When it comes to securing victory, building a quick lead and make an opponent play from behind is rarely a formula for failure. With that in mind, the Lakers wasted little time putting points on the board, then continued to pile on as the Griz fought to get their heads above water. The Lakers had already outscored Memphis 11-2 in under four minutes, then built a double-digit lead after another three. From there, the advantage never dipped below eight and reached nearly 30 to close the first half.
How successfully was the offense humming? The first half concluded with a 58.1 percent clip from the field, despite Matt Barnes missing seven of nine shots. Kobe Bryant tallied 23 on a superlative seven-of-10 from the field, routinely using O.J. Mayo in space and on the low block. Lamar Odom added 11 and Shannon Brown chipped in seven off the bench. As for Pau Gasol, he had 15 points, eight boards, and the body language of a dude no longer self-conscious of matching against his bro. (During the third quarter, the crowd was especially pleased by a sequence featuring three jab steps against Marc, then a drive along the baseline to set up a powerhouse reverse dunk.)
73 points before halftime Gatorade and orange slices, with Memphis trailing by 27. Generally speaking, you ain't gonna lose with that kinda cushion. The Lakers weren't exceptions to that rule.
2) Matt Barnes on the offensive glass
There are two ways an athlete can get in good with the media. First, you can suck up, whether that means being exceptionally cooperative, providing endless copy, maybe a little off-the-record insight, etc. Or, if you're not a brown-nosing, apple-on-the-teacher's-desk kinda dude, you can make a scribe look like a prophetic genius. Barnes did just that for my brother, who penned a post earlier today praising Barnes' ability to flourish through hustle.
As mentioned earlier, Barnes spent much of the game struggling to unite leather and cord. Even more frustrating, a lot of these misses came at point blank range, where the Cali native just couldn't quite get the right English on those taps. But whatever frustration felt didn't result in quitting on plays. Instead, he just kept cleaning the offensive glass, collecting six alone in under nine minutes of first half run. Four of those taps eventually became a Laker basket, proof positive of what's possible whenever effort is part of the equation. And that sixth offensive rebound, a forceful throw down of a missed layup by Brown, certainly treated him nicely. He reacted with such enthusiasm I thought a tech might be coming, but you can hardly blame a guy for getting emotional after coming so close yet so far on so many occasions.
By the game's conclusion, Barnes nabbed nine offensive rebounds (14 in all), the final one the tip of a miss from Devin Ebanks. It dropped for two points, which was only fitting after a night of steady sweat.
3) Ball Movement
In particular, the proverbial "extra pass" was often on display to good effect. When this team is set on slinging the rock to the top of their capabilities, it's a joy to watch.
1) Ron Artest's Decisions
You wouldn't know it from just five shots taken, but this was actually the second consecutive game where Ron-Ron's selection left something to be desired. Things came to a notable head during the third quarter when he ignored Kobe on back-to-back possessions, despite Bryant calling for the ball with deep position against an over-matched Mayo. Neither shot dropped, and I'm not positive Artest touched the ball again as the result of a pass. Not to rain too heavily on the parade, as the wonkiness clearly didn't hurt much, but it's certainly worth noting.
2) Second Half Sloppiness
If you're a fan who treats lapses during the fourth game of the season as inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, indifference is the likely reaction to a closing 24 minutes in blatant and often careless cruise control. If you're a fan who treats lapses during the fourth game of the season as unacceptable in a vacuum (particularly when they come at the expense of what should have been easy tacos), disappointment is the likely reaction. In the spirit of Election Day, I'll leave it to each member of the Laker Nation to cast his or her own vote.
Speaking of which, Phil Jackson offered the following explanation for the miscues: "I think they were watching the election results in the second half." An unlikely story, but Luke Walton was on the bench in street clothes and likely had a PDA of sorts with him, so I guess it's not impossible.
3) Lionel Hollins' use of Tony Allen
Not that Laker fans were complaining, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why Hollins would watch Kobe treat Mayo like his least favorite rag doll, insert defensive specialist (and offensive un-specialist) Tony Allen into the game... then keep Mayo on Kobe. Um, is he not aware Allen has a history of success against Kobe? Is also he not aware Allen can barely dribble the ball, so if he's not guarding an elite wing, he brings virtually nothing to the table? I really should be, considering I TOLD HIM THIS BEFORE THE FLIPPIN' GAME!
How does any NBA coach arrive at this particular game plan?
Again, I certainly didn't mind the brain cramp, because I'm all about Mamba buckets. But this leap in logic caused my head to spin around like Navin Johnson when he learned the amount of his cashier's check.