Monthly Archive for April, 2008

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Turiaf Still Ailing

A day after head coach Phil Jackson referred to him as “being diseased”, Lakers forward/center Ronny Turiaf was still feeling under the weather and was sent home from practice ahead of the rest of his teammates.

Phil called the ailment a sore throat and wouldn’t go as far as calling is strep.

Turiaf logged only three minutes in Sunday’s 128-114 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Game two against Denver is set for Wednesday night. “I anticipate him being ok by Wednesday”, said Jackson.

Lakers vs. Nuggets, Game 1 Post-Game

The Lakers rode Pau Gasol’s monster 36 point, 16 rebound effort in his first playoff game in the purple and gold to a 128-114 victory over the Nuggets. The Lakers did much of their damage in a 39 point third quarter in which they outscored Denver by 17. Despite scoring 32 points, Kobe Bryant had a dismal game by his standards, shooting only 9-26 from the field with only 4 points coming in the first half.

“We had to go away from Kobe today,” said Coach Jackson after the game. “Kobe ended up with 32 points, but he was not a factor in establishing our lead. It was getting the ball inside and taking advantage of what they gave us.”

Jackson said he credits Gasol and Odom’s muscle inside in helping the Lakers create what was a 19 point lead toward the end of the third quarter.

“I think it was our interior game, early, late in the third quarter,” said Jackson. “It helped us establish at least some rhythm in this game and some opportunities that were easy for us. Pau was the recipient of a lot of them, but I thought he made good passes, Lamar made good passes.”

“He played a great game for us today,” said Jackson about Pau’s playoff debut with the Lakers. Jackson said that he needed all of Gasol’s 44 minutes since Ronny Turiaf was feeling under the weather entering the game.

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Lakers vs. Nuggets, Game 1 In-Game

Inactives for Today’s Game:
Nuggets: Taurean Green, Bobby Jones
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Trevor Ariza, Coby Karl

1st Quarter:
10:59 Radmanovic gets the Lakers on the board first, taking the nice pass and laying it in off glass. Both teams look focused early on, with two full out dive-and-scramble to the floor plays in the opening minute alone. Two Denver starters have also picked up early fouls, with Anthony and Martin tallying one a piece.

9:52 Walton replaces Vladi in the Lakers lineup after the forward picked up his first foul.

7:57 Odom makes an incredible pass to a streaking Gasol who hammers it home and gets the sold out STAPLES Center crowd off of their feet for the first time tonight. Although Odom hasn’t scored yet himself, he has been extremely aggressive on both ends of the floor to open up the game. Based on his tremendous playoff series the past two years, no one should be surprised.

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Lakers vs. Nuggets, Game 1 Pre-Game

Before today’s opening game of the First Round, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson–wearing his 2002 championship ring–mused that his first indication that the playoffs had arrived in L.A. came when he saw the car flags waving from cars–a signature trait of the team’s three-peat run.

All joking aside, Jackson said, “I think the seriousness of the playoffs kind of kicked in a little bit on Friday, started getting serious about the direction we’re going and the attitude we have to take toward taking care of the business at home.”

While the team’s newest star Pau Gasol has played in the playoffs before, he has yet to see anywhere close to the media attention he will likely see in this year’s postseason as a member of the Laker.

“I think he was languishing in Memphis,” said Jackson. “I just think it felt like they weren’t having any positive things. The crowd was dwindling,more attention going to the college team than the professional team in town. I think those things made it difficult to play. It was a boost to his attentiveness, to his basketball skills.”

Gasol is not the only Laker who enters this postseason with a different mindset as Jackson says that the entire team’s outlook is dramatically different this year.

“Last year was a year read with injuries and disappointments because we had hopes that we could improve on our record that was good enough to be in the playoffs the first year I came back to coach,” said Jackson. “Last year sounded like a slippage, we had to scramble to get to the playoffs so it was kind of patching together things last year. This year is a lot different. While we’ve had our share of injuries, we’ve been able to sustain the effort.”

Position-by-Position Breakdown

Point Guard: Allen Iverson vs. Derek Fisher
Now in his twelfth year in the league, Iverson still remains one of the game’s most prolific scorers, finishing near the top of the league in scoring once again, averaging over 26 points per game. The Lakers’ Derek Fisher is another veteran who continues to defy time, returning for his second stint with the purple and gold and filing arguably his best offensive season yet with over 12 points a night. Both lead guards are crafty veterans with tons of playoff experience behind them, including their matchup in the 2001 NBA Finals when Iverson was still a Sixer. With Derek still nursing a foot injury and Iverson showing no signs of slowing down after playing in all 82 games this season, Denver gets the edge here.
Edge: Nuggets

Shooting Guard: Anthony Carter vs. Kobe Bryant

Carter usually starts at point guard for the Nuggets, but will likely take on the task of defending Bryant. Carter has proven himself an effective player for the Nuggets, putting up averages of eight points and nearly six assists. While the other four matchups against starters are much more difficult to call, Kobe holds an enormous advantage over Carter or any of the guards Denver might try to throw #24’s way. Even more worrisome for the Denver faithful, if the Lakers’ last three games to close out the season are any indicator, Carter and Co. should be equally as concerned with Bryant’s passing ability as they are with his scoring.
Edge: Lakers

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Season Series in Review

November 29, 2007 @STAPLES Center
Nuggets 99, Lakers 127

In their first meeting this season, the Lakers pummeled the Nuggets by 28 points, leading by 12 at the end of the first quarter and never looking back. L.A.’s guards had a field day against a helpless Denver defense with Kobe leading the way with 24 points to go along with Sasha Vujacic’s career high 22 points. While the Lakers had yet to complete their blockbuster trade for Pau Gasol, the Lakers’ big men still dominated the Nuggets frontline with Andrew Bynum tallying 12 points and 13 rebounds. Even Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson only combined for 44 points—eight below their season average—in a game where seemingly everything went wrong for Denver.

