Monthly Archive for December, 2008

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Lakers – Warriors Preview with Shaw

After shootaround today we caught up with assistant coach Brian Shaw to talk about tonight’s opponent, the Golden State Warriors (video above).

He threw a couple of interesting statistics at us. Golden State leads the league in offensive rebounds and is near the top in second-chance and fast-break points. This is all indicative of a team that isn’t afraid to hoist up a lot of outside shots. That’s not really a surprise since head coach Don Nelson loves to play fast ( fast like near the border of reckless, not fast like 70 in a 65) and has a roster stocked with gunners like Stephen Jackson, Kelenna Azubuike, Jamal Crawford, Marco Belinelli and Corey Maggette.

Ronny TuriafA stat the might surprise is the Warriors ranking at the top of the NBA in blocked shots with 6.6 per game. Former Laker Ronny Turiaf is fourth in the league with 2.17 bpg in just over 17-minutes per game while starting big man Andris Biedrins is swatting away 1.45 shot per game.

It looks like the Warriors will be without Maggette (hamstring), but could regain the services of Crawford, who is still listed as questionable with a strained groin.This won’t effect the style of basketball the Warriors play, they’ll run-and-gun no matter who’s dressed, just the quality and depth.

Even without those two, and a record that only sports nine wins, Golden State is a dangerous team every single night. They showed this on Friday when they beat the Boston Celtics a day after the Lakers accomplished the same feat. In that game Boston controlled the game with a double-digit lead for the majority of the contest until hitting a cold streak in the final minutes while the Warriors caught fire and ended up with a 99-89 win.

On offense the key for the Lakers will be to go inside early and often. “Last year when Pau was with Memphis, right before the trade, he had 45 or 46 points against the Warriors. His brother this year, with Memphis again, had 26-points and 16-rebounds against Golden State. The point I was trying to make is that you have to get the ball inside against this team,” Shaw said. And it’s not just the Gasol brothers that fair well against Golden State, big men in general seem to prosper when given the touches against the Warriors.
*Editor’s Note: It was 43 for Pau, but when you get up that high who really cares

The inside game not only takes advantage of the Warriors lack of size down there but leads to high percentage shots that cuts down on long rebounds that can kick start the Warriors fast-break.

Added Shaw, “That might be our best defense, how we execute our offense to control the tempo and the pace.”

Kobe’s Shot Counter

Kobe BryantWith 29 games in the books and 24 wins for the Lakers, here’s a question about Kobe Bryant: How many shots should the MVP take for the Lakers to have the best chance of winning?

It’s a tough question, because different games have completely different flows, and demand completely different things from various players. Perhaps the best way to answer it is to ask assistant coach Brian Shaw, who played with Bryant and now coaches him. We’ll get to that in a second, but the other way to shed some light on the issue is to crunch a few numbers.

Kobe in W’s vs. Kobe in L’s
Here are Bryant’s shooting and scoring numbers in L.A.’s 23 wins (prior to the Boston win) vs. their five losses:

When L.A. Wins
25.1 points per game; 18.9 field goal attempts; 47.5 percent shooting
When L.A. Loses
30.8 points per game; 26.2 field goal attempts; 43 percent shooting

A few points we can take from that data, which obviously refers only to this season and deals not with Bryant’s past shooting numbers, follow:
A) The Lakers are a better team when Kobe generally stays at or below 20 field goal attempts, as Shaw explains below. In fact, when Kobe shoots 21 or more times in a game, the Lakers are only 9-5 (including Boston). When he shoots fewer than 21 times, L.A. is 15-0.

B) While the Lakers need Kobe’s scoring to win, they don’t need him to put up huge scoring numbers. That he averages five more points per game in Lakers losses is indicative either that his teammates depend upon him too much in close games, or that he himself is taking too many shots at the expense of running L.A.’s effective offense. His season-high 41-point game was a 106-103 loss at Orlando, when neither Pau Gasol nor Andrew Bynum were much involved in the offense.

