Even the presence of the Black Eyed Peas couldn't ruin the Lakers game Sunday night. The Purple and Gold won their 11th straight against the Thunder, 101-85. The Lakers have now won their last three games by an average of over 14 points. Granted, the three wins have been against average to slightly above average opponents (Pistons, Bulls and Thunder) but the most recent win shows the Lakers' improvement.
This was an entirely different team than the one that barely
pulled out an overtime victory over the Thunder on November 3. In that first
contest the Thunder and Lakers both had 40 points in the paint; last night the
Lakers outscored the Thunder 60-44. But the biggest difference was the defense
against Kevin Durant. Artest frustrated him all night long and held him to
eight of 20 shooting for just 19 points.
Artest was able to be more aggressive
on the perimeter against Durant knowing that if he gets past him there are two
seven-footers in the lane ready to help out. The easy buckets in the paint and
tenacious defense combined with Bryant hitting six of his nine shots led to an
18-0 run in the first quarter that pretty much ended the game right there. This
is what happens when they're firing on all cylinders.
The Lakers put on a show. The top five plays in this game
would rival the top five plays on any given night in the NBA. Bryant's shot
from behind the backboard was just ridiculous but we've come to expect that
type of thing from him. The crowd's favorite though, was Shannon Brown's
monster dunk off the alley-oop from Jordan Farmar. His head was above the rim
when he caught the ball to slam it down. The announcers began his publicity campaign to join the Slam Dunk competition this year.
The next three teams the Lakers play (Knicks, Warriors
and Nets) have a combined record of 7-31 so if you're a Suns fan enjoy being on
top of the Pacific division while you can.