Monthly Archive for January, 2008

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In the Rankings: Week 13

Every Monday the BasketBlog checks the net to bring you the latest NBA power rankings.
This Week: 7 | Last Week: 3 | Diff: -4

Now 2-4 without Andrew Bynum, the Lakers will finish their pre-break schedule with a nine-game Grammy trip after hosting the Knicks on Tuesday.
This Week: 11 | Last Week: 7 | Diff: -4

The Lakers leave soon on their own journey: Nine straight roadies. Phil Jackson is trying to keep things light — “It’s just doom from here on out,” he jokes — but no one in L.A. is laughing too loud with Bynum out.
This Week: 13 | Last Week: 7 | Diff: -6

The roof isn’t exactly caving in (though a leak at the Staples Center did cause a delay in Sunday’s loss to the Cavs), but they’ve got reason to be concerned. During the past two weeks they have lost to the Suns, Spurs, Mavs and Cavs, and now they must head out on a nine-game road trip.

Average Ranking: 10.33 | Last Week: 5.66 | Diff: -4.67

Lakers Quarterly Report: Halftime

With a 27-14 record at the halfway point in the season, the Lakers currently sit in the sixth spot in the Western Conference, but have proved throughout the season’s second quarter that they belong in the discussion of elite teams when at full strength. Kobe Bryant’s superior all-around play has continued to spark the Lakers’ high-octane attack, followed closely by Andrew Bynum’s no longer ‘secret’ potential. We’re approaching award season in L.A. so once again, divvies out its midseason awards.

Most Improved Player: Trevor Ariza
Since we gave Andrew the award for ‘Surprise Performance’ in the first quarter, we decided to give the honor for most improved to one of the Lakers’ newest additions, Trevor Ariza. After the trade that sent Ariza from Orlando to L.A., it took Trevor a good few weeks before he figured out how to maneuver through the triangle offense. However, upon finding his way, Ariza has become one of the Lakers’ top defenders and also shown solid explosiveness on offense. His shot is still a work in progress, but at over 52% from the field, it hasn’t been an issue so far.

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Lakers vs. Cavs Post-Game

The Lakers lost to the Cavs 98-95, squandering an opportunity to tie the game after Luke Walton refused to take a potential game-tying three, instead deferring to a helpless Kobe who watched time expire without putting up a shot.

After the game, Coach Jackson said that despite the team’s poor execution on the final play and Walton’s reluctance to shoot, the game was lost long before that.

“The game wasn’t won or lost on that sequence,” said Jackson. “We had a little lead, nine point lead, we gave up a four point play.”

“We ran our last second play and I was hoping to get the shot off… I kind of fumbled the ball a little bit, wasn’t aware the clock was as low as it was, and as soon as I passed it back to Kobe, I realized that that was a mistake, and unfortunately it cost us big,” said Walton.

The Lakers looked as if they had control of the game for parts of the fourth quarter before LeBron James—41 points—took over and sealed the Lakers’ fate as part of a critical 13-2 run by the Cavs.

“We were playing really well and had momentum, but we made mistakes,” said Jackson. “Kobe had a charge late in the ball game, and we did some things that turned the ball over and that changes the course of the game.”

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Lakers vs. Cavs In-Game

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Inactives for Today’s Game
Lakers: Trevor Ariza, Andrew Bynum, Chris Mihm
Cavaliers: Cedric Simmons, Sasha Pavlovic, Shannon Brown

1st Quarter:
10:56 After struggling to find his shot the past few games, Lamar makes a strong move against Drew Gooden for an easy layup. After another sub par effort against the Mavericks, Coach jackson said that Odom needed to be more aggressive–a task that was part his responsibility and part the team’s. So far, it looks as if both parties listened.

8:14 Jackson calls an early timeout and does not appear to be happy with the Lakers’ up and down play so far. The Cavs lead 9-8, but the Lakers have allowed a series of easy baskets, the latest a layup by Larry Hughes. On the bright side, it looks as if the team is making a concerted effort to get Lamar going early as he has made his first two shots of the game, both aggressive moves that have led to layups.

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Lakers vs. Cavs Pre-Game

Before today’s showdown against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Coach Phil Jackson finally had some good news to share on the injury front; injured forward Vladimir Radmanovic will suit up for today’s game. Jackson also said that Chris Mihm will travel with the team on their upcoming nine game road trip and will hopefully return to the floor sometime around the middle of that stretch.

Jackson said that the team has yet to sit down and decide whether or not they will renew replacement center DJ Mbenga’s 10 day contract that expires after this Tuesday’s game against the Knicks, but did praise Mbenga for his attentiveness in the limited time he’s been with the Lakers.

Looking ahead to today’s game and the always exciting battle between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, Jackson said that no matter how many years a player has been in the league, it’s still difficult at times to resist the urge to go mano-a-mano against certain players. However, Jackson said that while Kobe is still baited at times, his individual play comes with more of a team mindset now.

