When does a win feel like a loss? When it's a poorly played game against a bad team whose best player is injured, whose second-best player is now suiting up for the Milwaukee Bucks, and whose only two available players taller than 6-foot-9 were Jeremy Tyler and Mickell Gladness. Still, a Golden State Warriors squad giving heavy minutes to such NBA luminaries as Charles Jenkins, Brandon Rush and Dominic McGuire pushed the Los Angeles Lakers all the way to the final moments before L.A. finally pulled it out with a pair of classic baseline jumpers from Kobe Bryant in the final minute.
A win beats the alternative, but only barely. Here are four takeaways ...
1. Matt Barnes came to play.
On a night when, as a team, their execution and intensity was anything but consistent, Barnes was quite possibly the team's most productive player, doing it with the constant activity that is his hallmark, mixing in a healthy dose of the outside shooting that has been a strength for Barnes over the past few weeks. He was 3-of-5 from beyond the 3-point arc, accounting for nine of his 18 points on an extremely efficient 7-of-10 from the field. But his game was more than those badly needed points. Barnes was the team's second-leading rebounder (10), and he had a pair of assists and blocks as well.
2. Metta World Peace was strong like bull.
He was only 5-of-13 from the field overall, but as the game went on MWP's impact grew. On a night the Lakers struggled to get consistent pressure inside, Metta worked his way down low, bulling his way for scores in the post or for offensive rebounds and putbacks. Then there was a critical 3-pointer from somewhere across the Bay Bridge with the shot clock running down, midway through the fourth quarter that helped the Lakers keep a little breathing room. Defensively, the Warriors don't exactly provide the sort of clearly delineated matchup tending to favor him, but Metta still stayed involved, coming up with a key block on Klay Thompson with 47 seconds remaining.
3. Andrew Bynum's maturity is once again called into question.
Bynum had 10 points and three boards at the half. He wasn't exactly dominant, but at worst seemed headed toward another potentially non-descript game on the glass.
But with 10 minutes to play in the third quarter, the narrative around Bynum's night changed drastically. Joining the offense at the top of the arc, Bynum accepted a pass early in the shot clock and instead of making a pass, stepped into a 3-pointer. He missed wide right, but I'm not sure Lakers coach Mike Brown waited for the ball to hit the rim before getting Josh McRoberts off the bench. Bynum sat for the rest of the third, and played only three minutes in the fourth. Technically speaking, some of that might have been matchup based. Golden State went so small, it's probably a game in which Bynum might not have played huge minutes anyway. But make no mistake. Brown was ticked and sat Bynum down. Deservedly.
Worse than the shot was his body language on the bench. Bynum repeatedly stayed seated while the rest of the team rose during timeouts. He didn't get up to slap hands with teammates at the end of the third, and showed virtually no interest as the game was going on. The past few weeks have raised alarm bells. He has talked about loafing on the court, he was tossed out of the Houston game, he's regressed of late on the glass and defensively. On Tuesday night, when the camera found him on the bench during a stoppage (it wasn't hard to find him) he pointed at it, annoyed.
It'll be interesting to see how Brown handles this one, but the big picture is that the Lakers have something to worry about. From a leadership and maturity standpoint, he's going the wrong way at the wrong time.
4. Kobe hit 'em when they counted.
I really hate that expression, because they all count. But Tuesday night, at least, it's worth putting out there. Before hitting the shots that tied the game then put the Lakers ahead, Bryant was only 7-for-22, including 3-for-11 in the second half.
But those last two, both coming on baseline jumpers, were huge, and straight from the Bryant handbook. The location, how he created space, the lift, the follow through. All vintage Kobe.
Pau Gasol hit two key free throws late, finishing with 19 points. And he was a force on the boards, finishing with 17. That gives him 47 rebounds in the past three games.
5. The Lakers were sloppy, and still can't figure out how to attack a zone defense.
Ramon Sessions may have goosed the offense overall, but when teams zone up the Lakers still have absolutely no clue how to attack. As it was in the pre-Sessions era, the Lakers settle for bad isolated jumpers off virtually no ball movement. They have the size and skill to punish teams for the choice, but seem to lack the discipline. More disappointing, though, were the ways in which the Lakers repeated recent patters of building leads, then getting sloppy. They had a big push early, but let the Warriors back in by halftime by halftime. In the third, the Lakers again pushed the lead out to double digits, but again couldn't close.
Against a sub-par team like Golden State, that ain't good.