LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday looked like a completely different team since the last time they played at Staples Center, where they allowed a season-high 47 points in the first quarter on Sunday to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
This time around the Lakers held their opponent, the New Orleans Pelicans, to just 19 points on 41 percent shooting and limited Anthony Davis to six points on 3-of-5 shooting and two rebounds in the first quarter, which was a drastic difference from the 12 points and eight rebound he record in first quarter that were a part of a career-high 32 points in last Friday’s game in New Orleans.
Los Angeles was able to separate from the Pelicans in large part to their 22-5 run to start the second quarter with Davis picking up his third foul in the game. and Jordan Hill being a major factor with his activity on offense setting a career-high with 21 points to go along with 11 rebounds in 26 minutes on the floor.
Despite getting his first start of the season, Hill sees no change in his role and with what he can bring to the team each night.
“It doesn’t matter. I am just want to go out there and have fun,” Hill said, who had his eighth career double-double in Tuesday’s win. “If I start or come off the bench, I will still do what I always do (which is)bring energy, rebound, defend and run the floor. I (just) got to keep doing what I do.”
Head coach Mike D’Antoni has seen Hill’s impact on this team all season long, and Tuesday night wasn’t any different.
“I think he’s been effective the whole time,” D’Antoni said. “The group he was with, the second group, was our best lineup. I was a little hesitant to break that up, because that was the thing that seemed it was going well. But, he gave the first group a little jolt of energy.”
Pau Gasol was impressed by Hill’s career-best game, but knows that Hill must bring that energy every night to help his team earn more wins.
“You know with Jordan he is going to bring energy, effort and is going to be around the rim,” Gasol said, who had 14 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes played. “So by doing that he’s giving himself a chance to get rebounds, putbacks, and easy layups when the defense collapses on other guys.”
“That is basically what he did tonight and he did it very effectively. He played great tonight, (and) hopefully we see that type of effort again (as) we are going to need it every night.”
Lakers had an efficient scoring night with five players in double figures in points lead by Hill’s 21 points, shot 56 percent from the field including shooting 55 percent (11-of-20) from beyond the arc, and outrebounded the Pelicans 44 to 22.
But the difference in the Lakers’ performance on Tuesday night in Hill’s eyes was the energy on defense as they held the Pelicans to 39 points in the first half, which was the fewest points for an opponent in any half of this season against them.
“Definitely energy,” Hill said. “Defensively we helped on each other, we talked more. We just took to them and we just did what we have to do. We just have to keep to doing it every game.”
Los Angeles also forced the Pelicans to shoot 41 percent from the field for the game and shot just 30 percent (3-10) from beyond the arc, which is encouraging statistic as New Orleans was the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA coming into Tuesday’s game.
The team’s energy level appeared to be a reoccurring subject after the game as D’Antoni also stated it was a primary factor in helping Los Angeles notch their fourth win of the season.
“I said the whole time that its a good group of guys,”D’Antoni said. “We stressed it before, but I think today they realized what it’s going to take to win, and they did it. I think Jordan Hill being in that first group helped with his energy, and Wesley Johnson [too]. I thought they set the tone defensively and then everybody pick it up. I thought everybody contributed tonight.”
But with that said D’Antoni is looking ahead to Wednesday’s tough task of playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road against the Denver Nuggets.
“You don’t think about it. You have to go to Denver and play,” D’Antoni said. “We didn’t play a lot of minutes tonight. We do have 10 guys, and there should be no excuses.”
The Lakers are 16-16 all-time in Denver in the second game of a back to back, but are just 1-7 (.125) since the 2003-04 season.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, D’Antoni revealed that Gasol has been dealing with a sore left foot, which is something that has apparently been an issue for him since the start of the regular season.
“It’s something that I have been playing with since the beginning of the season. It happened at the end of training camp when I started feeling it,” Gasol said. “We did a MRI (last week) because we thought it was some nerve damage, but it is just a strained muscle in my left foot. Hopefully we can keep it under control.”
Gasol has kept any word about the strained muscle under wraps, because he does not want it to be labeled as one of the reasons for his slow start to the season, where is averaging a career-low in points (12.1), field goal percentage (.382) and minutes (27.8).
“It’s sore a lot of times, but I don’t like to talk about things like that because they sound like excuses,” Gasol said. “I don’t like to make excuses when thing go wrong.”
After the game he described it as “feeling better,” which is an encouraging sign following an efficient performance scoring 14 points on 6-0f-10 shooting from the field to go along with eight rebounds in 26 minutes on the floor.It also marked just the second time this season that he has shot over 50 percent in a game.
Moving forward this should be something to watch as it appears it could be a nagging injury.
Photo Credit: Lakers.com