Lakers vs. Kings – Running Diary

Pregame Notes:
I spent about 10 minutes talking to Lakers play-by-play radio voice Spero Dedes, and will post the entire audio interview tomorrow. We talked about the coming season, how he prepares for games and whether or not he’s a better dresser than some of the players. Dedes, who is among the league’s youngest – and best – broadcasters, will regularly chat with me before games and on each road trip as we follow the squad through 28 other NBA cities. Team broadcasters are uniquely qualified to weigh in on the players around the league, as many have close relationships with those that they cover, adding an element of insight you simply can’t find elsewhere.

After chatting with Spero, I spent a few minutes with Sam Amick, the Kings’ beat writer for the Sacramento Bee. Just as Dedes is one of the league’s top broadcasters, Amick is among its top writers, and will chat with us about the squad prior to Lakers-Kings regular season games.

First Quarter
- Jackson hinted that he’d tweak his starting lineup, and here it is: Vladimir Radmanovic is starting in place of Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum is starting alongside Pau Gasol. Radmanovic immediately converted an and-1 for the first points of the evening. Kudos to L.A.’s public relations staff for putting me and the rest of the L.A. media within smelling distance of the players directly perpendicular to the Lakers bench.

Sacramento’s best player, Kevin Martin, popped a three with his unique release and followed a Vlad-Rad dunk with a 19-foot jumper to give Sacramento – sporting gross purple jerseys – a 9-7 edge at the 9:27 mark. Neither Bynum nor Gasol has touched the ball offensively.

A more interesting series happened moments later, when Beno Udrih pushed off on Bryant, who fell to the floor as Udrih dropped a jumper. Perhaps not surprisingly, Bryant demanded the ball on the right block and destroyed John Salmons with a gorgeous up-and-under finger roll before allowing his gaze to stroll past Udrih. It was sort of how Jennifer Aniston would have looked at Angelina Jolie when Brad Pitt made his move.

Neither team made a substitution until Odom checked in at the 5:48 mark for Bynum. By the time Sacramento put upstart Bobby Brown – the best player at the 2008 Las Vegas Summer League in this same building – into the game, it was 20-18 Kings. Jordan Farmar entered for the Lakers, with Bryant, Gasol and Vlad-Rad remaining in the game. After a Farmar and-1, Jackson opted for Trevor Ariza, Coby Karl and Josh Powell, with a 25-23 Kings lead. Of primary interest here is how Odom’s able to control the game as by far the most talented player on the court (Sacramento’s Salmons is the lone Kings starter in the game).

How about this series: after setting up Farmar for a layup, Odom brought the ball up the floor slowly, dribbled to the three-point line near L.A.’s bench, looked at the bench, popped a three, swished the three and looked back at his bench. To be clear here, Odom was winking at his teammates, not trying to get a reaction from Jackson. That’s 28-27 Lakers at the quarter break.

Second Quarter
Odom and Farmar looked pretty comfortable playing together at the two guard spots, particularly on the fast break, though perhaps the most interesting play of the second was seeing Bynum knock down another free-throw line jumper. He’s 3-for-3 this preseason from that spot. Surely the most active player on the floor was Josh Powell, who notched two steals, grabbed a board, flew around on defense, and made all three of his attempted jumpers.

Spencer Hawes was solid off the Kings bench with six boards, a block, a steal and four points in helping the visitors build a 46-43 lead at the three minute mark, and the Kings would take a 49-47 lead into the break. L.A. looked better than in its two previous games, as witnessed by a few stats I’ll divulge after halftime (they have some really good food in the media room tonight, know what I mean?).

- The Lakers took slightly better care of the ball than they had in the first two games, but still turned it over 11 times in the half, resulting in 14 Kings points.
- Gasol led the way with 10 points on 2-of-4 shooting plus 6-of-6 free throws, to go with four boards, two assists and a steal. He’s good. Bynum scored two points on three shots, with a rebound and an assist, plus a block near the rim.
- The Lakers were out rebounded 24-19 in part due to 42.5 percent shooting, and only four offensive rebounds to seven for the Kings.
- L.A. scored a very impressive 28 points in the paint to 18 from Sacramento, but ceded nine second-chance points (that goes with the offensive rebounding stat).

Third Quarter
The latest Laker starting lineup featured Bryant, Gasol, Fisher, Odom and Ariza, before Bynum checked in for Gasol halfway through the quarter. Note that we’ve seen just a few minutes of Gasol-Bynum on the floor together tonight. The Lakers picked up their defense a bit in the third, jumping to a 62-56 lead on a Bynum baby hook in the lane. Bynum continued his best stretch of the preseason with a massive, E-Honda-like swat (tell me at least two people got that Street Fighter II reference?) followed by a smooth finish at the rim after a pretty Fisher pass. Jackson said before the game that Bynum had his two best practices of the preseason leading up to this game, which seems evident tonight.

In unrelated news, has anyone ever finished a Carnegie sandwich? Mirage has a Carnegie Deli in its casino area, and I attempted to tackle a hard salami on wheat that must have caused the death of three pigs. Or cows. Whatever. I made it through half for lunch and the other half right now, though some salami almost slipped out and got on the floor.

L.A. allowed just 16 points to the Kings in the third, with Andrew Bynum at times dominating the defensive paint, to build a 71-65 lead after trailing by two at the break. His totals in 18 minutes: six points, four boards, a dime and two blocks. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol spent the final minutes of the quarter conversing on the sideline … Everyone – players, coaches, staff, media – loves talking to Gasol, who’s combination on calm/nice/thoughtful makes for a terrific teammate.

Fourth Quarter
Going with all subs in the final quarter, L.A. reached its largest margin of the game when second-round pick Joe Crawford nailed a baseline three in transition off a feed from Farmar to make it 80-71 at the 6:39 mark.

Now, I’m not going to suggest that Farmar is yet up to Tony Parker status in terms of finishing at the rim, but he’s getting closer than you think. After beating Brown off the dribble, Farmar laid in at the rim for the third time in traffic, and has really showcased a soft touch around the rim.

It was nice to see L.A.’s deep bench get some run in the late fourth, and both Brandon Heath and Kobe Carl were quite effective in maintaining the Laker lead, sealing the first victory of the preseason in front of a partisan Vegas crowd that may as well have been from Los Angeles. The Kings did make it interesting late, closing to within three with about 30 seconds left, but Crawford locked the door with two free throws in the final seconds.

94-89, Lakers.

Check in with us tomorrow for further coverage of tonight’s game and Monday’s practice.