Lakers at Mavericks Post-Game

The Lakers shot over 56% and yet came up short tonight. The offsetting negatives were turnovers and particularly points off turnovers at 20 for the Mavs and offensive rebounds, of which the Mavs got 13. The Mavs also penetrated often in the 3rd quarter, particularly Devin Harris, who got by Jordan and Fisher time and again early in the game, though less so in the 4th quarter.

Those two elements created a third quarter in which the Mavs scored 35 points and outscored the Lakers by 16. Even when the Lakers turned it around with the unit of Kobe, Jordan, Sasha, Ronny and DJ, and particularly the strong play of Jordan, the deficit was too much to overcome in the 4th quarter.

The game also had continuing struggles for Lamar and Luke, who each had 4 points, Otherwise, statistically, the Lakers were relatively strong across the board, leading the Mavs in most categories.

Going forward the team will have to figure out how to address third quarter energy, which was also a key in the San Antonio loss and also getting all their healthy players firing on all cylinders.

Lakers at Mavericks In-Game

Inactives for Tonight’s Game
Lakers: Trevor Ariza, Andrew Bynum, Chris Mihm
Mavericks: Maurice Ager, Nick Fazekas, Jerry Stackhouse

1st Quarter

9:09 – The game is starting at a much more deliberate pace than we saw in San Antonio. The Lakers are getting clean looks and have hit them thus far. On the Mavs side, Dirk has gotten their points by backing Lamar down. We’ll see how the Lakers adapt to that. On the other end, Lamar settled for a jumper, he should probably be attacking the hoop to test Dirk’s defensive chops.

5:31 The Mavs are running through their bench, having already brought in Diop, Terry, and Hassell. DJ Mbenga is in for Kwame after he picks up a foul helping on Nowitzki. He got fouled on one lob to the basket and then again for 2 shots. The Lakers hit Kwame to start the game for a lay-in. They are certainly continuing the same style of attack in Bynum’s absence. At least early in the game.

3:36 – The Lakers have gotten into the penalty early and have gotten free throws on their last 2 possessions, including one off a defensive rebound, away from the ball. The Mavs are substituting enough to prevent one guy from getting into foul trouble. The crowd is dead, even though their team isn’t playing poorly and it’s early. The lack of energy makes it feel like a dull game.

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Lakers at Mavericks Pre-Game

Last season’s results aren’t entirely indicative f how these teams match-up, as Lamar was not present. As Phil pointed out at yesterday’s practice, Lamar’s mobility is a useful asset matching up against Dirk Nowitzki.

The Mavs have converted from a run and gun team to a team very comfortable grinding it out in half-court sets. They still have players that will push the ball, particularly Devin Harris; nonetheless, the Lakers will prefer to push the ball tonight in search of easy opportunities.

Coming off the loss at San Antonio, the Lakers will be keen to deny penetration, after seeing how effective the Spurs were once they got into the paint. Devin Harris and Jason Terry will both drive to the hoop, as well as Jerry Stackhouse off the bench and Dirk will drive as well, if his 3 point looks get closed out.

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Post Practice 1/24/08 Lakers in Dallas

The team got an afternoon workout after last night’s (or more correctly this morning’s) arrival into Dallas.

In reflecting on last night’s loss, Phil once again pointed to the shift in energy and motivation as the reason for the difference in play between the first half and second half against San Antonio. Specifically, Phil mentioned Manu Ginobili’s work on the defensive end.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s match-up, Phil said, “This team (Dallas), they can play the game. They run the game in a way that they pound it through you and they make you pay and they watch their turnovers. They do things the way a grind-it-out team in this game does. It makes it very difficult. You have to be very solid defensively and not give them second shots.” In reference to the match-ups, Phil pointed out that Lamar was not present in the games against Dallas and his ability to match-up with Nowitzki, mobility wise.

On how you stop the multi-headed threat that Dallas presents, Phil had this formula. “The big key about them is to understand where their shots are going to come from and know that they have a variety of shooters on the floor. You’ve got to be able to play individual defense and the key is penetration so they don’t break your defense down.”

Kobe also spoke about how to beat Dallas. He had this to say, “We need to get out in transition, get some good opportunites. And we need to limit their second chance points, limit their easy looks at the basket.”

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Lakers at Spurs Post-Game

Lakers 91, Spurs 103
The Lakers couldn’t sustain the momentum of the first half, giving it all away and then some in the third quarter (+19 for the Spurs). The shift came first from San Antonio upping their energy and taking away the looks that the Lakers had been getting throughout the first half. Then the team relied on Kobe repeatedly instead of finding other solutions. Kobe missed some easy shots and got some turnovers, but it was his teammates that placed the entire burden on his shoulders. Credit the Spurs for making the necessary changes.

Defensively, the rotations and rebounding that were so effective in the first half weren’t there in the second. The Spurs got consistent penetration, leading to more 3 pointers (actually a problem in both halves), and Tim Duncan had himself a game, punishing the Lakers in the paint and on the boards.

Doubtless the team will be disappointed that they let the game slip away, but hopefully they will learn the lesson of how to keep adapting throughout the game.