakers were extremely efficient, shooting 50 percent. Imagine how good it would have been had the Lakers made a shot or two from beyond the arc. As it was last season, L.A. struggled from distance, hoisting 17 triples and converting only four (23.5 percent), two of which came from Shannon Brown. Over the course of the season, the hope is the addition of Steve Blake, better marksmanship from guys like Kobe and Derek Fisher, and a healthy shooting thumb for Brown will shore up the team's long range game, but it didn't happen tonight.

  3. Turnovers- Even in the preseason, 21 is a number they'd like to cut down. Sloppiness periodically reared its ugly, sloppy head.

Honorable mention: Free Andrew Naymick! Again, no minutes for L.A.'s in-camp big. C'mon, P.J.! Throw the kid a bone!

Programming Note: Utah's win over the Clippers earlier in the afternoon means the Lakers will face off with the Jazz Sunday night at 7:30. Join us for Lakers Live!, starting at 7:15 and running through the game.