On Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers extended their first winning streak of the season to three games by comfortably putting away the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center. For the second game in a row, the crowd stayed until the final buzzer and rose to give its winning Lakers a standing ovation. The free tacos likely played a part in motivating the crowd.
This young Lakers team is improving, and the formula for success is a balanced attack and defensive energy—i.e. teamwork.
Pau Gasol scored 20 points for the second time in as many game, and the tall Spaniard appears to be hitting his full stride. However, he is not doing it on his own. Every Lakers player who stepped onto the court on Sunday scored at least one basket. Four of them hit double figures, and all of them played hard on defense.
The Lakers’ bench has been receiving deserved attention this season, but the Lakers’ starters have been stepping up to the challenge—particularly of late. Along with Gasol, Steve Blake has been as consistent as a rock during the Lakers’ recent uptick. Blake recorded 12 assists on Sunday, and that marked the fifth time he finished a game with 10-plus assists in the last six games. The Lakers are 4-2 during that stretch, and the loss to Memphis came down to the final few possessions and a couple non-calls.
The Lakers could just as easily be 5-1 in their last six games, but back to reality…
Along with the starters, the Lakers’ bench has continued its strong play. Entering Sunday’s game, Nick Young had scored over 10 points in each of his last five games--including a season-high 21-point performance against Golden State on Friday. On Sunday, Young started slow and was held scoreless at halftime.
However, Xavier Henry filled the void and picked up his struggling teammate. Henry got aggressive and scored a game-high 21 points in 21 minutes off the bench. To put his production in perspective, Henry had scored a total of 13 points over his past four games. When the Lakers needed bench scoring, “Professor X” stepped up.
Along with Blake, Gasol, and Henry, it was difficult to single out a single Laker who did not play well on Sunday. Even on his off-shooting night, Young contributed defensively--something he was not known to do in the past. The Lakers are playing with a camaraderie and balance that is 180 degrees removed from the team that took the floor last season.
This team is fun to watch, and Kobe Bryant is not even back yet.
On Sunday night, the Lakers won 100-86 and returned to .500. They now take their three-game winning streak on the road for three games.