Matt Barnes scored 24 points on 7-7 shooting to go along with 7 rebounds and 6 assists as the Lakers completed their 3 game Eastern Conference sweep with a 112-95 win over Minnesota. Barnes’ “perfect game” included 5-5 from 3 and 5-5 from the line in just under 24 minutes off the bench. In the last 25 years, only Charles Barkley and Gary Payton have had at least 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in a game without missing a shot. Barnes led a balanced Lakers attack that received 23 points and 8 rebounds from Kobe Bryant, 16 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists from Pau Gasol, and 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists from Lamar Odom. Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown combined for 23 points as the Lakers shot 10-19 from 3 point line and 22 for 26 from the charity stripe. Odom took it upon himself to shut down his Team USA teammate Kevin Love, who embarrassed him in their last matchup with a 23 point, 24 rebound performance less than two weeks ago. Love, the NBA’s leading rebounder, managed only 7 rebounds and was held scoreless on 0-7 shooting from the field. Phil Jackson had the quote of the night telling the media about his chat with Odom after the first game. “I told him, ‘I know why Kevin made the USA team, because he practiced against you every day.”’
The Lakers depth was on full display once again Friday night as the Lakers second unit, dubbed “The Renegades” by Jackson, showed how dominant they can be. When Andrew Bynum returns to the starting lineup (likely in 3 weeks), the Renegades will add potential All-Star Lamar Odom to their unit. A second unit of Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Barnes, Odom, and whoever else you want to include would likely make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. A scary thought for the rest of the NBA early on is that this Lakers team is already showing they are significantly better (and deeper) than last years championship team. With the win, the Lakers improved to 11-2 on the season, and are now on pace for 69 wins. They head back to LA for a pair of home games with Golden State and the rising Chicago Bulls before a huge matchup in Salt Lake City with the Utah Jazz next Friday night. As good as the Lakers have been, two teams in the West have actually been better as far as the overall standings are concerned. Both the Spurs and the surprising New Orleans Hornets are leading the way with matching 10-1 records in the Southwest Division.
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Written by Tim Lewis