Five things to take from Lakers’ 120-112 victory over Warriors

Some things to take from the Lakers’ 120-112 victory over the Golden State Warriors:

1. Andrew Bynum left the game because of a left ankle injury. Who knows how long Bynum will remain sidelined. The Lakers will re-evaluate him Monday after his X-rays turned out negative in what the team termed a “moderate sprain” in his left ankle But considering Bynum has missed 122 games in the past four years because of numerous knee injuries, it’s hardly good news. Bynum had played  injury-free through 49 games this season, and missed only four because of a suspension stemming from his forearm shove against  J.J. Barea in the 2011 playoffs.

That likely won’t continue now that Bynum was seen hobbling on his left ankle and leaving the court with  1 minute 49 seconds left in the first quarter.  The significance of his absence goes without saying. Even though he’s had some recent spats with Lakers Coach Mike Brown over last week’s benching for taking an ill-advised three-pointer, he averaged 18.3 points and 12.1 rebounds. It remains to be seen to what degree the Lakers can absorb his absence. But they should take comfort over what they did against Golden State after Bynum left the game  with zero points and three rebounds. 

2. Kobe Bryant turned around his shooting. It took Bryant nearly 3 1/2 quarters to score Saturday against New Orleans. It took exactly one possession for him to get on the scoreboard Sunday against Golden State. Yup, Bryant provided everything he’s accustomed to: high-volume scoring en route to a 40-point performance on 16-of-28 shooting. The baskets came from all over, including five shots in the lane, seven on mid-range jumpers and one three-pointer. That was  much better than Saturday, when he shot three of 21 from the field. In that game, Bryant missed seven three-pointers, eight mid-range jumpers and three shots in the paint.

It’s easy to conclude his shooting woes are behind him. But consider that Bryant entered tonight’s game averaging 23.5 points on 35.2% shooting in the last 10 games. Still, Lakers fans should be optimistic that Bryant will continually find ways to ensure he stays effective despite compiling 38 minutes per game, fourth highest in the league.

PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Warriors

3. The Lakers defense remains an issue. The Lakers led by as many as 15 points, but you guessed it, the Warriors chipped away. They even closed the gap to 97-96 after Nate Robinson nailed an uncontested three-pointer and Klay Thompson followed with an uncontested drive. L.A. resorted to its offensive firepower, including a Ramon Sessions  trey, two daggers and a jumper from Bryant, an open dunk from Pau Gasol and another trey from Metta World Peace. But the Lakers remained lazy on defense, allowing Robinson to score 12 of his 17 fourth-quarter points on three-pointers. With the Lakers allowing at least 100 points in four of the past five games, it’s clear they’re not remaining disciplined enough in closing out on the perimeter and denying looks into the lane. They allowed Golden State to shoot 48.9% from the field and 52.4% from three-point range.

4.   Gasol, Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts made key contributions. Should Bynum’s injury persist, the Lakers will need these three players to fill the void. At least against Golden State, they handled the task. Gasol, who posted 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and 11 rebounds, asserted himself with drives to the basket, mid-range jumpers and even took a three-pointer in the third quarter after fans encouraged him. Murphy, who posted eight points and 11 rebounds, appeared very active  in spacing, nailing mid-range jumpers and boxing out on the boards. Meanwhile, McRoberts’ eight rebounds shows his energy level remained on par.

5. The Lakers’ point guard play looked solid.  Sessions, who scored 23 points on seven-of-10 shooting, appeared more aggressive in driving to the basket and assuming the primary ballhandling duties. Meanwhile, Steve Blake posted seven points and five assists because of his willingness to take open shots, drive to the basket and throw more crisp entry passes. These were positive signs considering Sessions looked more comfortable  setting up Bryant and Gasol in the post while still providing some scoring punch. Meanwhile, Blake’s steady play gave the bench some structure, and he didn’t look as tentative with his shot as he has in recent games.


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Five things to take from Lakers’ 120-112 victory over Warriors