Monthly Archive for March, 2008

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Sunday Time Change

Sunday’s game at Houston has been changed to a 12:30pm PDT start. The game will be televised nationally by ABC, but is still available in high definition in the LA area on KCAL/9.

Road Trip Preview: NO/HOU/DAL/UT

While the Lakers have already played a monstrous nine-game road trip this season, the shorter four game trip they’re about to embark on should prove just as much of a challenge for Kobe and Co. Starting Friday in New Orleans, the Lakers will take on four of the West’s best teams—the Hornets, Rockets, Mavericks and Jazz—all with at least 40 wins with less than a quarter of the season to go.

The up-start Hornets (3/14) will be fresh off a game against the team knocking on the Lakers’ door for first place in the West: the defending champion Spurs. The last time the Lakers played in the Big Easy, they decimated Chris Paul’s Hornets 109-80 in one of L.A.’s most lopsided victories of the season. As a result, its safe to say the Hornets and the New Orleans Arena crowd will be extra revved up to face the Lakers this time around.

Next up for the Lakers are the scorching hot Houston Rockets (3/16), winners of 19 straight games, even though franchise center Yao Ming left eight games ago due to a season-ending injury. When the Lakers come to town, only games against the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Bobcats will stand in the way between them and a 21-game winning streak. After Tuesday’s game, Kobe said the Lakers did not care whether or not the streak was still in tact when L.A. faces off with Houston, but there’s no doubting that the Lakers would love to be the ones to send the Rockets back down to Earth.

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Lakers vs. Raptors Post-Game

Kobe Bryant’s 34 points on an efficient 12 of 20 from the field led the way for the Lakers as they outfought the Raptors in the second half, 117-108. Lamar Odom helped back Kobe, scoring 20 points and pulling down nine rebounds while helping L.A. withstand a quiet 12 points from center Pau Gasol.

“We did an ok job defensively, the first half is always an adjustment to get used to these type of teams the way they play,” said Bryant. “I think in the second half we did a much better job.”

The Lakers allowed the Chris Boshless Raptors to hover dangerously close to them for much of the game until finally putting the undermanned Raptors away for good in the latter half of the fourth quarter.

“I thought that we came out and played ourselves into a deficit in the ball game by playing too fast,” said Coach Jackson. “But we played a solid second half, except for a couple turnovers, we eliminated some of the things we did in the first half and kind of grounded out more or less.”

However, despite an outstanding performance from point guard T.J. Ford off of the bench (28 points), the Lakers’ three point attack proved too much for Toronto in the end. In all, the Lakers made 15 of 32 attempts from beyond the arc, led by four three pointers each from Kobe and Derek Fisher.

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Lakers vs. Raptors In-Game

Inactives for Tonight’s Game:
Raptors: Jorge Garbajosa, Chris Bosh, Darrick Martin
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Chris Mihm

1st Quarter:
10:02 Lamar Odom finally gets the Lakers on the board with a three pointer after two minutes of scoreless basketball and consecutive misses from outside from Derek Fisher. The Raptors had jumped out to an early 4-0 lead.

8:27 Kobe’s hot early, nailing his first two shots of the game–both from beyond the arc–for six early points. Lamar’s been equally aggressive so far, going coast-to-coast with the ball for a layup off glass and one on the ensuing Lakers possession. L.A. leads 11-6.

7:00 It’s probably way too early to start evoking memories of Kobe’s unforgettable 81-point performance, but after his third straight three-pointer, it looks like he is on his way to a big night. Toronto’s stuck with the Lakers so far though, trailing by only three points at 14-11.

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Lakers vs. Raptors Pre-Game

Before tonight’s game against the Raptors, Coach Jackson discussed the emergence of Sasha Vujacic this season, otherwise known as “The Machine.” “Sasha’s got a ways to go before we call him “The Machine,” said Jackson. “He still has a tendency to jerk up a shot too quick sometimes…” However, Jackson did say that Vujacic has improved dramatically, noting that this has been a breakout season for him. The Lakers coach also praised Sasha for his ability to take–and make–difficult shots, even when well-defended. Jackson said that the shooter is still a very energetic young man that often gets on opponents nerves due to his pesky defense.

