On Friday, the Los Angeles Lakers finally won a game.
LA needed that.
Even the bandwagon Clippers fans were wavering after their newly beloved team had lost three in a row, including a defeat to bottom-dweller Phoenix. With the Clippers losing again on Saturday, Lakers fans enjoyed a full day to relish in having the best team in the city.
Many fans had forgotten the joys of winning a game and not hearing about the damn Clippers. The victory against Utah was a good victory, and it felt good.
Sorry, but Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are not the Utah Jazz.
Instead of a 34 year-old Jamaal Tinsley—no disrespect to JT—the Thunder have a 24 year-old Russell Westbrook. The first time these two teams played this season, Westbrook rained 33 points and eight assists on the Lakers. The second time these teams played each other, the former UCLA Bruin clawed out 27 points and 10 assists.
To make matters worse, he was not even the Thunder’s leading scorer against the Lakers.
Both times these teams met, Kobe Bryant was the league’s leading scorer in the NBA, and Kevin Durant made a point to out-score Kobe—one point the first game and 14 points the second time around.
Kevin Durant averaged 39 points against the Lakers in their two meetings this season. Entering Sunday’s early afternoon game, he is the leading scorer in the NBA.
“OKC” is for real, and so is KD.
The Lakers, however, gained some much needed confidence and momentum ahead of Sunday’s Staples Center matinee.
Their win against Utah was not a close victory, as the final score displayed an 18-point separation. Nor was it a perfect victory, as they committed 18 turnovers and missed nearly half their free throws. However, it was an uplifting victory because they played together; their five best players—Kobe, Dwight, Pau, Metta, and Nash—all scored in double figures.
Kobe actually scored the least in that bunch.
Also encouraging were Kobe’s actions to actively share the ball. Combined with him only shooting 10 times, actually converting seven of those shots, Kobe’s lethal passing led to 14 assists and offensive balance.
Along with the offense, the active defense they played against the Jazz forced seven steals and held Utah to only 84 points and 42 percent shooting.
With the talent level on the Lakers, if they can regularly achieve offensive balance and play active defense, they can beat anyone—maybe even the Oklahoma City Thunder.