Monthly Archive for March, 2008

In the Rankings: Week 22

Every Monday, the Lakers Basketblog checks the net to bring you the latest NBA power rankings.

NBA.com
This Week: 7 | Last Week: 5 | Diff: -2

After inexplicable losses to the Bobcats and Grizzlies at STAPLES Center, the Lakers needed OT to beat the Wizards after blowing a late lead. With Derek Fisher playing through a partially torn tendon in his foot, are the Lakers looking vulnerable? Fortunately, Pau Gasol should be back on Wednesday.

ESPN.com
This Week: 6 | Last Week: 4 | Diff: -2

Did we speak too soon? Could back-to-back home Ls to Charlotte and Memphis cost Kobe his first MVP trophy? Is the division slipping away? Just add those to list of injury questions about Pau, Bynum and now Fisher.

SI.com
This Week: 8 | Last Week: 3 | Diff: -5

They survived the Wizards in OT on Sunday to get back on track after consecutive embarrassing home losses to the Bobcats and Grizzlies. But Phil Jackson’s main concern right now has to be injuries, with Derek Fisher (sore foot) having joined Pau Gasol (ankle) and Andrew Bynum (knee) as question marks heading into the postseason.

Average Ranking: This Week: 7 | Last Week: 4 | Diff: -3

April Schedule Breakdown

0804_wallpaper_500.jpgDespite playing one of the easier schedules in the league in March–not counting the incredibly difficult four-game road trip–the Lakers finished out the month on a down note, losing games at home to lowly Charlotte and Memphis. For L.A., a season of injuries finally appeared to catch up to them, with newcomer Pau Gasol leaving with injury mid-way through the month. Although finishing with home court advantage in at least the First Round is certainly a priority for the Lakers are they head into April, getting healthy before the playoffs is arguably even more important. Lakers.com breaks down the team’s schedule for the home stretch:

The Lakers start out the month with home games against Portland and Dallas, beginning this Wednesday, April 2. The Blazers have been a tough matchup for L.A. all year long, with the Blazers winning the last matchup at the Rose Garden 119-111 at the end of February. The Lakers toppled them three days prior to that, 96-83.

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Lakers vs. Wizards Post-Game

The Lakers rebounded from consecutive losses to lowly Charlotte and Memphis by defeating the Wizards 126-120 in an overtime thriller. After trailing 120-117, Derek Fisher nailed a clutch two from just inside the arc to bring the Lakers to within one of Washington. After two free throws by Kobe reclaimed the lead 121-120, the purple and gold never looked back.

“I thought that a lot of players contributed tonight to the victory,” said Jackson. “Radmanovic (18 points) and Sasha (20 points) in the first half with the three point shooting obviously was pretty traumatic. D.J. (6 points, 3 rebounds) gave us a good game off the bench at center. Luke played a terrific game tonight.”

Despite the win, the Lakers continued their disturbing trend of allowing big quarters to inferior teams, giving up 39 in the third to Washington.

“They played with fury there in the third quarter,” said Jackson. “Again, we gave up over 35 points which is a lot…39 in that third quarter. Stevenson with five threes was a pretty remarkable performance.” Jackson also praised the 27 point performance of Wizards guard Nick Young.

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Lakers vs. Wizards In-Game

Inactives for Tonight’s Game:
Wizards: Etan Thomas
Clippers: Andrew Bynum, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol

1st Quarter:
11:14 After a poor shooting night on Friday in he seemed like he was struggling to get lift on his injured foot, Fisher nails L.A.’s first field goal attempt–a three pointer that hits nothing but net. On the Lakers’ next possession, Derek launched another jumper, once again connecting to give the Lakers an early 5-2 lead.

9:00 The Lakers are on fire to start the game, with Radmnaovic following Fisher’s lead by sinking a silky three point shot to increase the Lakers’ lead to 10-5. On the previous play, Lamar drilled a jumper of his own. Only three minutes have gone by, but the Lakers already look much more focused than were to open the past two games. Moreover, Kobe hasn’t even shot the ball yet.

6:00 Fisher is a perfect three for three from the field, after hitting his second three pointer of the game to push the Lakers’ lead to its largest margin of the game–eight points at 15-8. Derek leads the team in scoring with eight early points.

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Lakers vs. Wizards Pre-Game

After losing consecutive games to two of the worst teams in the league, Coach Jackson said that the losses have begun to take their toll on team morale.

“It caused some erratic sleep for two or three nights this week. You think that you really have everything going for you…we have home court advantage, we have most of the games at home…we have a home stand and we can’t take advantage of it.”

However, according to Jackson, all is not lost just yet for L.A.

“…We still have destiny in our hands,” Jackson said. “Basically, we play San Antonio and New Orleans, teams we need to play at home. If we beat those teams, we still have the ability to finish ahead of all these teams. We have to put a streak together…”

Jackson said that he expects his team to come out against the Wizards with a greater sense of urgency, although he has yet to see a shift in attitude from some players.

“Losing hurts and when you’re a competitor, there’s no ands if about it, you suffer because of it,” said Jackson. “And if you don’t, you shouldn’t be in this business because this is what it’s about. It’s about wins and losses and how you do it as a group.”