Jackson also reflected on Kobe Bryant’s awe-inspiring 81-point game against the Raptors two season ago, calling it a “unique time” for the Lakers and #24, who averaged 43 points during that history-making month. With this season’s balanced roster a polar opposite of that year’s Kobe-centered offense, Jackson said that having more scoring weapons will almost certainly extend Kobe’s career. “When you have five people involved the game, the team usually does better,” said Jackson.

With Andrew Bynum’s return taking longer than expected, Jackson addressed the curiosity factor that many Lakers fans are experiencing regarding the blossoming star. When he runs into fans in public, Jackson said, “I tell them that he’s coming along well. He’s progressing. It’s not as fast as he’d like to, but we’re looking at the big picture here. We know that he makes a big difference in our team.”

With 13 technical fouls on the season–three away from a league-mandated suspension–Jackson said that he has not had any extended conversation with Bryant on the matter, simply letting him know that he cannot get any more T’s. Jackson added, “We’re just watching our team’s total behavior about getting frustrated in games and how they’re handling that.” According to Jackson, Kobe has acted in a “top dog” role this season, with four or five of his technicals doled out while Bryant is arguing in defense of his teammates.

Things To Know: Raptors

Things You Already Know:
Last season, the Raptors were one of the league’s biggest surprises, going 47-35 and winning the Atlantic Division. However, everyone in Laker Land will forever remember the NBA’s lone Canadian franchise for allowing Kobe Bryant to score an astonishing 81 points against them over two years ago—the second highest single game points total in history.

Last season, the Lakers and Raptors split their two matchups, with each team winning on their home floor. The loss in Toronto was the second game of a six-game road trip for the Lakers—a stretch in which they only won two games.

Things You Might Not Know:
Toronto has not been playing well of late, winning only two of five games to open up the month of March, with the wins coming against the lowly Heat and Sonics. Despite the slide, the Raptors are sitting comfortably in the five spot in the Eastern Conference Playoff standings at 34-28. If the playoffs were to start today, the Raptors would face off against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are currently a game and a half up on them for home court advantage in their potential first round playoff series.

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In the Rankings: Week 19

Every Monday the Lakers.com BasketBlog checks the net to bring you the latest NBA power rankings.

NBA.com
This Week: 3 | Last Week: 3 | Diff: 0

After seeing how easily the Kings got to the basket in the first half last night, Laker fans might be wondering if Andrew Bynum is close to returning. Answer: No. After hosting the Raptors (81!) on Tuesday, the Lakers have a rough trip (New Orleans, Houston, Dallas and Utah) in front of them.

ESPN.com
This Week: 3 | Last Week: 2 | Diff: -1

The Lakers have lost more games since we bumped them up to the top spot on Feb. 25 — two — than they dropped in the first three-plus weeks of February. You don’t think it was us who jinxed them, do you?

SI.com
This Week: 6 | Last Week: 3 | Diff: -3

Kobe Bryant couldn’t bail them out at the last second in Sunday’s loss to the Kings that snapped a three-game winning streak. They head out on a four-game road trip at New Orleans, Houston, Dallas and Utah beginning Friday.

Average Ranking: 4 | Last Week: 2.66 | Diff: -1.33

Lakers vs. Kings Post-Game

The Lakers lost a nailbiter 114-113 to the rival Sacramento Kings, with Kobe Bryant missing the potential game-winning fadeaway jumper as time expired. The Lakers trailed the Kings from the 4:33 mark in the first quarter until late in the fourth quarter, but Beno Udrih nailed two clutch free throws to put Sacramento up for good with 4.6 seconds left in the game. Udrih had a team high 25 point on the night for the Kings.

“Well they got us back for the win we took away from them up there in Sacramento, and played a more physical game than we did tonight, and got us to turn the ball over early in the ball game,” said Coach Jackson. “We just couldn’t make the stop at the end of the game. It was a sequence in which we just didn’t get the right matchups and do the right thing.”

