HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – It’s a new day in L.A.
The Los Angeles Lakers scored 122 points in their win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday, finally breaking through offensively under Mike D’Antoni. The key was reserves Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, who combined for 54 points, shooting 12-for-18 from beyond the arc.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles has the story from Staples Center …
It’s only been six games, so the jury is still out on Mike D’Antoni’s ultimate impact. But give the coach credit for this if nothing else: His system has transformed the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench from a bunch of sorry substitutes to the Jodie & Jamison Show.
Antawn Jamison scored a game-high 33 points and Jodie Meeks scored 21 on 7-for-8 shooting from 3-point land as the reserve duo nearly matched the 56 points scored by the Denver Nuggets’ starting five in the Lakers’ 122-103 win Friday.
The Lakers have been up-and-down as their 3-3 record suggests since D’Antoni took over, but it only has been up for Jamison (who’s putting up 17.8 points in the last four games) and Meeks (who is 15-for-29 on 3-pointers since D’Antoni first assumed his seat on the sidelines).
“Me and him, we’ve been kind of like roommates here lately,” Jamison said of his relationship with Meeks since joining the team as free agents this offseason. “We know we were brought here for a certain role, and we’ve been struggling together, as well.”
Jamison and Meeks are the two Lakers beyond Steve Nash who best fit in D’Antoni’s offense. Meeks is one of the best 3-point shooters in the league, while Jamison is the stretch four needed to really spread the floor for the pick-and-roll game.
Of course, you can’t discuss a Lakers game without dissecting Pau Gasol‘s role in the offense. Gasol took just seven shots and scored just six points, but he did have eight assists to six different teammates.
More interesting is that the Lakers had their best offensive game of the season on a night in which Gasol and Dwight Howard played just 12 minutes together on Friday, easily the fewest they’ve played all season. Jamison and Howard played 20 minutes together, while Jamison and Gasol played 13 minutes together. So basically, Gasol played more as a center than as a power forward.
Now, the question is whether the offensive explosion was a result of the lack of Gasol-Howard playing time or vice versa. It may be the latter, because Jamison was productive from the start, scoring eight points in the first quarter and another six in the second. And since his stretch four was playing so well, it was easy for D’Antoni to go back to him for extended minutes in the second half.
So you could argue that Jamison, a 14-year veteran, is the biggest X-factor in the league this season. If he can consistently make shots, D’Antoni can continue to stagger Gasol’s and Howard’s minutes, and the Lakers can really spread the floor.
Thus far this season, Jamison-Gasol has been the best combination of the three (see table below), while Jamison-Howard has been the worst. But Jamison and Howard are actually a plus-40 in 68 minutes together over the last four games. As the team gets comfortable with their new coach, Jamison continues to emerge as a vital cog.
“I’ll ride him,” D’Antoni said of Jamison. “I’ll probably have to kill him. But he can do it. He said he can do it, so we’ll see.”
Yes, we will.
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Lakers efficiency with Gasol, Howard and Jamison combinations
Combination GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Gasol + Howard 16 395 96.2 104.4 99.5 +4.9 +34
Jamison + Howard 16 180 92.3 97.6 98.5 -.9 -20
Jamison + Gasol 15 124 97.1 111.7 95.5 +16.2 +31
Through Friday, 11/30
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions