Monthly Archive for May, 2008

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Vujacic Earns Trust of Teammates

Although Sasha Vujacic’s always been considered one of the team’s best shooters, after holding Manu Ginobili to just 10 points in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, he’s quickly earning a new title: defender.

After practice today, Kobe said that Vujacic takes pride in slowing down opposing teams’ top players such as Ginobili.

“He’s really developed as a defensive player,” said Bryant, once one of Vujacic’s toughest critics. Bryant added that Sasha has really grown into his role this season after the team wasn’t entirely sure whether or not he was better suited at point guard or at shooting guard in his first few seasons in the league.

Lamar Odom said that, “Sasha’s fun to be around. He has great energy on and off the court.”

Game 1: Lakers vs. Spurs Post-Game

Down by 20 points in the third quarter, the Lakers clawed their way back for an 89-85 win in a game that will no doubt go down as one of the best playoff comebacks in team history.

After an especially quiet first half in which both Coach Jackson and Greag Popovic acknowledged that Kobe was finding his game, Bryant responded in true MVP fashion, taking over the game in the fourth quarter on his way to 27 points and nine assists.

“It was a great opportunity and we didn’t take advantage of it and it hurts like hell,” said Popovic after the game.

Jackson said that the early 6:00 p.m. start time played a role in the team’s sluggish first half as they did not fully wake up until around 7:45 p.m.–the team’s normal start time for week night games. As a result, Jackson said he was forced to make several adjustments at halftime with his team trailing 51-43.

“They were fortunate to get a win,” said Jackson. “They almost gave up home court advantage to a great effort by the Spurs.”

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Game 1: Lakers vs. Spurs In-Game

Inactives for Tonight’s Game:
Spurs: Matt Bonner, DeMarr Johnso, Ian Mahinmi
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Trevor Ariza, Coby Karl

1st Quarter:
11:11 Radmanovic gets the Lakers first points of the Conference Finals after Bowen flashed a nice jumper on the Spurs’ first possession. The Lakers will need Vladi’s contributions this series after he was up-and-down against the Jazz in the Second Round.

8:48 After San Antonio built a four point lead, 8-4, Radmanovic makes an unexpected driving layup off glass that surprised the Spurs and just about everyone else in the building. On the Lakers’ next possession, Vladi nailed a soft hook shot to tie the game and give him a game-high six points with just over three minutes of the first quarter gone by.

6:55 Radmanovic is all over the place to open up the game, this time making a mid-air tip-in on Fisher’s layup miss. Prior to the make, Odom made a great help block on Duncan to ignite the Lakers fast break. Vlad is shooting a perfect 4-4 from the field so far.

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Game 1: Lakers vs. Spurs Pre-Game

With four days off between last Friday’s series-clinching victory over the Jazz and tonight’s opening game against San Antonio, Coach Jackson said that he believes the rest will benefit the Lakers, even though the Spurs might be sharper only having played two nights ago. According to Jackson, in a “bang-bang” series in which the Lakers and Spurs will play every other day, the rest accrued during the time off should help L.A. later in the series.

Jackson described his team as extra competitive in practice yesterday, revealing that he has no reservations about the Lakers’ readiness to match the Spurs’ energy level. At one point, the Lakers coach even said that he had to tell his obviously amped up team to back down a little bit and save some of their intensity for tonight’s game.

Jackson also spoke about Game One of the Pistons vs. Celtics series, noting that he believes the Pistons failed to meet Boston’s energy level in the first and fourth quarters.

Jackson Expresses Optimism About Bynum

Before Game One of the Western Conference Finals tonight, Coach Jackson confirmed that everything seemed to go well with Andrew Bynum’s surgery today.

Jackson said that Bynum expects to make a full recovery and revealed that he should be 100% ready to play within three months.

With no hope of Andrew returning during this year’s playoffs, he said that he believes that the center is glad that he went through with the surgery so he can end any ambiguity regarding his return and begin his recovery process.

