Monthly Archive for November, 2008

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Basketball Reference Post

Basketball-Reference.com does a great job of analyzing statistics, so much so that I’m simply going to link to their piece analyzing L.A.’s ridiculous start to the season.

The Lakers and Hot November Starts

The post is primarily about B-R.com’s “Simple Rating System,” which is essentially a team’s average point differential that’s adjusted for strength of schedule.

While numbers never guarantee anything, they’re quite intriguing when crunched this hard, aren’t they?

Daily Trivia: Magic Bird

Play the Trivia Contest on Lakers Courtside Connection every day (Monday-Friday) for your chance to win great Lakers prizes.

Today’s question is:
In what year did Magic first meet Bird in the NBA Finals?
(Answer Here)

If you think you know the answer, login to Lakers Courtside Connection and see if right. Then come back tomorrow to test your knowledge on Lakers history again, while making a run towards really cool prizes.

Lakers 120, Nets 93: Postgame

After a decent but unimpressive first half that produced just a two-point lead for Los Angeles, the Lakers absolutely exploded in the second half, outscoring the Nets 33-10 during an eight-minute stretch wrapped around the third quarter break to run away with a 27-point victory.

Pau Gasol was terrific with 26 points and eight boards in 31 minutes, while the Lakers’ bench was again the league’s best – particularly during that second half blast – while producing 56 points from the pine for the contest. That number stands out even more because the Nets managed just 19 points from their Ariza-thin bench.

“Their front line was obviously a problem and their bench was huge – guys like Jordan Farmar, Lamar Odom – their intensity they brought,” said Nets head coach Lawrence Frank. “That second unit, second effort plays really took the game out of reach for us.”

All things considered, Tuesday’s second half was an emphatic answer to questions surrounding the Lakers defensive effort in its last few wins, not only looking good on paper but pushing L.A. to a 12-1 start to the season in a Western Conference in which not one other team has fewer than five losses.

Let’s get to the numbers:

16
Lakers’ advantage in points in the paint, 52-38, as L.A. repeatedly found Gasol (26 points) and Bynum (15 points) on the block. “Our emphasis was our inside game and they have a lot of young players in the interior area,” said Jackson after the game.

17
Boards grabbed by the Ariza-Odom-Farmar combo, who also pitched in 41 of L.A.’s 56 bench points. Also the number of fourth quarter points for New Jersey, compared with 30 for L.A.

29.4
Percent of shots hit by Kobe Bryant on 5-of-17 shooting. Aside from Bryant, the Lakers shot 55.7 percent. After the game, Bryant seemed the opposite of concerned about his poor shooting night, choosing to focus on a excellent second half performance from his teammates.

50
Percent of threes (2-of-4) hit by Vladimir Radmanovic, who had been white hot heading into the contest after 5-of-5 and 4-of-5 nights in the previous three games.

64
Second half points for L.A., in contrast to New Jersey’s 39.

75
Percent shooting by Pau Gasol on 9-of-12 from the field. Gasol also nailed all eight of his free throw attempts and added eight boards, three dimes and a block to his 26 points.

120
Season-high points scored by the Lakers.

Lakers – Nets Running Diary

Check back after the tip for live in-game analysis from STAPLES Center. Hit your browsers’ refresh (or reload) button to get the latest entry.

Inactives for tonight:
Lakers – D.J. Mbenga, Sun Yue
Nets – Josh Boone, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Eduardo Najera

The inactives get no love. Know what I mean? That’s why I spent some time with Sun Yue the other day, and why I spoke to D.J. in the locker room before the game. A man who speaks seven languages and has traveled all over the world, Mbenga teaches me something I didn’t know on most days, so I thought I’d share with you a brief conversation about his favorite country in Europe:

What does that have to do with tonight’s game, you’re wondering? Nothing. Nothing at all. Don’t worry about it.

Here are your starters:

Lakers: Fish, Kobe, Vladi, Pau and Bynum
Nets: Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Bobby Simmons, Yi Jianlian and Brook Lopez

First Quarter
Two things I’m keeping an eye on right away tonight:
1) Does Radmanovic continue his blistering three-point shooting from the last three games, in which he went 5-of-5 once (at Phoenix) and 4-of-5 Sunday (vs. Sacramento).
2) Does Kobe come out aggressively looking to score as he has against other teams that aren’t fantastic on paper?
3) Will Yi Jianlian be able to do anything defensively with Gasol? Pau’s been eating up defenders in first quarters all year, and Yi isn’t known for bodying up on D.

