What usually separates the good and bad teams in the NBA, aside from talent, is consistency. The Los Angeles Lakers once again prove the doubters wrong by beating the Sacramento Kings 100-86, getting to three consecutive wins, led by a suddenly efficient Pau Gasol with a 20-10 night and Xavier Henry, scoring 21 points.
Are the Lakers a good team? Probably not, but the fact that they’re at .500 after 14 games suggests that this time might not be so awful after all. Pau Gasol is playing like a solid NBA big man for the last couple of weeks after a horrendous start, while the name coming off the bench to deliver some points from the perimeter changes every game. And yes, the Lakers are a better team without Steve Nash.
The current win streak doesn’t prove the Lakers are a good defensive team, even though they haven’t given up more than 99 points over the last four games, but it just goes to show that are worse teams in the NBA when it comes to transition defense. The Lakers made the most of Sacramento’s turnovers, scoring 20 points on the fast break. Henry, with his 21 points in 20 minutes, was the one who enjoyed that defensive abandonment more than anyone else.
Steve Blake is enjoying what might be his best season for the team, finally getting the starting point guard role, maybe for good. He scored 9 points and dished out 12 assists, feeling a lot better about the quality of his game time when he’s not just out there to hit shots from the outside, but actually run the floor for the Lakers.
There’s nothing better than being out there and setting guys up for shots. Coach gives me the freedom to do that, and the offense lets you as a point guard create for people. So I’m just loving it. Blake is averaging 7.4 assists per game this season, almost double his career numbers, and has at least 10 assists in four of the last five games.
Pau Gasol is another surprising resurgence after a rough opening two weeks. It was his second consecutive 20-10 game while shooting 54.3% from the field over the last two games. He’s averaging 18.2 points in the last five outings, and feels more and more comfortable next to Jordan Hill, who is probably the main reason the Lakers are looking much better than before on defense, even with a head coach called Mike D’Antoni.
The initial positive effect of putting Ben McLemore (15 points) and Jason Thompson (4 points) into the lineup has faded away, as the Kings have dropped to 3-4 since making that change. There’s offensive talent on this team besides DeMarcus Cousins (17 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists), but without defense or the ability to play some half court basketball that doesn’t involve their center this is going to be a frustrating season for their rookie head coach.
The Lakers are less talented offensively than more than half the teams in the league, but if the ship keeps sailing mostly steady till Kobe Bryant returns, things might end up looking a lot better than the doom and gloom predictions of before the season.