Monthly Archive for May, 2008

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Kobe’s Back on the Mend

After failing to get a shot attempt up in the fourth quarter of last night’s game, Coach Jackson said that Kobe’s back injury might have caught up to him after he was effective throughout most of the game.

“He’s seems to be OK,” said Jackson after today’s practice. “I think his back stiffened up a little bit in the fourth quarter, but he’s alright today.”

Odom, Lakers Ready to Seize Moment

After a close win in Game 5, the talk after practice today was all about energy and execution as the team looks to take the series victory night in Salt Lake City. Coach Jackson said that if the Lakers want to win Game 6 on the road—something only the Pistons have been able to do in the Second Round—they’ll need to play at least 10 points better.

Looking back on last night’s win, Jackson said, “The energy was frenetic, the pace was awfully high and because of that, our execution suffered a little bit. I just think that the idea of the importance of this game to these players lifted the level of their energy considerably.”

With the team flying out this afternoon for tomorrow night’s contest, Jackson rested Kobe, Odom, Gasol and Fisher while the rest of the team scrimmaged.

“We thought we could have played better last night,” said Odom. “It was an emotional game, everybody was fired up, we played with a lot of energy. I think you have to save that for the defensive end and on the offensive end, you have to slow it down, keep our composure, make the right plays, execute our offense and just take our time.”

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Game 5: Lakers vs. Jazz Post-Game

The Lakers won a closely contested battled in Game 5, 111-104, behind a gutsy effort by Kobe Bryant and a balanced scoring attack from the rest of the Lakers starters.

With L.A. clinging to a slim lead for the entire fourth quarter, Lamar Odom (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (21 points, eight assists) shared the role of finisher, with the versatile forward emphatically throwing down two dunks in the final minutes of the game and the Spanish center hammering home a dunk in the final minute of the game to seal the narrow victory for the purple and gold.

“We couldn’t get over the hump,” said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan whose team trailed the entire 48 minutes. “We were right there, but we never did get there. As I recall, we never could get over the hump and put the pressure on them.”

After the game, Coach Jackson said that he was not particularly happy with the team’s overall effort, but did credit the team for coming out and sustaining a high energy level throughout the game.

Jackson said, “I thought we were a little bit excited and didn’t have the kind of poise I wanted to see.”

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Game 5: Lakers vs. Jazz In-Game

Inactives for Tonight’s Game:
Jazz: Morris Almond, Kyrylo Fesenko
Lakers: Trevor Ariza, Andrew Bynum, Coby Karl

1st Quarter:
11:44 Kobe shows no ill signs of his back injury, nailing the first basket of the game for either team–a three pointer from the left corner. So far, STAPLES Center is trying to do their best Energy Solutions Arena impression, reaching decibel levels not yet heard during the Lakers’ current playoff run.

9:18 Lamar Odom drives deep into the lane, making the layup and one to give the Lakers an early 11-4 lead amidst an early “Utah Sucks” chant from the sold-out crowd. Odom had a tremendous Game 4, scoring 26 points–second only to Kobe’s 33.

7:43 Kobe’s made three of his first four field goals, nailing a jumper from the to of the key to increase the Lakers’ lead to 13-8. Bryant leads the Lakers in scoring with seven points. As a team, the Lakers’ execution early–outlined as a key for tonight’s game by Coach Jackson–has been crisp, while the Jazz have been sloppy so far.

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Game 5: Lakers vs. Jazz Pre-Game

Before tonight’s pivotal Game 5 against the Jazz, Coach Jackson said that Kobe seemed buoyant and optimistic today following the team’s shootaround.

Although Bryant himself is likely the only person who knows exactly what he can and cannot do on the court, Jackson said, “He’ll figure out what he has to do to help us in this game,” revealing that he thinks the MVP guard will be OK.

Jackson also took time to address the playoff struggles of backup point guard Jordan Farmar, confirming that he has no plans to bench Jordan–one of the only players on the team to play in all 82 games. The Lakers coach expressed optimism that the UCLA alum will continue to come out aggressive on both ends of the floor.

Jackson said the key tonight for both teams is execution, especially after the Lakers suffered with that area of their game in overtime of Game 4.

“We just have to execute,” said Jackson. “It’s the team that’s going to execute the best that’s going to win tonight.”

