The Los Angeles Lakers played only two games this past week, losing at home to the surprisingly good Portland Trail Blazers, and squeaking one out on the road against the lowly Sacramento Kings. Much like the Boston Celtics, the Lakers have compensated by losing their dominant player by collectively playing better than their individual games would otherwise indicate.
Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake have both filled in admirably so far this season filling in for both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.After a bit of a drop off in production the previous week, they came storming back in these two games. Meeks shot the lights out from downtown the past week, shooting nearly 60% from beyond the three point line. Blake, meanwhile, dished out 19 assists in two games, and has done a credible job of playing the point guard position.
Pau Gasol struggled against the Blazers, you can thank the very good due of Lamarcus Aldrigdge, and Robin Lopez for that; however, he did come back to play well against the Kings. As long as Gasol isn’t counted on to dominate games, and be a solid number two, or really number three option at this point, he should continue to contribute positively for the Lakers.
Jordan Hill had a bit of a rocky week, as he was replaced by little used Robert Sacre in the game against the Kings. Head coach Mike D’Antoni was worried the Lakers were tiring Hill out, by playing him extended minutes with the starters, and that’s why he made the switch. It worked so far, as Hill grabbed 9 rebounds against the Kings, in only 15 minutes of action.
Unheralded wing players Xavier Henry, and Nick Young were two of the best three Laker players against the Blazers, giving the Lakers some scoring punch of the bench. They both fell back to earth in the following game, as to be expected, and as long as they can provide the Lakers with some source of offense off the bench, they will have done their part.
In maybe the biggest surprise of the week, Sacre did more than just wave towels at the end of the bench for the Lakers. He actually provided them with needed rebounding and efficient scoring off the bench. If his minutes are going to be limited to 15-30 minutes a night, its reasonable his production could continue in a positive direction for the Lakers. However, if they start to put heavy minutes on him, that likely wouldn’t be very productive for him or the Lakers.
Really, the biggest news of the week for the Lakers, is that Bryant is returning this Sunday, at home against the pathetic Toronto Raptors. It will be exciting to see Bryant back in the fold, but it could also cause some tension as well. Without him, the Lakers have moved the ball collectively as a team, not having anyone stop the ball, and turning the game into one on one isolation basketball. This is always the delicate balance with Bryant, when he wants to, he can be a phenomenal facilitator, but his ball hog side never seems to be too far away. It is this balance of style that will dictate whether or not the Lakers will be in the playoff race deep into the season.