If you do nothing else, do me and yourself a favor and bask a bit in the Lakers’ 113-93 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For starters the Lakers lost 100-94 to this Cavs team a little more than a month ago (although the Cavs did not have Anderson Varejao for this one, and the Lakers did not have Steve Nash in their first meeting).
The glaring improvement was in the team defense. That point is driven home by a combination of two different stats. The Lakers gave up a season high 22 turnovers yet held the Cavs to a season low of a little more than 23 points per quarter.
This improvement wasn’t done so much by any “increase in effort.” I’m in the school of thought (a very small school) that thinks it’s Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni beginning to figure out how to use some of the tools in his shed.
Take Earl Clark, for instance. Here’s a guy who was about as unknown as anybody wearing a Lakers jersey can be. Three injuries and a couple of good games later, people are calling the Time Warner Cable Sports Laker Line (661-7LA-LINE) saying that Clark needs to be in the starting lineup.
“I think Earl solidified a little bit of everything because you can put length out there with Antawn [Jamison] and that helps. Before, we had Jodie [Meeks] and Antawn and we were little, so this was better,” said D’Antoni.
Another tool the coach is learning how to use is Kobe Bryant.
One of the Mamba’s intangibles is how he rises to any challenge. Against the Cavs, his challenge was guarding one of the game’s youngest rising stars in point guard Kyrie Irving, aka Uncle Drew.
“I kind of have to get to the front lines here, start picking up full court, start harassing guys and start doing the things I need to do to hopefully have that trickle down to everybody else,” said Kobe Bryant.
Welcomed back tonight was Lakers All-Star center and top-notch defender Dwight Howard. After sitting out three games because of a shoulder injury, Howard posted a double-double with 22 points and 14 boards.
“I just tried to be aggressive,” said Howard. “The days I hadn’t been playing made sure to come in and run and do some things so I won’t lose the little bit of shape I’m in.”
I’m not sure if this was because Kobe sat out the entire 4th quarter, but the shot distribution was as equal as it gets on this team.
Dwight said “it just happened,” and he hopes the team can continue to play and learn from the outing.
Not to be one to “look ahead,” but after the Lakers’ next game on Tuesday against the Milwaukee bucks, The LakeShow will play host to the 2012 NBA Champion Miami Heat.
You can follow JD Carrere on Twitter at @SportsNetJunkie.