Monthly Archive for March, 2008

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Since We Saw Them Last: Kings

The Lakers defeated the Kings 117-105 in their last meeting five days ago behind another brilliant fourth quarter performance from Kobe Bryant. With the game tied with roughly four minutes remaining, #24 took over, leading the Lakers to their first victory over rival Sacramento this season. In that game, Pau Gasol scored his Lakers high of 31 points to help fuel L.A.’s comeback.

In the days leading up tonight’s affair, the Lakers defeated the Clippers by a resounding 37 points on Friday in a game in which seven players from the purple and gold scored in double figures, including all five starters. The Kings lost to the same Clippers team in double overtime one day after the Lakers defeated them at home despite the fact that leading scorer Kevin Martin did not play due to injury. However, Martin returned versus Minnesota on Friday night, scoring a career high 48 points, but his effort alone that was still not enough to down the lowly Timberwolves. It should be noted though, that the King’s second leading scorer Ron Artest did not play in either game due to a sore right foot. The forward is listed as questionable for tonight’s game.

The Lakers should be well rested heading into tonight’s rematch, with Gasol and Bryant sitting out the entire fourth quarter of the team’s manhandling of the Clippers. Losers of three in a row and seven of eight, Sacramento will be looking to exact revenge on the Lakers after giving away a late lead and being forced to endure several “MVP” chants directed toward Kobe from their home crowd.

Lakers vs. Clippers Post-Game

The Lakers shellacked the Clippers 119-82, outscoring them by 29 points in the second half to bust open what was only an eight point halftime lead. Seven Lakers scored in double figures, led by Derek Fisher’s 17 (7-11 shooting) after struggling to find his shot for parts of the past two weeks. As a team, the Lakers held the Clippers to an abysmal 38% shooting from the floor while outrebounding them by a healthy 10 boards.

“Every body getting the chance to play kind of gives the team a good feel about playing basketball,” said Jackson.

Kobe Bryant added 16 points and Lamar Odom continued his outstanding overall play, scoring 15 points to go along with eight rebounds and four steals. In his return to the starting lineup, Vladimir Radmanovic chipped in 10 points, including two three point makes.

“It felt good to get back on track,” said Bryant. “During the season you’ll have games like we’ve had in the past, particularly when you don’t have that many practices, you can’t get that rhythm that you are used to playing with. It kind of deteriorates some what so we got a good practice under our belt, came out and executed well.”

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Lakers vs. Clippers In-Game

Inactives for Tonight’s Game:
Clippers: Elton Brand, Paul Davis, Shaun Livingston
Lakers: Chris Mihm, Andrew Bynum

1st Quarter:
11:07 Derek Fisher gets started on the right foot for the Lakers, nailing a three that hits nothing but net. Derek’s been struggling from long range of late, but showed signs of coming out of his slump against the Kings on Tuesday night.

9:02 Kobe’s looks aggressive early for the Lakers, hitting his first two shots, the first on a layup to open the game and the second on a smooth jumper from about 20 feet out. In recent games, Kobe’s taken a back seat early on when it comes to scoring, but it appears as if Bryant’s chops are wet already against the weak Clippers defense.

6:30 Pau and Derek are playing an effective two-man game, with Gasol drawing the double team before dishing it out to a wide open Fisher who hits the jumper right inside the three-point line. Derek’s five points lead the team in scoring so far. The Lakers lead 15-10 with about half of the first quarter remaining.

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Lakers vs. Clippers Pre-Game

Before tonight’s game against the crosstown rival Clippers, Coach Jackson was asked to ponder the current Western Conference playoff race, particularly in regards to teams like Dallas and Phoenix who have slid in the standings since making impact trades. Jackson said that while it’s not time to scoreboard watch yet, he does think it’s important for the Lakers to pay close attention to the two to three teams immediately on their schedule, noting that “We have a couple of games here before we head out on a very tough road trip.”

Jackson also discussed the potential impact of Andrew Bynum once he hopefully returns from injury later this season. Jackson said that any talk of the center’s return is still premature, revealing that Bynum is at least a month away from returning to the court. According to Jackson, Andrew will come off the bench when he does return, with his eventual return to the starting lineup contingent on his conditioning and adjustments to the team’s recent roster changes. In the likely event that Bynum is forced to adapt on the fly as the playoffs near, Jackson said that his re-acclimation to the team “will have to be handled just the right way.”

