Monthly Archive for November, 2008

Lakers 112, Raptors 99: Postgame

The Toronto Raptors, certainly not a bad team coming into Sunday’s STAPLES Center matchup with the Lakers at 8-7, simply had no chance to win on this night. L.A. was just too good.

Trailing by 10 at the half, even six third quarter triples couldn’t get the visitors within eight at any point of the second half, and both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol watched the fourth quarter in amusement after combining for 47 points in the first three.

The Lakers destroyed the smaller Raptors 54-36 on the glass, shot 51 percent from the field and got another 18 and 10 performance from Andrew Bynum to take the NBA’s best record to 13-1.

Toronto’s Chris Bosh, who came into the game third in the league in scoring (27.7) and fifth in rebounding (10.5) couldn’t get it going against L.A.’s two seven footers, finishing with only 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting with six rebounds. After the game, Bryant suggested that part of Bosh’s struggles were due in part to the rhythm of a game in while the Raptors almost always trailed by double-digits and needed to huck up a plethora of threes. Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell blamed the boards.

“I thought our guys were boxing out buy guys like Gasol and Bynum are just strong and were reaching over us, and we just couldn’t come up with that key basket or that key stop when we needed it,” he said.

I’ll be sure to stick L.A.’s board advantage, 18, into the numbers:

Point plateau Kobe Bryant was on the way towards after he scored 21 first half points, but he played only 10 minutes in the second half (none in the fourth quarter) and opted to pass the rock, giving him a season-high seven assists. Basically, Bryant was taking advantage of L.A.’s size advantage on the block, and after the game told reporters he had no idea he would have been the youngest player to 22,000 ever had he scored 15 more points to surpass Wilt Chamberlain. “I don’t care about that stuff,” Bryant explained.

Points in the paint for the Lakers compared to just 32 for Toronto, a solid indicator of how the game went. Pau Gasol finished with 24 points on 10-of-17, and Andrew Bynum 28 points on 8-of-13.

Second-chance points converted by L.A., thanks to 15 offensive boards, five of which came from Bynum. The Raptors managed just 10 second-chance points with 11 offensive rebounds.

Three pointers attempted by the Raptors, of which they made 11 (44 percent), including four from Anthony Parker. The Lakers made just 4-of-18 triples, with four players hitting one each.

Turnovers by the Lakers, 14 of which came in the second half when the game was already decided. Jordan Farmar had five alone, but none of them really mattered.

You know this one already.

OK, for those of you who skipped the intro, L.A. grabbed 54 boards to 36 for the Raptors, an 18-rebound difference.

Assists and rebounds from Sasha Vujacic in 18:11 of burn, including a gorgeous lob that was eaten alive by Bynum.

Swats for D.J. Mbenga in just 3:04 of action.

Lakers – Raptors Running Diary

Go ahead and refresh that browser once the game starts to view the most recently updated post in the running diary.

Tonight’s inactives:
Lakers: Chris Mihm, Sun Yue
Raptors: Nathan Jawai

Hi everyone – let’s get right to your starters:

Lakers: Fish, Kobe, Vladi, Pau and Bynum
Raptors: Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani*
*Bargnani is starting in place of Jermaine O’Neal, who decided before the game that his ankle and knee weren’t quite ready for game action.

First Quarter
Awww … What a nice lil’ hug from Spaniards Pau Gasol and Jose Calderon just before the tip. Very sweet.

The thing to keep an eye on early is the matchups at the four and five positions, as O’Neal’s absence means that the Raptors have to go small, playing the perimeter-oriented Bargnani at the five. Before the game, Phil Jackson said he actually would have preferred that O’Neal played (even though he had five straight double-doubles before getting hurt) so that the matchups fit better. Jackson doesn’t love it when Gasol has to roam on the perimeter, plus Bynum doesn’t matchup great with Chris Bosh. Of course, these things go both ways, and if the Lakers can pound the ball down low on Toronto, it’s all good.

These matchups played out as expected in the opening minutes, with Bosh hitting a wide-open jumper as Bynum couldn’t get out in time, and Bargnani hitting two shots from the perimeter himself, one being a three. At the other end, however, the Lakers had no trouble with Toronto’s D, as Bryant and Radmanovic snuck into the paint absent a shotblocker. Furthermore, Gasol had three wide open looks at the hoop, converting each time for six points and helping L.A. to an early 19-13 advantage.

