On Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Utah Jazz 110-99.
Considering the Jazz entered the contest with the worst record in the Western Conference, this result would normally not be anything to get all that excited about. After all, the Lakers beat a bad team. However, the Lakers were on a six-game losing streak, and the manner in which the Lakers pulled off the victory provided plenty of hope to a dejected fan base.
First of all, Kendall Marshall started his first game with the Lakers and brought the house down. With no other options at point guard, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni turned to a 22-year-old kid who was not even in the NBA a fortnight ago. The kid responded with 20 points, 15 assists and six rebounds.
He controlled the floor, he controlled the tempo, he controlled his teammates and he controlled the game.
“It still felt like basketball,” Marshall laughed off questions asking if Friday night felt different. “I’m thankful for the position I’m in now, and I want to make the most of it with this team.”
Marshall made it look easy, and he deserved the spotlight. Still, the win was not just about the point guard.
Pau Gasol finally shook off his illness and played like an all-star. The Spanish 7-footer has struggled with an upper respiratory chest infection recently, but he said he felt much better before the game. From the onset, Gasol was a man determined to answer critics and silence trade talks.
On the night, the man from Barcelona led all scorers with 23 points, but Gasol played an all-around game. He added eight assists and 17 rebounds.
“And three blocks,” Gasol reminded a reporter who complimented him on his 23 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists.
The only flaw in his game was a missed 3-pointer.
If the Lakers can keep Gasol playing at a high level and Marshall can replicate Friday night’s performance consistently, the Lakers may not be on their way to the bottom after all. Where all the “Marshall Mania” leads remains to be seen, but for one Friday night, a 22-year-old kid from Virginia stepped up to give the City of Los Angeles hope.