If you didn’t have the opportunity to watch last night’s game against the Clippers, you missed out. The Los Angeles Lakers went against all odds and beat the team that many people predicted would make the NBA Finals this season.
After a disappointing season last year, the Lakers got off to a strong start without their superstar, Kobe Bryant. Despite the setback, the Lakers proved that they can win. Their defense improved significantly from last season, the energy was more apparent and the chemistry between the players has increased. Additionally, the bench play last night was incredible combining for a total of 76 points.
One reason for the strong bench performance last night was the amount of playing time they received. If you look at the Box Score for last night’s game, you can see that the bench got more playing time than the starters.
Mike D’Antoni, the Lakers’ head coach made the right decision by allowing his bench to remain on the floor in the 4th quarter after they took the lead from the Clippers and continued to play up tempo basketball. However, don’t expect D’Antoni to give the bench a majority of the playing time throughout the season. Last night’s game seemed to be more of a test that D’Antoni and his coaching staff conducted to see who plays well with one another and who is a right fit for the system.
The results D’Antoni received last night were rather shocking to a lot of people. Xavier Henry, one of the newest additions to the Lakers, scored a career high 22 points in 26 minutes coming off the bench. He was 3-4 from the 3-point line and accounted for 6 rebounds and 2 assists.
Jordan Hill, who began his 3rd season with the Lakers last night also had an impressive performance. In 18 minutes off the bench he recorded 12 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block.
Jordan Farmar and Jodie Meeks, who also came off the bench recorded 16 points and 13 points, respectively.
Some may argue that D’Antoni should keep his starting lineup as is and allow his bench to take over during the game and do what they did last night. But I disagree. If the Lakers tweak their starting lineup, they can get off to a stronger start and allow their bench to come in and maintain the strong performance. It’s very rare to see a team’s bench win all its games and that definitely won’t be the case with the Lakers.
Last night, D’Antoni started Steve Nash (PG), Steve Blake (SG), Nick Young (SF), Shawne Williams (PF) and Pau Gasol (C). The starting lineup did a great job keeping up with the Clippers in the 1st quarter and a part of the 2nd quarter, but they weren’t playing exciting basketball and they just didn’t seem to fit together. If you read my previous article about Steve Nash and what I think about his role on the Lakers, you’d know that I don’t think he should be in the starting lineup. Hopefully, D’Antoni starts to realize that Nash’s age and decreased productivity will affect the team in the long run. Nash should play with the second unit and come off the bench so that the younger players can learn from him and in turn improve their own game.
Shawne Williams, the newly acquired power forward for the Lakers had the most disappointing game in terms of stats last night. In 12 minutes, he had a 20% field-goal percentage and recorded only 3 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks. With Gasol moving back to the Center position, the Lakers need an effective power forward alongside Gasol in the front-court and Williams isn’t the answer.
However, the biggest challenge for D’Antoni is replacing Kobe Bryant’s spot until his return. Steve Blake was assigned to be the starting shooting guard last night, but that too doesn’t seem to be the long-term solution. Blake scored 6 points, both from behind the arc in 22 minutes.
So, what’s the solution for D’Antoni? Until Kobe’s return, which has been predicted to be around late December or January, the Lakers need a solid starting lineup. In my opinion, the following should be the starting lineup until the Black Mamba returns:
Point Guard: Jordan Farmar, Shooting Guard: Xavier Henry, Small Forward: Nick Young, Power Forward: Jordan Hill, Center: Pau Gasol
The addition of Farmar, Henry and Hill will give the Lakers a very strong and efficient starting lineup in terms of both offense and defense. With Hill and Gasol in the front-court, opponents will have a hard time defending them because of their size and strength, and on defense, they will make it tough for their opponents to get past them.
Xavier Henry, who proved himself as an offensive weapon last night, deserves to take over Kobe’s spot and provide the Lakers with a strong offense from the beginning of the game. Farmar, who was the assist leader for the Lakers last night, with 6 assists will get the ball down court with more speed, (as D’Antoni likes) and will be able to move the ball well to his offensive weapons. Furthermore, because of his speed and shooting ability, he can be a scoring point guard and drive the ball inside the paint and score in that fashion. The starting lineup I have listed above seems to fit best with D’Antoni’s fast-paced offensive system and will allow the Lakers to get a lot of points on the board early on in the game.
A a result, the bench will consist of Jodie Meeks, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Wesley Johnson, Shawne Williams, Chris Kaman, Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre who can all come off the bench and provide defense, as well as offense to keep the game moving at a good pace.
Many NBA fans, as well as Lakers’ fans doubted the ability of this year’s team to make noise in the western conference and make a push for the playoffs, but the Lakers proved everyone wrong. They showed that even without Kobe, their passion and excitement can lead them to victory. Look for the Lakers to make some changes in their starting lineup moving forward to create more consistency throughout the game and ensure a successful season until the Black Mamba returns.
Follow @USC_Aposhian for more info and updates on the Los Angeles Lakers. I will be live tweeting all the Lakers games this upcoming season.