And your early answers, after six minutes and a 13-12 New Jersey lead:
A) Yes. Vladi buried his only triple attempt right at the 6:00 mark to give L.A. the lead. Radmanovic also grabbed a team-high three boards.
B) Yes. Kobe took L.A.’s first two shots, both contested jumpers from the perimeter, and put up three more in the next few minutes. The only problem was that he missed all five, four of which were perimeter jumpers.
C) Not at all. Gasol got his (and L.A.’s) first bucket in transition after a nice leading pass from Kobe, and his second after simply pushing Yi out of the way for an offensive board.

The Nets came out firing bullets like Peter Vescey in his hoops columns, scoring 12 points in just over three minutes including five points each from Carter and Yi, both of whom hit a three, to give New Jersey a 24-21 lead at the 2:46 mark (when Jackson called a full timeout). Gasol was able to victimize Yi twice more on the defensive end, however, and Bryant broke out of his first-quarter shooting slump with a big jam off the baseline. Rotation-wise, Trevor Ariza, Jordan Farmar and Lamar Odom checked in with Kobe and Pau, which I would have commented more on had I not been distracted by a massive Carl’s Jr. burger on the jumbotron that has me thinking about my route home from STAPLES later. I think if I take the 10W to the 405s to Venice I’ll hit one…

A rather unimpressive first quarter from the Lakers probably wasn’t what the critics were looking for after the rather uninspired early fourth quarter performance on Sunday, particularly since New Jersey managed to shoot 54.2 percent, while the Lakers made just 40.9 percent of their shots (resulting in a 28-24 Jersey lead). Bryant’s 1-of-7 effort came almost exclusively from clanked jumpers, but if you take out his shooting woes the rest of the squad hit at 53 percent. Turnovers weren’t really a problem (four) and the Nets didn’t get to the foul line once, but Lopez had a few really easy looks at the rim (eight points) thanks in part to the penetration of Deven Harris (four assists). Perhaps the main concern for the Lakers heading into tonight’s action was Harris getting into the paint too easily, and it’s probably fair to say that he did just that.

Continue reading ‘Lakers – Nets Running Diary’

Lakers – Nets Pregame

Let’s hear from Phil right away today, shall we?

Allow me to bullet point:

  • The Lakers focused no more on defense during Monday’s practice than they do every practice. Phil answered a question as such, implying that just because the defensive effort waned at times against Sacramento in Sunday’s 10-point win, it didn’t mean the Lakers had to change any points of emphasis. Basically, Sunday’s lapses were due to lessening up of focus and effort, not principles. In other words, please stop worrying about it.
  • I asked Jackson how the Lakers would try and keep Vince Carter from getting into a rhythm offensively: “I think he’s one of those players where you want to limit his touches,” Phil responded. “Just make sure that it’s difficult for him to get the ball, and to make him step away from his favorite spots to do so.” I should have followed up by asking him what those spots are and how much watching film helps towards that end, but usually try not to proliferate pregame press conferences with unless I can’t help myself.
  • Jackson discussed L.A.’s extended home stretch, somehow managing to talk for 30 second without really saying much. He’s very good at that when he wants to be, right?
  • An interesting comment about where the team is right now: “We’re still quite a ways away from playing the kind of fluid rhythm it takes for us to play (very well),” Jackson said. “I think we’re playing kind of herky-jerky and spotty, but it’s early … Some of it is that we’re playing so many minutes to so many different guys, but I’m trying to get units together to kind of mesh their talent.”
  • About New Jersey, Jackson noted that the Nets open the floor up with dribble drives (as we heard in our scouting report with Matt McQueeny) and don’t run much of the Princeton offense anymore. They run a few plays for Vince Carter and have some shooters to spread the floor for Carter and Devin Harris, which Jackson said is “the rage in the NBA right now.” Jackson, however, is “not particularly” a fan of the dribble-drive offense, suggesting that coaches do it to try and take advantage of the three-point line, which has made the game different from how it used to be. Jackson does like the fan appeal of that offense, because it increases scoring and makes for a more fun game to watch.
  • The final few moments of the presser involved a friendly back-and-forth between Jackson and a few reporters about the reality of media coverage. “Nit picky” and “punditry” were a few words Jackson fairly used to emphasize all of the “negative” stories that I’ve been whining about, such as how the defense has struggled recently and so on. “You have to write something,” Phil concluded.

    I also spent a few minutes talking to D.J. Mbenga – a tremendously cultured individual after being born in Africa and growing up in Europe – about his favorite European country, Spain. I’ll drop that audio into the running diary somewhere.

  • Previewing the Nets with Mathew McQueeny

    Great New Jersey Nets basketball mind Mathew McQueeny – who used to write for nets.com and now writes for NJ.com’s “Nothin’ But Nets” blog – spent some time with us on the phone to discuss the 6-6 Nets. Listen up to hear discussions about Devin Harris, Yi Jianlian and Vinsanity as we preview Tuesday’s contest.

