After not getting off to the start most in LA were hoping for right away under new Head Coach Mike D’Antoni, the Lakers were able to put to rest some recent scoring troubles behind a 122-103 win over the Nuggets in the Staples Center Friday night.
The Lakers set a franchise record with 17 three-pointers made. All but four of the three-pointers made came from a rejuvenated L.A bench including Jodie Meeks tying his career high with seven 3′s made. Meeks may have had an out-of-body experience against Denver considering he finished the game with 21 points, marking the game as just his 11th out of 200 plus games in his career in which he scored over 20 points.
Then there was Jamison.
Antawn Jamison has been accustomed to having the green-light and scoring at-will for the better part of his fourteen-year career in the NBA. This season in Los Angeles is just the second time in Jamison’s career in which he has been asked to come off of the bench consistently to help his team. In 2003-’04, Jamison played in 80 of 82 games for the Dallas Mavericks off the bench and shot a career high .53% from the field but averaged a career low in points with just over 14.5 points-per-game. Oh yeah, he also won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award that very same season in Dallas.
Friday night Jamison came off the Lakers bench and poured in a team and game-high 33 points on 13 of 19 shooting from the field and 5 of 10 from behind the arc. For those familiar with Jamison and his career, the point total was something all to common for a guy who etched his name in NBA scoring history over ten years ago as one of only three players at the time (Micheal Jordan, Bernard King, and Allen Iverson did it a few years later after Jamison did), to score over 50+ points in consecutive games during the NBA regular season in the last 20 years. The former UNC standout also added 12 rebounds Friday night, making him the first Laker since 1998 to come off the bench and record over 30 points and 10 rebounds in game. Shaquille O’Neal was the last Laker to do so.
Prior to this offensive outpouring from Jamison, and really the arrival of Mike D’Antoni, many in LakerLand were wondering if Jamison would be able to do anything productive,(or at least hit an open jump-shot) coming off the bench for Los Angeles.
In the ten games Antawn Jamison played before D’Antoni took over as head coach he was averaging just over 4 points a game while attempting an average of just 4 field goals a game. Now, in six games under the lots-of-shots strategy of head coach Mike D’Antoni, Jamison is averaging over 12 points a game and has doubled his shot attempts to now just under nine field goal attempts per game. Jamison’s rebounding totals have also gone up in his last six games under D’Antoni from just over three per game to now over six a game and climbing. Its no coincidence Jamisons’ total production has increased and should continue to, as the total number of opportunities and shot attempts continue to go up under the high-scoring philosophy of coach D’Antoni.
The question now has to be, can Lakers fans, and Antawn Jamison fans alike, expect to continue seeing the same thing night-in and night-out now from a man who is going on 37-years-old in his 14th consecutive season as a solid NBA player?
Well, the short answer is, of course. As long as Mike D’Antoni is coaching this group you can expect Jamison to continue getting open looks. With his skill set and ability to hit open jumpers, most nights Lakers box-scores will include Jamison scoring in double-digits off the bench. The coaching change has proved to be most helpful for Jamison and the Lakers bench more than anything. The former Tar Heel superstar was well on his way to career lows in every major statistical category they track in basketball, that was prior to the coaching change. Insert D’Antoni, Jamison is back on track, recording his first two double-doubles of the season in his last three games. If Jamison can continue to produce the way he has the last few games,(looking like the Antawn Jamison who has averaged close to 20 points and 7.5 rebounds his entire career) he could not only take minutes from Pau Gasol, as the better stretch four option who can hit the three, but he could also end up a finalist for the Sixth Man of the Year Award by seasons end.