04/14/2011 - 14:38
LO Refuses To Be Denied
There's no getting around the fact that, without Lamar Odom, the Los Angeles Lakers would be in a world of trouble right now.
For the second straight game, with the Lakers in need of a win to hold onto their spot as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, Lamar took the onus on himself and was an all-around star in a LA victory.
LO turned in a virtuoso performance on Wednesday night, barely missing out on a triple-double while helping the Lakers best the Sacramento Kings, 116-108, in overtime of their regular season finale.
No. 7 poured in 22 points on 9-of-16 from the field and fell just two rebounds and three assists shy of his first triple-double of the season, with eight boards and seven dimes in the win. Over the last two games, Lamar is averaging 22.5 points per game.
With Andrew Bynum out with a bone bruise in his knee, the Lakers inserted LO into the starting lineup on Wednesday. As is always the case, when asked, the Package delivered. In his 72 minutes played since Bynum's injury, LO has now scored 43 points on 17-of-28 from the field, leading the Lakers to wins over the Spurs and Kings.
He was crucial for all 45 minutes that he played on Wednesday, starting with the game's first points, which he scored on a tip-in, all the way to overtime, where he scored five of LA's 17 points to secure the win.
Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold lauded LO for his performance:
"Lamar Odom again showed his value as a player that can move seamlessly between the bench and the starting lineup. Taking his place with the first five, Odom scored 22 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and dished out 7 assists in a fantastic effort that showed his all court game and versatility as a player.
I know I've typed those same words about LO about 40 different times this year, but it's amazing how good he's been and how vital his contributions have been to the Lakers' success. Tonight was no different as he made several plays down the stretch, including an "and 1″ finish on a fast break where he received an excellent drop pass that converted into a lay in as he got hit by 2 Kings defenders."
LO's big night came after he told Lakers.com's Mike Trudell that Bynum's injury forced him to reassess his role on the team:
"Before the game, Odom said that Bynum's injury scare made him re-focus a bit, made him take a step back and value the time he'd spent on the court. It's the kind of thing, he said, that could help him and his teammates mentally heading into the playoffs."
It clearly helped LO on Wednesday as he was locked in from the start. Six minutes after his game-opening tip-in, Lamar sank a trey to put the Lakers up 18-15. Then, on LA's next possession, No. 7 notched his first assist of the game, finding Kobe Bryant for a jumper. Lamar added a couple of free throws and by the end of the quarter had seven points and the Lakers led by five.
LO was held to just one assist in the game's second frame, but he came out of the locker room pumped up and gave the Lakers a spark at the beginning of the second half.
It started with a jumper just 18 ticks into the third quarter, Lamar's second straight game kicking off Los Angeles' third quarter scoring. He followed that with a layup, putting the Lakers up 11 early in the third.
Sacramento trimmed the lead to six, but No. 7 threw down two dunks during a 15-4 Lakers run that pushed the champs to a 78-61 lead. He added assists on three of LA's final five baskets of the third, finding Kobe Bryant, Shannon Brown and Pau Gasol. After three, Los Angeles led 88-70.
The Lakers sought to put the game away in the fourth, holding a 20-point lead after a jump hook from LO. But a 10-0 Sacramento run midway through the final quarter forced Phil Jackson's hand and LA was forced to go back to its starters.
Still, with their momentum already built, the Kings closed the gap and eventually took the lead. They were in front by three when Kobe Bryant buried a trey with less than five seconds to go, forcing overtime.
In that extra frame, LO and Kobe took over to lead LA to victory.
A Lamar dunk put the Lakers up 106-103 with 2:44 remaining. Then, after a Bryant jumper, No. 7 took a Pau Gasol pass, drove to the basket, got fouled and converted the layup. His subsequent free throw put LA up by eight as they cruised to the win.
The duo of LO and Kobe combined to score 10 of LA's 17 points in the extra frame.
ONE MORE VOTE
The end of the regular season means the postseason in the NBA, but it also means it is awards season, time to recognize the best in the league.
Before the NBA announces its individual award winners, one more writer had to weigh in on LO's case for Sixth Man.
Jordan Schultz of the Huffington Post writes that LO's candidacy is as clear as there can be:
The criticism against Lamar Odom all these years has been about what he hasn't done instead of what he has done. But how about we take off the insane expectations and take LO for what he is: a really effective sixth man/starter on a championship caliber team.
In his 12th season, Odom has enjoyed a banner year at both ends of the floor. He is shooting a career best 53 percent and defending multiple positions, cementing his status as perhaps the most versatile player in the NBA.
Case in point: During the 34 games center Andrew Bynum missed this year, Odom emerged as one of the Lakers most consistent weapons, averaging a healthy 16.1 points and 10.3 rebounds. When Bynum returned to the starting lineup, Odom merely went about his business and continued to be a defensive stalwart and reliable offensive tool.
Odom's adjusted plus-minus is one of the best in the league. His unique ability to guard all five positions -- and consistently wall off bigs in the paint -- makes him an invaluable component of the NBA's 8th best defense. On offense, his ball handling skills allow him to initiate LA's vaunted transition game, which allows Kobe to fill the lane and score and allows Gasol and Bynum to enjoy more room to operate in the lane.
Traditional power forwards simply don't offer that luxury. And, while Odom has been a capable long-range shooter throughout his career, he has never shown a consistent enough stroke to validate defenders guarding him tightly on the line -- until now. Odom is shooting a career best 39.3 percent from three, up over 8 percent from last season and one of the better numbers in the league. Simply put, without Odom's no frills stability and relentless efforts, the Lakers would not be sitting at 56-26 and in ripe contention for a three-peat.
Lamar has his mind on only one award this postseason, the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship trophy and the Lakers begin their quest for their third straight this weekend.
The Lakers kickoff their first round series with the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday afternoon. Tip-off for Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for 12:30 PDT and the game can be seen on ABC.
- Lakers 116, Kings 108 (ESPN.com, April 13, 2011)
- Lakers 116, Kings 108: Running Diary (Lakers.com, April 13, 2011)
- Bi-polar Lakers watch 20-point lead disappear (LA Daily News, April 14, 2011)
- Lakers relieved at the finish with 116-108 victory over the Kings (LA Times, April 14, 2011)
- A game that encapsulated a season (Forum Blue and Gold, April 13, 2011)
- 2011 NBA Sixth Man Award goes to… (The Huffington Post, April 14, 2011)
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