LOS ANGELES -- Nothing about the rest of the day was normal or expected -- not unless you think firing the head coach ahead of the season's sixth game qualifies -- but Friday night the Los Angeles Lakers did something that had been very rare in this young season: Exactly what should be expected. A lesser opponent came to Staples Center, and the Lakers beat them up.
Yes, the Bernie Bickerstaff era (short as it probably will be) got off to a great start, as the Lakers pounded Golden State, 101-77.
Kobe Bryant led the way, displaying the full floor game en route to 27 points (10-of-18 shooting), plus nine rebounds, seven assists, and a pair of steals. While Pau Gasol's shooting percentage was again off (6-of-18), he grabbed 16 rebounds, blocked two shots, and was a team-high plus-26 over 40 minutes in one of his livelier games since the opener.
One great, one good performance, but hardly the only positives for the Lakers. Here are five takeaways:
The Lakers showed a lot more energy, and a lot less frustration.
There are any number of explanations as to why. Maybe they needed to come home, or play 48 minutes against a probable lottery team. Maybe they breathed a little easier knowing the speculation on Mike Brown's future came to a close faster than anyone expected, or the move jolted them to attention. Whatever the cause, the Lakers seemed to internalize the pregame directive of interim coach Bickerstaff. Just go play ball and have some fun. One major sign the wattage was up? Offensive rebounding. The Lakers registered 16 offensive boards, and seven players grabbed at least one. That's not to say they played a great all-around game -- they shot only 38 percent from the field through three quarters and needed rally caps to reach 29 percent from 3-point range on the game.
Don't pick too many nits on a 24-point win. Not after the start they've had. The product was significantly better.
Particularly on defense
The Warriors aren't quite the video game offense of a few years back but can still put points on the board. Not tonight. The Lakers put in probably their best defensive performance of the year, limiting Golden State to only 33.7 percent shooting overall, and 55 points in the final three quarters. Coach Mark Jackson's big guns -- Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and David Lee -- were a combined 15-of-42. Entering the game with the fifth worst opponent's turnover percentage, the Lakers coaxed 18 out of the visitors. As a group, they were extremely aggressive on the pick-and-roll on the perimeter, and on the night outrebounded the Warriors 58-47.
Even Antawn Jamison, something of a running punchline defensively over the course of his career, looked like Dwight Howard on a nasty one-handed swat of a Richard Jefferson dunk attempt in the third quarter.
The bench was a positive
Not necessarily a model of efficiency, but as a group were much more assertive looking for shots (i.e. they took them) and nobody had to freak out when they were in the game. Jordan Hill, consistently the best of that group in the early part of the year, was great again. He had 14 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the field, along with his typically disruptive work crashing the offensive glass and contesting shots at the other end. Darius Morris canned a couple of first-half 3-pointers, and while Jamison still shot poorly (1-of-5 from downtown), he was as engaged as he has been all year.
Metta World Peace's shot is a little off
A 3-of-14 night on the heels of 3-of-12 in Utah. Two games before that, 3-of-10. What does this mean? Probably nothing, but that's a lot of iron.
Bernie Bickerstaff is now, by percentage, the most successful coach in Lakers history.
Take that, Pat Riley!