Toronto then went on a 7-0 run to take a brief lead, thanks primarily to Calderon’s distribution (six helpers in the first nine minutes), plus Bosh’s menacing presence at the top of the key. Speaking of Bosh…

Bosh 101
Who’d know Chris Bosh’s game better than the guy that spends nearly every day practicing against him? Since I couldn’t think of an answer, I spent a few moments before the game with Toronto’s backup forward Kris Humphries, who had this to say:

“His shooting has become so consistent that his face up game has become really dangerous, so you have to get out there to guard him. Then he can use his speed to blow right by you, so he’s killing it this year. Plus you have a guy who’s capable of getting the b all every single time down the floor, and that makes it tough.”

OK, Chris … The best way to guard Bosh?

“Well first, you try not to let him touch the ball anywhere near the basket. You (used to be able to) send him right, but now he’s doing that really well. Still, you want him to go right if you can, because he finishes so well going left going to the basket. You can try and bait him into taking a jumper and then contest, but in practice for me, I’m just trying to take away everything.”

Back on the floor … Scoring remained quite easy for the purple and gold throughout a first quarter that produced 34 points for the home team, led by 12 from Gasol and nine from Bryant. The defense wasn’t quite as good since Toronto scored 29 points of its own (led by eight from Bargnani), but nobody was complaining in the arena. Both teams made about half their shots, thought five offensive boards helped the Lakers to 11 second-chance points (none for Toronto). We’ve seen this pattern develop over several games already, with L.A.’s offense coming easily for much of the game, and the defense biding its time before locking down completely and producing a big run. This should worry Toronto on this eve, since L.A. hadn’t played good defense yet and still held a five-point edge.

Continue reading ‘Lakers – Raptors Running Diary’

Shaw Pregame Audio and More

Should you ever wind up in STAPLES Center a few hours before a game (if you can sneak past security … not recommended) you’ll see each and every Lakers player warm up in his own way. Everybody shoots, but certain player more than others, and all with varying degrees of intensity. Perhaps that’s obvious, but it remains interesting to watch the subtle differences.

Kobe Bryant likes to get in early and finish up before most people even get to the building; ditto Trevor Ariza; Sun Yue and D.J. Mbenga often go really hard, especially if they’re expecting to be on the inactive list; Luke Walton always gets a three-point shooting game in with assistant coach Brian Shaw.

A better explanation: Shaw, who like the other assistants is charged with warming up each and every player, spent a few minutes with me before Sunday’s game against Toronto to detail the differences between player workouts, the role he plays and how to play the three-point shooting game that’s been around for years.

Pregame Interview Wrap
In the locker rooms and tunnels of the Lakers, we heard from Raptors forward Chris Bosh and Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. Here are a few notes:

There has been some chatter around the league due to comments from Bosh last week, when the NBA’s third leading scorer (27.7), fifth leading rebounder (10.5) and league leader in minutes played (42.3) said he’s shooting for the MVP. Speaking to a Fox reporter on-camera, Bosh said that he’s very conscious that an MVP doesn’t just “score lots of points,” but contributes in many other areas as well. That’s where he’s been trying to take his game this season, and it’s been a fair argument thus far.

Moments later, Phil Jackson added that Bosh’s experience in the Olympics was an obvious boon for his confidence about “what he can do and his impact on the game.”

Two other thoughts on Bosh:
1) He’s obviously very smart. By mentioning his interest in becoming the MVP so explicitly, Bosh’s name is now going to be mentioned far more often that it would have been in that discussion once talks heat up. He gets it. Being among the league leaders in scoring, rebounding and minutes may have helped him get mentions anyway, but he just made sure…
2) I talked to Kris Humphries, Toronto’s backup forward who plays against Bosh in practice every day, in more detail about the former Georgia Tech star, and will get into that in the running diary.

Phil Jackson Pregame

  • Jackson said he’d have been just fine with a solid 10-5 start, and of course feels good that the team will go at worst lose two games in November if the Raptors can manage a win on Sunday.
  • Bynum’s foot doesn’t concern Jackson too much, thanks to his performance on Friday and the fact that ‘Drew felt no additional pain after the game.
  • Jackson actually prefers that Jermaine O’Neal (a game-time decision with knee and ankle injuries) does play, because otherwise L.A.’s defensive rotation gets thrown off a bit: Pau Gasol would have to leak out on the perimeter if, for example, Andrea Bargnani starts at center, with Bynum guarding Bosh.
  • Again asked about the improving East, Jackson delved out some praise but maintained that the West is the deeper conference.

