You'll forgive us for skipping to the more important stuff...
Asked Tuesday afternoon at shootaround what could be learned from tonight's game against the Kings along with tomorrow's "visit" to the Clippers, Phil Jackson scrumpled (new word!) his face, looking for an answer before finally copping to the truth.
Not gonna lie: That sort of candor takes a little bit of the shine off the apple, you know? He might as well have recommended we all stay home and watch "Lost."
But while it will be extremely difficult to take any lessons from Tuesday's 106-100 win over Sacramento and apply them to the playoffs when they begin Sunday at Staples against the Thunder, the game did afford a chance for certain players, particularly those on the bench, to get some extra burn and find a little rhythm and confidence.
It certainly can be argued nobody on squad needs those things more than Sasha Vujacic, a guy who has turned high-strung into a totally unproductive science. Vujacic, who seemingly lives and dies by every make and miss, has been dying a lot this year, but Tuesday kicked in with a litany of positive contributions.
His night didn't start well. Entering midway through the first quarter, Vujacic badly missed his first field goal attempt, forcing a triple off the backboard without drawing iron. It was a shot Phil Jackson later called, in a monumental moment of underselling, "inappropriate." He'd then pick up a personal foul. But at the end of the first quarter, he took a feed from Jordan Farmar and buried a three from the left wing, tying the game at 28.
In the third, Vujacic would hit another buzzer beater, this time after gathering an offensive board and burying a baseline jumper.
The final quarter was particularly kind. He hit a long jumper along the left wing, earned four points for his squad with a pair of offensive rebounds/putbacks. He drew a charge. He drove the lane off a high screen from Pau Gasol, finding Josh Powell along the way for a nice assist, then picked up another dime late in the game with a slick entry from the right baseline to Gasol under the bucket.
Vujacic's final line won't land him on any All-NBA squads, and he'll get some flak from teammates for not finishing a couple opportunities around the rim (plus some posturing towards the crowd after the Q1 triple), but it was monumentally positive by his standards this season. 13 points on five-of-nine shooting, six boards, two dimes, and a steal over 26 minutes.
Could it be enough to help Sasha turn the corner and be a contributor this postseason? I have no idea. Honestly, I'm not holding my breath. But if there's a player on the roster for whom garbage time can inspire better work on nights before the trash is taken out, he's it.
Tuesday, he finally had night of extended PT where the positives far outweighed the negative. Lord knows he needed it.
I just hope I remembered to set the DVR for "Lost," per Phil's implied recommendation.
JORDAN FARMAR SCARES THE POPULACE
If there was one thing the Lakers absolutely, positively hoped to accomplish tonight, it was to escape without anyone getting hurt. For a while, it seemed like they managed not to pull it off. Jordan Farmar left the game early in the second quarter after feeling a twinge in his left hamstring. "I tweaked it," he said after the game. "I told (trainer) Gary Vitti, and he yanked me."
Initially, the official word from the team said Farmar would miss Wednesday's game against the Clippers, and then be listed as day-to-day. Not a positive development for a banged up, guard-thin squad heading into a matchup with Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook. Instead, we later learned the situation wasn't quite as scary. "I'll play tomorrow," Farmar said. Phil Jackson agreed, saying he'd have Farmar in uniform, noting the former Bruin has played all 81 games this season, and has earned the chance to finish things off. "I want him to dress and be on the active roster," Jackson said.
They'll be careful with it I'm sure, but it certainly seems the injury isn't nearly as serious as initially thought.
16- Total number of turnovers from the Lakers, including five each from Gasol and Odom. If there was a criticism Jackson had of his starters, this was it. Against a fast, opportunistic team like the Thunder, loose play will hurt them more than it did Tuesday night.
32:15- Playing time for Gasol, only the second time in the last 16 games he's been under 34 minutes. His night would have been shorter had he not been asked to re-enter the game late in the fourth with L.A.'s lead dwindling, but life is imperfect. My guess is he'll have a similar, if not smaller, workload tomorrow against the Clippers.
2- Remarkable court-length passes from Lamar Odom to moving targets igniting the break, a pair of reminders that his skill set is very different than the average power forward.
Phil Jackson, on Sasha's four offensive rebounds: "He's an offensive rebounding Machine. That's what he is now."
Jackson, on the impact of Luke Walton (nine points, three assists in a season-high 23:34 of playing time): He helps. I don't know if he's going to be able to sustain the effort in the playoffs and that's why I have to look at him a little bit and get him some game activity. Offensively, he does things that create a little offensive rhythm for us and offensive opportunities."
Walton, for the record, said he (and his balky back) "felt great" after the game. "It was a lot of fun out there, playing again and being out there and not having pain. To be out there and move and stuff was a lot of fun."
Lamar Odom, on the approach to Tuesday's game: "I look at it, honestly, like we're practicing against the other team. You want to run all the sets and do everything the right way. We want to play almost how we play in practice. It's just a practice in front of 20,000 people.
Phil Jackson on Sasha Vujacic's mentality, Ron Artest's acumen in the offense. This one is worth a listen, on a couple levels:
Shannon Brown on the bench play, winning effort:
Ron Artest, on the win: