LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 16: Ramon Sessions #7 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers consult on the court in the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on March 16, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 97-92. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
The Lakers are a game and a half in front of the Clippers for first place in the Pacific Division.
Though the Los Angeles ended their week with a clunker of a loss, the previous seven days was very productive. The team won three of its four games on the schedule and surged into first place in the Pacific Division in the NBA, and are within striking distance of the San Antonio Spurs for the second seed in the Western Conference. Plus, the Lakers upgraded at the point guard spot, though the toll was high, at least emotionally.
The Lakers acquired Ramon Sessions from the Cleveland Cavaliers and traded for backup big man Jordan Hill from the Houston Rockets, but in doing so parted ways with Derek Fisher. The 16-year NBA veteran won five rings in Los Angeles and is fifth on the all-time franchise list with 915 games played.
Fisher hit the game-winner with 0.4 seconds left in San Antonio in 2004, hit several key shots in Game 4 of the 2009 NBA Finals in Orlando, took over Game 3 of the 2010 NBA Finals in Boston, and had the ridiculous 35-for-68 run from three-point range as the Lakers romped through the 2001 NBA playoffs. Few personified toughness and leadership like Fisher, who will always be remembered as a Laker.
But sadly, Fisher had to go. The Lakers badly needed an upgrade at point guard, both defensively and to run the offense, which has stagnated far too often under head coach Mike Brown. The Lakers at the trade deadline got younger with Sessions, 25, and Hill, 24, while also shedding two of their worst contracts in Fisher and Luke Walton.
|Field Goal %:||45.3%|
|True Shooting %:||55.4%|
|Tuesday: Lakers 116, Memphis 111 (2 OT)|
|Wednesday: Lakers 107, New Orleans 101 (OT)|
|Friday: Lakers 97, Minnesota 92|
|Sunday: Jazz 103, Lakers 99|
Sessions has come off the bench in two games as a Laker so far, but in 42 minutes he has 17 points and 11 assists, and has gotten to the free throw line 12 times. Sessions has breathed life into the Lakers offense with his attacking style.
The Lakers began their week with a tough, two-overtime win against the playoff-bound Memphis Grizzlies, then followed that up with a win in New Orleans, also in overtime. The constant in those wins was Andrew Bynum, who was terrific for the week.
The first-time All-Star center made 15 of his 18 field goals against Memphis, then made 12 of 14 shots in a loss Sunday night to Utah. On the week, the big man shot 66.1% from the field and averaged 27.5 points and 14.8 rebounds per contest.
Bynum even got to the free throw line 35 times, an average of nearly nine attempts per game, and made 80% of his shots from the charity stripe. He has six straight double-doubles and has a double-double in 16 of his last 17 games.
Even in the Lakers' only loss of the week, a 103-99 defeat at home to the Utah Jazz on Sunday, they were in the game until the end, with Kobe Bryant missing a potential tying three-pointer in the final second. Bryant shot 3-for-20 on Sunday, his worst performance of the season, which gave the Jazz a narrow win, just their fourth in their last 30 games in Los Angeles against the Lakers.
With 21 games remaining in the season, the Lakers have their Big Three intact and time for Sessions to work his way into a comfort zone with his new team. Will that push the Lakers into title contention? We will find out in a month or so.
Here are some individual numbers for the week:
- Andrew Bynum: 27.5 points per game, 14.8 rebounds per game, 1.8 blocks per game, 71.1 true shooting percentage, 80% FT%
- Kobe Bryant: 27.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.3 assists per game, 52.3% TS%, 35-for-39 from the free throw line (89.7%).
Pau Gasol: 16.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 52.3 TS%
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