Still letting Shannon dunk. Brown was nails Tuesday night in Washington, scoring 11 points as L.A. cruised to an easy win over the Wizards.
Under normal circumstances, I might say the Lakers, in the midst of a 1-2 road trip and a general period of malaise, were inspired by Monday's visit to the White House and an afternoon with President Obama. After all, the Big Moment in L.A.'s 115-103 win Tuesday night over the Washington Wizards didn't come in the fourth quarter. There was no late scramble, no heroic Kobe Bryant push, no real question about the outcome. The Lakers basically controlled throughout.
Can Lakers fans thank the leader of the free world? Maybe, maybe not, since the Wizards are the basketball equivalent of a friendly audience plant in a town hall debate, existing only to make the star look good.
In the end, while the team will surely prize their Pennsylvania Ave. memories, the game itself was likely just a routine victory over a vastly inferior opponent. But in a nice change of pace, the big push came early and was fueled by the reserves.
To say Lamar Odom got the decisive second quarter off to a strong start is a mild understatement. First, he assisted on a nice layup inside from Pau Gasol, then after Washington's Antawn Jamison gave the Wizards a 32-31 lead with a jumper from 11 feet at 11:07, Odom found Shannon Brown streaking to the basket for a sweet alley oop. The Lakers again had the lead. For good measure, LO logged L.A.'s next three baskets, helping them push the lead to five. From there, they hit the gas, holding the Wizards to a single bucket, stretching the advantage to double digits in the process.
Of course, we'd seen this act before. Sunday in Toronto, as a matter of fact. In each of the first three quarters, the Lakers built, then lost, substantial leads. In the fourth, they had a smaller advantage and again couldn't hold. It ticked off Andy somethin' fierce.
Tuesday, they closed the first half on a 10-3 run, capping a 30-15 Q2 in which 14 of the points came from dudes who weren't part of the starting five. Brown, like Odom, was all over the floor. He finished the first 24 minutes (of which he played about 15) with eight points, two dimes, two steals, a rebound, and a block, good enough for a +20 mark heading into the locker room (Odom, by the way, was +17).
Having built the lead, the Lakers maintained it over the final 24 minutes like a kindly older lady might a vegetable garden. Without flourish, fanfare, or wasted effort, but more than enough to cultivate a win/beautiful salad greens. Particularly when another garden awaits Wednesday night in Indianapolis.
This afternoon on the newest PodKast, I was again critical of the team both for how they've played on the road over the course of the season and for adopting what appears to be some complacency- or at least what Lakers fans hope is complacency, as opposed to a more accurate reflection of their capabilities- in the process. Given the injuries and general lack of cohesion, I don't know if this Lakers team is so good as to make blowing off half the year an option. I know the Threepeat teams did it in the second and third years of that dynasty, but can this group get away with turning it on and off?
A win over the Wizards doesn't change the basic context of the current squad. Assuming they dispatch of the Pacers tomorrow and the Sixers Friday, the real tests come Sunday and Monday against the Celtics and Grizzlies. What the Lakers did gain tonight, though, is a welcome return to normalcy. An easy win over a bad team.
I doubt fans will complain.
One final note: Kobe scored 26 points, leaving him 101 shy of passing Jerry West for the all-time scoring record in Lakers franchise history. Weigh in on the event here, and check ESPN Los Angeles.com for all the coverage (including a cool countdown thingamabob).