Monthly Archive for April, 2008

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Turiaf Throws Out 1st Pitch

Lakers Forward Ronny Turiaf traded in the hardwood for the dirt of the Dodger Stadium diamond last night as he took to the bump to throw out the first pitch before the Dodgers vs. Pirates game.

Turiaf donned the Dodger’s classic home jersey and distinctive blue cap as he strolled to the mound and fired a pitch to catcher Gary Bennett. The ball sailed just wide of the strike zone, but I’ll give it a thumbs up considering baseball isn’t all that huge on the island of Martinique.

Ronny became the second Laker to recently throw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium. Guard Derek Fisher was given the honor shortly after re-signing with the Lakers last summer.

Lakers vs. Spurs Post-Game

As expected, the Lakers routed the in-state rival Kings 124-101 with all five starters sitting out the entire fourth quarter. In another display of balanced scoring, six Lakers scored in double figures, led by Pau Gasol’s 22 points to go along with seven rebounds. Kobe Bryant scored 20 points in just 28 minutes in his last showcase for MVP voters.

After the game, Coach Jackson said that his team played an “adequate” game, but he was not particularly thrilled with his team’s defense, despite holding the Kings to 44% shooting from the field. Jackson conceded that his team played a great second half–particularly in a third quarter in which they outscored Sacramento by a 39-24 margin.

“…Having home court advantage is the most basic thing you can talk about,” said Jackson in regards to the Lakers wrapping up the Western Conference’s number one seed an securing home court advantage up until the Finals. This season, Jackson said it is much more who teams draw, than actual positioning.

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Lakers vs. Kings In-Game

Inactives for Tonight’s Game:
Kings: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Brad Miller
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Trevor Ariza, Coby Karl

1st Quarter:
11:00 The Lakers deliver on their first two possesions of the game, the first a nifty mid-range jumper off glass for Pau and the second, an uncontested dunk from Odom after a great pass by Kobe. The STAPLES Center crowd seems extra pumped up tonight, obviously aware that the Lakers have a chance to secure the number one seed in the Western Conference with a win tonight.

10:07 The hot start continues as Lamar Odom is the latest Laker to throw it down for an early 8-0 lead and his fourth point of the night. Gasol also has two points for the Lakers who have come out with a focused, business-like attitude in the opening minutes of the game.

8:51 Turiaf enters the game early tonight, replacing Lamar after he picked up his second personal.

7:23 The Lakers’ exceptional interior passing continues with Vladi the recipient of a great pass in the lane for yet another uncontested layup just one play after Gasol broke loose inside for a wide-open dunk. Pau has six points so far to lead the team, followed by Radmanovic’s four.

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Lakers vs. Kings Pre-Game

With the playoffs beginning this weekend and teams still jockeying for position, Coach Jackson said that he is prepared to play whomever the Lakers end up going against.

“This is very unique, especially with three divisions and the way things go,” said Jackson. “It’s very unusual.”

“I can’t think of any team in that group I would say on hand as somebody I would say would be a great matchup for us and for our team,” said Jackson. “Every single one of them has played three or four games in change…the difference between first and eighth place.”

According to Jackson, the two teams the Lakers have the best chance of facing–Denver and Dallas–each present different problems for teams

“You have two prolific scorers on Denver’s team and obviously, the Dallas team won 67 games last year and has some experienced veteran players,” said Jackson. “Probably a little deeper team, but Denver has more striking power, more offensive power perhaps.”

Jackson said his team has only considered Denver as a potential first round opponent so far, explaining that the Lakers have yet to face Denver’s full roster due to injuries and Carmelo Anthony’s ejection in their last meeting in January.

Since We Saw Them Last: Kings

The Lakers and Kings meet for the fourth and final time tonight with L.A. leading the season series against their in-state rivals two games to one. Although the Lakers are tied with New Orleans in the loss column with 25, they can secure the number one seed in the Western Conference with a win tonight since they own the tiebreaker over the Hornets.

At 38-43, the Kings have spent equal time this season looking lottery bound and like legitimate playoff contenders. Plagued by injuries all season long, Head Coach Reggie Theus has done an exceptional job keeping his Kings on track despite not playing with a stable lineup for much of the year. Ron Artest–averaging almost 20 points this season against the purple and gold–is listed as questionable for tonight’s game. Meanwhile, leading scorer Kevin Martin is listed as questionable due to a strained right knee.

The Kings have played well since the Lakers routed them 114-92 at Arco Arena nine days ago. Last night, Sacramento nearly followed the Lakers lead by beating the defending champion Spurs but faltered late in an eventual 101-98 loss. However, the Kings have played the role of spoiler in the Western Conference more than once in the past few weeks, coming up with surprising victories against Houston, Denver and most recently, New Orleans.

Although the scrappy Kings came up with an unlikely last-second win during their last trip to STAPLES Center, the Lakers should have no problem focusing considering home court advantage up until the Finals is at stake.

In the Rankings: Week 24

Every Monday, the Lakers Basketblog checks the net to bring you the latest NBA power rankings.

NBA.com
This Week: 2 | Last Week: 5 | Diff: +3

Sunday’s blowout of the Spurs was certainly a statement, but home court in the playoffs probably doesn’t mean as much to the Lakers (29-11 at STAPLES with one more to play) than it would for some of the other contenders. No matter what, they may have to go through much of the postseason without Andrew Bynum.

ESPN.com
This Week: 2 | Last Week: 4 | Diff: +2

Let the record show that this MVP vote for Kobe was posted before L.A.’s weekend wins over the Hornets and Spurs. One more win now should clinch Kobe’s MVP trophy and the West’s top seed.

SI.com
This Week: 2 | Last Week: 3 | Diff: +1

A season that began with turmoil surrounding Kobe Bryant’s future with the team has become something out of a Hollywood movie. Bryant’s MVP-type season — and a blockbuster trade for Pau Gasol — has the Lakers back atop the West and a prime title contender.

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

Lakers vs. Spurs Post-Game

The Lakers slaughtered the Spurs 106-85 in one of the most unexpectedly lopsided victories of the entire year. The Lakers held the Spurs to only 32 points in the second half, outscoring them by 21 to break the halftime tie.

“What a half,” said Jackson. “We came out and played an exceptional second half.”

Jackson credited the Lakers’ lockdown defense in the second half, particularly with regards to slowing San Antonio’s guards down—most notable Tony Parker’s penetration.

Derek Fisher—who was the primary defender on Parker—had an impressive game on both ends of the floor, finishing with 14 points and doing a good job of attacking the Spurs guard on offense.

Although he is playing injured, Jackson said that Derek told him that he “feels like he can start extending himself a little more.”

The Lakers’ bench played on of their best games in recent memory, dominating the Spurs’ starters in the third quarter en route to 39 points. Ronny Turiaf and Jordan Farmar led the way for the reserves, scoring 10 and 11 points respectively.

“They really shot the door on the game,” said Jackson in response to the bench effort. Jackson said that the Lakers reserves played exceptional basketball in the second half of today’s game—something the group did frequently during the first half of the season.

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Lakers vs. Spurs In-Game

Inactives for Tonight’s Game:
Spurs: Robert Horry, Ian Mahinmi, Brent Barry
Lakers: Trevor Ariza, Coby Karl, Andrew Bynum

1st Quarter:
9:39 Lamar Odom finally scores the first points of the game for the Lakers, hitting two free throws after being fouled by Oberto. Prior to the makes, the Spurs had opened the game on a 7-0 run, capped by a jumper in the lane from Parker. It’s only been a little over two minutes, but it looks like the Lakers might be a little groggy considering the early start time and their emotional win over New Orleans on Friday.

9:12 Oberto picks up his second foul already, sending veteran Kurt Thomas into the Spurs’ lineup.

8:38 One minute after picking up the Lakers’ first points of the game, Odom connects on the Lakers’ first field goal of the game–an uncontested dunk for his team-leading fourth point of the night. So far, it looks like Popovic is matching Thomas up against Odom–a matchup the Lakers would be wise to take advantage of.

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Lakers vs. Spurs Pre-Game

Before today’s showdown with the defending champion Spurs, Coach Jackson took time to reflect on the Lakers’ accomplishments this season, revealing that the team knew early on that had a chance to be much better than many experts predicted during training camp.

“…We like the fact that we’re here,” said Jackson. “We know that we earned it and this is something that we’ve progressed with in the long season to get here in this position. Those determinations are made in a split second, everyone comes together in a situation like that and you can have so many decisions of import. It’s like time heals all wounds and it all goes away and we turn back to our purpose. In this situation–Kobe, particularly–we’ve had a good season behind that, a real good season.”

With two games left in the season, the Lakers coach also addressed the many scenarios that will come into play as the top six teams in the Western Conference continue to swap positions in the standings.

“We haven’t really talked about it,” Jackson said. “I just told them a week ago they they hold it in their hands and they have to win out to do it…I think there’s a situation that’s available that says we can play any five teams at this particular point.”

When asked whether or not he thought a Lakers vs. Celtics NBA Finals matchup would be good for the league, Jackson said that he does not think the NBA has not given much thought to the potential showdown.

“”It is a nostalgia thing of course…But, I don’t think the league really gets involved in any kind of thought process like that,” said Jackson. “I think they just weight it out and see who comes out on top.”

Since We Saw Them Last: Spurs

The Lakers and Spurs meet for the final time this season, with the L.A. trailing the season series two games to one. The Lakers are coming off a memorable performance against the New Orleans Hornets in their biggest game of the season Friday night, blowing a 30 point lead before taking over the game in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The Spurs are coming off a victory of their own against the lowly Seattle Supersonics.

The Lakers lost their last game to their longtime rivals 103-91 in Texas in January. However, the Lakers were playing without Bynum and Gasol had yet to join the team, helping to explain Tim Duncan’s stellar 28 point, 17 rebound performance.

The Spurs will be without leading scorer (20 points) Manu Ginobili for today’s matinee affair due to a left abductor strain injury. Robert Horry and Brent Barry are also out for the defending champions. Manu’s injury is untimely for the Spurs who have already had all kinda of trouble scoring points of late, averaging only 72 in losing three of four prior to their victory Friday night.

Entering the game, the Lakers are a half game ahead of both the Spurs and Rockets and can win the tiebreaker against San Antonio with a win today. Due to New Orleans’ potentially costly loss to Sacramento last night, L.A. still has a chance to secure the number one seed in the Western Conference should they win their remaining two games and the Houston Rockets lose one more game.