Lakers guard Kobe Bryant directs his teammates during the Lakers'… (Chris Graythen / Getty Images )
1. The Lakers' late-game contributions featured everybody in their 107-101 overtime win over the New Orleans Hornets. Up until this week, Kobe Bryant had been considered the Lakers' definitive closer. But in the Lakers' win Sunday against Boston, his insistance that Andrew Bynum receive a look on the final play illustrated Bryant's growing trust in the Lakers' center. As the Lakers' win Wednesday over New Orleans showed, however, the Lakers are better suited ensuring everyone contributes.
Let's go down the list. Bryant drew a foul on Hornets forward Gustavo Ayon from behind the perimeter and nailed three free throws to tie the game up at 93-90 with 19.3 seconds left. He opens overtime getting a steal, throwing down a one-handed dunk and converting on the And-1 for a 96-93 edge. He then went isolation and threw an up-and-under basket on the next possession.
Metta World Peace made two steals, hit a rainbow three-pointer, a fast-break finger roll and kicked out to a wide-open Derek Fisher to give the Lakers a 100-99 lead with 58 seconds left. Andrew Bynum may have sat out the final 25 seconds because of free thow concerns and perimeter defense, he preceded that with a key defensive rebound following Trevor Ariza's missed three-pointer that kept the Lakers' lead at 102-99.
Sure, there were a few mishaps. Bryant's great look for a game-winner in overtime didn't hit. He airballed on two consecutive possessions and hardly impressed Samuel L. Jacksonwith his acting when he flopped. Bynum made a poor pass after a rebound. But credit the Lakers for overcoming a 17-point deficit despite battling fatigue from the night before in their double OT win over Memphis. It wasn't easy.
2. Bynum overcomes slow first half. Consider the first and second half discrepency in points (six, 19), field-goals (two of six, eight of 11), rebounds (six, 12) and turnovers (three, 1). Bynum appeared aggressive throughout the game, but it clearly looked like the 49 minutes he logged in the Lakers' double overtime victory Tuesday over Memphis caught up to him. He appeared incredibly slow in reacting to double teams. Bynum made desperation passes that hardly hit the intended target. He didn't appear as strong finishing. In the second half, that all changed, where he connected on a few lobs and even sprinted baseline for a reverse. In seasons past, Bynum wouldn't handled fatigue as well as he did against New Orleans.
3. Bryant somehow looked young after logging 100 minutes in the past two days. . Bryant, who finished with 33 points on 10-of-23 shooting, remained effective by varying his selection. He persisted on attacking the rim, enabling him to nail all 11 of his free throws and throw down two dunks. Bryant also routinely set up Bynum and Gasol inside. But what remains more impressive: doing this a night after playing 52 minutes. Laker fans and teammates have become numb for a while to Bryant's stellar play. But playing this well under these conditions remain mind boggling.
4. Gasol's aggressiveness faded. Gasol's stat line of 18 points and 10 rebounds looks solid. But his seven-of-18 clip and six turnovers doesn't. With 10 first-quarter points, it looked like Gasol turned on the aggressiont remained noticeably absent against Memphis. He immediately established post position and played with more confidence. But then he delegated to a fault too much to Bynum's sharpness and Bryant's strong play.
5. The bench provided little. Aside from Matt Barnes' 10 points, the Lakers offered very little. It's a missed opportunity because of the starters needing rest. After playing 36 minutes against Memphis, Steve Blake played only 18 minutes after making mistakes in transition and missing open looks. Who knows if his limited run correlated to the possibility the Lakers may trade him for Minnesota's Michael Beasley. Who knows if Andrew Goudelock's DNP has something to do with the deadline. Regardless, the Lakers' bench didn't give the starters enough support.
Photos: Lakers vs. Hornets
Lakers defeat New Orleans in overtime, 107-101