LOS ANGELES — Although Kobe Bryant missed the majority of last Friday’s game at Indiana, Sunday marked the first game he was out of the lineup all season.
Someone for the Lakers needed to step up.
The five starters all raised their hands. As did the Lakers bench, which outscored Sacramento’s 43-34 as the Lakers (36-32) reached a season-high four games over .500 with a 113-102 win on Sunday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers bench consisted of just two players on Sunday night – Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake – as head coach Mike D’Antoni exercised an extremely thin rotation of seven.
However all seven did their part to impact the game as much as they possibly could against the Kings (23-44), led by Jamison’s game-high 27 points.
No one did anything out of the ordinary. Everyone stuck to their strengths. Metta World Peace provided toughness and knocked down open jumpers. Dwight Howard controlled the paint with game-highs of 17 rebounds and five blocks.
Steve Nash orchestrated the offense like the conductor he is. Blake came off of the bench and followed suit. No Lakers player took more than 14 shots as they proved sharing is caring, making D’Antoni happy.
“That ball moves and there’s some good guys out there on the floor,” D’Antoni said. “We don’t have to be one-player dominant and that ball needs to move and if it does than we’re really good.”
The point guards, Blake and Nash, combined for 20 assists in the game. It’s the type of effort that is sometimes hard to come by with Bryant in the lineup.
A knock on Bryant, if you can find one for the future Hall of Famer, is that the ball sticks with him in the lineup. When asked if the ball moves with Bryant on the floor, D’Antoni responded with a quick one-hitter.
“No,” the Lakers head coach said with a smile. “It does a little bit. He’s so good at what he does and he’s been doing it for a long time. It’s a different team, different age group and he has come a long way towards facilitating and all that. We just got to keep reinforcing that and keep getting better.”
D’Antoni also noted Jamison is a player with multiple 50-point games in his NBA career. For what it’s worth Jamison had his best season percentage-wise when he teamed with Nash in Dallas in 2003-04. Over the last couple of games, especially, you get a sense why.
The chemistry between the two is clear whether Jamison is picking-and-popping or slipping a screen for an attempt at the basket. The most recent version of Jamison, who’s averaging 22 points off the bench in his last two games, has given Lakers fans a sense of what he can do when he’s involved.
“We understand how important he is to our team and what he can bring,” Howard said of Jamison. “As of late, he’s been on fire.”
Said Jamison: “When called upon you got to go out there find a way to get it done.”
With that being said, he’s no spring chicken 15 years into his NBA career and neither is the 39-year-old Nash, who like Jamison played 35 minutes on Sunday.
The two will be pivotal if the team is going to have a repeat success on Monday night in Phoenix, quit possibly without the services of Bryant again.
The Lakers have not won back-to-back games all season.
“That’s not a great stat right there,” Nash said. “Hopefully we get our legs and our energy and really focus because it’s going to be a big game for us tomorrow night.”