Game Notes: Lakers at Wizards
Lakers get over their bump in the road.
by Alexandra Rush
Even Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders seemed skeptical that his team could take advantage of Kobe Bryant’s broken finger and sore back, Ron Artest’s achy feet and the Lakers’ dismal record on their current road trip.
“[Kobe] will always be able to make big shots when he needs to,” Saunders told reporters before last night’s game, indicating the Wizards may have trouble snapping their three-game losing straight.
As it turns out, Saunders’ doubt was rather prudent, for Los Angeles played as smooth and calm as Barack Obama’s rhetoric, beating the Wizards by 13 and avoiding a seventh loss in nine road games.
The Los Angeles players may have been invigorated by their Monday meeting with the president, who Odom speculated may be a worthy match-up in a one-on-one game. “You never know [who may win],” Odom said. “Obama is a lefty after all.”
The team showed it got its groove back by the 2nd quarter, which was equivalent to Obama snagging Ohio and Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in terms of ensuring a win. Pau Gasol held down an offensive fortress in the paint, most notably by hitting a turn-around hook shot, the ball gliding off his finger tips with the delicacy of a close-range finger roll. Gasol finished the game with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
Shannon Brown was a one-man highlight reel throughout the second quarter, throwing down a two-handed slam dunk via an alley-oop pass from Lamar Odom, following up Bynum’s missed free throw with a jam and finishing the half with 8 points.
Washington, who was only trailing by a point after the opening quarter, turned into Bricks City the following period. Players were missing baseline jumpers left and right; the team only shot 36.8 percent from the field, for the Lakers defense was as tight as White House security. Los Angeles forced Washington to pass around until a shot clock violation or until players had to settle for haphazard three-pointers, which they missed all three.
The Lakers outscored the Wizards by 15 points in the second quarter, a crucial stat given that the Wizards’ weren’t outscored by more than three in the other periods.
And as usual, Artest was an integral part of the Lakers’ defensive scheme. Although his plantar fasciitis (swelling on the underside of his feet) may have limited his scoring to only five points for two games straight, the pain didn’t stop Artest from holding Caron Butler to four points in the first half.
“No pain, no gain,” Artest declared in the locker room before the game, as he rubbed an ice cube on his joints, jokingly comparing the procedure to the Rosie Perez and Spike Lee bedroom scene from Do The Right Thing. In addition to discussing his foot problems, Artest also said “my fingers have been hurting for years. But if I break my fingers I won’t complain because I already know I’m playing through them.”
Artest’s play-through-injury-mentality is in accordance with Zen Master Phil Jackson’s mantra that professional basketball “is a job that requires sacrifice.”
Bryant did some sacrificing: He seemed to attempt less drives than usual in order to dish off to his teammates. It worked at times: an alley-oop to Gasol in the third quarter. His assist attempts failed at other times: a rocket chest pass that was probably about two feet away from Gasol and ended up out-of—bounds. Bryant finished eight assists, six turnovers and still somehow managed to match Gasol’s 26 points, a team high.
This was one of the those games where Wizards fans began to march up the aisles and to the exits with about five minutes still left in the fourth quarter.
“There’s a reason [the Lakers] are world champs.” Saunders said. He seemed to accept a loss to an elite team, as did Randy Foye. Foye said he was rather pleased with the Wizards overall play, which overall wasn’t bad on paper. The team shot just over 51 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Lakers by nine.
“If we would have been able to play this way against other teams, we would be in great shape.”
But Antawn Jamison didn’t seem as optimistic. He quietly scored a game-high of 27 points, but did not really orchestrate any collaborative offense sequences like Bryant did.
Jamison called the loss “frustrating” and lamented “for some reason [we] can’t find a way.” And although he insisted the team has “moved on” from the recent Gilbert Arenas fiasco, he added he wished both Arenas and Javaris Crittenton could return to on-court action.
But would that even help? The Wizards has an 11-22 record with Arenas, and like Saunders said in the pre-game press conference, it’s tough to compete against a team whose star player isn’t bothered by broken bones.