Friday night’s contest at STAPLES wasn’t – to be honest – much of a contest. Kobe Bryant saw to that.
His quick six-point barrage turned into 11 personal points by first quarter’s end, a total supplemented by four early Andrew Bynum assists and three off-the-bench layups from Lamar Odom. Translation: The Lakers were off and running. In fact, after L.A. opened a 10-point lead on two Kobe free throws at the 2:18 mark, Denver wouldn’t get within double-digits for the whole rest of the game. So much for a team that had been 7-1 since acquiring Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson, huh?
As such, the final box score doesn’t matter too much in this case, even as 11 Lakers scored and only Trevor Ariza hit the 30-minute mark for the evening. What happened was something we’ve seen several times already in L.A.’s largely dominant 10-1 start: the starters cracked the lid on an opponent, and the bench came in and ripped that lid off entirely. After it was off, various Lakers dipped their seemingly constantly hungry mouths in for a bite. It was sort of like a group of fraternity boys at an In-N-Out Burger sponsored after party … How about three swats in nine minutes for Josh Powell; 11 points, seven boards, four dimes and three steals for Ariza; 13 points, 13 boards and five assists from Bynum; 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting for Odom; and most impressively, 29 points in 29 minutes for Kobe, who nailed 12-of-18 shots and could barely miss a perimeter jumper, defense contesting or not.
To that end, Phil Jackson admitted that he was worried about the team’s focus heading into the game after Thursday’s stomping of the Suns, but credited Bryant with eliminating any chance of that perceived notion leaking onto the court.
All right, here are a few more numbers:
80 – Percentage of free throws made by the Lakers (16-of-20), including 4-of-4 from Trevor Ariza, even though 20 free throws isn’t many for a team scoring 104 points. The reason? Highly successful jump shooting, particularly from Kobe Bryant.
67 – Season-high points scored by the Lakers in a half, thanks to 35 first quarter and 32 second quarter points.
62.2 – Lakers shooting percentage in the first half on 28-of-45, including 4-of-7 threes.
26.3 – Carmelo Anthony’s shooting percentage on 5-of-19. More negatively, Anthony didn’t get to the free throw line once. Ouch. A terrible game for Anthony.
4 – First half turnovers for L.A., with three in the second after just one in the first. The second half was much more sloppy, as the Lakers amassed 11 turnovers, but the game was never close at that point.
0 – A speculative number here, but my guess as to how many extra minutes L.A.’s stars have had to play due to tight games this year. When Bryant plays 29, Gasol 27, Bynum 28, Odom 18 and Fisher 22 in a 14-point win, things are looking good not just for that game, but for the next.