The Lakers entered Friday's game with the Sacramento Kings at Staples losers of four straight, a run of wrongness they hadn't seen since April of 2007. A fifth to a currently-wretched Kings squad might have brought rioting and skyward gazes in search of men on horseback.
Fortunately, it didn't come to that, as the Lakers did what the Lakers should do- overwhelmed a far weaker squad, particularly on the defensive end. Sacramento's issues notwithstanding, the Lakers held them to 16, 19, and 17 points over the first three quarters. That's rock solid work, no matter the opponent. Pau Gasol and his injured left hamstring played only 27 minutes, ahead of a three day break before the Lakers host Washington Tuesday night. So blowy was the blowout, Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks were both able to accumulate career highs in minutes and points.
These are all good signs, but given the quality of the opponent, it's hard to measure how much Friday's performance would translate against better competition. There are still things to diagnose and repair, one of the major focuses (foci?) of our newest podcast (taped Friday afternoon, but in which we went out on a limb and assumed a win that night).
Among the high points, after answering questions about the relative size of Smurfs and Lilliputians...:
The anatomy of a losing streak. Where had the Lakers gone wrong over the four games in question, and what has changed for a team now 6-6 after an 8-0 start. There are numbers on both sides and with individual players seeming to play a major role in the slide. Andy notes how there were moments of concern last season (some coming much later than early December), while I express concern about L.A.'s D without Andrew Bynum... because there's certainly a reasonable chance he could miss time later in the year.
Does Gasol's barking hammy indicate the Lakers ought to have either played Caracter more earlier (with the understanding he might not play all that well) or signed a guy like Jake Voskuhl (whether the actual guy, or his equivalent)? Neither would elevate L.A.'s play, but if a few minutes of relief could be provided for the Spaniard, is his long term health more important than a couple games early in the season? Can a straight line be drawn from the heavy minutes to the bad leg?
Friday's game was the team's 20th, meaning a quarter of the season is gone. Who is the biggest surprise? Biggest disappointment? The MVP? We grade the players, and the team with an early report card.
LeBron James had a triumphant return to Cleveland. Reaction to the game, and we ask the question: Is this the game that could turn the Heat around? Should Lakers fans actually be rooting for it?