Bynum Has Successful Surgery

Injured Center Andrew Bynum had successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee today. Bynum is expected to be ready for the start of training camp next season.

Here’s the press release:

Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee today in New York, it was announced today by the team.

The procedure, which took 30 minutes and was performed by Dr. David Altchek, consisted of removing some cartilage debris and smoothing some rough spots on the underside of the kneecap.

Bynum is expected to make a full recovery by the start of training camp.

LAKERS VS. SPURS: POSITION-BY-POSITION

POINT GUARD: Tony Parker vs. Derek Fisher
While the Spurs of yesteryear relied on Duncan to jumpstart their offense, these days, it’s San Antonio’s deadly backcourt combo of Parker and Ginobili that serve as the team’s primary scorers. Parker leads the defending champs in scoring through two rounds, averaging nearly 24 points a game while shooting 48% from the field. By comparison, the Lakers’ Fisher has been just as good filling his role as a steady veteran and deadeye shooter in the playoffs. Averaging over 14 points a game—fourth best on the team—Derek continues to show why he is one of the clutchest players in the game today as evidenced by his late three-point barrage in the team’s overtime loss to the Jazz in Game 4 of the Second Round. Moreover, Fisher has been a Spurs killer throughout his career. See: “0.4”

SHOOTING GUARD: Bruce Bowen vs. Kobe Bryant
Although certainly limited on offense, Bowen is a lethal defender and has a proven track record of playing well against the Lakers in the playoffs. While there is certainly not much love between Bruce and Kobe, even the Lakers MVP has given the Spurs guard credit for his defensive prowess in past playoff matchups. However, while Bowen may be able to slow Bryant down, there’s no way to stop a motivated Kobe—even with an injured back. Plus, with Bowen’s inefficiencies on offense, Bryant should be able to sag off of him, allowing him to help on Ginobili and Parker.

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Lakers Know Road to Title Goes Through San Antonio

After a series of epic battles over the past decade, the Lakers fully understand how difficult it will be to knock off a Spurs team that they hold with the utmost respect.

For Kobe and Derek Fisher, just being mentioned in the same conversation as the Spurs is an accomplish in and of itself.

“We’ve had our battles,” said Bryant. “We’ve had some pretty classic confrontations, the last of which being Derek’s miraculous shot. We’ve had some great matchups. It feels good to be back at this level, matching up with the San Antonio’s.”

Fisher added, “I think it lets you know often times how close you are and the opportunity that you have. When you play against the Spurs in the playoffs, for the most part, you’re doing something right. These guys have established themselves as the consistency, the power in our league, the team that has shown the ability to over a 10-year period to duplicate success, to replicate what they do out there on the court.”

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Lakers Talk Matchups Against Spurs

With Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals set to tip off tomorrow night, the Lakers talked about some of the matchups they’ll see against San Antonio.

As always with the Spurs, the conversation centered around former NBA Finals MVP Tim Duncan and what the team has to do to slow the center down.

“We’ve tried not to have to double team against Tim in the past knowing that so much of their offense relies on three point shooting from the perimeter and he’s a good passer that really breaks down the defense too,” said Coach Jackson. “But, there are always extenuating circumstances; people get in foul trouble and you have to start doing something to protect players to help your team out so there’s a chance we may have to double team him.”

Jackson said that the Lakers will initially throw Gasol at Duncan, adding that he expects the Spurs to go inside to Tim early and often.

“Without a doubt, he’s going to have to play him (Duncan),” said Jackson. “They’ll see what it’s like, they’ll test it out early to see if they can create a foul situation. That’s not unusual in that situation. We’ll probably do the same thing.”

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Ariza Likely To Make Debut Against Spurs

After today’s practice session, Coach Jackson said that he expects to use Trevor Ariza at some point against the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.

“He played well today,” said Jackson. “I think there’s a good chance Trevor will be available and ready to play.”

Jackson declined to comment on whether or not Ariza would see playing time in Game 1 tomorrow.