Monthly Archive for February, 2009

Lakers 79, Nuggets 90: Postgame

Chris AndersonEarlier today, I wrote about how good L.A.’s been on the second end of back-to-back’s this season, with 11 wins and only three close losses to elite teams (Orlando, San Antonio and Utah). Thanks in part to a deep bench, the Lakers have rarely if ever looked tired on game day.

Uhhh, yeah … Can I take that back? Too bad for Lakers fans that we saw the opposite on Friday night in Denver.

L.A.’s bench in particular may as well have unrolled sleeping bags and laid them out on the Pepsi Center floor against the Nuggets, as the stats verify: Denver’s bench outscored L.A.’s 47-7 (repeat: 47-7) for the evening, and the starters weren’t much better in L.A.’s season-low scoring output. The Lakers managed to make just 28-of-94 shots to shoot 29.8 percent (also a season low) from the field, as only a last-second layup from Jordan Farmar kept this from being L.A.’s worst shooting game in franchise history.

“That was a garbage game, no doubt about it,” said Phil Jackson. “I wish we could repay the fans some money … Neither team played very well, but they played better than us.”

Yet and still, the purple and gold managed to stay within six points (46-40) at halftime, and even pulled ahead by five with a solid start to the third quarter. Then, however, L.A.’s second unit came back in and once again offered next to nothing, allowing Denver’s bench to open up a 74-63 lead early in the fourth that they wouldn’t relinquish.

“(The bench) is in (the locker room) with their tail between their legs,” said Jackson. “They felt real disappointed about that. They wanted to come out and perform tonight, but they really had a terrible performance.”

Sure enough, the bench combination of Farmar, Sasha Vujacic and Trevor Ariza had managed not a single point in the game until Farmar’s breakaway layup with five seconds left in the game, and Kobe Bryant’s shot simply wasn’t falling from the perimeter in a 10-for-31 effort.

Lamar Odom managed another 19 rebounds, but he too couldn’t get anything to go, making 5-of-19 shots while his frontcourt partner Pau Gasol hit 6-of-13, a sparkling 42.9 percentage on this night. In fact, the only other Laker to shoot anything close to 50 percent was D.J. Mbenga, who made his only shot of the game.

With all that said … The team’s second loss in February – just hours after a 132–106 blowout win against Phoenix – really doesn’t mean much. L.A. was tired, had trouble matching a pumped up Nuggets team that had lost nine straight games to the Lakers, and still possessed the league’s best record (48-11). That’s that.

Your numbers:

29.8
L.A.’s shooting percentage on 28-of-94 from the field, including 2-of-21 from three. Kobe Bryant alone missed 21 shots (10-of-31).

23.5
Carmelo Anthony’s shooting percentage on 4-of-17 from the field.

22
Offensive rebounds for the Lakers, including seven from Lamar Odom and five from Bryant. Too bad they couldn’t convert more than 19 second-chance points.

13
Nuggets free throw attempts in the second quarter alone, a combination of tired Lakers defense and the proverbial quick referee whistle. The home team finished with 36 free throw attempts to 27 from the Lakers on a great deal fewer possessions.

8
Points in the paint for L.A. in the first half.

7
Shots blocked by Nuggets sub Chris Anderson in 28 minutes, the second-most this season against the Lakers (Jermaine O’Neal, 9).

4
More points scored by Denver’s bench than by its starters. L.A.’s starters scored 72 more points than its bench.

Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary

Kobe Bryant - DenverAs 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.

Previous Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary 11-01-2008
Postgame: Lakers 104, Nuggets 97

Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary 11-21-2008
Lakers 104, Nuggets 90: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Nuggets: Lindsey Hunter

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Walton, Odom and Gasol
Nuggets: Chauncey Billups, Dahntay Jones, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin and Johan Petro*
*Usual starting center Nene has been out with a bone bruise in his right knee for the last two games, but is expected to play about 20 minutes off the bench tonight.

‘Melo’s Struggles Vs. L.A.
The first time these teams met, just four games into the season for L.A., Carmelo Anthony was terrible, making just one of his first 11 shots before hitting his final four after the game was decided. Anthony was just as bad the second time these teams met in late November, hitting just 5-of-19 shots for 10 points without a free throw attempt. Clearly, that’s not going to cut it if Denver has a chance to win on Friday night.

Lamar OdomFirst Quarter
12:00 Before Gasol takes the tip, one note on Denver head coach George Karl’s comments on the Lakers perhaps being better without Andrew Bynum: Before the game Phil Jackson said that the Lakers definitely aren’t better defensively, but they may move the ball better offensively thanks to Odom’s presence at the four and Gasol’s ability to pass out of the center position. Nothing new there.

One new thing was Denver’s mascot rolling out on a motor cycle, then simply leaving it at halfcourt to get in the handshake line. Whatever makes you happy…

10:07 ‘Melo had missed his second straight jumper to start the game much like he did the previous two times these teams met, but Billups found him alone underneath the rim for a dunk that gave Denver an early 6-2 lead. Bryant, meanwhile, missed his first two jumpers and turned the ball over.

9:19 Petro’s third foul already came on the offensive end, but strangely could have been good news for Denver, since usual starter Nene checked in. The league’s leader in field goal percentage – thanks in part to his quickness, which enables him to shoot mostly layups and dunks – is averaging14.9 points and 7.9 rebounds.

4:55 It seemed more likely for someone to find a Coca Cola in the Pepsi Center than for anyone to make a shot in the early goings. The Lakers managed just 4-of-12 (33.3 percent) and the Nuggets 5-of-13 (39 percent) in a bipartisan display of brick laying. After the first timeout, Gasol’s two free throws put L.A. up 13-12 before Odom grabbed his sixth rebound on Denver’s ninth miss.