Game 4: What Went Right/Wrong

What Went Right:

• Kobe gutted his way through a back injury to score 33 points in addition to pulling down eight rebounds and dishing out 10 assists in a near triple double effort.
• Pau Gasol (23 points, 10 rebounds) and Lamar Odom (26 points, 13 rebounds) provided excellent secondary support for Kobe. Odom in particular excelled down the stretch, nailing a clutch three pointer with under a minute to go in regulation and throwing up the game-tying layup to send it into overtime.
• Sasha Vujacic provided a big spark off the bench in the first half, coming through with 11 points to help the Lakers weather the Jazz’ strong first half effort.
• For the first time all series, the Lakers matched the Jazz’ rebounding tenacity, tying Utah in rebounds at 41 and winning the offensive rebounding battle by a 12-7 margin.
• Derek Fisher has proved himself as a pest on defense in this series, snatching away 2 more steals to raise his playoff average to 2.5 a game. The Lakers veteran also scored 15 points—most of which came during a pivotal fourth quarter stretch where the Lakers cut down a 12 point lead in a little over three minutes.

What Went Wrong:

• While Kobe had a statistically superb night—shooting percentage aside—he was clearly hurting from a shoulder injury sustained in the opening minutes of the game, missing 20 of
• The Lakers suffered an early blow to their already thin front line when backup forward/center Ronny Turiaf was thrown out of the game in the first half for a rough foul on Ronnie Price. Although the flagrant-2 certainly looked like it ignited the team, they missed Turiaf’s presence the rest of the night.
• Pretty much every other Laker aside from Kobe disappeared in overtime as the Lakers were outscored 15-7. Coach Jackson said after the game that his teammates “bailed” out on him in the extra period.
• For the second game in a row, Deron Williams thrashed the Lakers with 29 points on 9-13 shooting and a game-high 14 assists.
• Mehmet Okur’s outside shooting has burned the Lakers all series and was a big factor in helping Utah build a double-digit lead in both halves. The Turkish center finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
• Bench production was an issue again as L.A.’s reserves—heralded as one of the top benches in the league during the regular season—were invisible for most of the game aside from Vujacic’s strong first half. Overall, Utah’s bench outscored the Lakers’ by 23 points, 39-16.

Lakers Ready for Pressure of Game 5

After winning the first two games against the Jazz at home and losing the next two in Salt Lake City, the Lakers fully understand the significance of tomorrow night’s pivotal Game 5, but aren’t about to shy away from the big-game pressure.

“We’re looking forward to getting back out there and competing,” said Derek Fisher. “I think at this level, that’s what you love to do most and sometimes things don’t go the way you plan them to, but you’re always ready to get back out there and compete.”

With the series so close, Derek said that the Lakers need to be ready to play for every second of the 48 minutes they’re on the court.

“There aren’t any letdowns,” said Fisher. “There aren’t any opportunities to take a breath or take a step back and not compete as hard as you can, every opportunity you have. There’s just no margin for error and when you play against a team that prides itself on executing and they play hard and they play physical, your margin for error is even smaller.”

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Trevor Ariza Injury Update

After today’s practice, Lakers spokesman John Black said that Trevor Ariza has been cleared for full-contact practice. Although the broken bone in his foot has yet to fully heal, Ariza is not at risk for further injuring his foot.

After participating in his first practice today, Coach Jackson said, “He got out there today a little bit and tried to shake off three months of rust, maybe even more…three and a half months…and he’s got time to work at his game and this will give him a little edge about going forward.”

With Ariza potentially available should the Lakers advance in the Western Conference playoffs, Jackson said he isn’t sure yet when he’ll be able to use the athletic forward in live game play.

“We really can’t put a timeframe on it,” said Jackson. “I said a week or two and he said one week so we’ll just see what it’s going to be.”

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Kobe Injury Update

After today’s practice, Kobe said he’s seen improvement in his back since fighting his way through the injury throughout the Lakers’ loss in Game 4 on Sunday.

While the MVP guard did not participate in the team’s shooting drills today, he said that his back feels much better than it did even 24 hours ago, noting that if there were a game today, he would absolutely suit up.

According to Kobe, his injury affects his elevation, change of direction and just about every other aspect of his game.

“I think that the key is to try and know what you can and can’t do,” said Bryant. “I think the last game was kind of an indicator for me. So, if it is that bad—and I don’t think it will be that bad again—but if it is, I can kind of know what I can and can’t do.”

“Sleeping’s tough. You’ve got to sleep with something under your hips at all times,” said Kobe, who also revealed that other simple things such as driving a car have also been difficult for him.

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Game 6 at Utah – 7:30

Game 6 of the Lakers Western Conference Semifinals series with the Utah Jazz is set for a 7:30pm Pacific tip-off on KCAL/9 HD.

The game will also be apart of an ESPN doubleheader featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics at 5pm.