  • No Change for Bynum

    I’m not talking about the 15 cents change from ordering a salt bagel and a sesame bagel with peanut butter from East Coast Bagels this morning (oh wait, that was me)…

    Instead, at shootaround Sunday morning I learned that Bynum has experienced no change from after Friday evening’s game and will play against the Raptors tonight at 6:30 p.m. Remember that after Bynum put up an impressive 18 and 10 vs. Dallas in L.A.’s 13th win, Bynum said his right foot didn’t feel any additional pain, nor did it on Saturday or Sunday morning.

    So, no change. Though both bagels were quite good.

    Lakers 114, Mavericks 107: Postgame

    Exactly two weeks ago, the Detroit Pistons came into STAPLES and shot around 58 percent to take a nine-point lead into the halftime locker room, ultimately emerging with a 106-95 victory in L.A.’s lone loss this season.

    On this Friday night, the Mavericks – who had won five straight coming into the game – shot 58.5 percent in the first half to take a 57-51 lead, putting the Lakers in a similar position as Detroit had.

    Not tonight.

    This time, the Lakers responded with plenty of fervor, riding a 13-0 run to close the third quarter to a 114-107 victory, complete with 15 second half points from Trevor Ariza and 23 second half points from Kobe Bryant, who was fantastic down the stretch and finished with 35 points.

    The shooting percentages alone tell the story … L.A. hit just 36.5 percent in the first half, before cashing in on 59.0 percent in the second, while Dallas went from 58.5 percent to 44.2 percent in the second.

    Here are a few more telling numbers in L.A.’s sixth consecutive win:

    L.A.’s free throw percentage (14-of-15). Bynum missed the front end of two foul shots at the 9:07 mark of the first quarter, but the Lakers wouldn’t miss again.

    Points in the paint from the Lakers, who allowed just 40 from a Dallas team that hit 13-of-29 threes. Andrew Bynum scored 18 points and Pau Gasol 14.

    Percent shooting by Kobe Bryant for his 35 points, including 1-of-4 threes. Kobe made all six of his free throw attempts, and added six boards, five assists, a steal and a block in a complete effort.

    Points off the bench by Jason Terry in 35 minutes, including three triples. Terry made 13-of-23 shots and added five assists.

    Percent of threes hit by Vladimir Radmanovic, who came into the game on fire and hit his first shot of the evening before missing his final three.

    Tie of a season-high in points for Bynum on 6-of-12 shooting, including 6-of-7 foul shots. Ariza’s 15 points were also a season-high.

    Offensive boards grabbed by L.A., including six from Bynum and four from Gasol. Dallas managed just eight offensive boards, and was outrebounded 45-36 for the game.

    Total turnovers committed by the Lakers.

    Lakers – Dallas Running Diary

    Go ahead and refresh that browser once the game starts to view the most recently updated post in the running diary.

    Hello from STAPLES Center everybody … I know you can’t wait for your inactives:

    Lakers: Chris Mihm, Sun Yue
    Dallas: Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse

    As you can see, for the first time this season, your inactives have changed due to Chris Mihm’s sprained ankle, suffered in practice the other day.

    AND your starters:

    L.A. Fish, Kobe, Vladi, Pau and Bynum
    Dallas: Jason Kidd, Antoine Wright, Gerald Green*, Dirk Nowitzki and Erick Dampier
    *Green’s starting for Dallas as Josh Howard was a late scratch. He was listed as probable, and looked good in warmups, but must have decided that his ankle wasn’t quite ready. Still, Dallas has won three of their five-straight games without Howard.

    First Quarter
    The first evidence that Bynum’s foot isn’t more than a little painful came near the 11:00 mark when he destroyed an Antoine Wright driving layup. Of course, the mere mention of Bynum having any kind of injury nearly incited an earthquake of panic amongst Lakers faithful, but the worry seems in vain. The thing is, with how big Bynum is, even the slightest awkwardness in a landing can cause an injury, where as you might see Fisher fall down repeatedly, but not necessarily injure himself because his body is so centered to the ground. Note to self: Ask Lakers trainer Gary Vitti about different body chemistry among players. OK. Bynum managed a game-high six points and an offensive rebound in the game’s first six minutes, which included an angry, two-handed and-1 dunk thanks to a slick pass from Gasol. While we won’t so much be able to tell if his foot’s bothering him when he’s on the floor, it certainly looked all right to start.