While #17′s injury status is still somewhat up in the air, the Lakers coach said that Chris Mihm may end up beating both Bynum and injured forward Trevor Ariza back to the court. “We’re very optimistic with Chris,” said Jackson. “We feel like this last procedure is really working out well.”

Since We Saw Them Last: Clippers

Since the Lakers defeated the Clippers 113-95 on Feb. 23, the Clips have continued to struggle, losing six games in a row before rallying from 17 down to beat Sacramento on Wednesday night. However, it should be noted that four of those six losses came against teams that the injury-plagued Clippers were clearly overmatched against–Detroit, L.A., Portland and Denver.

In their win over the Kings, rookie Al Thornton had one of the best games of his young career, scoring 27 points to go along with five rebounds. Corey Maggette also played well, notching 25 points of his own. Center Chris Kaman continued to build on his impressive season with another double-double performance with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

In their last meeting, the Lakers bench dominated the Clippers, scoring 41 points, led by Sasha Vujacic’s 17 and Jordan Farmar’s 14. Kobe had a relatively quiet night with only 17 points, but the Lakers did just fine without him scoring a ton of points.

The Lakers have won three of their last four “home” games against the Clippers, with Kobe averaging 40 points a game in those contests. Overall, the Lakers have won 13 of 17 games against the Clippers at STAPLES Center when playing at home.

The Lakers will be looking for their thirteenth win in fourteen tries when the two L.A. teams battle it out tonight, with the purple and gold looking to extend their season-high home winning streak to seven games.

Lakers Quarterly Report: 3rd Quarter

Most Improved Player: Sasha Vujacic
The entire team seemingly improved in the third quarter of the season, but no player in purple and gold stepped his game up more than Sasha Vujacic. Once mused by Coach Jackson as the best practice shooter in the league, Vujacic is no longer simply an 11:00 a.m. player; Sasha has emerged as one of the team’s most reliable options off of the bench, getting primetime minutes down the stretch of games and proving that he not only belongs in the NBA, but can thrive in it. In averaging double digits over his past 15 games and playing with a sense of confidence he’s never displayed before, Vujacic will no doubt be a huge weapon in the playoffs for the Lakers.

Most Disappointing Performance: Luke Walton
What started out as a disappointing first quarter for Walton is quickly turning into a disappointing season. Walton has battled nagging injuries throughout the year and has failed to establish himself on either end of the court. In fact, the forward has only scored in double figures one time in his past 23. Before the Lakers took on the Blazers on Feb. 26, Coach Jackson said that Walton—temporarily starting at small forward due to the injuries of Radmanovic and Andrew Bynum—would not retain his starting job once the team is healthy. Moreover, Jackson said that Luke is no longer a player that is capable of playing 30-plus minutes a night for the Lakers—a true sign of how far Walton has fallen since opening up last season on fire for L.A.

Surprise Performance: Pau Gasol and Vladimir Radmanovic
While All-Star level play was expected of Gasol upon joining the Lakers, his near perfect transition into the Lakers’ offense has been one of the most surprising developments of the season for the Lake Show. Since acquiring the talented Spanish star, the Lakers are a jaw dropping 12-2, garnering league-wide respect and in some cases, instilling downright fear into opponents.

Although his strained right calf has kept him out of the last five games, Radmanovic finally returned to the form the Lakers were hoping for when they signed him to a multi-year deal prior to last season. While everyone knows that Vlade can shoot lights out from long distance, before his injury, he finally began to show some of the lesser-known facets of his game—his ability to put the ball on the court and post-up game. His improvements also came when the Lakers needed it most this quarter, as Radmanovic was Jackson’s starter of choice next to Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol on the Lakers’ front line.

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Things To Know: Kings

Things You Already Know:
The longtime Lakers rivals have quietly been one of the NBA’s surprise teams this season, even if their sub par 27-32 record going into tonight’s matchup says otherwise. In a conference stacked with ten teams currently sporting records over .500, the Kings have hovered around in their own category for almost the entire season–not quite good enough to a playoff team, but still significantly better than the Timberwolves, Grizzlies and Clippers.