December 5, 2007 @PEPSI Center
Lakers 111, Nuggets 107

In another early season battle, the Lakers won a nail biter in the Rocky Mountains, with Kobe scoring six of the team’s final eight points in a clutch 25-point effort. Allen Iverson led the way for the Nuggets scoring a season-high 51 points, but, as been the case all season, Denver was unable to stop their opponent when it mattered most. In a possible preview of their First Round matchup, Fisher and Vladimir Radmanovic took full advantage of the Nugget’s defensive lapses en route to 41 points between them, 20 from Derek and 21 from Vladi. Once again, the Nuggets did a poor job of taking care of the ball against the Lakers, turning the ball over 17 times after giving it away 18 times in their previous meeting.

January 21, 2008 @STAPLES Center
Nuggets 99, Lakers 116

Derek Fisher (28 points) and Jordan Farmar (19 points) and the rest of the Lakers guards dominated the Nuggets for a second consecutive game, while holding Denver’s primary guards to just 28 points. Lamar Odom also had a great all-around game for the purple and gold, finishing with a near triple double with 15 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Once again turnovers plagued the Nuggets as they gave the ball away 16 times, compared to only 12 times for the Lakers. Marcus Camby provided one of the lone bright spots for Denver, scoring 18 points and grabbing 12 rebounds with Andrew Bynum out with injury.

Practice News: 4/18/08

With only one practice remaining until the playoffs begin this Sunday, the team was focused as it prepares for Game 1 against the Nuggets. After practice, Kobe said that Anthony Carter will most likely take on the assignment of trying to defend him, with Kobe potentially spending time guarding Allen Iverson.

Kobe praised Iverson’s offensive proficiency, referring to the 26-point per game scorer as one of the best of all time. With Carmelo Anthony also leading the Denver charge, Kobe said the Lakers will have their hands full on defense.

Veteran Derek Fisher said that having home court advantage could prove to be a big boon for the Lakers, especially in a Western Conference where the top eight seeds are only separated by seven games.

While some experts around the league are predicting an offensive slugfest, Coach Jackson said that sometimes numbers can be misleading. Jackson said that while Denver is often considered one of the worst defensive teams in the league, they play a “risk-reward” type of defense in which they often gamble for steals, sometimes resulting in defensive lapses.

Kobe named Player of the Month

Phil Jackson isn’t the only one bringing home the April hardware. Kobe Bryant has been named Western Conference Player of the Month for April.

Read the full press release here.

Bryant, who was fourth in the league in scoring this month, averaged 26.1 points to go along with 5.5 assists, helping the Lakers go 7-1 and earn the top spot in the Western Conference Playoffs. Bryant scored 20 or more points in seven of the team’s eight games, including two 30-plus point games. In a win over Portland on April 2, Bryant led the Lakers with 36 points and 13 rebounds. It was the second Player of the Month nod for Bryant this season.

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
April 2 vs. Portland: Recorded 26 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a 104-91 win over the Trail Blazers.
April 8 @ Portland: Netted 34 points, five rebounds and five assists in a 112-103 loss to the Trail Blazers.
April 11 vs. New Orleans: Tallied 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and two steals in a 107-104 win over the Hornets.

Phil Jackson Named Coach of the Month

The Lakers 7-1 finish in April was enough to garner Head Coach Phil Jackson Coach of the Month honors.

Here’s the applicable part of the press release.

Jackson led the Lakers to a Western Conference-best 7-1 (.875) mark in April, including wins over Dallas, New Orleans and San Antonio. The Lakers, winners of 57 games this season, are the Western Conference’s top seed. Los Angeles, like Boston, enters the postseason on a four-game winning streak.

End of Season Awards reflects on the team’s tremendous ’07-’08 campaign, doling out its end of the season awards.

Most Improved: Andrew Bynum
Prior to his knee injury mid-way through the season, the Lakers phenom was well on his way to a breakout season, carving his place as one of the NBA’s best up-and-coming big men. Although his averages of 13 points and 10 rebounds for the season are more than solid, #17 improved each month prior to his injury, capped off by his outstanding month of January in which he put up over 17 points and 12 rebounds a game. With no signs of slowing down any time soon, who knows where his numbers would have ended up this season had he not missed the final 46 games.

Most Surprising: Sasha Vujacic
Even though he was heading into a contract year, few experts or fans had any reason to expect much from the Slovenian guard. Once labeled an “11:00 a.m.” player by Coach Jackson, Sasha has shredded the title this season, finally becoming the sharpshooter the Lakers thought they signed four years ago, putting up nine points a game on 44% shooting from beyond the arc. Whereas only a season ago, Vujacic was one of the last men off of the bench, it is now not uncommon to see Sasha playing critical minutes as a key part of the Lakers’ rotation.

Most Disappointing: Luke Walton
With Odom injured at the start of last season, Kobe desperately needed a teammate that could help keep the Lakers afloat in the über competitive Western Conference. Enter: Luke Walton. For most of last season, the forward was arguably the second best player to don the purple and gold, finally combining his widely discussed basketball IQ with a vastly improved offensive repertoire. However, this season has brought on one disappointment after another for Walton as injuries and a lack of confidence have derailed much of the momentum he established last season. On the year, Luke is averaging only seven points and four rebounds.

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