C) Kobe shot very poorly in three of L.A.’s five losses (@ ORL, @ SAC and vs DET), but the Lakers managed to beat Washington, New Jersey, Phoenix and Denver when he shot just as poorly. Point being, it’s not so much Kobe’s shooting percentage as his volume of shots that dictates L.A.’s success.
With that said, here’s what Brian Shaw had to say about the topic:
Kobe Bryant Close Up
Lakers Assistant Coach Brian Shaw on Kobe
MT: On how many shots the coaching staff would like Kobe Bryant to take:
Shaw: It’s going to fluctuate from game to game, but an ideal situation, the number is probably around 20 shots. If he gets 20 shots and everybody else is in the six-to-twelve shot range, I think we’ll have really good balance, and teams can’t just key on one guy. There are certain situations where it’s better for Kobe to be a decoy, especially if someone else is hot, because Kobe’s going to draw attention regardless of if he’s shooting a lot or not. We can use that to our advantage.

MT: On approaching the game as a player playing with Kobe, as Shaw did 1999-2000 to 2002-03 (earning three rings):
First of all, if you want him to pass you the ball in certain situations, you have to knock down the shot when you get the ball, and particularly when he gives you the ball. Then he’ll be less reluctant to give you the ball when he’s double-teamed, or in a crowd. I knew from playing with Shaquille O’Neal that he liked a certain side of the floor on the block, and when he got the ball down there they’d double-team off me. I knew I was going to get shots anywhere from the corner to the top of the circle in our offense, so that’s where I practiced shooting. I was even probably more focused when the ball came from him or from Kobe, because if you knock down shots when they give it to you, they know the defense has to play you more honestly and that’ll open it up for them.

MT: On if his experience playing with Kobe and Shaq helps him coach L.A.’s current supporting players:
Shaw: Well, we tell them. A lot of times guys get caught up in how many touches they get or how many shots they’re taking, and we try to get them away from that. But one hand washes the other, and it’s always been that way. If he sets a good screen for me, I’ll get open. If I knock down shots, he’ll have more space. We try to preach and teach that to the guys, and some are more receptive to it than others.

MT: On how sometimes you need your best player to be “selfish” on offense:
Shaw: In some situations, you have to be selfish as a scorer. I say that because our team counts on the points that Kobe provides for us every night. There are certain situations where it may be more advantageous for him to pass the ball, but he needs to get himself into a rhythm so that he can feel comfortable for when we need him to score down the stretch. And if they don’t double-team him (like a late play against Memphis on the block on Monday), you’ll take your chances with that against anybody in the league.

Lakers 92, Celtics 83: Postgame

PostgameMerry Christmas, Los Angeles … The Lakers beat the Celtics.

Nearly six months after the result was flipped towards Boston, the two heavyweights slugged it out in STAPLES Center on a dreary L.A. day, and boy what a finish.

After 44 minutes of back-and-forth basketball featuring 13 lead changes found the score tied at 81 with 3:37 to go, Pau Gasol helped deliver a Christmas ending that served as a present both to the city and to Phil Jackson, who became the fastest coach to record 1,000 victories in NBA history.

The Spaniard had struggled through much of the game in shooting 3-for-11 from the field and at times he chose to pass instead of aggressively take the ball at his defender, but that all changed thanks in part to Boston’s focus on Kobe Bryant. First came a silky 15-foot jumper, next a 7-foot jump hook and finally a lay-up plus the harm as Gasol’s seven-straight points put L.A. up 88-83 with 1:28 to play. All three buckets came courtesy of Kobe assists, and all three were plays that simply didn’t happen in last season’s NBA Finals.

Nearly as important as his shot-making were two crucial defensive plays from Gasol, blocks of a Ray Allen three-pointer at the 1:17 mark that resulted in a reverse jam from Trevor Ariza, and a swat of Paul Pierce on the next possession that helped put the game on holiday ice. Thus, in the final three minutes and change of the game, the Lakers outscored Boston 11-2, and snapped the Celtics’ 19-game winning streak in the process.

Gasol finished with 20 points, five assists, three boards and three blocks, while Bryant chipped in a game-high 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

A few other key numbers, before we get to the postgame quotes:

Free throw attempts for Kobe Bryant.

Free throw attempts by the Celtics, as the Lakers were very effective in playing pressure defense without committing too many personals. Derek Fisher was the only Laker with more than three fouls (four).

Lakers turnovers, resulting in only 11 Celtics points, far below average. The Lakers also rebounded well defensively, ceding just seven offensive boards to Boston.

