by John Krolik
Pre-game, Phil Jackson says he doesn’t see any potential problems with Gasol coming back into the lineup, even though he’s had very little on-court with the Lakers. He also has this classic exchange with a Laker TV guy about the Bulls’ annual “circus trip”:
“This road trip, it’s given them some tremendous problems over the years.”
“Even when you were there?”
— During the game, Gasol makes his presence felt immediately, snagging the first of his 7 offensive boards and tipping in a miss for the Lakers’ first basket. Not only is Gasol a tremendous offensive rebounder, but the fact he never brings the ball down makes him a force when he gets the ball near the basket.
— Los Angeles wins the first quarter 25-19 despite Kobe, the League’s best first-quarter scorer thus far, going 1-5 from the field. Not only does this bode badly for the Bulls, but the rest of the League might be in trouble.
— Ten points for Gasol in the first 6 minutes of the game. He doesn’t look too rusty.
— Great moment early in the game: Joakim Noah has the ball at the elbow. Andrew Bynum is playing off of him. They stare at each other, and Bynum makes it clear that he has no intention of closing out on Noah. They stare at each other for a few seconds, and Noah finally drains a UFO jumper. “I’ll give you that shot” happens in the NBA.
— Another playground basketball note about Noah-he will occasionally close out on people while yelling at the top of his lungs to try and distract them. Absolutely hilarious.
— Derrick Rose cannot buy a layup. He goes 2-11 from the field in the first half, with a lot of his misses at the basket after double-clutch, whirling dervish attempts. No whistles, and no buckets.
— Bynum has some trouble with the lack of space and Noah’s pesky defense, rushing some shots in the post and finishing 5-12 from the field. It’ll be interesting to see if this is just an adjustment or a symptom of Gasol and Bynum’s strengths overlapping.
— Kobe didn’t have his best game from the field, but was passing the ball beautifully, finding the open man from the post and finishing with 8 assists. His passing’s fallen off a bit this year, but with his full roster around him he looks like he’s ready to pick apart some defenses.
— Kobe also passes Kareem for second all-time on the Laker scoring list in this game-a great moment, and an amazing achievement. Now only Jerry West has scored more points in a Laker uniform than Kobe.
— The 2nd unit looks completely transformed with Odom coming off of the bench.
— When Rose struggles from the field, the Bulls really struggle to get points. It’s a lot of one-on-one play, and with Deng struggling from the field, the Bulls just never got into an offensive flow.
— Hinrich played shooting guard alongside Rose in the 2nd quarter. Normally, I’m a big proponent of undersized shooting guards, but Kobe is one of the few guys in the League who can kill an undersized 2-guard. He takes Hinrich to the post every single time, and Kirk ends up with a game low -20 +/- in only 26 minutes.
— If you’re wondering whether or not members of major publications give each other crap about how many twitter followers they have, the answer is a resounding “yes.” By the way, twitter and live-blogging make press row feel completely different from only a season ago.
— Brad Miller honestly thinks he’s the world’s tallest point guard. Another good moment was the first time he went to the line-a small contingent of Laker fans booed him because he played with the early-decade Kings, while most of the building just didn’t care all that much.
— Bright spot for the Bulls-the ultra-long rookie James Johnson blocked a Kobe jumper, which almost never happens, and used his length to get a post-up basket just before garbage time officially began. He’s got some tools.
— After the game, Kobe says the Lakers “Didn’t miss a beat” with Pau Gasol back into the lineup. Considering the Lakers won an NBA championship the last time Gasol officially suited up as a Laker, the rest of the League should be very afraid right now.