It”s still far too early to put away your umbrella, but for the Lakers it can at least be said the sun is poking through the clouds in a few important areas.
Pau Gasol, who went for a More Classic Pau 19/9/3 against Memphis in , is averaging 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and five assists over his last five games. Solid numbers for a guy who isn”t the primary option offensively, has a dominant glass eater beside him, and to use the parlance of Kobe Bryant is still working with a pair of these. Earl Clark, who followed Tuesday”s strong effort against Dallas with 13 points, five boards, and this completely absurd block on Quincy Pondexter in Friday”s win, apparently has rediscovered his legs.
But the most encouraging numbers belong to the Lakers defense.
After giving up 37 points in the opening quarter to Sacramento last weekend, a sham-mockery if there ever was one, the Lakers have grown substantially less generous on their own end, allowing an average of 20.72 points over their next 11 quarters. The Kings have been among the better offensive teams in the league over the second half of the season, Dallas is a top 10 crew in offensive efficiency, and while Memphis will never be mistaken for the Showtime Lakers, L.A. still held them almost 10 points below their 93.4 season average for points per game.
These are very good numbers, fueled in large part by some dominant play from Dwight Howard, Gasol”s increased mobility, and more attention to detail off the ball from Kobe Bryant. For the Lakers to have any shot of competing in a first round matchup against the Thunder (currently with the momentum in terms of taking the West”s top seed), the improvement can”t be a temporary.
It”s too early to call it a trend, but if the Lakers turn in another solid game defensively Sunday afternoon against the Clippers — currently the NBA”s fifth most efficient offense — fans might once again be able to dip a toe in the water without worrying it”ll get bitten off by a shark.
(Assuming, of course, fans have any toes left to dip.)