Lakers still riding a perfect wave
The Lakers will take whatever motivation they can get this early in the season, so Ron Artest smiled when told Sunday’s game was the “Battle for the Pacific Division.”
Not quite. It was only Golden State, after all, though the new-look Warriors and Lakers were both atop the division, sitting with 2-0 records before playing at Staples Center.
The result could be summed up in one phrase: Same old Lakers, same old Warriors.
The Lakers pounded Golden State, 107-83, their lead swelling to 31 in the final minutes before receding a bit.
Pau Gasol had 26 points and 12 rebounds, Lamar Odom had another strong game (16 points, 14 rebounds) and Kobe Bryant had 20 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes. Of the three, only Gasol played in the fourth quarter.
For better or more likely worse, Lakers fans even began an impromptu version of the wave for the first time since … the ‘80s?
“Going way back for that,” assistant coach Brian Shaw said. “The Showtime years or something.”
Artest joined in as well from the bench.
“We decided we might as well get involved,” Artest said before seemingly second-guessing his decision. “I didn’t mean to do the wave on the Warriors like that. That seems wrong.”
The game was pretty much over after the first quarter, the Lakers holding a 34-14 lead as Odom and Bryant combined for 21 points and the Warriors looked lost without injured point guard Stephen Curry ( sprained ankle).
Bryant made eight of 16 shots in the game, including five of eight in the first quarter.
“I’m pleased with the progress of Kobe,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “It looks like his offense is coming along. Defensively, he still is working on some things that he has to get done with his strength and base.”
Afterward. Bryant said he was 100% recovered from off-season knee surgery, though Jackson struck it down.
“He’s not 100%, but that’s nice of him to say it,” Jackson said. “Offensively, he looks fine.”
Bryant then laughed off Jackson’s assessment.
“I’m 100%. I don’t [care] what he says,” he said, smiling. “Leave me alone.”
The free-wheeling Warriors were supposed to have imported a different feel to their franchise after selecting Keith Smart to replace Don Nelson as head coach and signing rebound ace David Lee as a free agent.
Lee, however, was held scoreless and had three rebounds in 19 minutes.
“David Lee is a player that was on the All-Star team last year in the Eastern Conference,” Jackson said. “Lamar was very effective against him at both ends of the floor.”
The Lakers outrebounded the Warriors, 55-42.
Monta Ellis tried to take on the scoring load himself (20 points) but there were few other Warriors who joined him beyond Dorell Wright (18 points). No other starter had more than six points.
Reserve point guard Jeremy Lin, the first Asian-American player in the NBA in more than 50 years, had two points and three assists in 16 minutes, easily his longest time in a game so far as a rookie.
Jackson was able to empty the Lakers’ bench in the fourth quarter, allowing Sasha Vujacic to log his first playing time of the season. Rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter also saw plenty of time, each scoring four points in a combined 19 minutes.
Jackson needs to find some faults, the job of a coach even when a team is undefeated, so he went ahead and did it.
“Twenty turnovers, not purposeful out there at times, lack of focus,” he said. “Other than that, not bad.”
He pointed to a third quarter in which the Lakers were outscored by the Warriors, 26-25.
If that was the worst of the critiques this early in the season, the Lakers could live with it.