It took a 43-point effort from the entire Los Angeles Lakers bench to help beat the Sacramento Kings 113-102 on Sunday night at the Staples Center—all two of them—Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake.
Without star guard Kobe Bryant in the lineup, who was ailing with a flu and a sprained left ankle he suffered last Wednesday, Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni opted to use a seven-man rotation against the Kings’ nine-man rotation.
Apparently, two heads were better than four, as the Lakers bench outscored the Kings bench 43-34—Jamison dropped 27 points and Blake added 16.
Actually, it was a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It took the same total team effort that allowed the Lakers to beat an Eastern Conference powerhouse, the Indiana Pacers, last Friday to defeat the Kings at home.
“With Kobe being out, we know everybody has to step up and play collectively as a group,” said Jamison, who also had nine rebounds. “And as of late, we’ve been doing that.”
The rest of the Lakers joined in the fray. Metta World Piece had 22 points, Dwight Howard anchored the defense with 17 rebounds to complement five blocks and Steve Nash added 19 points and 12 assists.
Heading into Sunday night’s matchup, the Kings were 23-43, but they made it interesting for about 3 1/2 quarters. After a 56-56 tie at halftime, the Kings were ahead by five in the third quarter before the Lakers’ 18-8 run in the final 6:58 put them up by 10 to start the fourth quarter.
In the final frame, the Kings closed the gap by cutting the deficit to two with 8:36 left in the game, but then that two-man Lakers bench struck again.
Both Blake and Jamison hit timely 3-point shots in the final quarter—Blake hit a 26-foot bomb that put the Lakers up by seven at the 7:07 mark and Jamison also nailed a 26-foot dagger with 5:42 left in the game to put the Lakers up by 13. In the end, the tandem of Jamison and Blake shot an efficient 14-of-25, including 9-of-16 from behind the 3-point line.
“Jamison comes in and plays a great role for them and made his jump shots tonight,” said Kings head coach Keith Smart. “Steve Blake made some big time 3s tonight and the other guys were going to do what they do no matter what.”
In fact, it was the Lakers’ second half 3-point shooting that allowed them to pull away from the Kings—they were 7-of-11 in the second half compared to their dismal 5-of-17 in the first half. Once the Lakers built their lead to 15 in the fourth quarter with 3:26 remaining in regulation, the Kings exhausted their comebacks and couldn’t make another run.
“We were fortunate to go on a little bit of a run there shooting the ball in the second half,” said Nash.
Blake also had eight assists off the bench. Jamison was the beneficiary of some of those assists and in the Lakers’ locker room, he hearkened back to their time together with the Washington Wizards as the reason for their organic chemistry.
“All I know is that time together that we had in Washington,” said Jamison, referring to the 2004-05 season he played with Blake as a member of the Wizards. “He knows when I’m going to cut. I know when he’s looking for me and things of that nature.”
The Lakers are now a full game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. In order to secure that position or move even higher without the services of Bryant, the Lakers will need more stellar performances from their bench.
Can their bench do it with four players, three players or just two? To Blake, spirited bench performances mean going beyond the depth chart.
“Just coming off the bench with energy and playing with confidence,” said Blake.