A Jodie Meeks sighting, a career-high in points for Darius Morris and an assertive Pau Gasol were all products of the Lakers playing with a new mindset after seeing their coach ousted.
They dominated the Golden State Warriors, 101-77, in every facet of the game, but it was the 37 points from the much-maligned bench that demonstrated that the Lakers understood the sense of urgency they needed to play with on Friday night. It wasn't only the chip on their shoulder that led to their success, but also the fact that many bench players saw key minutes.
Case in point, reserve guard Jodie Meeks played 15 minutes, scored seven points and made his third 3-pointer of the season. The numbers don't pop out as anything but ordinary at first glance, but considering that coming into the game he had as many DNP's as 3's, then it's easy to understand why he wasn't lighting up the scoreboard.
But make no mistake about it, Meeks was impressive in his first substantial action of the season. Late in the game, he broke a defender's ankles with a beautiful crossover and buried a wing jumper that electrified the crowd. While head coach Mike Brown doesn't deserve full blame for Meeks' absence of playing time -- he was desperately trying to find a second unit rotation that worked -- he should shoulder some of the load for not giving a young, promising player a real look.
It's clear that interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff told the team to play freely, and he seemed to coach that way too, giving the Lakers' bench quality minutes.
The Lakers' second unit responded in a big way after averaging an NBA second-worst 17.4 points per game through five games and just 12.7 minutes. The bane of the Lakers' existence a year ago was their strength on a bizarre day that began with the shakeup involving Brown's departure.
Darius Morris, a second-year guard that struggled mightily to find quality minutes under Brown, scored a career-high 10 points and added five rebounds and five assists in 25 minutes in Bickerstaff's free-for-all offense. It was a beautiful freedom, the starters finally had an opportunity to rest for the what seemed like first time all season.
It was their gift to the interim coaching staff for having the trust in them that Brown should have had. The road won't be this easy every time out, but for the bench to improve, they have to play. Dwight Howard had a season-low in minutes (24) on Friday -- that's a good thing.
Jordan Hill, the only consistent bench player in a young season, played well yet again and managed 14 points and four rebounds in 19 minutes.
In order to see what these new players on the second unit can do, the coaches have to play them. Through five games, the Lakers were last in the league in bench minutes under Mike Brown.
There was even a Darius Johnson-Odom sighting, albeit for under a minute. Don't forget, he can do this.