    After falling behind 7-2 to start the game, L.A. used a 12-3 run – thanks largely to Bynum – to take a 14-10 game and force the evening’s first timeout. L.A. was able to get to the free throw line seven times, while Dallas lived by the jumper. You should also know that if I were electing an honorary guest for courtside tickets, I’d definitely choose Brian Westbrook, thanks to his four touchdowns on Thanksgiving (fantasy owners around the country just nodded their head a few times in agreement). By the way, Lamar Odom proudly told me that he did nothing but eat yesterday, with a broad smile and a “absolutely, 100 percent” to emphasize his point.

    L.A.’s 12-3 run quickly became a 18-3 run when Bryant scored again in the lane (nice to see him hitting the basket, right?) and Vladi nailed another three. Turkey day didn’t mess with Radmanovic’s shooting flow, it would seem. Dallas, however, had an answer, scoring nine straight of its own thanks to a Jason Terry steal and dunk and a (former Laker) Devean George triple though Fisher’s pull-up three (the kind you hate until it goes in) put the Lakers back up four at 23-19.

    Bryant and Kidd then traded triples as Ariza and Farmar joined Odom, Gasol and Bryant on the floor, before another George three canceled out a Gasol mini-hook on Dirk. In the final 30 seconds, Vujacic (who’d just checked in for Kobe) looked like he got hit on a three-point attempt but received no call, and Dallas drew within a point on a Jose Barea* layup. But with 3.7 seconds left, Jordan Farmar got the ball all the way up the floor to the NBA’s best-running bigman, and Gasol finished at the rim as the clock expired for a 30-27 edge. That gave Pau six points, while Bryant led the way with 10.
    *Not sure why I know this, but last year Jose was called “Jose Juan Barea.” What’s up, Dallas? Why shorten your man’s name?

    Continue reading ‘Lakers – Dallas Running Diary’

    Bynum Set to Play Through Pain

    Good news on the Bynum injury front came at about 6:15 p.m. Friday night when Phil Jackson told reporters that he wasn’t concerned about Bynum’s foot. Minutes later, Bynum himself reported that while his foot was a bit sore, we was going to play through the pain.

    “We’re not concerned,” said Jackson. “He moves freely. In the movement itself, there is a different feel about it, but we’re relatively concerned about what it’s going to be like after he plays. The other night he played with it and didn’t even signify anything until after the game was over, so it’s not the kind of pain that would inhibit him from playing, unless the discomfort of the fragment itself would cause problems.”

    After injuring his foot while colliding with Vince Carter during a lob attempt on Tuesday, Bynum worked out Friday morning with the team and went through his usual pregame warmup at STAPLES. He had been listed as day-to-day, but perhaps the best news is that the injury isn’t expected to linger. Essentially, the small bone spur in his right foot may cause him irritation particularly after he plays on it, but Bynum said the pain is not expected to last for more than two weeks.

    Unfortunately, another Lakers center, Chris Mihm, is not going to play due to a sprained ankle he suffered during L.A.’s “Turkey Trot” the other day, when players 6-8 and above take on those that are 6-8 and shorter. That means D.J. Mbenga should be active for his first game of the season.

    Jackson also talked about how well Dallas has played in their current five-game winning streak, which he credited in part to the Mavs honing down their offense and discovering the rhythm and spacing “the way they want it.”

    One difference in tonight’s game versus L.A.’s win in Dallas is that Josh Howard is expected to play. Jackson explained that it wasn’t his scoring that Dallas really missed, but his ability to rebound defensively and take the ball coast-to-coast. Phil said that Dallas really misses that threat when he’s not in the ball game, but has some players – like Gerald Green – who can come in if the Mavs simply need scoring.

    Finally, here’s a stat: The Lakers are 34-6 in the regular season since acquiring Pau Gasol from Memphis.

    Battle of Five-Game Winning Streaks

    Even when playing against some of the league’s worst teams, five-game winning streaks are impressive in the NBA. There are just too many talented players even on bad teams to continually win on a nightly basis, meaning that both the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks have been playing pretty good basketball of late.