    Click below to hear what Mathew had to say and check out Lakers Gameday for everything else you need to know about the game.

    Daily Trivia: Elgin’s Average

    Play the Trivia Contest on Lakers Courtside Connection every day (Monday-Friday) for your chance to win great Lakers prizes.

    Today’s question is:
    How many points did Elgin Baylor average in the 1960-1961 regular season?
    (Answer Here)

    If you think you know the answer, login to Lakers Courtside Connection and see if right. Then come back tomorrow to test your knowledge on Lakers history again, while making a run towards really cool prizes.

    Chinese Special: Sun on Yi

    Yi Jianlian, Sun YueEven since the first day of training camp, Sun Yue’s English has gotten markedly better.

    My first conversation with Sun in early October was a bit difficult for both of us, with lots of repeating words and phrases, clarifying and glances towards Sun’s interpreter. But on Monday at the Lakers practice facility, our conversation flowed smoothly, and Sun needed to ask for clarification from said interpreter only once.

    Much of our discussion today centered around Sun’s close friend, fellow Chinese player Yi Jianlian, who on Saturday scored 27 points against the Clippers and is averaging 10.9 points and 6.8 boards this season, though we touched on a few other points as well.

    The few pauses you’ll hear occurred when Sun needed me to repeat something (twice) or ask his interpreter to clarify something (once). Here’s the audio:

    Monday Practice Report

    Always on top of your practice video is our own Ty Nowell, who’s currently working on Phil Jackson and Andrew Bynum after already posting Kobe Bryant’s interview. (NOTE: Those videos are now live and are linked above)

    Now, if you read my postgame summary last night, you know that I was getting slightly annoyed with the over-the-top worrying about L.A. not sustaining a top-notch defensive effort for the duration of the ball game. Just from a pure basketball perspective, no matter if you love or hate the Lakers, it’s simply hard to argue that the game wasn’t fully in control from the tip.

    Yet, predictably, many of Monday’s questions directed towards Phil, Kobe and Bynum had to do with the “let down” against the Kings. When Kobe was talking, I stepped back from the fray to speak with Lakers spokesman John Black, asking him if these types of questions were predictable. He replied, in essence, that if that’s what people are talking about, the team must be playing pretty darn well. Good point. Jackson, for his part, was more concerned with the turnovers than relaxing a bit with big lead (he said it’s “not unusual”), but really didn’t seem to be too concerned at all.

    Not For the Weary
    What stood out to me on Monday, especially after speaking to Chris Mihm, was that sometimes L.A.’s practices are tougher than games. Mihm alluded in particular to how deep and talented the team is, meaning that even the third unit’s going to offer some serious competition.

    “From my aspect, I’m going up Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, plus D.J. Mbenga who’s a very strong, physical player,” he said. “There aren’t better bigs that we go up against in games, so it’s a fantastic opportunity for everybody to really work on their game, especially guys like me who aren’t really getting minutes on the floor in games with now.”

    I also asked Mihm about the physicality of these practices, because obviously, L.A.’s assistant coaches aren’t calling many fouls. As such, any time a big gets the ball in the paint, he’s going to get hacked by at least his defender, if not double-teamed and hit from two angles. So for Mihm, concentration is key, because if he knows they’re going to foul him and he won’t get bailed out with free throws, he’d better find a way to make the bucket anyway.

    I also spent some time talking to Sun Yue in part about New Jersey’s Yi Jianlian, a close friend of Sun’s that will be in town tonight heading into Tuesday’s contest. Check for a separate post on that front.

    Five-Loss West

    Take a peek at the NBA’s Western Conference Standings, and one thing should jump off your page:

    11-1.

    As in one loss for the Lakers, which wouldn’t look quite as nice in the East (Boston has two, Cleveland three) but is as pretty as Selma Hayek in a West where every other team has at least five losses.

    Utah, Denver, Phoenix and New Orleans have all lost five times each after 27 days of NBA games, which should spell early-season t-r-o-u-b-l-e, especially because L.A. now has a 13-game stretch in which Phoenix (9-5) and Philly (7-6) are the only teams currently above .500. The Lakers just thrashed the Suns in Phoenix last week by 13, and welcome Nash and Co. into STAPLES on Dec. 10, a week after facing the 76ers in Philly on the 3rd.

    After that stretch, the schedule stiffens a bit with Orlando and New Orleans on the road before home dates with Boston, Utah, Portland and New Orleans.

    But having already beaten the Hornets, Nuggets, Mavs and Suns on the road and Blazers, Rockets and Bulls at home, one can guess that the Lakers are feeling pretty confident no matter the W/L record on the other side of the court.