Citizens of Los Angeles can walk outside again without the fear of a concussion from the falling sky. The Lakers' four-game losing streak has mercifully ended, and in a big, bad, decisive way. Beyond getting off the schneid in a laugher, the Lakers snagged the W while addressing matters prompting the recent struggles. The Kings don't represent enough of a challenge to declare lingering issues "solved," but this was a theoretical step in the right direction, if nothing else.
As discussed in our most recent edition of The Triangle (Plug!), the Laker Nation has grown rather distressed by the slack lockdown of late, an opinion mirrored down the line from Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom, and probably even Devin Ebanks were he a player whose opinion the media bothered to solicit. Well, this was a night were the talk was walked. After allowing to Sacto to remain within five once the first quarter elapsed, the Lakers put the car in fifth and never looked back.
In every facet thinkable, the Lakers took care of business protecting their basket. Save Jason Thompson, and Pooh Jeter (the latter entirely in garbage time), no King with more than five shots drained 50 percent of them. Before the final frame and its inevitable third string sloppiness commenced, the visitors were sitting on a paltry 34.5 clip. Over that same period of time, Sacto had just 14 points in the paint -- a decided "no layups" vibe was felt from the opening tip onward-- and failed to notch double digit assists (nine). Sacto's shots were continually contested and occasionally blocked (seven swats), and that's when Sacto was able to even put the ball in the air. 21 turnovers were coaxed and several other passes deflected as the visitors failed to catch any rhythm.
Was this showing the result in part of a night against a lousy team? Sure, but at the same time, it ain't easy holding even the most hapless teams to such lousy figures. The Lakers earned their effectiveness through non-stop activity and that shouldn't go unappreciated.
Pau Gasol/Derrick Caracter
Ever since Theo Ratliff joined Andrew Bynum in the recovery room, I've been increasingly clamoring for Phil Jackson to give Ol' Man Minerals' playing time to rookie Derrick Caracter on a regular basis. The load on El Spaniard's shoulders has taken a clear toll, and beyond the waning effectiveness on the hardwood, the risk of injury didn't feel copacetic with the reward of winning games in late-November and early December. Granted, I wasn't convinced eight-ish minutes a night from Caracter seriously upped the odds for a loss in the first place. But were that the case, I'd still rather eat the occasional loss and have Pau healthy and fresh come playoff time. Jackson resisted my wishes for the majority of this time working with a depleted roster, but Pau's recent hamstring tweak left him no choice but to relent.
Happily, the result was two players succeeding.
Caracter responded nicely to an expanded opportunity, making contributions on both sides of the ball. When these squads met during Summer Pro League play, Caracter more than held his own against fifth overall pick DeMarcus Cousins. Tonight, the contest was decidedly "Advantage: Dude who almost slipped out of the draft altogether." Caracter got some momentum rolling early with a swat at the expense of Sacto center and from there, remained largely in charge. Whether driving against Cousins, draining J's over him, or stripping the ball from his mitts, success was continually enjoyed by Caracter while his opponent spent the night visibly frustrated.
The five personals were predictable and Caracter still moves way too fast for his own good at times, but the career-high 10 points were special for the youngster.
For his part, Pau looked surprisingly spry for a guy nursing a bad hamstring, and enjoyed his most smoothly efficient game in eons. The 16/5/5 line won't immediately turn heads, but it also doesn't provide visual evidence of the ease in which he often orchestrated the action. I don't know for sure if extended periods of rest helped Gasol, but I can't imagine they hurt matters.
Hopefully, PJ will remain open towards similar usage of both players as we await the returns of Bynum and Ratliff.
Balance and offensive execution
All twelve players got on the board -- even Luke Walton, who entered the game with a shocking 7.1 field goal percentage -- and more importantly, everyone seemed dead set on making certain this was the case. Save Ebanks, every Laker also had at least one assist. After a string of recent games with erratic, sluggish ball movement, 27 assists and the onus to keep things humming was a welcome sight. Plus, a large chunk of those points were earned in the painted area. 68 in all, and it felt like even more.
Three bad-ish (were a gun to my head)
A 33 point blowout makes a diving deeply into the "bad" a silly exercise, but for the sake of maintaining tradition, I'll hit the relatively and ultimately insignificant low points. Purple and gold three-pointers dropped at just 21.4 percent. I didn't like a flagrant foul called against Shannon Brown. (Not really his fault, but "bad" nonetheless.) And Kobe Bryant's struggles at the stripe were fairly jarring. I don't remember the last time he missed four freebies, particularly on a night where he was gathering and-one buckets like bulk purchases at Costco. The dichotomy was pretty striking. Again, this isn't to say Kobe played "badly," because his outing was just fine. I simply found this subplot odd.