Portland's Raymond Felton, center, passes the ball between Lakers… (Danny Moloshok / Associated…)
Some things to note in the Lakers' 103-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday at Staples Center.
1. Andrew Bynum's 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting points to his never-ending aggressiveness. Whenever Portland delayed on double teaming him, Bynum punished them with a quick drop-step move. Whenever Bynum drew a double team, he either reposted to establish better position or split defenders in the lane. Whenever Portland forgot to flood the paint, either Pau Gasol or Matt Barnes hooked up Bynum with lobs. Simply put, there's very little stopping Bynum right now. The scary part: Lakers Coach Mike Brown envisions him having the potential for more pick-and-roll plays. But for now, Bynum's awareness on operating in the post paid off tremendously against Portland.
2. Ramon Sessions helps the Lakers' chemistry, no matter who he's paired with on the team. His starting debut shows he hasn't just upgraded the Lakers' point guard position. He's upgraded everyone's play. Bynum benefitted from Sessions (20 points, 11 assists) feeding him crisp entry passes and immediately giving him a look after reposting off a double team. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (18 points) hit most of his shots when they came off catch-and-shoot opportunities on the wing. Lakers' small forward Metta World Peace (14 points) flourished in the post and from three-point range because Sessons set him up early.
Matt Barnes (nine points) made some shots with off-the-ball movement, including baseline cuts. And Sessions drove to the rack and hit open pull-up jumpers because Portland fixated on everyone else. Sessions played with nearly every floor combination possible, including Steve Blake in the backcourt early in the fourth quarter. Clearly, his team-first mentality has helped everyone keep the offense organized. That effort resulted in the Lakers finishing with a season-high 33 assists.
3. The Lakers struggled against Portland's zone. The Lakers' 30-19 first-quarter lead featured everyhing you'd expect a Ramon Sessions run offense would look like. Plenty of easy baskets. Bynum threw down two lobs from Gasol. Throughout the quarter, Bryant nailed plenty of mid-range jumpers off catch-and-shoot opportunities on the wing. Ramon Sessions produced both by driving to the rack and taking the open jumper. But Portland put a wrench in the Lakers' well-oiled offensive machine by zone defense beginning in the second quarter. This strategy made it harder for the Lakers to find shots within rhythm and away from the basket.
4. Pau Gasol struggled with his shot and defense. His 10 points on five-of-14 shooting came off many easy misses in the lane. LaMarcus Aldridge's 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting partly attributed to Gasol's slow reactions off baseline penetration. Gasol still remained aggressive by grabbing 16 rebounds, but his ineffectiveness clearly showed he's meeting challenges in fitting into an offense that seems to feature everyone but him.
5. The Lakers' reserves missed Sessions. Part of Brown's insistence not to start Sessions right away pointed to his ability to spark the second unit. The reserves immediately struggled without his leadership. The unity coughed up adouble-digit lead in the second quarter. The bench combined for only 13 points. And the group hardly appeared as well organized. To mitigate that, Brown often paired Sessions with the bench after the team's first run. It resulted in Sessions logging 35 minutes, but the Lakers clearly need his presence on both units.
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