Lakers show collective works in win
This is how the Lakers would envision a near-perfect game, with Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom working in concert, Andrew Bynum and Kwame Brown banging around down low and, of course, victory coming out of all the combined efforts.
They got pretty much what they would want Sunday at Staples Center, a 91-81 victory over the stumbling Memphis Grizzlies, a much-needed elixir after a couple of dreadful trips to the Pacific Northwest and a humbling loss to Detroit.
Odom and Bryant moved in lock-step, Bryant from his new job assignment of taking the ball upcourt more often, Odom from what were seemingly more comfortable spots in the post.
Odom, who averaged 28 points in the first three games but only 13.3 in the next four after that, had 20 points on seven-for-13 shooting, and added 16 rebounds and seven assists. Bryant, in his sixth game back from off-season knee surgery, had 20 points on seven-for-17 shooting. He also had six rebounds and six assists.
“That’s what we need, is that one-two punch,” Bryant said. “We’ll continue to provide that.”
Said Odom: “This is our third year together and, of course, you’ll see more of that. I kind of know what he wants. He knows what I want. I try to feed off of him as much as possible. He attracts so much attention and he’s able to find people. He doesn’t get enough credit for his passing.”
Unlike Friday night, when boos sprinkled the court after the Lakers fell far behind Detroit, the only negatives Sunday were voiced during pregame introductions, directed at former Laker Chucky Atkins, who derisively referred to Bryant as the general manager toward the end of the forgettable 2004-05 season. (Atkins had eight points for the Grizzlies and stopped by the Lakers’ locker room afterward to say hello to Bryant.)
Bryant was asked by Coach Phil Jackson to move from the wing to more of a facilitator role, bringing the ball up as he has done often in years past.
“I’m just organizing the offense a little bit,” Bryant said. “I know the offense pretty well, just making sure we get in our correct spots.”
Odom, for his part, was more assertive than he had shown over the previous four games, looking for his shot and getting to the free-throw line on a more consistent basis.
“I felt real good,” Odom said. “I was able to hit some shots from the outside, which kind of opens my game up a little bit. Got in the post when I needed to, tried to get some guys involved by finding them.”
Said Jackson: “He just was looking for the opportunity. I did like his aggressiveness, his post-up opportunities he had, etc.”
Odom helped provide a 23-point lead by scoring eight points in both the second and third quarters. The Grizzlies chopped the deficit down to six, but Bryant hit a spinning nine-footer in the lane to give the Lakers an 89-81 lead with 34.4 seconds to play. End of threat, end of game.
Bynum recovered from a quiet few games by collecting 11 points and seven rebounds. Brown, in his first game since being sidelined during the exhibition season by shoulder problems, had six points in 17 minutes and provided a physical presence down low.
The Lakers now have four days between games, a mini-training camp in which to reflect on a 5-3 record. They will not practice today but will convene Tuesday at their training facility in El Segundo.
There are points of success -- the Lakers were third in the league in assists and seventh in scoring before Sunday’s games -- but there are also areas in need of improvement. They have let a couple of large leads slip away and their defense isn’t always so swell -- they were 23rd in the league in points allowed before Sunday.
“This week’s really a bona fide bonanza to have three days of practices ... so that we can get into it and start looking at what this team can be, and stretch our minds a little bit around how to play together and how to work together,” Jackson said.
For Bryant, it will be a time to rest and continue strength-training for his right leg.
“These four days come at the right time,” Bryant said. “Just trying to get that oomph back.”
KEYS TO THE GAME
* The Lakers had assists on 26 of their 36 baskets.
* The Lakers dominated the Grizzlies down low, outscoring them in points in the paint, 46-26.
* The Grizzlies made only 28 of 73 shots (38.4%).
-- MIKE BRESNAHAN