LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Lakers used a second-half surge on the back of Jeremy Lin’s season-high 29 points to a 101-87 win over the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.
It was a back-and-forth affair in the first half, but Lin and the Lakers picked it up in the final two quarters. Los Angeles shot 52 percent in the second half with the 27-year-old scoring 21 of his points and Ed Davis being a huge factor defensively with four blocks along with 11 rebounds and eight points.
Their 18th win of the season wasn’t the prettiest, but Lin‘s best performance of the year was enough to put them over the top against the 76ers. It snaps their four-game losing streak, and preps them for a huge test on their first game of the road trip onTuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Here are five things we learned from Sunday’s win:
Lin’s best performance
After being a game-time decision for Thursday’s game against the Utah Jazz due to back spasms, Lin took the court against the 76ers.
He was aggressive from the get go with his first shot being a make on a contested layup at the rim in traffic. Lin kept it going in the second by knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers that cut the Lakers deficit to just four points at 30-26. It was an overall productive first half for the five-year veteran with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting with a pair of rebounds.
Immediately after being subbed into the second half, Lin scored on a driving layup and followed it up with an impressive no-look pass in transition to Wesley Johnson for a layup. His continued aggressiveness on offense helped keep the Lakers in the game with a third-quarter high nine points
Lin led the charge in the fourth quarter helping the Lakers gain control of the game. After Davis’ play on the defensive end, he was extremely effective as the primary ball handler in transition. In particular after the big man got a block, he found him as the trailer on the fast break with a behind the back pass for the layup.
As the orchestrator of the offense, Lin displayed great control of the game in the second half. In the fourth quarter he was the focal point of the offense scoring 12 points, and constantly had the 76ers’ defense on their heels.
Scott was impressed by the play of Lin on both ends of the court, and also hinted that he is “very close” to re-inserting him back into the starting lineup.
“I thought he was great on both ends,” Lakers head coach Byron Scott said. “He made great decisions. On the offensive end he got guys involved and was aggressive. Defensively he was where he was supposed to be, and did a lot of good things there as well. I thought he played great.”
Following the game, Lin stated that Sunday’s performance “may be the best (performance I had) in a Lakers’ uniform,” which he felt his aggressiveness and the better health of his back played a huge part in the type of game he had.
With the news that Scott is heavily considering putting him back into the starting lineup may be as soon as Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lin’s focus still remains at being the most effective player he can be whenever he is on the floor.
“Obviously I want to start, but nothing’s guaranteed,” Lin said. “At this point 60 or 70 games in I am just trying to stay focus on ‘when I get put out there’ and do what I am supposed to do. That’s nothing to be concerned about.”
Prior to the game, Scott had stated he was encouraged by the progress that the 22-year-old has made so far this year adding that it “seems like he is just excited to play the game.” However, he wasn’t able to show that on Sunday night.
It was a slow start for the young point guard as he had just two points on 1-of-5 shooting with an assist, and three rebound through the first two quarters of play. Jordan Clarkson for the most part was indecisive with his playmaking, and made a couple of poor shot selection choices such as attempting to take on a 1-on-3 in transition instead of pulling back and waiting for his teammates to get down the floor.
Clarkson came out as the aggressor in the second half scoring the Lakers’ first four points with a pair of free throws, and a driving layup in traffic. He also made a solid play by following his miss and grabbed the offensive rebound, and found Davis for the layup and foul.
Outside of that, it was a pretty quiet evening from Clarkson as Lin took center stage against the 76ers. Scott stuck with the hot hand in Lin, as he didn’t take the floor at all in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t necessarily a step back in production from him, but rather more of Scott going with the hot hand in Lin. With a tall task up next in Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, expect Clarkson to step up to the challenge.
The 27-year-old took charge in the first half as the main source of offense for the Lakers. He was a perfect 6-of-6 shooting for 12 points along with five rebounds. Jordan Hill began the game making his team’s first two shots on a fadeaway jumper from the baseline, and followed it up a tear-drop floater in the key.
In the second quarter, he remained aggressive after being subbed in with seven minutes left in the period knocking the Lakers’ next three baskets. Hill also scored the final points of the quarter on quarter on banked in five-foot hook shot to cut the deficit at 47-41 at the half.
Like Clarkson, he was a heavily affected in the second half by Scott’s decision to play Davis over him on the floor. He had zero points on his only miss of the night with three rebounds, and two assists in just six minutes played in third quarter.
Although he wasn’t much of a factor in the second half,Hill is in the midst of his most productive season averaging career-best 12.3 points and 8.0 rebounds. This includes a career-high 21 double-double this season. Much of his increased production has been due to having the opportunity to be in the starting lineup, and play in a consistent role each night.
Nonetheless, Hill has been one of the most consistent players on the team in season full of disappointment.
Over the last couple of weeks, the Lakers have become one of the better rebounding teams in the league.
In Sunday’s win over the 76ers, Los Angeles once again held a significant edge on the glass with a 52-39 advantage, and outscored them 42-36 in the paint. They had six players with at least five rebounds, and four players with at least two offensive rebounds.
Although it has not calculated more wins in the standings, the fact they are outrebounding teams has kept them in games that in may aspects would have ordinarily been blowouts. Their increased rebounding has partly been to the play of players such as Davis, Tarik Black, and Carlos Boozer, who all possess the skill to rebound at a high clip.
If this trend does continue for the Lakers, expect them to play in more competitive games as the season nears its end next month.
Nash is appreciated
The 41-year-old on Saturday announced that he has decided to retire after 19 seasons in the league. Since then he has received much praise and support around the league, including from his head coach.
“Like I have said about Steve (Nash) just an unbelievable person first of all along with being an unbelievable basketball player,” Scott said. “I went up against him many years as a coach and I had to change up everything because he is one of the smartest point guards I have ever seen. He just made the point guard position relevant at his size.”
“When he decided to retire yesterday, the league will miss him. He was truly one of the better people that’s been in this league in a long time.”
Scott also added that Nash’s pass-first style of play is no longer the norm in the NBA for point guards, rather that the current crop has the score-first mentality with the exception in his eyes being Chris Paul.
Nash was one of the game’s best point guard during the prime of his career that included winning a pair of MVP awards, eight All-Star game appearances, and had several deep runs in the playoffs. There is no question that NBA’s third all-time assist leader will be inducted Naismith Memorial basketball Hall of Fame when his time comes for eligibility.
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Bob Garcia IV
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