There were two parts to the Lakers dramatic comeback win, when the Lakers outscored the Hornets 33-9 in the fourth quarter. One part was Kobe Bryant taking over on the offensive end of the floor. He gets most of the kudos and most of the highlights because his effort is easy to quantify.
The other part was Dwight Howard owning the paint and taking over the defensive end of the court. Notice the Hornets only scored nine points in the fourth, that maters more than the 33 — the Lakers had scored all night they just weren’t getting stops for three quarters. Howard did have a highlight defensive play, this block of Robin Lopez that sealed the Lakers win. It deserves some notice.
If the Lakers make the playoffs — they are now just 1.5 games back of the Jazz — this game will be a defining moment for the Lakers. Howard is a part of that.
Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court
Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.
With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.
“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”
Lue put it this way.
“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”
While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.
Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.
Another wing down? Celtics’ Marcus Smart likely out vs. Sixers
As noted, Smart said he hurt both ankles in the second night of a back-to-back against Milwaukee, the left one in a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Smart started that game and played 32 minutes. That’s a lot of time to go to lesser players.
If he’s out Friday, that likely means either Terry Rozier or Abdel Nader get the start, and both are going to see a healthy bump in minutes. Whatever happens, the Celtics would miss Smart in a game where they need to defend Ben Simmons on the wing.