A fitting label for the Lakers' bench in the second half against Minnesota on Sunday would have been, "Use only in case of emergency."
Forty-eight hours later, another moniker seemed to fit: "Apply liberally."
The Lakers reserves helped their team polish off the outclassed Charlotte Bobcats during a 106-73 victory Tuesday night at Staples Center, providing the starters a rare breather only two nights after Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol had been forced to play the entire second half against the Timberwolves.
Bryant played a season-low 27 minutes against the Bobcats, taking in the entire fourth quarter from a seat on the bench. Gasol played 29 minutes, including only 21/2 in the fourth quarter.
While the starters rested, a group of reserves who came into Tuesday collectively averaging an NBA-low 19.4 points per game splurged for 48 points. Rookie guard Andrew Goudelock and veteran forward Troy Murphy led the way with 12 points apiece, while forward Matt Barnes added 10 points in his second game since being supplanted as a starter by Metta World Peace.
More important, perhaps, were the minutes they logged: 27 for Murphy, 25 for Goudelock and 22 for Barnes.
"He's going to give them an opportunity and it's on them to make the most of it," Bryant said of the way Coach Mike Brown handled his reserves, "and if they don't then I have to come back in there, Pau has to come in there and Andrew [Bynum] has to come back in there and we have to play the entire second half or whatever the case is."
There was no need for the starters in the final minutes Tuesday as the reserves stretched the Lakers' lead while outscoring the Bobcats, 33-15, during the fourth quarter. Goudelock continued his fearless play, making four of nine shots while earning the nickname "mini-Mamba" from Bryant, the self-styled "Black Mamba."
"It's a very big compliment, especially coming from the real Mamba," Goudelock said, "so I hope it sticks."
The Lakers reserves were particularly effective on three-pointers, making a combined 10 of 14 from beyond the arc. Murphy made all four of his shots from distance, with Brown saying Murphy's accuracy was a big reason his minutes had recently increased.
"We have guys that can hit shots, we just haven't hit them yet this year," said Barnes, who made both of his three-pointers. "But I expect us to start picking up our rhythm and knocking down shots."
Goudelock credited the Lakers' improved ball movement for creating open shots, particularly with the Bobcats having to double-team Bynum when he played with the second unit. Barnes said the shooters were starting to find a rhythm, something that had been missing earlier this season.
So why hasn't the bench played like this all season? Barnes pinned the reserves' previous struggles on lineups that are continually in flux as Brown continues to assess his players.
"As a player, you look for consistency, but right now we're just trying to find the right combination to get this team off the schneid," Barnes said. "Really, everybody is going through it, so it's just something we're going to have to fight through until we really find a rhythm as a team."