Despite the loss in Denver to the Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back, the Lakers have gotten a badly-needed spark from forward/center Jordan Hill.
Coach Mike D’Antoni, searching for a productive rotation, promoted Hill to the starting lineup on Tuesday in a 116-95 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Hill’s size, toughness and ability to snag offensive rebounds has helped the Lakers win four of their 10 games.
Playing without Kobe Bryant (Achilles), the Lakers simply need to hover around .500 for as long as possible. If Bryant’s return is sooner than later, and he’s able to play at a high level, the Lakers may still be in the playoff mix in the West.
On Wednesday, the Lakers simply ran out of gas, falling 111-99 to the Nuggets. There’s no reward for competing in a close game until the final minutes -- at least not in the win column.
For the second time in his career, Hill recorded double-doubles in both games (averaging 19.5 points and 13 rebounds). He previously hit the mark in January 2012 with the Houston Rockets.
Hill is currently third in the NBA with a 60.3% field goal percentage.
On the season, Hill has averaged 8.9 points and 7.9 rebounds (3.4 offensive) while playing just 18.5 minutes a game. He also blocks a shot a game.
Judging by the lineups signed off on by D’Antoni, Hill is playing power forward while Pau Gasol is the team’s center.
D’Antoni noted recently that there’s no specific distinction within his offense between the two positions, outside of defensive assignment.
Hill has also managed to raise his free throw percentage to 61.3% on the year, after a three-game stretch where he converted just one of 11 attempts.
The Lakers will need everything Hill brings when they play Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and the physical Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night at Staples center.