Suddenly all is right in the Laker universe. Phil Jackson restored order in New Orleans last night by making a last second lineup change. Back to the bench went Lamar Odom. Into the starting five came Andrew Bynum.
Wouldn’t you know…it worked like a charm as the Lake Show hammered the Hornets 103-88.
A team that hadn’t scored more than 82 points in their last three contests – all losses – had surpassed that point total in the third quarter. The ball moved as the Lakers shot a blistering 58% from the floor. Kobe Bryant put his shooting woes in the rearview by going 8 of 14, dropping 20 in 27 minutes. Pau Gasol still isn’t as assertive as he should be posting another double-double (11 and 12). The nice thing is that the Spaniard was looking like the efficient Pau of yore.
More importantly was that the defensive intensity was dialed back up to championship standards. To be sure, the Hornets were flat but a lot of that was due to the smothering Lakers’ defense that held the NO to 41% from the field. Former Laker Trevor Ariza had a miserable night scoring just 4 points while spending most of the night watching from the bench due to foul trouble.
Leave it to Phil to shake things up at the absolute perfect time. His late lineup shift proved genius.
Odom looked as comfortable as ever back in his 6th Man role. So comfortable, in fact, that Lamar went AND 1 on a fast break in the 4th. LO led the Lakers with 24 points, a career best off the bench for the Candy Man. Meanwhile, Bynum looks to be getting his legs back as he ran for a full 30 minutes, dropping 18 on 8 of 12 from the field.
This was just what the doctor ordered for this team. They were clearly in need of a shakeup as the wheels were in danger of coming off before New Year’s. Now, these guys need to finish up 2010 strong on Friday against Philly. It’s just one game but it was a game that reminded us all that this is the best team in the league. Of course, you can only say that when they’re focused and fired up.
Now that we’re back to the championship lineup of last year, let’s hope this stellar play continues. PJ doesn’t have many more cards to play as far as lineup shifting goes. Something tells me he’s not going to sit Ron Artest for Matt Barnes or Derek Fisher for Steve Blake. From here out – heath permitting – I think we’ve got our lineup in order for a return to the inspired play we saw early in the season.