03/02/2011 - 11:31
LO Steps Up to Stop Love
Lamar Odom displayed all the things he can do for the Lakers, pushing them to a win on Tuesday night.
LO posted his 23rd double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds and LA won its fifth straight game, 90-79, over the Minnesota Timberwolves. But while his scoring and cleaning the glass helped the Lakers to the win, they weren't even Lamar's most important contribution of the night.
That belonged to No. 7's task of containing Timberwolves double-double machine Kevin Love and Lamar did his best to shut Love down.
LO went punch-for-punch with Love, the league's leading rebounder, on the glass and each player grabbed 11 boards. Before the game, LO talked about his relationship with Love and the bond they built as teammates during Team USA's gold medal run at last summer's FIBA World Championships:
"The short time that we shared together and the camaraderie that was built and winning that medal that a lot of people didn't think we were going to be able to win forever bonded us," Odom said. "Whether you're watching a guy or playing against him, you want to play well against a guy like that. And you wish him well, too."
Love still got his 47th consecutive double-double on Tuesday, but Lamar made him work for it. The third-year Minnesota big man was 2-of-10 from the field for 13 points and his 11 rebounds were his lowest total in nearly a month. Love was well below his season averages (21 and 15) in both categories and never found a rhythm all night.
The Lakers prioritized a team-wide focus on defense and their ability to limit the Wolves to less than 80 points was a product of that focus. The win over Minnesota marked the fourth time in five games Los Angeles has held an opponent under 100 points.
"We're focusing on defense," LO said. "When you play good defense in any sport, it gives you a chance to win."
Mark Medina of the LA Times broke down one particular play in which the Lakers shut down Love and the Wolves.
"Lakers forward Lamar Odom bodied up Minnesota forward Kevin Love, preventing him from getting solid post position. Lakers guard Steve Blake stepped down to swipe the ball away. Lakers center Andrew Bynum and Lakers forward Luke Walton remained ready to slide over in the paint. And Lakers guard Shannon Brown stood above the free-throw line ready to defend the perimeter in case Love kicked the ball outside.
Instead, Love drove inside and met plenty of resistance, ranging from Blake continually trying to steal the ball, Odom contesting the shot and Bynum putting a body on him to make it difficult for Lobe to maneuver. Timberwolves guard Wesley Johnson recovered the loose ball off Bynum's blocked shot and found Love open in the paint. But once he received the pass, Walton held his ground, while both Odom and Bynum crashed the boards for the possible rebound. Walton's tight defense forced Love into shooting an airball and Bynum's proximity to the basket allowed him to grab the easy board.
That play in the Lakers' 90-79 victory Tuesday over Minnesota perfectly represented the Lakers' continuous effort in locking down defensively."
Lamar talked after the game about how important it was to contain Love.
"That's a guy that can put up big numbers on any given day," LO said. "Tonight it just went our way as a team."
No. 7 had a heavy hand in making it go LA's way. He had gone eight straight games without a double-double, easily the longest streak of his stellar season. But he snapped it in classic LO fashion, with a strong evening on the defensive glass and a steady hand while shooting the rock.
Lamar balanced his scoring efforts with two points each in the first, second and third quarters. He added a bucket early in the fourth but it was during a sweet stretch to close out the game where LO was particularly instrumental, as Medina wrote:
"Odom found a cutting Shannon Brown backdoor for an easy layup, widening the gap to 72-63 after capping an 18-5 run with 9:49 remaining. A pick-and-roll between Gasol and Bryant resulted in an open shot for Gasol, whose shot was blocked by Beasley. No matter. Odom followed with a putback for an 80-69 lead with 4:03 remaining. And Bryant [found] Odom cutting into the lane resulted in an open layup for an 82-69 cushion with 3:31 left."
That stretch put a seal on the game for the Lakers, who are now 5-0 since the All-Star break. Timberwolves forward Wesley Johnson credited the LA's size with the victory:
"It's tough with not only how strong they are but how long they are," Johnson said. "They pass the ball well too, so it's definitely hard. Then Lamar comes in the game. It makes it difficult with their size."
LO chipped in two assists in the win, but gave the nod to the Lakers' defense for locking down the opposition.
"It was just our night defensively," he said.
The Lakers return home on Friday night for a battle with a foe that has frequently foiled them in the past.
The Charlotte Bobcats come to Staples Center on Friday and LA will be looking to turn the tables on them after a 109-89 loss in Charlotte last month.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 PST and the game can be seen on FS West.
- Lakers continue to improve defensively in 90-79 victory over Minnesota Timberwolves (L.A. Times, March 1, 2011)
- Lamar Odom hopes to stop Kevin Love (ESPN LA, March 1, 2011)
- Lakers Gameday: Timberwolves (Lakers.com, March 1, 2011)
- Minimum effort is enough for Lakers (LA Daily News, March 2, 2011)
- Lakers overpower Timberwolves for fifth straight win (Yahoo! Sports, March 2, 2011)
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