With Kobe Bryant not playing and not even in attendance, Jeremy Lin showed just how good he can be as the leading man for the Los Angeles Lakers in a 101-84 win over the Orlando Magic, showcasing all the things they can do when their star player is out.
The speed and tempo go up. The rebounding and defense become more relentless. Maybe it’s an effort thing that gets a jolt due to Bryant not playing, but one just might think that him being next to everyone somehow limits them and holds them down. It’s probably true, despite the fact that Bryant himself and Byron Scott refuse to change, despite all of the evidence suggesting that exact thing.
The Lakers started and finished strong, with Lin leading the team, scoring 18 points to go with 6 assists, four steals, two blocks and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. He scored 8 points in the final quarter and added three assists, not to mention a block on Nikola Vucevic. he finally played more minutes than Ronnie Price (29 to 24), who scored 7 points and added 4 assists, starting next to Wayne Ellington in the backcourt.
Nick Young scored 9 points in 20 minutes but had an awful shooting game, making only 2-of-13. It’s no secret he has some hate-love rivalry going with Kobe Bryant, or simply tries to make it seem that way through the media. Just like everyone else, he suggested that Bryant not playing brings out more effort from the Lakers. It also allows them to crank up the tempo and speed. For this kind of team, with limited post scoring and not-so-talented offensive players, playing fast basketball gives them their best chance of succeeding.
Tarik Black coming from the Houston Rockets adds a touch of toughness and defense that they were missing, scoring 14 points to go with 9 rebounds coming off the bench. Six players from the Lakers finished in double figures, playing possibly their best defensive game of the season. Did it had something to do with Bryant not playing? Everyone is careful not insulting the face of the franchise, but everyone knows the truth.
Ed Davis finished with a double double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, and so did Carlos Boozer off the bench with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Jordan Hill missed the double double by just one rebound and Ryan Kelly was also quite productive under the glass, scoring 13 points to go with 8 rebounds. The Lakers grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, showing a lot more spring in their step when going after those second chance points and opportunities than usual. I wonder why.
For those who needed to take notice: This is the kind of basketball a team led by Jeremy Lin can play. These were just the Orlando Magic, but the Lakers were supposedly without their best player, their most important player, their franchise player. But the effort wasn’t hurt – it was better than usual. The defense? Bryant doesn’t help a lot in that except from some steals now and then. The Los Angeles Lakers looked better than with Bryant in every possible way, but knowing this team, it’s quite clear this won’t cause a change in their style or the decisions from their head coach when Bryant does decide he wants to play.