COMMENTARY | The Los Angeles Lakers responded to their early-season struggles in a big way on Friday night. They made everything look easy against the Denver Nuggets in a 122-103 rout at Staples Center.
The victory was one of those resounding wins where everything goes right, the Lakers showed signs of life in an offense that looks more fluid and easier to digest than the previous read-and-react sets from the Princeton and triangle offenses.
The new-look offense under Mike D'Antoni will create plenty of opportunities for shooters to knock down open shots as a result of spacing created by dribble penetration from the likes of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant and the inside game of Dwight Howard.
That's what took place on Friday, sans Nash of course, and it's precisely what the offense will look like when it goes well. The Lakers made 33 3-pointers and shot an outstanding 51.5 percent from the arc.
Live by the 3, die by the 3?
What's cause for concern is when the shooters go cold. When teams live by the 3, they can often die by it as well. It's worth noting that the talented Lakers will find other ways to score when the outside shot won't fall, but Lakers fans got a glimpse as to how bad it could look when the team struggles from range. Case in point was the 79-77 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night.
The offensive deficiencies that showed up in that game overshadowed the solid defensive effort. Shots weren't falling -- the Lakers only made 6-of-28 looks from the 3-point line, and the second unit only contributed five points.
Against the Nuggets, though, the Lakers tied a franchise record with 17 3-pointers made. Even Howard got into the action and made one of his own, the second of his career.
He practiced them earlier in the week, by the way.
What it all means is that the Lakers will rely heavily on shots to fall from the outside, more so than in the past. Fortunately, Howard will be the equalizer when they can't fill it up from deep as he can get to the line and put pressure on opposing defenses in the paint.
The bench comes alive
The Lakers got 61 points from the second unit vs. the Nuggets, nearly three times their season average of 23.6 points per game. Antawn Jamison led the reserves with 33 points, and was on fire from deep, going 5-of-10. The spacing was good all night long, and the new offense will continue open up opportunities for he and Jodie Meeks to thrive.
After barely playing under Mike Brown, Meeks and Jamison will be allowed to shine under D'Antoni. The Lakers will never have the depth of less top-heavy teams, but it's the price they pay for having five All-Stars in the starting lineup. The good news is that there seems to be a growing balance, and that will pay dividends late in the year and in the postseason.
Michael C. Jones covers the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA. He writes regularly for Examiner.com and SB Nation. He is the also Founder and Editor of Sports Out West.
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