Below are five things to take from Lakers’ 116-95 victory Tuesday over the New Orleans Pelicans at Staples Center:
1. The Lakers (4-5) have another lineup switch, and it worked. In what marked the Lakers’ sixth different starting lineup for the first two weeks of the regular season, Jordan Hill started at power forward over Chris Kaman and Wesley Johnson started at small forward over Nick Young. Hill proved he can maintain his energy during a prolonged rotation by posting a career-high 21 points on 7 of 12 shooting and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes. He also shot seven of eight from the free-throw line, a vast improvement over from hitting only 35.3 percent of his foul shots this season beforehand. Meanwhile, Young replaced Hill’s energy off the bench by providing some of his own, adding 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting.
It’s a fine line for D’Antoni to continuously shuffle rotations since it can delay chemistry. But this combination appears the best fit. Hill energizes the starting lineup with a presence on defense and on the boards, while Young ensures the Lakers’ have secondary scoring.
2. Pau Gasol gets out of his shooting funk. His 14 point effort on 6 of 10 of shooting featured all the elements that made him such a critical piece to the Lakers’ two championship runs in 2009 and 2010. Gasol posted up. He rediscovered his mid-range jumper. Hill’s presence reduced the load for him on defense, while also helping out with floor spacing so Gasol had easier looks. That marks a stark improvement from his season-wide struggles when he averaged only 11.9 points on 34 percent shooting beforehand. It helped Gasol has mostly healed from his respiratory issues. But he’s also nursing a sore left foot, something that didn’t seem to affect much of his movement.
3. Xavier Henry has the highlight of the night. In a sequence that eerily mirrored Clippers forward Blake Griffin, Henry leaped into the air, pushed away Pelicans forward Jeff Withey and threw down a left-handed dunk. Within moments, the Staples Center scoreboard replayed Henry’s dunk in slow motion, showcasing the forward’s freakish athleticism. More importantly, Henry rediscovered his rhythm by posting 15 points on 6 of 8 shooting. That’s a big improvement from his below 50 percent shooting in the previous four games.
4. Lakers play much better defense on Anthony Davis. He still had a decent night with 15 points on 6 of 11 shooting. But that’s a far cry from the 32 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks he posted last week. The Lakers showed better effort both on the boards and on rotating around him. It also helped Davis collected four fouls.
5. The Lakers’ backcourt compensates for Steve Nash’s absence.. Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar kept the offense organized, combining for 18 of the team’s 32 assists. The Lakers’ shooting percentage from the field (55.7 percent) and from three-point range 55 percent) traces back both to Farmar and Blake setting teammates up with crisp passes and staying patient with sets.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org