Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
At this point the Lakers haven’t had enough success to discover a winning formula. So pretty much every game is a learning experience even though we’re past the halfway point. That’s why tonight’s 102-84 romp over the Utah Jazz has a chance to go down as a moment of growth for an otherwise stunted team.
For the first time in a long time the Lake Show actually looked like a family. With all the swirling talks of discontent and dysfunction it was no coincidence that Kobe Bryant took it upon himself to lead the way.
After that now infamous meeting in Memphis there was an indication that a storm was brewing between Bryant and Dwight Howard. Flashing those leadership qualities forged in championship lore KB24 set the tone by setting the table for his beleaguered big man early.
Kobe to Shaq in Game 7 against Portland it wasn’t but Mamba’s first quarter lob to Howard really set the stage for what we were in store for.
All night long Bryant was the facilitator dishing out 14 dimes, scoring 14 points and falling one board shy of a triple-double. So effective was Kobe in his new role that Steve Nash had a night to focus on getting his shot going. Nash only had two assists but scored 15 points as part of a balanced scoring attack.
Howard and Metta World Peace paced the Lake Show with 17 each. Howard did work on the glass with 13 boards while Metta went 5 of 11 from deep. Their effort and energy was undeniable which seemed to fire up the new sixth man in town as Pau Gasol found an attitude we haven’t seen in some time.
The Spaniard had a chip on his shoulder even mixing it up with Paul Millsap during a dead ball in the third quarter. It was part of a production 15 point, 7 rebound effort off the bench for Gasol who was aggressive and assertive showing a playoff-like determination.
But the real story is the defense. Yes, for once we actually saw Mike D’Antoni’s team put in a full shift on the other end of the floor. The Jazz shot just 42% while the Lakers owned the boards besting Utah by a full 15 rebounds.
This is the way this thing was supposed to look all year long. A balanced scoring attack with a smothering defense. Sure, those 18 turnovers are still a big problem. But that’s something for the next game. It’s one step at a time from here out. A similar effort with even fewer turnovers will go a long way in saving embarrassment on Sunday against OKC. At this point the Lakers might not have a winning formula but with the winning feeling back they’re at least inching towards a breakthrough…hopefully.