Monthly Archive for March, 2008

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Since We Saw Them Last: Grizzlies

Although the Grizzlies are a lowly 18-53 on the season, they made national news headlines when they completed what many experts considered one of the most lop-sided trades in NBA history, sending former All-Star Pau Gasol to the Lakers in exchange for Kwame Brown and Javaris Crittenton and filler. The ripple effect from the trade is still being felt league-wide nearly two months later and will almost certainly play a hand in determining the eventual winner out of the Western Conference.

On the court, the Grizzlies have been just as bad without Gasol to anchor their front line, currently sitting only two losses ahead of Seattle for the worst record in the conference. Rudy Gay has stepped up as Memphis’ unquestioned leader and franchise player in Pau’s absence, posting averages of nearly 20 points a night to go along with six rebounds. Mike Miller–who many insiders were certain would be in a different uniform by the close of the trading deadline–has been consistent all season long for the Grizzlies, scoring 17 points and pulling down a team-high seven rebounds.

Former Lakers Kwame Brown and Javaris Crittenton have been up-and-down in their short tenure with Memphis with Kwame’s playing time decreasing by almost seven minutes, while Crittenton’s has risen from 12 to nearly 17. Javaris has taken advantage of the small increase too, bumping his scoring average with the Grizzlies to seven a game.

The Lakers desperately need a win after an inexcusable loss to the Bobcats on Wednesday that left Coach Jackson at a loss for words after the game. While returns from former players like Derek Fisher during his Jazz days usually garner boisterous responses from the STAPLES Center crowd, there shouldn’t be much emotion at all considering Brown/Crittentons’ relatively insignificant time with the Lakers. Moreover, unlike two nights ago, the Lakers need to approach tonight’s matchup in a business-like manner with the team slipping down the Western Conference standings with each loss.

Lakers vs. Bobcats Post-Game

The Lakers were embarrassed by the Bobcats 108-95, falling behind by 19 at one point and never recovering. While the loss certainly hurts the Lakers chances of gaining the number one seed in the Western Conference, equally concerning are the two technical fouls picked up by Kobe in the final stretch of the fourth quarter. Bryant is now only one technical away (15) from being forced to serve a league-mandated one-game suspension. Kobe left the game as the Lakers’ leading scorer with 27 points, but shot only 8-22 from the floor.

Coach Jackson was quiet after the game, only saying, “Well I may look like I’m here to explain something, but I have nothing to explain. I can’t explain it, so don’t ask me any questions. It just looked like we were out of character, tremendously out of character, in more ways than one, irrational play at times, inconsistent at best, but some just poor judgments, poor decisions.”

Jason Richardson scored a game-high 34 points for the Bobcats, while also managing to pull down 10 boards. Gerald Wallace also had a great all-around game for Charlotte, tallying 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Lamar Odom continued his string of strong performances for the Lakers, grabbing nine rebounds to go along with 18 points on 7-10 shooting. As a team, the Bobcats outshot the Lakers 50% to 41%.

Lakers vs. Bobcats In-Game

Inactives For Tonight’s Game:
Bobcats: Sean May, Adam Morrison
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Chris Mihm

1st Quarter:
10:01 Quick start on offense for Turiaf, showing excellent touch from about 16 feet out in nailing two straight jumpers for a 5-2 Lakers lead.

8:40 Radmanovic ends an 8-0 run by the Bobcats who had taken advantage of a somewhat sluggish start by L.A. to capture an early 10-5 lead. Emeka Okafor leads Charlotte in scoring with four points.

6:38 Kobe gives Lamar a nifty interior pass that leads to an easy layup for Odom over two outstretched Bobcats defenders. The make was Odom’s first of the game, but he’s already racked up three rebounds and three assists in just over five minutes of play.

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Lakers vs. Bobcats Pre-Game

Even before Odom averaged 21 points and nearly 22 rebounds in his last two outings, the forward was well on his way to another stellar second half. “I think that he gets acclimated to the game,” said Jackson. “He’s a great conditioned athlete.” The Lakers coach praised Lamar for not forcing shots like he was in the season’s first half, noting that he is playing game at really high level and doing everything the team wants him to do.

