Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers was one of six players in double figures, as the entire team stepped up with Kobe Bryant unable to play due to an ankle injury and flu-like symptoms.
For the second game in a row, the Los Angeles Lakers were led by an impressive performance from their bench duo of Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison. With Jodie Meeks thrust into Kobe Bryant’s starting spot, the Lakers only used two reserves against the Kings, and both came through when it counted.
Kobe Bryant missed his first game of the season due to a combination of an ankle injury and the flu, and Pau Gasol was still at least another game away from returning to the lineup—Friday is the next hope for Gasol’s return.
With a short-handed team, the Lakers needed to squeeze out every point, and the Lakers’ two-man bench did just that. The pair of Blake and Jamison combined for 43 points, nine assists, and 14 rebounds on Sunday. That was an improvement on their combined 35 points, seven assists, and 13 rebounds in Indiana.
They combined to shoot 14-for-25 from the field against the Kings, but their production from behind the arc was vital for the win. Jamison and Blake hit nine of the Lakers’ 12 three-point shots on the night. The duo made 9-15 from distance, and the remainder of the team shot 3-13.
Ultimately, the Lakers’ ball movement, team chemistry, and overall team spirit allowed them to consistently suppress any murmurs of a Sacramento Kings challenge, and the bench duo had a great deal to do with that.
Jamison led all scorers with 27 points, but he was one of six players to score in double figures on a balanced offensive night.
Dwight Howard and Steve Nash both met reasonably high expectations placed on their shoulders at this point in the season.
Howard pulled down 17 rebounds, threw down some rim-shaking dunks, and had five blocks on the night. After the game, he joked that he had a “block party” against the Kings, and the crowd was repeatedly energized by every highlight-worthy play the Lakers’ center made on the night—on both ends of the court.
Nash also did what was expected of him. He dished out 12 assists and scored 19 points on a 7-12 shooting night. Nash hit some big shots during the course of the game, as expectations ask of him.
However, the bench duo of Jamison and Blake was the winning difference on Sunday.
Blake had six assists at the half to go along with a modest three points. However, the former Maryland Terrapin turned on his shooting sights in the second half with 13 points on 5-for-7 from the field.
Jamison, on the other hand, was consistent in what he provided the team—scoring. With Bryant out, the Lakers needed points, and Jamison filled that gap. His 27 points included a 5-for-8 display from behind the arc.
Along with Jamison, Blake, Howard, and Nash, Metta World Peace deserved serious recognition for his second straight strong showing. World Peace found some more of those missing points that the Lakers needed so desperately in Bryant’s absence.
He shot 10-for-13 from the field for an efficient 22 points. For a change, World Peace did not settle for the long ball and only attempted three 3-pointers on the night.
To be honest, Earl Clark should probably earn some recognition, too. Clark shot 4-for-7 from inside the arc, but his 0-for-3 night from behind the three-point line soured his shooting percentage.
On Sunday night against the Sacramento Kings, the Los Angeles Lakers moved the ball and played for each other and with each other. As simple as that concept may seem, the Lakers have only just started to properly play this team sport.
If they continue with this mentality and return a healthy Bryant and healthy Gasol, there is no reason to count the Lakers out on any level.
“Just win,” Howard told Triple Threat when asked about goals after Sunday’s win. “Win the championship.”