Lakers' other guys lift team in Game 2
LOS ANGELES -- Game 2 between the Lakers and Hornets was supposed to be all about Los Angeles' two All-Stars.
Kobe Bryant decreed it to be so after the heavily favored Lakers dropped the series opener Sunday, laying the gauntlet down for himself and Pau Gasol to run through.
"I put pressure on myself," Bryant said. "It's one and two, it's me and him. We've got to deal with it. When you get all the praise when things go your way, [you also] get all the blame when things don't. It's part of the seats we sit in."
It turns out, Wednesday's 87-78 win by the Lakers to even up the series 1-1 wasn't about guys one through two, but rather guys three through nine.
Bryant scored just 11 points, needing a late dunk to ensure his double-digit scoring streak in the playoffs would stay intact (it's up 151 games now, trailing only Michael Jordan's 179 for the best all-time). And Gasol proved he could be even worse than he was Sunday, undercutting his Game 1 line of eight points on 2-for-9 shooting and six rebounds with his Game 2 line of eight points on 2-for-10 shooting and five rebounds.
With Will Ferrell sitting courtside, the storyline of the game took on the title of one of the funnyman's more forgettable films: "The Other Guys."
There was Andrew Bynum going off for 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting and 11 rebounds.
"Everybody is going to have their chance, and this is his time as far as the arrival of Andrew Bynum," Lamar Odom said. "This is like his time to kind of show everyone what he can do. ... He's doing everything at a high level and he's doing it with kind of this ferocious style."
Then there was Odom not far behind with 16 points on 8-for-12 shooting with seven boards on the night his pregame Sixth Man of the Year trophy celebration woke up the crowd from the very tip, a welcome assist after Staples Center was a little sleepy when the series began.
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Matt Barnes had eight points, four rebounds and two steals in 12 minutes while not missing a shot.
Steve Blake played for the first time in more than a week due to chickenpox and picked up five assists; a couple of them came in the open court, which added to the Lakers' 14-5 advantage in fast-break points.
Shannon Brown even switched roles for once, registering one of this three assists by throwing a perfect alley-oop to Barnes for a layup instead of being on the finishing end of the play.
"We had each others' back," said Brown.
Not to mention that Ron Artest kept up his excellent series with 15 points, including the nail-in-the-coffin 3 that put L.A. up by 10 with 40.9 seconds remaining. And while Derek Fisher's nine points and four assists weren't loud, his trust in relinquishing his defensive assignment of Chris Paul to Bryant without putting up a macho-man fight spoke volumes about his importance as a leader.
While Bryant and Gasol spent the last two days vowing to the media they would do what it took to turn the series around, the rest of the team made the same commitment to contribute.
"I think they were close to setting a bench record for whatever kind of output they had, so we definitely took that personal," Barnes said of the Hornets' reserves outscoring the Lakers' second unit 39-21 in Game 1. L.A.'s subs seesawed that stat Wednesday, outscoring New Orleans' bench 27-13.
"Whenever we lose, it's never just one person, so we all got to look in the mirror and come back and play harder," added Barnes.
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To be fair, Bryant and Gasol didn't completely morph from All-Stars to stiffs. Bryant took on the challenge of guarding Paul and helped pare down CP3's production from 33 points and 14 assists in Game 1 to 20 and nine in Game 2. And Gasol also threw his body around on defense, blocking three shots and contributing to the points-in-the-paint battle, which swung from 52-34 in the Hornets' favor on Sunday to 50-32 in the Lakers' favor in Game 2.
But their defensive impact individually paled in comparison to the Lakers' overall collective defensive output in keeping the Hornets below the two numbers that L.A.'s unofficial defensive coordinator, Chuck Person, holds most dear: under 80 points (78) and sub-40 percent shooting (39.1) for the game.
A constant mantra repeated by the team for the last several seasons has been, "The strength of our team is our depth." But, with each big lead the Killer B's couldn't seem to keep, the statement seemed accurate only if applied to coach Phil Jackson's mind being deep like Sigmund Freud and not the team's roster being rife with big-time talent.
It was appropriate the bench breakout came on the night Odom was named as the best reserve in the game.
TNT's Cheryl Miller called it a "Ringo" opportunity for the Lakers' bench to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
The result was harmonious.
"We got a full team here," Barnes said.
More top-to-bottom games like this from the Lakers will leave the Hornets feeling pretty empty.Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.