Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.
THE BIG ONE: LAKERS REMAIN UNDEFEATEDAfter looking bored against the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, the Los Angeles Lakers put on their Sunday best to demolish the Portland Trail Blazers 121-96 at Staples. The game was over almost before it started, with the Lakers dominating virtually every facet of the game and breaking out some Showtime stunts as they coasted home during the second half. The scariest thing about Sunday night's win for the rest of the league is that it featured an ineffective and inefficient game from Kobe Bryant. Bryant was just 3-11 for 12 points in 25 minutes, but it hardly mattered, as the Lakers pounded the offensive glass (14 offensive rebounds) and got bucket after bucket at point blank range. Pau Gasol was sensational, slapping together a triple-double and operating at will from everywhere on the court. His interior passing was extraordinary at times, as the Lakers offense displayed great rhythm en route to their seventh straight victory to open the season. As impressive as the Lakers starters were -- and they were very impressive, with Ron Artest turning Portland all star Brandon Roy into a non-factor and Lamar Odom going off for a double-double -- the Lakers bench was equally solid. Point guard Steve Blake capped a solid evening for the second unit when he threw a transition alley oop off the glass after picking Blazers guard Wesley Matthews at the top of the key. Shannon Brown seemingly couldn't miss when open, Matt Barnes roughed up Rudy Fernandez and Derrick Caracter provided energy. Even without injured center Andrew Bynum, the Lakers are getting solid contributions from nine players deep, and the production drop off from the first unit to the second unit has been less noticeable than just about any other team in the league. Blake's addition is particularly key, as his ability to integrate quickly into the triangle offense makes the backcourt transition from first unit to reserves virtually seamless. It's starting to feel like the Lakers, by virtue of their unmatched chemistry, simply have a two year head start on the rest of the league (except Boston). The passing, the timing, the ball movement, the team defense, the group-first commitment is something that takes time -- perhaps more than a single season -- to get exactly right. The Lakers have all of that right now, in spades. The rest of the league, including the new-look Heat, are simply playing catch-up right now.
GO-GO-GADGET LINES:Pau Gasol:20 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals on 9-13 shooting. A triple double for LA's Spaniard in a runaway win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Honorable mention to...
Steve Nash: 19 points, 15 assists, five rebounds, 7-11 shooting. He's still got it, as the Suns top the Hawks in Atlanta on Sunday. Joe Johnson: 34 points, seven rebounds, six assists, on 15-27 shooting in 44 minutes. Huge night in a losing effort.
Al Horford: 30 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks on 13-16 shooting in 42 minutes. Even huger night in a losing effort.
Evan Turner: 14 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, 6-11 shooting in 35 minutes. Turner, starting in place of an injured Andre Iguodala, notched a double-double in a Sunday road win for Philly over the New York Knicks.
- Ken Berger quotes Gilbert Arenas saying he considered retirement .
- It sounds like Erick Dampier won't join the Houston Rockets after all.
- There's something up with Brandon Roy in Portland.
- Kevin Durant met President Barack Obama. Great story .
- Does anyone want Baron Davis?
BOSTON BENCH HOLDS DOWN OKC:
Posted by Royce Young.
Holding leads as big as 22, the Celtics appeared to have the Thunder completely under control Sunday night. Oklahoma City was turning the ball over at a rapid rate, couldn't score and couldn't stop anybody. The game was on the verge of getting out of hand, if it wasn't already.
The deep Celtic bench was in charge of holding the lead, but Russell Westbrook sparked his club to a quick 9-0 run and then Kevin Durant got into the mix as well, keying another 13-2 spurt to finish the third quarter. The Thunder held the Celtics without a field goal for the last four minutes of the third and cut the lead to nine heading into the fourth. OKC wasn't done either. James Harden knocked down a 3 to start the fourth and just like that, OKC had Boston's lead to six with an entire quarter to go.
That's where Doc Rivers did something interesting. He didn't call timeout. And he didn't put his starters back in. Instead, he trusted his bench.
It's a luxury Rivers has the very few other coaches do. A bench that can be relied upon to hold leads, spell starters and in some cases, handle business all on their own. A lineup of Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Semih Erden, Glen Davis and starter Ray Allen, saw the Celtics' lead dwindle, but they were also the ones that restored it. After OKC cut it to six, Glen Davis hit back-to-back jumpshots to push the lead to 10, starting a 13-4 run that basically ended the game early.
Rivers eventually went back to his starting five with 4:30 left in the game, but truthfully, he could've used his bench to close out the Thunder. It was possibly more a function of the bench guys needing a break and the starters stepped in to spell them. Ironic, indeed.
The Boston bench is really what won the game for the Celtics too. In terms of starting scoring, the Thunder won 71-59. But the Celtics second group outscored OKC 33-12. It was pretty evenly distributed with Robinson and Erden scoring nine, Davis eight and Daniels seven. And most importantly, they upheld the Celtic way playing terrific defense and keeping the Thunder out of the game.
Boston's depth is truly a weapon and something general manager Danny Ainge has wisely added to this team. With the age of the starters and the fact some games will be missed due to injuries or other things, the Celtics have the option to defer to a second unit that can not only stay competitive, but can win.
WHIMSY:Fresh out of jail, rapper Lil Wayne showed up courtside as the New Orleans Hornets hosted the Miami Heat on Friday night.
HERO OF THE NIGHT:On Saturday night, the New Orleans Hornets topped the Milwaukee Bucks 87-81 thanks in part to a super long distance bomb by Hornets forward Marco Belinelli to close the first half.
ONE FINAL THOUGHT:Via HoopsHype : Through Sunday's games, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom are combining for 64.5 ppg, 27.6 rpg and 12.9 apg. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are combining for 59.2 ppg, 16.5 rpg and 13.2 apg.
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