L.A.’s Killer B’s: Are Barnes, Blake and Brown the Key To a Lakers Three-Peat?

Most of the credit for the Los Angeles Lakers' 8-1 start to the 2010-11 season has gone to the core of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, but the most impressive part of the team may be the reserves, who are clearly superior to last season's bunch.

It's easy to overlook the play of the Lakers bench in lieu of the numbers that Bryant, Gasol and Odom have been posting, but the reserve core may be the biggest difference between this season's team and last year's, and it might just be the most important.

The nucleus of the bench consists of Shannon Brown, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes, but those three players have been posting higher numbers than most other team's benches combined.

Together Barnes, Brown and Blake average 25 points per game, and although the points are great, it's the other things each player does that makes them really stand out.

Blake has been a major improvement over the departed Jordan Farmar in the backcourt, and even though he lacks Farmar's athleticism, Blake more than compensates with his steady leadership and consistent outside shooting.

It's hard to tell if you look at Thursday night's game against the Denver Nuggets, but Blake is also a pretty decent defender as well and it seems that he already completely understands the Lakers' schemes, which is something Farmar was never quite able to grasp.

Like Blake, Barnes has been a pleasant surprise, and his impact has been felt all over the court for Los Angeles.

Barnes plays with intensity and energy, and he has been every bit as good a defender as advertised. Plus, he rebounds well and is competent on the offensive end of the court as well.

Ron Artest and Barnes have shown flashes of dominance as lockdown defenders this season, and so far Barnes has blended seamlessly into the roster. It's only been three weeks, but Barnes seems to understand exactly what his role consists of.

The mos...

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