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Since We Saw Them Last: Wizards

The Lakers and Wizards tip off tonight for the second and final time this year, more than one month after L.A. defeated Washington 103-91 in the Capital City. That game marked the second on the Lakers’ season-long nine-game road trip and more importantly, the final contest before the Pau Gasol era began in Los Angeles two nights later in New Jersey. An obviously re-energized Kobe Bryant had an extremely efficient 30 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field, while four other Lakers reached double figures.

Although there was some initial hope that superstar Gilbert Arenas would return to the Wizards this season, possibly sometime around tonight’s matchup, the guard’s comeback bid has been put on hold for the time being. The Wiz have done an admirable job without their best player all season, compiling a 38-34 record that currently has them seated fifth in the Eastern Conference. Washington is currently in the middle of a five-game western road trip that saw them lose their first game in Portland, before winning their last two contests in Seattle and Sacramento.

Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler continue to have outstanding seasons for the Wizards, with Jamison averaging 22 points and 10 rebounds and Butler tacking on another 21 to go along with nearly seven rebounds. DeShawn Stevenson (11 points) and Brendan Haywood (11 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) are also quietly having very solid seasons to help keep the Wizards afloat without Arenas.

The Lakers desperately need a win after inexcusably losing consecutive home games to lowly Charlotte on Wednesday and Memphis on Friday. Although earlier last week, the team expressed optimism that the injured Gasol would return tonight, his return has now been pushed back to this Wednesday versus Portland at the earliest meaning the team will once again have to find a way to control the paint against the Wizards.

Derek Fisher Injures Foot

The already undermanned Lakers were hit with another injury today as it was revealed that Derek Fisher suffered a partial tear of a tendon in his right foot. Although an injury like his normally takes 6-8 weeks to heal, Fisher said he will play through the pain.

Before tonight’s game, Coach Jackson said, “Initially, it’s going to be an effort to play through it. He’s going to try to play through it. He wants to play through it. He’s been given the OK to go ahead and try to play through it. There’s no more extenuating things that can possibly happen and it’s related to pain, more than it is to something that would be a disability. He told me if he doesn’t feel he’s effective or I don’t feel he’s effective, we’ll make a substitution for him.”

Jackson said that Derek’s condition is similar to that of plantar fasciitis, revealing that even if Derek were to tear the foot, it would make no real difference in the injury prognosis.

Lakers vs. Grizzlies Post-Game

For the second game in a row, the Lakers lost to one of the league’s worst teams, falling 114-111 to the Grizzlies. Kobe Bryant had his best scoring night of the season, totaling 53 points, including 34 in the first half alone. However, Rudy Gay (28 points, 7 rebounds) and the rest of a scrappy Memphis bunch proved too much for the Lakers in the end, with L.A. botching a chance to launch a potential game-tying three pointer with 0.9 seconds left in the game.

After the game, Jackson said, “Well that was an unusual night from us. A lot of threes out there, a lot of raining shots. We came out with a purpose tonight, obviously, and I think it kind of dinted some of the other guy’s effort in the process, but it was good to see him attack, at least early.”

The Lakers launched 45 three pointers, making 15 of them, compared to two for 12 for Memphis. Although Sasha Vujacic was second to Bryant in scoring, it took him 14 three point attempts to reach the total.

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Lakers vs. Grizzlies In-Game

Inactives for Tonight’s Game:
Grizzlies: Andre Brown, Aaron McKie
Lakers: Trevor Ariza, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol

1st Quarter:
10:24 Kobe nails a three pointer after the assist by Lamar Odom. Kobe’s scored all five Lakers points so far with his last make tying the score at five all.

7:37 Kobe is still the only Laker to score, personally lead the Grizzlies 10-7 to open up the game after making another three pointer off of an Odom pass.

7:16 Mbenga checks into the game early tonight, replacing Turiaf who’s already picked up his second personal foul.

4:29 Finally, another Laker besides Kobe Bryant scores, as Odom makes a nifty face-up jumper from about 10 feet out. The Grizzlies have hung with the purple and gold so far though, taking an early 15-14 lead and showing no fear whatsoever after watching the lowly Bobcats dismantle L.A. Rudy Gay leads Memphis in points with seven. Farmar and Walton enter the game after the timeout.

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Lakers vs. Grizzlies Pre-Game

Before tonight’s game, Coach Jackson addressed possible backups for Derek Fisher in the event that he is forced to the bench with his foot injury. “Sasha would be a guard in a backup situation,” said Jackson. “He definitely has point guard capabilities.” Jackson said that he would not sit Fisher unless he or Derek saw reason too.

Jackson also addressed Kobe Bryant’s injured ankle, relaying that he participated in the team’s shoot-around today and was on the upward end of the mending process.

With the Lakers in the heart of the race for the Western Conference’s best record, Jackson was asked whether or not he was already tasked with balancing the team’s final positioning with getting players healthy. Jackson said, “Not yet. Next week, week, we have a couple of says off after Sunday’s game, we have two days in between games. Hopefully we can get some rest in that particular period of time…we’ve still got a ways to go.”

Jackson also said he notified Kobe that he was at the brink of a suspension should he pick up another technical foul in the team’s final 10 games. However, no further talk has occurred with the coach only saying that, “We (Jackson and Kobe) talked about the fact that we appreciate his energy when he puts in the ball game…”