Jordan Farmar played a key role in the Lakers' win.
There wasn't a ton of hoopla heading into last night's 98-92 Lakers win, a rematch of last season's Finals. Land O' Lakers' cutting edge technology revealed the fans' overall indifference, but the teams nonetheless managed to provide some excitement contrasting the dim buzz. After a first half spent controlling the action (if sometimes tenuously), the third quarter saw the Lakers come apart at the offensive seams. Poor ball movement creating poor shots creating opportunities for Orlando to forge a 20-2 run, despite balling against some impressive purple and gold defense.
With just a few minutes left in the frame, Phil Jackson called an eventually game-changing timeout and tossed Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown into the action. That's when the game began swinging in the Lakers' favor, largely due to the performances of the reserve guards and Lamar Odom. The trio was singled out by Brian as the evening's biggest stars, and he wasn't alone in that assessment. ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin felt the backup backcourt duo stole the entire show, maintaining the "bright lights" roll Brown began the night enjoying:
- The night Brown set a career high in points with 22 belonged to him to begin with. The attention meter swayed Brown's way before the game even started as the fourth-year guard playing on his fourth NBA team was surrounded by a throng of media hoping to get a sneak preview of what Brown had planned for All-Star weekend after news broke earlier Monday that Shannon will indeed be allowed to dunk in the dunk contest. It's been less than a year since Brown came to L.A. after being included as a throw-in in the Vladimir Radmanovic-Adam Morrison swap and here he was, in Hollywood, as the center of attention when he couldn't find consistent playing time on lottery-bound Charlotte last year. "I think about it all the time when I recap everything I've been through," Brown said. "I'm just very grateful. Very grateful, thankful and very humble. I'm just trying to take advantage of the opportunity."Opportunity is one of the three words Lakers coach Phil Jackson used to describe the formula that's been the key to Brown's success. The others are maturity and responsibility. "He's a young man who's very diligent about his work," Jackson said. "He puts in the effort and it's paying off for him."
If you told Shannon a year ago he'd be a net sensation/dunk contest competitor, he'd have accused you of being off the ol' rocker. Partner-in-crime Farmar, however, has always fancied himself a star in the making, but never really allowed to do his thing. Derek Fisher's backup provided an immediate spark during the Lakers' comeback, which The O.C. Register's notes ironically creates more questions about his future than answers:
- His attitude – he'd call it "self-assured," others might call it "know-it-all" – has rubbed teammates, coaches and fans the wrong way in the past. This is a guy who is sure he would've been a top 10 pick if he'd stayed at UCLA one more year. He dared speak after Bryant held the organization hostage with a trade demand about the need for Bryant to "play the right way." Farmar loves playing video games but doesn't play basketball video games much because he gets frustrated shooting all the time with the Jordan Farmar guy in the game who isn't as good as the real Farmar thinks he should be.
So it's understandable that – even though Fisher will be a free agent and Brown could opt out, too – Farmar might actually want to stop what he views as sacrificing himself and leave the Lakers at season's end. Even if they're his hometown team and the Lakers win another title, Farmar relishes the idea of a starting job somewhere and being a non-triangle point guard with the ball in hands all the time.
So for better or worse? Who knows how this marriage with the Lakers is going to turn out for Farmar, 23?
Lamar Odom was another hero.
Throw in some aggressive work from Odom on the boards and you had a squad able to overcome a poor night from Kobe Bryant, whose bad finger got smacked once again and provided trouble throughout the contest. Like me, Forum Blue and Gold's Kurt Helin always finds an enormous positive when Kobe isn't the savior:
- Having Kobe Bryant on your team is why you win most games. Or having a big center like Andrew Bynum in the paint. But maybe the best sign about the Lakers is that playing a contending team on a night those two big guys had off nights, the Lakers still won. The Lakers made their comeback in the third and fourth quarters with a lineup of Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant (with Luke Walton getting a couple of his minutes), Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar and Shannon “I can score, too” Brown. It was the Lakers bench that was key to this game. That beat one of the best in the East.A huge game from Kobe is not the sign of a championship team. You know those are going to be there, that he is going to hit key shots with the game on the line. It is winning without your star that is the sign of a title team.
In the midst of the excitement accompanying a comeback, it's easy to forget the little things. Silver Screen and Roll's Dexter Fishmore, however, never lost sight of a key detail:
- A hidden factor in tonight's win is how well the Lakers took care of the ball. They turned the rock over on less than a tenth of their possessions. Even when you're not shooting well, that puts a floor under your offensive production. The Magic don't force turnovers very well as a team, and the Lakers did a fine job of exploiting that weakness. Turnovers are something you don't really think about when they're not happening.
As for the enemy, they gave it a good shot and showed signs of their old self from last season. Then again, the part of the identity responsible for closing out remains M.I.A., which concerns Stan Van Gundy. The Magicians may have done enough to reassure all is hardly lost, but the issues are prevalent enough to make ESPN's J.A. Adande wonder if the win even qualifies as impressive, given the defending Eastern Conference champ's current struggles:
- The Magic are at such an uncertain crossroads we can't even be sure about how to classify the Lakers' victory over them. For Los Angeles it was a rare victory over one of the teams with the best records in the league. The Lakers are 4-5 against the seven best opponents they faced: Cleveland (0-1), Dallas (2-1), Denver (0-1), Atlanta (1-0), San Antonio (0-1), Portland (0-1) and, by record, Orlando. But this Magic team isn't as good as its 26-14 record might indicate. Not at this juncture, when they've dropped seven of their past nine games and still are having trouble with the concept of inside-out basketball.
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