Bench points by the Celtics, who seemed a player or two short off the pine (can you say pre-deadline deal?). L.A. got 10 points each from Lamar Odom and Sasha Vujacic, and a big defensive contribution from Ariza, whose two loose-ball saving plays resulted in important Lakers hoops.

Assists for the Lakers, who really moved the ball well to get to 36 field goal makes. Fisher led the way with seven dimes, while Luke Walton (who had his best game as a starter), Gasol and Bryant added five helpers each. Boston had only 22 assists on 36 makes.

If Kobe’s going to shoot the ball 23 times against one of the league’s best teams and the Lakers are to win, he’d better make more than half … And he did. Bryant shot 13-of-23 from the floor, including a put-back bucket with 26.2 remaining to really bury the Celtics.

Shooting percentage for Kevin Garnett on 11-of-14. KG added nine boards, a steal and a block, but was held to only two assists. Rajon Rondo led the way in that category with 12, but struggled from the field, shooting 3-for-11 and often being influenced not to shoot at all with Andrew Bynum lurking in the paint.

Career wins for Phil Jackson, who became the fastest head coach to that mark.

Click over to the next page for postgame quotes:
Continue reading ‘Lakers 92, Celtics 83: Postgame’

Jackson Becomes Fastest Coach to 1,000 Wins

Phil JacksonAs a substantial added bonus to L.A.’s 92-83 victory over the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson earned his 1,000th career win, becoming the fastest NBA coach to do so.

After the contest, Jackson simply said that he was happy to have the win come on Christmas, and went back to talking about the game.

Jackson has nine NBA Championship rings as a head coach, tying Celtics legend Red Auerbach for the most in league history.

Lakers – Celtics Running Diary

As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Lakers: Jordan Farmar, D.J. Mbenga
Celtics: J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker

The buzz in the arena began well before the game started, even in the visiting locker room as Ray Allen in particular answered reporter’s questions for a good 12 minutes.

Allen, long known as a well-spoken, interesting interview, talked about the differences between this year’s team and last (consistency of effort and in game preparation), his comments at the ESPY’s last season about winning again in L.A. (no big deal, just natural) and about how incredibly better and offseason is after winning the championship (obviously).

Upon seeing Sam Cassell in the locker room, and after watching the entire 2008 Finals again last night, I asked him if the Celtics’ young players would be able to take on the crucial playoff roles played by P.J. Brown, James Posey and, to a lesser degree, Cassell. Sam predictably said, “Of course they will.” A player generally isn’t going to argue otherwise, but it’s really hard to argue that Boston’s bench (Tony Allen, Glen Davis, Eddie House and Leon Powe) is as good as last season’s bench. So far this season, however, Boston’s starters have been so good that the bench hasn’t needed more than one guy to play decent. We’ll see if that changes tonight.

One thing’s for sure – crowd support won’t be an issue. Even as the Lakers came out for warmups, the STAPLES Center roar was already in general fourth quarter decibels.

Yet and still, after all this build up, not much more needed to be said on either side. Both teams, the fans, the media and ABC’s executives (the ratings can’t be bad, huh?) are primed and ready to go, so here are your expected starters:

Lakers Fish, Kobe, Luke, Pau and Bynum
Celtics Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins

First Quarter
11:34 Ray Allen’s stroke wasted no time in giving the Celtics a 3-0 lead, after Bynum’s shot over Perkins rimmed out. Allen got a great look since L.A. wasn’t back in its halfcourt defense.

10:23 Fisher triple. Cash (not Warren). Walton had cleverly spun around Rondo for a lay-in on the previous possession, and L.A. led 5-3.

9:21 After Boston’s first turnover, Rondo picked up a cheap foul in the backcourt for his second of the game, but Doc Rivers chose to leave him in. We’ll see if that backfires … Though even if Rondo avoid’s foul No. 3, he will probably have to be less aggressive on defense than he usually is.

7:59 Dunk. Bynum. Fierce, to make it 10-7 thanks to a pretty Walton pass. Bynum did commit his first foul on the next possession, and Rondo got to the hoop for the second straight time for the Celtics to cut the lead to one. Boston’s offense barely ran through Rondo at all last season, particularly in the Finals, but he’s been the man so far this season, and today.

6:15 Perkins and Allen scored back-to-back to put Boston up 13-10 heading into the game’s first timeout, which gives us occasion to look at the special X-Mas Day footwear (pictured).

