Lakers almost let it get away
By Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times
It’s not comparable to the Lakers’ 33-game winning streak in 1971-72 or the Boston Celtics’ string of eight consecutive championships in the 1950s and ’60s, but a curious little Lakers streak continues to thrive.
They still haven’t lost three consecutive games since acquiring Pau Gasol in February 2008.
Their latest blush came after two uninspiring, even perplexing, losses to Denver and Houston, but their recent sins were whisked into the past after a 106-93 victory over Detroit that restored order to their season Tuesday at Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant had 40 points despite a slow start and a strained right groin, and the Lakers led by as many as 28 points.
It’s becoming redundant to point out, but Andrew Bynum had another double-double, finishing with 17 points and 12 rebounds. He now has eight double-doubles in the nine games he has played this season.
The Lakers weren’t entirely perfect, not at all.
Bynum was forced to check back into the game after the Pistons cut the margin to 19 points. Bryant returned with 8:08 to play and the lead down to 15. Then Lamar Odom was rushed back on to the court with 1:55 left and the Lakers up 98-90.
But Shannon Brown made three free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt, and the Lakers reasserted a double-digit lead with 1:38 to play. Brown then scored on a fastbreak dunk.
End of threat, continuation of streak.
The Lakers have lost two in a row nine times since acquiring Gasol, but their last three-game losing streak came a week before he joined them, on the heels of losses to San Antonio, Dallas and Cleveland in January 2008.
“Some of it is just talent and then some of it is the resiliency of the team that comes back after being embarrassed in a loss where they didn’t feel good about themselves, wanted to work hard and change it,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
Or, as Bryant said, the Lakers know how to “stop the bleeding pretty quickly.”
Gasol watched this one from the end of the bench, but he is expected to play Thursday against Chicago after sitting out the first 11 games of the season because of a strained right hamstring.
Bryant was the one limping after the Lakers’ loss Sunday to Houston, but he played 39 minutes against Detroit.
“I was able to kind of bounce and move around like I normally do,” Bryant said.
One play in particular showed he wasn’t hindered.
He spun around Ben Gordon and, with Kwame Brown approaching, flipped the ball over his head and into the basket for a layup.
Yes, it was a nice play. And, yes, it was that Kwame Brown, who was booed by Lakers fans when he checked into the game. Brown finished with nine points and five rebounds.
Jackson said before the game that Bryant had been camping in the post too many times in their losses, causing a lack of ball movement.
But Bryant scored from the post and from outside against Detroit, a pleasant array of shots to go with five rebounds and five assists. He made 17 of 29 attempts, sore groin or no sore groin.
“That’s the kind of effort he gives,” Jackson said. “That’s kind of a remarkable trait that he has that individually separates himself from other players.”
The Lakers outrebounded Detroit, 44-32, a marked difference from Sunday in which they were drilled on the boards by the Rockets, 60-38.
They’re within a game of getting back Gasol, unless something unforeseen happens at today’s practice.
“It’s going to change a lot about how we play the game,” Jackson said.
As in, fewer losses.