It’s the beginning of the second quarter, Jordan Farmar dribbles to the top of the key and sinks a straight-on three. The Lakers force a turnover on the ensuing Nets possession and Farmar sinks another three, this time under duress. On the inbound, Nets forward Kevin Garnett fumbles the ball and Jordan is once again there to swipe the ball away. He steps back calmly and drains a corner three. It took him a little over a minute to sink three straight threes. The Lakers maintain a 27-point lead and I’m talking shit to everyone; my dad, my friends, anyone who will listen to me. All of them told me to wait until the fourth quarter. “The Lakers are great this year at blowing huge leads”, my Dad said knowingly. Sure enough, with three and a half minutes left in the game, it was tied 92-92. Anyways, let’s rewind a bit and highlight some key points.
- Steve Blake was fabulous. He had 10 assists for the game, eight by halftime. He hit Jodie Meeks and Wesley Johnson with two spectacular back-door passes in the first half, one that set up a highlight-reel dunk by Johnson on former Boston Celtic, Paul “where’s my wheelchair?” Pierce. I can’t stress enough just how great Blake is in this offense. He loves dribbling along the baseline to disrupt the opposing team’s interior defense and just picks out the open man with such ease. His shooting was a little sub-par tonight, but he’s over 45% from behind the arc on the season. Even if Steve Nash is healthy enough to return, I think Blake has done more than enough to earn his starting position.
- Even though I hate Nick Young, I can’t be mad with his performance tonight. He scored a game-high 26 points on a dazzling array of drives and buzzer-beating three-pointers. He played commendable defense and routinely increases the Lakers watchability. Way to prove the haters wrong, Swaggy P!
-I was pleasantly surprised with the hustle and effort of Shawne Williams. He was a virtual nobody to me when the Lakers started this season. I knew he had a reputation for being a competent three-point shooter and a good defender, but he really kept the Lakers in the game tonight with his rebounding. It seemed like every time the Nets were about to grab the rebound on a crucial possession, he appeared out of thin air and snatched it away. He finished with 10 rebounds. I hope we see more games like this for Williams. His energy really benefited the Lakers bench tonight.
- The Spaniard, Pau Gasol, had good numbers (9-17 shooting for 21 points and 8 rebounds) but I didn’t view his performance as a positive once. Gasol was bullied by Nets big man Andray Blatche the entire night and it just seemed like he was playing listlessly. For someone in a contract season, I would expect Gasol to play to the best of his abilities every night. He didn’t record a single assist all night and made poor decisions on offense (he had 4 turnovers). I like that coach Mike D’Antoni prefers to play small ball. Gasol just hasn’t been playing well all season and frankly, I think the Lakers have a more effective offense when he isn’t on the floor (I know I contradicted myself with my last article, but I’ve truly decided Gasol just simply doesn’t fit in D’Antoni’s system).
Finally, the Nets are truly a horrible team. I understand that they aren’t at full strength with stars Deron Williams and Brook Lopez out with injuries, but their lineup is still extremely talented. It just shows that having the highest payroll in the league doesn’t guarantee wins. While watching with my Dad, he mentioned that Kevin Garnett has always played a physical game to the point of dirtiness. With his whole age, Garnett’s physical play is beginning to look a lot more like dirty plays. An elbow here, an elbow there, Garnett just can’t play the game as well as he used to. His long jumpers didn’t fall, he didn’t rebound, and he wasn’t the dominant presence near the rim that we are all used to seeing. Surprisingly, I thought that the Nets two best players tonight was Alan Anderson and Tyshawn Taylor. Anderson helped stop the Lakers’ 18-0 run in the second quarter and spark a 15-0 run by the Nets to allow them back in the game. Taylor made great drives all night and helped the offense get in a groove. Nonetheless, the Nets were careless with the basketball (an element that I never thought would happen with a Jason Kidd- coached team).
The Lakers are back to .500 and play the lowly Detroit Pistons on Friday. They follow that up with a game against Western Conference behemoths, the Portland Trailblazers on Sunday in what should be an excellent game. Chin up Laker fans, considering the expectations we had at the beginning of the season, we should be pleasantly surprised.