    Let’s take a closer look at the two five-game streaks:

  • Opponents: Dallas has managed to beat New York, Charlotte, Houston, Memphis and Indiana after starting the season 2-7, including a home loss (106-99) to L.A. The Lakers, after starting the season 7-0 and losing to Detroit, have handled Chicago, Phoenix, Denver, Sacramento and New Jersey.
  • Home and Away: Three of Dallas’ wins were on the road, while four or L.A.’s were at home.
  • Margin: L.A. won by an average margin of 14.2 points, while Dallas emerged victorious by an average margin of 11. L.A.’s five opponents have now totaled 40 wins, and those of Dallas 31.
  • Injuries: Dallas has won three straight without Josh Howard (ankle sprain), while the Lakers have been fully healthy. Howard is a game time decision, but Andrew Bynum is day-to-day with a foot injury announced on Thanksgiving.
  • Leaders: Dirk Nowitzki has been excellent during the streak, averaging 28.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Helping out has been Jason Kidd with 7.6 boards, 9.0 assists and 8.4 points. Meanwhile, the Lakers have received more balanced production overall, led by Kobe Bryant’s 22.0 points, 4.8 boards and 4.2 assists, with Pau Gasol contributing 18.4 points, 6.8 boards and 3.8 assists, Vladimir Radmanovic canning 12-of-19 threes (63 percent) and Andrew Bynum posting 14.2 points and 9.0 boards.
  • The Bench: Outstanding all season, L.A.’s bench has been terrific in the last five, led by Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar, all of whom have contributed significantly and in varying degrees. Dallas is getting fantastic scoring production from Jason Terry (23.0 points in the last five), including games of 31 and 29 points, but no one else is contributing much off the pine.
  • X-Factor: For the Lakers, it has to be Andrew Bynum. If he doesn’t play, will L.A. easily return to its NBA Finals form of last season, or will the team struggle to adjust without it’s shot blocking center? Surely the impact will be felt more pointedly on defense. For Dallas, who’s used to playing without Josh Howard, will anyone other than Jason Terry step up and be productive off the bench?. Having only six guys contribute may not be enough to beat the Lakers, particularly after playing weaker teams like Memphis and Indiana that have little to no bench.

    As always, we’ll be at STAPLES for full pregame coverage, including a Bynum update, and on the BasketBlog live throughout the contest with our running diary. See you soon.

  • Bynum Day-to-Day with Foot Injury

    From our PR department:

    Lakers center Andrew Bynum suffered an injury to his right foot in Tuesday’s game against the New Jersey Nets. MRI and CT scan results show that a small bone spur chipped off and is the cause of Bynum’s pain and inflammation. Bynum’s playing status is day-to-day, and the Lakers will issue an update tomorrow (11/28) prior to the game vs. Dallas.

    Wednesday Practice Report

    Lamar Odom likes stuffing the best, though he isn’t complaining about cranberry sauce.

    Turkey Day aside, Odom and Phil Jackson addressed a few media members subsequent to Wednesday’s practice. Though you can watch the videos for yourself, here’s what stood out to me:

  • Jackson used the word “buoyant” to describe how his players looked on the court Tuesday night, which is interesting diction. The idea is that when so many guys are contributing individually to the team, the general mood is quite positive. Winning of course improves a team’s collective mood, but even more so when nine guys are contributing than five. I’m on board with that theory.
  • Phil explained that Kobe said he’s “Feeling the best he’s ever felt at this time of the season, so that’s a nice thing to hear him say.” Jackson went on to express concern that Bryant’s not shooting the ball with “the kind of accuracy he has in the past,” saying the team would “really (like to) get him going before the trip we take next week.”
  • I asked Odom if there’s anything that’s surprised him about how far along the Lakers are at this stage of the season: “Nah. In the beginning of training camp, I remember the first day we all got together and this is kinda what I had in mind … We had a long summer to sit back and think about what we did wrong, and now we’re just going out there playing hard and playing to win every game. Our chemistry has gotten that much better inside and outside the locker room.”

    Now, if you’re looking for a breakdown of a Dallas Mavericks team that has won five straight after losing five straight, I spent five minutes with assistant coach Jim Cleamons, and that video will be up on Friday morning, when you’re still digesting Thursday evening’s meal.