Beautiful basketball is not something you’ll see the Lakers’ style of play described as this season. At times their offense is an insult to ugly. There are those occasional beautiful moments like Kobe Bryant’s under-the-hoop reverse in the third or Metta World Peace undressing Vlad Radmanovic then finishing at the rim in the fourth of tonight’s contest. But for the most part this was an ugly pageant as the L.A. Lakers out-ugly’d the Atlanta Hawks in an 86-78 snoozer.
Those two moments I mentioned helped the Lakers to get momentum and finish off the Hawks. Believe it or not the ATL was getting ready to take this game by the throat in the third. After Andrew Bynum abused the Hawks in the first half Atlanta came out with all kinds of energy in the second.
A sluggish start out of the locker room had the Lakers looking at a deficit almost halfway through the third. Until something strange happened…something you don’t see too often from the Lakers these days…a 12-0 run.
Before you knew it the lead for Los Angeles was in double figures. Kobe’s aforementioned reverse was one of those rewind worthy moments. It was memorable for the sick degree of difficulty but also because it was one of only 5 shots Mamba made tonight. This one helped to really get the momentum going for the Lakers.
Bryant finished with 15 on the night, 13 of which came in the second half. Kobe was ice cold in the first 24 minutes making just one of his first ten. He’s been getting in the habit of starting slow but he’s trending upwards with some fantastic finishes.
As far as finishes go it is also rare to see World Peace finish above the rim which is why seeing him rock Vlad Rad to sleep then stuffing one in the lane was a stunner. Almost as stunning as Metta hitting double figures in points. Both of those happened tonight with the 10th point being scored by that emphatic dunk which pretty much shut the refrigerator door on the Hawks.
Bynum’s strong start turned into a vanishing act in the second half. He matched Kobe with 15 but did the opposite of Bryant going for 13 in the first half and just 2 in the second. Still Drew was instrumental in setting the tone. Both he and Pau Gasol were out to assert their size advantage.
Gasol took game honors with 20 points. He also took down 13 boards two less than fellow twin tower Bynum. The Laker bigs also combined for 6 blocks showing the Hawks who the bullies on the block were.
Atlanta’s offense was out of commission all night. They shot just 34% against the ever improved Laker defense. Jeff Teague was the only Hawk that played with any aggression on offense. He even tried to throw one down on Pau in the final seconds of the game. Gotta give the little dude credit, he goes hard and plays with heart.
In the end Atlanta just never got going and the Lakers closed out like the veteran team they are. That too is increasingly rare to see this season. Usually the Lakers close like a stuttering salesman. Tonight they had the King’s Speech going down the stretch, not sounding out every word perfectly but hitting the important ones with emphasis.
There is still no way this formula for success is sustainable. L.A. walks a fine line every night. Tonight 86 points was enough to win. Most nights that won’t beat a lot of college teams. Mike Brown has got to keep tweaking his offense. Kobe’s off-night was offset by contributions from unexpected sources. That too can’t be counted on. But let’s not complain about a win. With the way the Western Conference is bunched up like a pair of cheap drawls worn by Serena Williams you’ll take every win no matter the quality of it.