This win impressed me. We fell behind early because of no hustle or sense of urgency. Denver came out the aggressor early on and just simply outplayed us. Even when we fell behind by 17, instead of going after the ball, the guys just stood around expecting the ball to come to them. But we certainly picked it up. Phil's decision of bringing in Luke was what changed the game for us. Even when we fell behind, I wasn't frustrated at all. I was confident we'd pick it up at some point.
Lamar Odom- I like that he said he's going to shoot more, but that doesn't mean to force things. That was what Lamar did in the first half. I just don't think he's going to work at small forward. Things started to work for him once Luke came in and he moved closer to the basket. Once that happened, he was the recipient of some nice passes and he was under the basket for some rebounds during our run. The game became so much simpler for him once we slid him down low. Final stat line: 12 points, 5-16 from the field, 4 rebounds.
Vladimir Radmanovic- I'm hoping the only reason Vlad is still starting is because Ronny isn't fully healthy. He kills any type of rhythm the starters develop with both forced passes and shots. His game fits more with the second unit. Final stat line: 6 points, 3-78 from the field, 0-4 from three, 6 assists.
Andrew Bynum- His aggressiveness is what's been impressing me so far this season. He's snatching rebounds straight out of the air as if he's a homeless person wanting food. He can fall asleep sometimes, but his improved stamina is what enables him to sustain that aggression. He did a pretty solid job on Camby. He read when Camby would drive and cut him off, or when he would shoot jumpers. The only things I'd like to see him improve on is recognizing when the right time is to pass out of a double team instead of holding the ball so far above his head and having it stolen, and more post moves. Whenever he gets the ball outside of the block, he seems confused because he can't back a defender like Camby down and take it hard to the rim. I'm loving his development, though. Final stat line: 12 points, 13 rebounds.
Kobe Bryant- I'm still a bit puzzled about his role in the offense. Phil's taken him off the ball in the triangle, which means less isolations and more cuts, picks off the ball, etc. Sometimes he plays that part of the offense well, and other times it doesn't work. I think him not getting the ball in good spots is what's causing him to struggle with his shot. A lot of his touches have been coming in spots where it's easy for the defense to help and double team. If he was more at the top of the circle and in the pinch post he could create a wide open look for someone else. If the defense is playing Kobe well, then that makes it difficult for his teammates. He didn't shoot a lot of free throws, but he did penetrate at the right times and found his guys out there in good positions to either catch and shoot or lay it in. Having Luke in there made it easier for Kobe to sort of step back and let things in the offense develop. He didn't force and played great defense on Iverson in the second half. Instead of playing him closely, he gave him space and dared him to shoot from the outside. But even when Iverson was about to pull up, Kobe cut the angle off and wouldn't let him get off a shot. It confused the hell out of Iverson and resulted in turnovers and a disgruntled Denver offense. Final stat line: 24 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists.
Derek Fisher- He struggled on Iverson in the first half and just wasn't in a good flow. He's been forcing passes in transition when there's nothing there when he should just slow it down and set up in the half court. But he did, however, hit some big time shots during our comeback in the first half. Final stat line: 10 points, 4-6 from the field, 2-2 from three, 4 assists.
Luke Walton- I'm pondering whether or not Luke should return to the starting lineup. I know, I know, it was only one game. But still, anytime a guy can change the whole feel of a game and create things, it makes you wonder. He seems to work well in the post in the triangle with his passing, which I think we should go to more. Once Luke came in, we matched up better with Denver on defense and had a little more speed on the defensive side of the ball. He contested some of Anthony's shots and received great help from his teammates in double teams. He impressed the hell out of me in this game. Final stat line: 14 points, 6-9 from the field, 4 rebounds, 4 assists.
Jordan Farmar- I think Phil needs to do a better job of recognizing when the right time is to sub him in. His foot speed is what you need against a player like Iverson, so when he's got it going take Fish out. His poise impressed me and his leadership out there for that second unit has CONTINUED to impress me. I'd like to see him more aggressive on offense, though, since Bynum has moved to the starting lineup. He also needs to sharpen his jumper since opposing guards are becoming aware of his quickness and playing him for the drive. Final stat line: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists.
Sasha Vujacic- His selfishness on offense has annoyed me at times, but at least he was making his shots in this game. I'm glad that he's now the backup shooting guard and can get minutes, he's gonna be big for us later on in the season. I'd like to see him play under more control and make the extra pass more, he's playing as if it's preseason and he's fighting for a roster spot. Final stat line: 22 points, 6-14 from the field, 8-9 from the free throw line.
I was disappointed that we didn't go for the throat early against this team since they were coming off a stretch of bad games and were probably questioning themselves. We let them get into a groove and get out in transition, but we recognized when to settle into our offense and not run with them. We also took care of the boards, outrebounding Denver 52-41. If there's one thing that can frustrate the hell out of a team it's not securing rebounds while the other team is on a surge, especially at home. We protected homecourt against a team we'll be battling with for playoff positioning all season long and, like us, is looking to become that fourth team up there with San Antonio, Phoenix, and Dallas. We still have a ways to go, but wins like this one make you appreciate this uphill journey.
Next Game: LAL vs UTA (today)
"Listen to all the teachers in the woods. Watch the trees, the animals and all the living things–you'll learn more from them than books."