“The Renegades”, “The Killer B’s”, whatever you want to call them, it really doesn’t matter as the Lakers 2nd unit proved once again how good they can be, leading the Lakers to a 98-91 victory over the Bulls Tuesday night. Shannon Brown continued his quest for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award by scoring 21 points in just over 28 minutes off the bench. Brown was 5-10 from the 3 point line including 4 in a row in the first half that essentially kept the Lakers in the game early. “I always want to play well against the place I came from,” said Brown, who is from Maywood, just west of Chicago. “I grew up watching the Bulls. I was a Bulls fan.” Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson have repeatedly talked about Brown’s improved jump shot this year, stemming from countless hours in the gym over the summer honing his newfound skill. “He’s got so much confidence right now,” Jackson said. “We’re encouraging him to (shoot) when it feels right. Otherwise, he’s got such a great drive, teams have to play back off him because of his speed.” Brown re-signed with the Lakers over the summer for less than his market value after listening to numerous, yet underwhelming offers from other teams. When asked if the Bulls were one of those teams, Brown replied sarcastically, “I don’t remember, I wasn’t surprised at all. Nothing surprises me about the business of the NBA.” It’s safe to say at this point, the Lakers know exactly what (or who) to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Brown wasn’t the only story for the Lakers last night. The other members of the Killer B’s made their presence felt as well. Matt Barnes chipped in 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 30 minutes off the bench while Steve Blake added 6 points (on two huge 3′s in the 4th quarter), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals in just over 23 minutes. The Lakers second unit outscored the Bulls reserves 39-10 in what turned out to be the most important stat of the night. Lamar Odom was his typical should be an All Star self with 21 points and 8 rebounds, while Bryant chipped in with 20 points and 5 assists. Pau Gasol was noticeably frustrated all night by the extremely aggressive Joakim Noah, shooting just 3-10 from the field for 12 points. Gasol did manage to contribute in other ways, which is what great players do when the offense isn’t there, adding 11 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 4 assists.
As impressive as Brown was last night, Derrick Rose stole the show with his usual array of high flying, acrobatic drives to the hoop. He finished with 30 points (albeit on 25 shots), 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. However, Rose only managed 3 points in the 4th quarter, all from the free throw line, as the Lakers tightened up their D in crunch time. The Bulls received a couple of notable performances from their front court as Noah contributed 19 points and 13 rebounds. Former USC standout Taj Gibson was deadly all night with the mid-range baseline jumper, adding 16 points and 12 rebounds in 40 minutes of play. Gibson made it clear last night that he will be a force off the bench once Carlos Boozer returns from a wrist injury in a couple weeks. The Bulls were very impressive last night simply because it was the first time all year where it became evident how much the Lakers missed Andrew Bynum’s defense and rebounding. This was without a doubt the best team the Lakers have faced all season and also a team that has a legitimate chance to win the East once Boozer returns to the fold. The Lakers have now won 5 in a row to improve to 13-2 on the season and remain on pace to win 71 games. They have the next two days off before traveling to Salt Lake City where a very dangerous Utah Jazz team awaits. The Lakers swept the Jazz out of the playoffs last season, however, the Jazz appear very much improved this year with the addition of Al Jefferson and the emergence of Paul Millsap. Utah owns the most impressive 3 game stretch of the young season winning road games at Miami, Orlando, and Atlanta two weeks ago.
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Written by Tim Lewis