Although several Lakers starters logged season highs in minutes in their overtime win over the Warriors on Monday, Jackson said that he does not think fatigue is a major factor right now with a day off tomorrow, even for a veteran like Fisher who played 37 minutes against Golden State. According to Jackson, Derek is ready to match up against one of the stronger point guards in the league in the Bobcats’ Raymond Felton.

The Lakers may be getting help on their front line with impending return of Gasol, but it likely won’t be as soon as the team had initially hoped. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not until next Wednesday that he plays again. We’re hopeful that maybe it’s Sunday, but we’ll let time take its course,” said Jackson after Pau suffered a set-back in his recovery process.

With Sasha Vujacic having a career season in a contract year, Jackson was asked whether or not money was the reason behind the guard’s success. “I hate that to be the motivating factor for a player, but sometimes it just seems that way,” Jackson said. “With Sasha, it’s maturity, just getting comfortable with the game and playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

Since We Saw Them Last: Bobcats

In their last meeting, the Lakers defeated Charlotte 106-97 in a closer than expected game. Although Gasol was still new to the team, the Spanish forward scored 26 points and grabbed six rebounds to go along with six assists to help carry L.A. to the win. Kobe also had a productive 31 points to keep the Lakers afloat.

However, despite the win, the Lakers let yet another point guard torch them, allowing 29 points to Raymond Felton–well above his season average. Last season at STAPLES Center, Kobe nailed a three pointer to send the game into overtime, but the Bobcats dominated L.A. 15-6 in the extra period to take the rare road victory.

The Bobcats have lost six of their past seven games after winning five in a row for the first time in franchise history. Charlotte currently sits five games behind eighth place Atlanta so expect them to come out hungry against L.A. since they are still not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention just yet. Regardless of the Bobcat’s extra motivation, the Lakers should already be wary of them as they beat the purple and gold three consecutive times before the Lakers finally pulled out a road win this year.

Lamar Odom has been playing out of his mind lately, arguably surpassing the always high expectations that were placed on him prior to Bynum’s emergence and the trade for Gasol. In his last two games, Lamar is averaging 21 points and almost 22 rebounds–boosting his rebounding total on the season to 10.6 a game, good enough for eighth best in the NBA. The Lakers will need Odom to continue to clog the lane with Gasol not playing in tonight’s game despite some initial hope that he might make his return.

In the Rankings: Week 21

Every Monday, the Lakers Basketblog checks the net to bring you the latest NBA power rankings.
This Week: 5 | Last Week: 5 | Diff: 0

With Sunday’s loss to Golden State, the Lakers are now a game behind the Hornets in the loss column, but they’ve nine of their last 12 games are at STAPLES Center (including a “road game” against the Clippers), and the big guys are on their way back.
This Week: 4 | Last Week: 5 | Diff: +1

Nothing could have topped Boston’s week, but the Lakers were at least in that zip code before losing at home to Golden State. Wins don’t get much bigger than L.A.’s roadies in Dallas and Utah without Pau and Bynum.
This Week: 3 | Last Week: 9 | Diff: +6

They made a statement of their own by winning back-to-back at Dallas and Utah (without Pau Gasol) to finish 2-2 on their recent trip. With nine of their final 12 at Staples Center (including a “road” game against the Clippers), Kobe Bryant’s crew is well-positioned for a top seed — even if Andrew Bynum doesn’t return until the playoffs.

Average Ranking: This Week: 4 | Last Week: 6 | Diff: +2

Lakers vs. Warriors Post-Game

The Lakers nearly completed a monumental comeback against the Warriors from 23 points down at halftime, but came up just short, 115-111. Kobe Bryant’s 36 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists helped the Lakers storm back on Golden State, briefly taking a 99-97 lead in the fourth quarter before a pair of late Stephen Jackson three pointers sealed the deal for L.A.’s northern rivals.

“Stephen (Jackson) made a couple of big, big, big shots from deep,” said Bryant. “You got to tip your hat to that. When you’re down that many points, you want to give yourself the opportunity to win the game and we kept ourselves in it down the stretch and he made a couple big ones.”