Lakers Christmas Shoes One shoe is Kobe’s special version of his “Nike Zoom Kobe IV’s” (below) while the rest of the team is wearing Nike Hyperdunks (above). I have one of each on up in press row.

5:30 As Rondo misses another shot in the lane, I’m wondering to myself why Boston hasn’t posted KG up on the block yet? That and Pierce’s isolation plays were probably the most effective in the Finals last season. Meanwhile, Bryant nailed back-to-back jumpers to put L.A. back up one.

Pau? Is 0-for-3, all on missed jumpers. We don’t see that too often.

3:16 Pierce hits his second straight jumper, and it’s Odom’s fault. After LO cleared an Eddie House miss, House picked his pocket and fed an open PP. Gasol then missed again, and KG scored in the lane for his first points to put Boston up 19-16.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Celtics Running Diary’

Kobe Still Leading West


The second All-Star ballot returns are in and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant still leads the Western Conference in overall votes. Bryant’s 1,280,912 votes bested Houston big man Yao Ming, who is second with 1,114,709 votes.

The current starting five is rounded out by Tim Duncan and Amar’e Stoudemire at Forward, with Tracy McGrady joing Kobe in the backcourt.

Even though his play remains stellar, forward Pau Gasol was surpassed by Houston’s Ron Artest and now sits in fifth place among Western Conference forwards.

Click below to see the full standings:
Continue reading ‘Kobe Still Leading West’

Lakers – Celtics Pregame

Merry X-Mas and happy holidays, sports fans…

It’s finally here.

For Lakers fans in particular, Dec. 25 has been circled on the calendar not just to signify the common present exchange, but because the Boston Celtics are in town, giving L.A. its first chance to avenge 2008′s NBA Finals loss.

Yesterday, we accumulated some audio so you could hear for yourself what several Lakers (and Ric Bucher) are thinking about the contest:

Phil Jackson Audio
Pau Gasol
Derek Fisher
Andrew Bynum
Ric Bucher

Last Year’s Finals Closer Than We’ve Been Hearing
Last night on NBATV, each game of last year’s Finals was replayed minus all the timeouts, commercials and certain insignificant possessions, meaning that I watched the entire six-game series in just over three hours. A few things that I learned – or remembered – is that the series was a lot closer than we’ve been made to think by reading articles and having conversations about Boston’s victory. L.A. was in control of game one before Paul Pierce’s emergence from the locker room after his knee ended up not being injured (he almost immediately canned two threes), came within two points down the stretch in game two, was tough in winning games three and five and suffered that huge comeback in game four. The only game dominated by Boston was game six, in which you heard Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson question L.A.’s toughness about 65 times.

Clearly, Van Gundy prefers how Boston plays to how L.A. plays, which is no surprise considering his defensive-minded Knicks and Rockets teams … And he’s certainly not wrong in suggesting that Boston’s tenacious defense was what won them the championship. But that doesn’t mean the Lakers weren’t tough, didn’t compete or had no chance to win; throw in Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza, and take away James Posey and PJ Brown (both of whom were huge in the Finals), and this game – and potential future series – is anything but decided.

Tipoff in a few … We’ll see you in the live running diary.

ESPN’S Ric Bucher: Lakers vs. Celtics (Audio)

Ric BucherHeading into one of the biggest regular season matchups in the last several NBA seasons with a rematch of the 2008 Celtic-Lakers NBA Finals, we put a call into ESPN’s Ric Bucher for a breakdown.

Bucher, who’s been covering the NBA since 1992, explains the differences he sees between the two squads, opines on which team faces more pressure heading into the contest, offers a prediction for the final score and more. Take a listen:

Farmar’s Surgery Successful

From the Lakers PR staff:

Lakers guard Jordan Farmar underwent successful surgery today to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, it was announced by the team.

The surgery, which took approximately 30 minutes, was performed by Dr. Clarence Shields of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Group. Farmar is expected to be out approximately eight weeks.

Farmar suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the Lakers game at Miami on Friday night. He is averaging 7.9 points and 2.4 assists in 19.6 minutes this season.

Pre-Boston Audio: Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson spoke about how his team played in New Orleans after a tough road trip, quipped that the Celtics wouldn’t be able to be as physical if the refs blew their whistles according to the rules and talked about Boston’s improvement since last season (citing their consistency).

Here’s the complete audio: