Monthly Archive for April, 2008

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Game 2: Lakers vs. Nuggets Pre-Game

Although the Lakers won Game 1 against the Nuggets by a comfortable margin, Coach Jackson said he was not overly pleased with his team’s performance.

“We don’t consider it a good game although we won by a considerable amount of points,” said Jackson. “We did not think it was a good game for us. It was a good win, but my message to them was that we have to play a lot better than that to continue on these playoffs and to win against the Nuggets.”

Jackson added, “I’m curious about that tonight too, if they can come out and establish something on the court tonight. But, this is obviously an opportunity for Denver to what they want to do when they came to L.A. in the series and that’s take a game home so we have to know that it’s going to be a much more determined effort on their part.”

Much of the pre-game talk centered on the Nugget’s decision to insert Linas Kleiza into the starting lineup after his outstanding 23 point performance in Game 1. As a result of the change, Allen Iverson will revert back to his role as the team’s point guard.

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Turiaf Out for Game 2

Before tonight’s game against the Nuggets, Coach Jackson said that Ronny Turiaf will not play tonight as he is still not feeling well.

Turiaf will not be present at STAPLES Center tonight with Jackson revealing, “He’s going to be back home, recovering, hopefully getting ready for Friday.”

In his absence, Jackson said that D.J. Mbenga–recently diagnosed with bruised ribs–will likely see playing time tonight, with Chris Mihm another option at center.

Game 1: What Went Right/Wrong

Before the Lakers attempt to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their best of seven series with the Nuggets, we look back to see what went right and what went wrong in the team’s opening game 128-114 victory over Denver.

What Went Right:

• Luke Walton continued his improved play in recent weeks, coming through with a huge 16 point performance, igniting the team in the first with Vladimir Radmanovic in foul trouble.

• The Lakers proved why they’re one of the best passing teams in the league in Game 1, dishing out an impressive 33 assists on 46 field goal attempts. The Nuggets, on the other hand, only had 20 assists on the night on 43 shots from the field.

• Similar to the way the Lakers used to milk Shaq when he was hot during their three-peat run, the purple and gold found a way throughout the game to make sure that center Pau Gasol was involved on offense. While Gasol certainly deserves a lot of the credit for his monster 36 point Lakers playoff debut, his teammates did an exceptional job at finding him at opportune times and Gasol delivered big time.

• Only up by two points at halftime, the Lakers stymied almost all of Denver’s first half momentum during the first five minutes of the third quarter, creating a cushion that extended to the rest of the half.

• The Lakers’ poised offense won out over Denver’s run-and-gun attack, with the Lakers outscoring the Nuggets by 17 in the third quarter proving they can more than hold their own against the league’s second highest scoring offense.

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Do the Lakers Feed Off The Crowd? Yes

Ever wonder if the players can hear you when you’re at STAPLES Center screaming for them? The answer is yes they can and the louder you are the better.

There’s sentiment around the league that the Lakers enjoy less of a home court advantage than other teams because of the design of the arena, late arriving crowd or fans that are too used to finals appearances.

Let them think that, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that the boys in Gold (or the white if it happens to be Sunday) feed off the support. So listen to Sasha and fire up the STAPLES Center for game two.

Click here to check out the rest of Sasha’s One-on-One

Bryant, Jackson Confident, but Cautious Entering Game 2

With Game 2 in the best of seven series against the Nuggets looming, Coach Jackson said, “I anticipate both teams to play hard. I think that’s what you do in this situation. You play up to the limits and try not to go over them and I anticipate guys will be within the bounds.”

While the Lakers have all of the momentum as the series moves forward, Jackson said that, “The pressure’s still on us. We still have the pressure to win on our home court, play as hard as we did before. It’s very difficult for a team to come back with the same intensity.”

“There’s a natural tendency to relax,” said Jackson, noting Denver’s repeated knack for coming through with big victories when they need it most. “We talked about that both yesterday and today as a ball club. They have to come out and play hard and when they have the foot on the neck to keep it there.”

Kobe Bryant echoed Jackson’s statements, revealing that he thinks the Nuggets will come out focused and determined in Game 2.

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Jackson says Houston Has a Big Problem

With last night’s victory over the Rockets–the second in a row on the road at the Toyota Center–the Jazz have left Tracy McGrady and Co. in a sizeable hole heading to Salt Lake City. The series is of particular interest to Lakers coaches and fans as the team will advance to face the winner if they can beat Denver in their best of seven series.

“Utah has really put Houston in a bind and they have to come back and play well,” said Jackson. “Everyone knows that as good as your home court record is in the season, you can’t rely on that in the playoffs. The playoffs bring a whole new level of basketball.”

Even though they are now forced to win at least one game in an arena where the Jazz posted a gaudy 37-4 home record this season, Jackson said that the Rockets must find a way to pull out a victory.

“Houston’s now playing a one game series and they’ve got to come back and win this game. That’s the way they have to look at it.”

Gasol Prepared to Make Adjustments for Game 2

After scoring a game-high 36 points, pulling down 16 rebounds and dishing out eight assists, center Pau Gasol undoubtedly enters Game 2 against the Nuggets tomorrow with a huge target on his back.

“They will cut off from the second defender a little better,” said Gasol. “When Marcus (Camby) left me, most of the time they didn’t cut off that second man. That second man helper didn’t get there on those rotations to me. I guess they will try to allow us to shoot more from the outside and not get in the lane as easy as we did. You’d rather give up open long shots than layups and dunks.”

Looking ahead to Game 2, Gasol said that he plans to approach the game as he does any other–with intensity and aggressiveness.

“I don’t go into a game having a certain plan,” said Gasol. “I’m going to make reads just like I always do on defense and on offense and take advantage of what they give us.”

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Teammates and Coaches Praise Odom’s All-Around Play

While Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant received much of the credit for the Lakers’ march to the top of the Western Conference down the stretch of the season, Lamar Odom has quietly been playing the best basketball of his career. With another double-double performance (17 points, 14 rebounds) in Game 1 against the Nuggets, Odom’s teammates and coaches are taking notice of his exceptional all-around play.

“Lamar has certainly proved his value to this team in many ways,” said Coach Jackson. “I just think that it’s given him much more of a comfort zone. Lamar’s an exceptional passer. A lot of passes come in critical, close quarters lane area-type drop-off situations and with Pau’s capabilities, it’s just improved his assist ratio, his ability to make plays. All those things have helped Lamar.”

Even though his role on offense has been reduced to third option on most nights, Jackson said that Odom fills his niche well.

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Mbenga and Turiaf on the Mend

After D.J. Mbenga was diagnosed with bruised ribs yesterday after taking a hard fall during practice, Coach Jackson said he was forced to limit his minutes during today’s workout session, but not before he got a good run in.

With Ronny Turiaf still feeling under the weather and noticeably lacking his usual energy, Jackson said he only allowed the forward to break a small sweat before taking him off the floor.

“We hope that he’ll improve,” said Jackson. “He improved from probably yesterday until today.”

Mbenga Hits the Deck Hard

After practice broke on Monday a group of eight Lakers held back to play a 4-on-4 game while the other players attended to the assembled media.

Center DJ Mbenga got caught up with some of the other participants and ended up on the floor with a look of agony on his face as teammates and team medical personnel gathered around.

From how DJ was holding his side it looks like something in the rib area, but nothing official has been released.

UPDATE: DJ had a CT scan and was diagnosed with bruised ribs. He is officially being listed as Day-to-Day.