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Did The Lakers Finally Find Their Identity Tonight?

What in the world is this reality television show “we the fans” of The Los Angeles Lakers have been enduring this season? Who are these guys? There have been signs of future greatness from this squad, through some inconsistent play of various “stars.” For instance, last night was an embarrassing 4th straight road loss – but, The Memphis Grizzlies are a very, very good team! Tonight, we came up against the team that beat us at home, in the 1st game of the season, and after last night did any of us truly expect The Lakers to beat The Dallas Mavericks on their court?

If I have learned anything from watching The Lakers this season it is this: Expect the unexpected!

Jim Buss doesn’t like the “Triangle” as a philosophy on offense, I get it: We heard that “loud & clear,” last season, after Phil Jackson retired, and then Lamar Odom & Derek Fisher left almost every trace of that approach to playing in the NBA for only historians to find in video archives. So, Mike Brown is “fired” before coaching 20 games and reviewing the success of a new offense this season that just wasn’t ever going to work; and, in an act of desperation, The Lakers “toyed” with  the idea of bringing back their most recent successful coach to the bench (Was that mostly a Mitch Kupchak idea?) – but, instead, Jerry Buss steps in and says: No!

Say what? Mike D’Antoni is our guy; Mike D’Antoni will return this franchise to an up-tempo style, a return to “Showtime,” perhaps – and, the players seemed to catch the enthusiasm of an opportunity to play a more freestyle offense, even playing better defense for a few games (mostly while Bernie Bickerstaff was running the team). But after Mike D’Antoni won with this rebuilt Lakers lineup, when they went up against The Brooklyn Nets last Tuesday, it wasn’t due to a great explosion on offense but instead a strong effort on defense!

A D’Antoni team played “defense” to win? Yep. Last Tuesday – and again tonight, 3 games later. I hope that’s not a consistent trend!

No, the defense didn’t last: The next night, in Sacramento, The Lakers didn’t seem to play any defense at all. Where they were able to close out each quarter very well against The Brooklyn Nets  at Staples Center, it was The Sacramento Kings (with a newly configured lineup) who closed out that game Wednesday night with a 40-point 4th quarter! That loss was so embarrassing that it seemed more likely than not that The Lakers would play a strong game against The Memphis Grizzlies, our Pau Gasol going against their Marc Gasol; that’s what you would expect, right?

We’re all getting accustomed to that phrase, “Expect the unexpected,” right?

Instead of winning that next game in Memphis to prove to the new coach that they’re capable of better play, even on defense, even after stuffing themselves Thanksgiving Day, only our “stars” to solidify this year’s bench played well: Antawn Jamison & Jodie Meeks.

I know what you’re thinking: “It’s about time!” After the game, James Worthy said: “I haven’t smiled this much in a long time.” Robert Horry likes Metta: “I have fallen in love with this guy!” He was knocking down 3s from everywhere, all night long! So was Jodie Meeks!

I know what else you’re probably thinking: “I hope they’re able to continue doing that on a consistent basis.” Well, Jamison hit for 19 points and 15 rebounds tonight! So, any guesses to a final score? (How could you be a Lakers fan and not know already?) Pau Gasol got benched (for playing lethargic?), in favor of Jamison, last night – down the stretch; and maybe that was enough for him to come out & play more aggressive tonight. Not only was The Lakers scoring where Mike D’Antoni expects it to be, on a regular basis (115 points); but, The Lakers also played very well, defensively – only giving up 89 points! Nowitzki is still out, of course, recovering from knee surgery; but, The Mavericks have seen great play from O.J. Mayo this season, and they have scoring threats like Vince Carter & Shawn Marion on the roster. Chris Kaman was inactive in their win against The Lakers back in October, but he played tonight. Collison is a top-tier Point Guard, so they have a strong cast of players.

Besides Pau Gasol playing a more spirited game tonight, Metta World Peace came through with another solid performance! MWP may be our MVP, so far, this season. Tonight, Metta hit 6-6 FGs, 4-4 from 3-point range – until he missed a 3 at the buzzer to end the 1st quarter! I know, right, how stupid is that to say or write with Kobe Bryant leading the team in the absence of Steve Nash, as Darius Morris & Chris Duhon struggle to figure out how to lead the team from the Point Guard slot (Steve Blake is supposed to return to the active roster shortly, but Steve Nash’s return has been delayed.). But even though Kobe played great, along with Jodie Meeks, in Sacramento, the performance last night wasn’t his best: 7-23, from the field.

Defensively, Metta World Peace is far and away our greatest asset; hopefully Dwight Howard is continuing to improve from his back surgery last April 20th, and he will return to form as the league’s premier defensive player before too long: Is the start of the playoffs soon enough, or perhaps the All-Star break? I’m starting to believe Christmas might be too early to expect D12 to be at 100%. Kobe Bryant will also play tough defense on guys, most games, but he seems to be running the offense with so much concentration that his presence on defense hasn’t been as good this season as he has played in the past. I assume he will return to “playoff form” soon enough, and perhaps as soon as the return of Steve Nash to the starting lineup. Kobe can do whatever needs to be done – he’s trying to be patient, to let the team come together, but then there are those times like that Kings game where he chooses to try to win a game “all by himself,” and it almost worked! It almost worked because Meeks & Jamison showed up when Pau & Dwight weren’t playing aggressively enough

The Lakers led The Mavericks 36-23 at the end of the 1st Quarter, and Jodie Meeks hit a 3-pointer to start the 2nd Quarter. It just stretched to a crazy lead after that. The Lakers were running on all cylinders, and the struggles that The Lakers have had recently seemed to find their way into whatever was the approach of The Dallas Mavericks tonight. I don’t know if Rick Carlisle is struggling to find a lineup that works still, or what the story is for The Mavericks; but, bot teams now have a record of 7-7 to start the season. O.J. Mayo couldn’t hit open shots, and he seemed annoyed at being assigned to guard Kobe Bryant – just losing it, 3 minutes into the 2nd Quarter. There were a whole lot of things to be encouraged by in tonight’s game – not the least of which was Jamison’s double-double at halftime!

Keep it rolling, Lakers! (Recap)

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