Seeing the Los Angeles Lakers this season is quite a surreal experience, especially with Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, entrusted to lead the team while Kobe Bryant is away, playing so badly, and players like Xavier Henry and Jordan Hill becoming the most important factors this team has to rely on.
Xavier Henry was once again the best player on the floor for the Lakers, scoring 18 points after being moved to the starting lineup. Mike D’Antoni is using plenty of players, but keeps switching the rotations because frankly, none of the original “key players” are playing up to the level expected of them.
Steve Nash had his best game of the season with 13 points and 6 assists, which says a lot about how bad he’s been so far. Pau Gasol scored 16 points but was only 5-of-18 from the field. He grabbed 13 rebounds and had one dunk over two players to make everyone appreciate his ability from time to time to still pull off moves that excite others in the arena.
But it was Henry’s scoring and Jordan Hill’s ability in the paint during the fourth quarter that played the biggest part in the Lakers beating the Hawks 105-103.
The Lakers nearly lost a five point lead heading into the final 1:15. Kyle Korver was on fire (22 points, 6-of-6 from beyond the arc), and hit a 30-foot three pointer to pull the Hawks closer. Steve Nash and Xavier Henry both missed shots on consecutive possessions, giving Paul Millsap the chance to tie the game at 103-103. Pau Gasol missed from close range, but it was Jordan Hill’s huge offensive rebound that kept the play alive, and Gasol was fouled on the second shot by Millsap, hitting both free throws. Gasol blocked Kyle Korver on his attempt to tie the game, and Al Horford made another mistake (4 turnovers, 5-of-12 from the field) by turning the ball over after grabbing the loose ball.
The Lakers do have their moments of fast basketball, but it doesn’t last long. Sometimes you see individual players getting hot, like Nick Young doing much better as a bench player with 13 points on 5-of-9 from the field or Henry himself, the only starting player with a + in his +/- column. They have short moments of actually being focused on defense, but that doesn’t last long either. Until Kobe Bryant returns, hoping for games to remain close and simply pull off some sort of one more play than their rivals is the best they can hope for at this point.
There was a little bit of an energy drop in the second half and a lot of missed assignments, but we picked it up and a lot of guys made some good plays. I don’t want to say it was because we wanted it more, but you could tell. When the game was on the line, guys were like: ‘We were already up 20. We were not going to let this one slip by.’