Kobe Bryant led the way for the Lakers with 26 points, but was ineffective–at least in his own scoring column–in the fourth quarter, only taking two field goal attempts.

“A lot of things were going through him and he had a lot of opportunities to make plays, and I think he made a lot of good plays,” said Jackson. On the last play, Jackson said, “It was to open up the court let Kobe get into attack mode, and attack the basket basically. Spread the court out, open up the floor for him. I told him I didn’t care if he took the ball to half court, as long as he had momentum going to the basket. But he didn’t seem to be able to get a space on the floor that he wanted to attack.”

Pau Gasol also had a strong offensive game for L.A., nabbing 25 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Sasha Vujacic had 15 big points for the Lakers off the bench, including four of five from beyond the arc. However, tonight’s loss was ultimately due to the team’s defensive failure, ignited by a first half in which the Lakers have up 71 points to the Kings.

“There’s a lot of the defensive effort that did not please me, but we held them to 43 points in the second half after giving up 71 in the first half,” said Jackson. “The defense I didn’t like was transition defense after some turnovers, some shots were out in the corner and we just didn’t stop the ball and they got three or four dunks and easy baskets.”

Lakers vs. Kings In-Game

Inactives for Tonight’s Game:
Kings: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Kenny Thomas
Lakers: Chris Mihm, Andrew Bynum

1st Quarter:
10:41 Outstanding pass from Gasol to a cutting Radmanovic ties the game at four with about a minute and a half gone by. Both the Lakers and Kings look sharp to open up the game with L.A. making three of four and the Kings nailing two of their first three field goal attempts.

8:19 Gasol gets it done himself this time, draining a 16 footer that hits nothing but net to tie the score at 10. Ron Artest has come out of the gates strong for the Kings, making his first two field goals, including a thunderous dunk two possessions ago. Early on, it also looks like the two rivals have picked up right where they left off five days ago in a game Coach Jackson labeled “chippy” before tonight’s rematch.

6:28 Luke Walton replaces Vladimir Radmanovic in the Lakers’ lineup.

5:43 With just under half of the first quarter remaining, the Lakers are holding on to an early 14-13 lead, but have yet to put their footprint on this game, despite looking sharp in the opening minutes. On their last possession before the Lakers called a timeout, Kobe lost control of the ball and dribbled it out of bounds for the team’s second turnover.

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Lakers vs. Kings Pre-Game

Before tonight’s rematch against the Kings, Coach Jackson said that, “The last time we played them, there was still the possibility of the playoff hunt for them. Now, that window’s kind of closed off…You wonder if they can bring the same intensity to this game.” Sacramento followed up their defeat at the hands of the Lakers by losing to the Clippers the next night and the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

With five days to reflect on the two teams’ last meeting, Jackson said that there could be some carryover from a game he described as “chippy,” particularly when alluding to the physical matchup at center between Pau Gasol and Brad Miller. “I thought Brad delivered some blows out there,” said Jackson, noting that there was some “extra stuff” to Miller’s fouls. However, the Lakers coach explained Miller’s mindset as he is the lone enforcer in the paint for the Kings so they need his tenacity on defense to compete. When asked if the Lakers had an enforcer-type player, Jackson said, “We really don’t have a person like that on this team.” I’m not so sure you have to have it, but it makes people think about coming inside again.” Jackson said that while Andrew Bynum may not fit that mold just yet, his sheer size and shot-blocking ability alone can make opponents change their game.

With the post-season looming, Jackson said that the team needs to work on allowing fewer easy baskets to opponents if L.A. wants to become a lockdown defensive team in the playoffs. Jackson said he thought the Lakers did a good job of adjusting to the Kings and Clippers’ offensive schemes during the team’s two most recent games. With several repeat matchups looming, Jackson said identifying opposing teams’ ploys would likely become much easier as the Lakers’ familiarity with their opponents increases.