For the second season in a row, guard Kevin Martin has emerged as Sacramento’s go-to scorer, averaging nearly 23 points and five rebounds a night. However, the Kings also rely heavily on Ron Artest’s 20 a night, especially after the Kings traded former Lakers nemesis Mike Bibby to the Hawks a few weeks ago at the close of the NBA trading deadline. While Artest’s name was similarly thrown out in a variety of trade scenarios–most notably in a package that would have sent him to Denver–the defensive ace is still on their roster, even if it is almost certainly his last year with the team.

Things You Might Not Know:
As the lone holdover from the epic Lakers vs. Kings battles at the beginning of the new millennium, Brad Miller is having one of his best statistical seasons to date, averaging 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds per game. His role on offense should increase even more now without Bibby’s smooth stroke from outside.

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In the Rankings: Week 18

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

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

You could chalk up Friday’s loss in Portland, which ended the Lakers’ 10-game winning streak, to fatigue. And you can chalk up Sunday’s win over the Mavs to my new pick for MVP (sorry, KG), Kobe Bryant.

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

The latest pearl of Zen wisdom from Phil Jackson: “40 before 20.” Translation: You must win 40 games before you lose 20 to be seen as an elite team . . . and these Lakers just did so for the first time since Shaq left.

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

They downed the Mavericks on Sunday in OT to get back on track after having their 10-game winning streak snapped in Portland. Kobe Bryant had an NBA-season-high 52 points, along with 10 rebounds, to continue his MVP surge.

Average Ranking: 2.66 | Last Week: 1.66 | Diff: +1

Kobe Named Player of the Month

As the Lakers completed a stellar 13-2 February, the awards come rolling in. Guard Kobe Bryant has been named not only Western Conference Player of the Week, but also Player of the Month for February.

According to the Game Notes, the award is Bryant’s eighth Western Conference Player of the Month honor and ninth Player of the Month award overall. Bryant was also named NBA Player of the Month for December of 2000, a year before the award was divided into Eastern and Western Conferences for the 2001-02 season. Bryant’s previous Western Conference Player of the Month awards came in March of 2007, December of 2006, April of 2006, January of 2006, March of 2004, January of 2003 and November of 2001.

Click here for the Full Release

NEW YORK, March 3, 2008 – The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant today were named the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month, respectively, for games played in February.

Bryant led the Lakers to a 13-2 mark, averaging team highs in points (27.2 ppg), assists (5.9 apg) and steals (2.07 spg). Bryant, who shot .507 from the field, scored at least 30 points on eight occasions and netted more than 40 points twice.

Feb. 1 @ Toronto: Scored 46 points on 19-of-28 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and five assists in a 121-101 win.
Feb. 8 @ Orlando: Recorded 36 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a 117-113 win.
Feb. 20 @ Phoenix: In 46 minutes, netted 41 points on 16-of-25 shooting in a 130-124 win.
Feb. 26 vs. Portland: Tallied 30 points and nine assists in a 96-83 victory.

Thanks to Nick Mazzella of the Lakers PR department for statistical assistance.

Lakers vs. Mavericks Post-Game

Kobe Bryant’s 52 points led the way as the Lakers defeated the Mavericks 108-104 in overtime in what was arguably the game of the year for L.A. The two Western Conference powerhouses battled from the opening tip to the final minute, with no team leading by more than 10 points. Just when it seemed as if the Lakers had the game wrapped up in regulation, Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki drilled a clutch three pointer with two seconds remaining to tie the score.

“Both teams got into a defensive slugfest, it was a mud wrestling contest out there for at least the second half,” said Lakers Coach Phil Jackson. “I thought our rebounding at the end, we got a couple lose balls, we didn’t have many turnovers, although the last play of regulation we did, but it was just a close game. To say one single thing did it, Kobe Bryant is probably the reason we didn’t lose.”

“It was a big win,” said Bryant. “They had a tough one in San Antonio and today against us was a big game. It was a physical game. It was back and forth. We didn’t play extremely well, but it felt good to get this one.”

Bryant connected on 15 of 27 from the field and made 20-27 free throws despite starting out the game three of 10 from the line.

“It was really frustrating,” said Bryant. “I was really upset with myself here at halftime. And, I just got to relax and go up there and line them up and knock them down.”

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