“We had a large gap to make up in that 3rd quarter, probably took a lot of energy out of us to get there but we just couldn’t make a stop down the stretch,” said Coach Jackson. “There’s a foul, Jackson hit those 2 threes sequences, and you got to make stops in the end.”

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Lakers vs. Warriors In-Game

Inactives for Tonight’s Game:
Warriors: Patrick O’Bryant, Mickael Pietrus, Chris Webber
Lakers: Trevor Ariza, Chris Mihm, Andrew Bynum

1st Quarter:
10:06 Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf electrify the STAPLES Center crowd with a behind the back pass from Odom to Ronny for the layup. Ronny has four quick points for the Lakers, down 6-7 in a scrappy first two minutes of play.

9:16 Kobe gets an early MVP chant from a boisterous Easter crowd, after making the jumper off glass and one for his fifth point of the night. More importantly, Baron Davis just picked up his second personal of the game, but Warriors Coach Don Nelson is taking a big risk and leaving him in for the time being. Davis, obviously not happy with the call, just picked up a T.

6:09 Turiaf hits two consecutive jumpers from about 16 feet out after the timeout, giving the Lakers a four point lead at 19-15. Ronny is continuing his string of impressive performances without Gasol and Bynum in the lineup, leading the Lakers in scoring with eight to go along with two points and two assists.

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Lakers vs. Warriors Pre-Game

Before tonight’s game against the Warriors, Coach Jackson said that the team probably will not take Gasol with them for tomorrow night’s back-to-back affair against Golden State, but hopefully he’ll be able to get on the court this week, with hopes that he’ll be able to return on Friday against Memphis.

Once Gasol and Andrew Bynum return from injury, Jackson said he expects an adjustment period before the two can play with maximum efficiency with one another. Jackson said that the acclimation process will be, “No problem with Gasol. Playing with both Bynum and Gasol will probably take a little bit.” According to the Lakers coach, there may be some initial confusion about defensive assignments and rebounding.

With the Western Conference race so tight heading toward the postseason, Jackson said that the increased competition will certainly keep teams sharp down the final stretch, but the Lakers will still have to step it up a notch once the playoffs begin. “You always have to have an extra gear in the playoffs,” Jackson said. “There’s a step up of energy, execution, physicality because you don’t play back-to-back so you can catch an extra breath in between games.”

Jackson also addressed the role that injuries continue to play in determining positioning in the West. Although Dallas lost Dirk Nowitzki to injury for at least two weeks today, the Lakers coach said that he still expects them to play at a high level thanks to the solid backup play of Brandon Bass and Deavean George. Jackson related the Mav’s unfortunate turn of events to the Rockets’ loss of Yao Ming for the season; for Houston, an injury to their superstar player forced the Rockets to come together as a team, propelling them to a 22-game winning streak.

Since We Saw Them Last: Warriors

The Lakers and Warriors have split their two games this season, with each winning on their respective home courts. In their last meeting in Oakland, the Warriors won a thriller, beating the Lakers by two points after Baron Davis made a late three pointer with time winding down in regulation. Davis led the Warrior’s attack with 22 points, joined by Al Harrington who also had 22. Andrew Bynum had a monster game for the Lakers with 17 points and 16 rebounds, taking full advantage of Golden State’s undersized lineup.

Monta Ellis has emerged as one of Golden State’s most reliable players this season, making the leap from solid role player to budding star, posting averages of almost 20 points and five rebounds a night. Still, Davis is the motor that makes the Warrior’s finely tuned engine burn, leading the team in scoring (22 points) and assists (eight). While Golden State leads the league in scoring at almost 111 points per game–thanks in large part to the contributions of these two–they give up 108 points a game–one of the worse defensive figures in the league.

The Warriors have been up and down in recent weeks, dropping important games to Phoenix and most recently, to Houston. Tonight’s game marks the first of a critical home-and-home series for both teams, with the Lakers looking to shore up home court advantage through the Western Conference Finals and Golden State trying to fend off the encroaching Denver Nuggets, currently a game and a half behind them for the eight seed. Although the Lakers have historically owned their northern rivals, without Gasol and Bynum, the L.A. will be forced to play Golden State’s small-ball game in the potential first round matchup.