With the Los Angeles Clippers next on the schedule for the Los Angeles Lakers, bench play is a major point of focus. However, when taking a close look, the Lakers’ reserves provide the Lakers with quality minutes and energy while the starters catch their respective breaths. The Lakers' bench does not fit the normal mold, so they are often unfairly criticized.
For all the talk about the Lakers’ poor bench, it was their bench that came in and changed the game against Philadelphia. Jordan Hill, in particular, came on with the Lakers down 11 points in the first quarter and instantly sparked the Lakers’ rally.
Hill converted all four of his attempts from the field to help the Lakers close within three points by the end of the first period. He was the second highest scorer in the opening quarter with eight points, and he was the catalyst for the Lakers making a game of Tuesday night despite the team not being able to throw a golf ball in the ocean. Hill also added six rebounds in less than eight minutes—more rebounds than Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol combined for in the opening period.
Of course, the leading scoring in the quarter was Kobe Bryant with 10 points. Bryant would go on to score 17 points in the half and deservedly steal the spotlight for the umpteenth time with an efficient 36 points in the game. However, the Lakers’ reserves provided the necessary energy and impact expected of a top-caliber bench.
Unlike other teams, the Lakers rarely have five bench players on the floor at the same time, so their second unit is not a cohesive team of players.
Metta World Peace does not start games anymore, but he is a starter for all intents and purposes. In his first season not starting, World Peace is averaging 34.8 minutes per game, more than his career average of 33.6 minutes. Jodie Meeks is the bench’s sharp shooter, and his energy and effort is hard to deny on both ends of the floor. Chris Duhon, who said he would play on Friday against the Clippers, acts as a stable option to run the offense while 38 year-old Steve Nash rests.
With Duhon injured on Tuesday, the Lakers only played an eight man rotation. Only three bench players saw time on the floor. However, those three players—Meeks, Hill, and World Peace—combined for 30 points and 19 rebounds in Tuesday’s loss. All starters not named Kobe Bryant combined for only 33 points and 27 rebounds in considerably more time on the floor.
The Lakers’ second unit is often criticized, but they rarely put out a full second unit consisting of five non-starters. The Lakers’ bench players are as important and energetic as any of their counterparts in the league. Playing alongside some combination of Howard, Gasol, Nash, and Bryant, the Lakers’ bench has the ability to shorten deficits and increase leads late in the first quarter and early in fourth quarter—when most teams look to the bench.