Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been three years since the Lakers found a win under the tree on Christmas day. That streak came to an end in 2012 only days after the supposed end of humanity was avoided. Thankfully the Mayan calendar made no mention of the impending hoops apocalypse in Los Angeles. Until recently it certainly seemed as if that was imminent.
However the returns of both Pau Gasol and Steve Nash have ignited a renewed sense of pride and that shone through today during L.A.’s rousing 100-94 Christmas day win over the New York Knicks.
In case you forgot it was the Knicks that only recently gave Mike D’Anonti a very rude reminder of how much better they are without him. Today it was D’Antoni’s team that returned the favor by spoiling the holiday for all of NYC (for good measure Boston beat down Brooklyn this morning as well).
Whatever the Nash factor actually is cannot be quantified only seen in the form of pride and effort. In the two games the Lakers have played since regaining the services of their court general there has been a complete reawakening of the championship effort the Lakers have been lacking all year.
Much like what we saw in Golden State just days earlier, the Lakers battled back from a second half deficit while playing with a definite sense of purpose.
Kobe Bryant never made 34 points looks so easy. With Nash setting the table to the tune of 11 dimes it took KB24 only 24 shots to get his. Another element of the Nash factor is that Bryant is finally able to play as a true two guard. Kobe only had one dime but you’ll only see that number become an issue after a loss.
This was a true team win in every since of the word as every man D’Antoni put in the game contributed.
Metta World Peace continues to flourish in his role as sixth man. The headline will be Metta’s 20 points and 7 boards but the real story was his infectious effort on defense.
Carmelo Anthony is an elite level scorer. This is known. So even though he matched Kobe’s production with 34 points on 23 shots nothing came easy for Melo. Metta was all over Anthony like a cheap Christmas sweater. He harassed, hurried and hustled all afternoon long imploring his teammates to match his energy.
What is truly frightening is the Lakers are clicking having won five straight still without a proper game plan in place to get the most of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Thankfully those two are true pros that don’t wait for the game to come to them.
Howard had a pedestrian (by his standards) game going for 14 and 12. But his presence on the boards was critical in this victory. As for Pau, the Spaniard still isn’t as involved as he should be but his all around game was on full display as he filled up the box with 13 points, 8 boards and 6 dimes. However the moment that made this one memorable for Gasol came in the clutch when he took the ball from the top of the three point line to the hole with authority dunking home what would prove to be the game winner.
Like the rest of his team, Gasol’s confidence is growing after a sluggish start. For the Lakers this win not only signifies the end to their Christmas woes but it also proves there is still the heart of champion beating under that Purple and Gold (or for today all white) jersey.