Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, dribbles past Memphis guard Tony Allen… (Alan Spearman, Associated…)
1. The Lakers' 116-111 double overtime victory over the Memphis Grizzlies should be a big confidence boost. The big picture ramifications can't be overstated enough. The Lakers (26-16) have a 1 1/2 game lead over Memphis (24-17) for third place in the Western Conference. The game marked the Lakers' first signature road victory since winning last month at Boston. And most importantly, the Lakers' ability to overcome a 17-point deficit also represents growth. Considering the Lakers' 8-14 record, such a win in difficult circumstance have be the turning point they need in becoming a consistent road tim.
2. The Lakers Big Three made critical baskets. The last three baskes in the fourth quarter represented everything Kobe Bryant should do in the final minutes. Bryant connected with Andrew Bynum inside to cut Memphis' lead to 95-92 with 2:11 remaining. On the next possession, Bryant buried a deep-three-pointer after the Grizzlies mysteriously left him open. Then Bryant found Pau Gasol cutting inside and connected with him on a dunk for a 97-95 edge with 50 seconds left.
In overtime, that chemistry continued.
Gasol threw a lob to Bynum that tied the game up at 103-103 with 1:20 left in the first overtime. Gasol's steal on his brother Marc led to Bryant making an open shot for a 110-109 edge. Another Gasol-Bynum lob extended that to 112-109. And a pair of free throws from both Bryant and Bynum secured the game for good.
3. Bryant and Bynum remained a solid one-two punch. Bryant's 34 points on 11-of-25 shooting and Bynum's 37 points on a 15-of-18 clip marked the first time two Lakers scored at least 30 points in the same game since Gasol and Bryant did last season against New Orleans. For Bynum, his latest effort also marked the third time in his career he scored at least 30 points. Aside from Bryant's high-volume shooting against Detroit and Washington last week, it appears his willingness to trust Bynum more has correlated to his month-long growth that's featured him averaging 21.7 points on 65.4% shooting. Meanwhile, Bynum told KCAL-9's Mike Trudell that he's worked more with Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham on his footwork. Bynum showed such improvement, when he penetrated baseline in the post or used his pivot to get out of double teams. The more the Lakers hone on this the better, so Bryant doesn't have to shoulder as much of the workload. Of course, part of that hinges on him.
4. Steve Blake played larger minutes. The symbolism is pretty obvious. On the same night Derek Fisher surpassed 10,000 career points, Steve Blake took a larger role at point guard. His nine points on three-of-five shooting, five assists and five rebounds all represented the little plays he made in making the Lakers effective. When the Lakers starters struggled, Blake's play-making largely helped reserves slice a double-digit deficit in the second quarter. His three-pointer set the tone on the first play in the second overtime. And his sharp passing played a large part in playing 36 minutes, including the entire fourth quarter and overtimes. It remains unclear if the Lakers can upgrade at point guard before Thursday's trade deadline. So it's critical Blake can offer something to jumpstart the position.
5. The Lakers mostly trailed because of turnovers. They often took horrible shots or remained careless with the ball. Either way, the Lakers' 18 turnovers led to a number of things. Memphis scored 22-fast break points. The Lakers often remained out of position on defense, allowing someone like Mareese Speights (25 points on 12 of 20 shooting) to look All-Star caliber. And it sapped the team's energy level. Credit the Lakers for having the resiliency and composure for overcome such a hurdle. But it's unlikely they could do that consistently.
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