Meanwhile, I have Boston’s home game vs. Indiana on the NBA League Pass, and just listened to Stephon Marbury spark a 9-4 run to put the Celtics up nine late in the third quarter with two dimes and two buckets. I think that move coupled with the Mikki Moore signing and Ben Wallace’s broken leg makes Boston the clear favorite in the East. I’d been on Cleveland’s vibe for a while, but am changing tunes.

2:32 Josh Powell’s offensive board allowed Bryant to make up for a missed jumper with a make, his second in eight attempts. Speaking of Powell and Bryant … In the locker room before the game I was talking to Powell about his new shoes, as he’s been wearing Kobe’s for the past couple weeks. When asked how that came about, Powell explained: “I asked Kobe if he had any of those in big sizes.” Sure enough, Powell had some on his feet a few days later, joining Odom and Trevor Ariza as Zoom Kobe IV disciples.

0:00 The misses just kept coming for the Lakers, who finished the quarter making just 6-of-23 field goals, perhaps showing the effects of getting to their Denver hotel at 3 a.m. this morning (that’s all I can think of, sorry)? They did, however, manage to get to the line eight times, making seven while keeping Denver to three free throw attempts. That, plus Denver’s similarly poor shooting (7-of-19), allowed the Lakers to take a 19-16 lead into the second quarter.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary’

No Strain on Lakers Back-to-Backs

Chris Anderson - Trevor ArizaDuring the regular season, easily the hardest of games to to play for NBA teams come on the tail end of back-to-backs.

With a given squad’s collective energy at least slightly drained from the previous night’s game and their opponent generally coming off rest, racking up wins in those settings ain’t easy.

Except, apparently, for the Lakers.

L.A. has won 11-of-14 games on the second of back-to-back nights; in related news, the Lakers are among the league’s deepest teams.

The three losses (at Orlando, at San Antonio, at Utah) came by a total of eight points in games that literally came down to the final minute. As such, it’s with confidence that L.A. approaches its Friday night tilt in Denver just hours after a 132-106 home victory against the Phoenix Suns.

Furthermore, it surely doesn’t hurt L.A.’s confidence that it’s won six straight games overall, 11-of-12 in February and nine straight against the Nuggets including last season’s playoff sweep.

Alas, here’s a rundown of L.A.’s 15 back-to-back sessions this season:

Oct. 28: Lakers 96, Portland 76
Oct. 29: Lakers 117, Clippers 79
(1-0)

Nov. 11: Lakers 106, Mavericks 99
Nov. 12: Lakers 93, Hornets 86 (2-0)

Nov. 20: Lakers 105, Suns 92
Nov. 21: Lakers 104, Nuggets 90 (3-0)

Dec. 2: Pacers 118, Lakers 117
Dec. 3: Lakers 114, Sixers 102 (4-0)

Dec. 9: Kings 113, Lakers 101
Dec. 10: Lakers 115, Suns 110 (5-0)

Dec. 19: Heat 89, Lakers 87
Dec. 20: Magic 106, Lakers 103 (5-1)

Dec. 22: Lakers 105, Grizzlies 96
Dec. 23: Lakers 100, Hornets 87 (6-1)

Jan. 6: Hornets 116, Lakers 105
Jan. 7: Lakers 114, Warriors 106 (7-1)

Jan. 13: Lakers 105, Rockets 100
Jan. 14: Spurs 112, Lakers 111 (7-2)

Jan. 21: Lakers 108, Clippers 97
Jan. 22: Lakers 117, Wizards 97 (8-2)

Jan. 30: Lakers 132, Wolves 119
Jan. 31: Lakers 115, Grizzlies 98 (9-2)

Feb. 4: Lakers 115, Raptors 107
Feb. 5: Lakers 110, Celtics 109 (10-2)

Feb. 10: Lakers 105, Thunder 98
Feb. 11: Jazz 113, Lakers 109 (10-3)

Feb. 17: Lakers 96, Hawks 83
Feb. 18: Lakers 129, Warriors 121 (11-3)

Feb 26: Lakers 132, Suns 106
Feb. 27: Lakers @ Nuggets (???)

Lakers 132, Suns 106: Postgame

Shaq Pau GasolWith Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire out with respective ankle and eye injuries, going into STAPLES Center against a rolling crew of purple and gold clad athletes figured to be a tough test…

… But one might have thought the Suns could hang around for more than six minutes.

Instead, after Phoenix opened a 20-17 lead, the Lakers went on a 22-6 run to close the first quarter and not once let the Suns back into the game in a thorough Pacific Division beat down.

Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant barely missed a collective shot, going 11-for-12 and 10-of-13, respectively, to finish with 23 and 22 points despite sitting out the fourth quarter. L.A.’s bench was pretty good too, with each player scoring to combine for 58 points while maintaining the level of play put forth by the starters.

L.A. simply scored at will as Phoenix looked at times incapable and at times overwhelmed defensively, whether it was Bryant, Odom or even D.J. Mbenga (first eight points of the season) filling it up.

Perhaps the best news for L.A. – other than their 48th win – was that Pau Gasol had to play just 23 minutes, Bryant 26, Odom 32 and Fisher 20, with the team heading to Denver immediately after the game for a Friday night tilt against the Nuggets.

We’ll leave you with a few numbers:

84
Combined shooting percentage for the Kobe Bryant (10-of-13) and Lamar Odom (11-of-12).

70
First half points for the Lakers, led by 13 from Bryant, 10 by Odom and 30 combined bench points on 62.2 percent shooting.

58
Bench points for the Lakers, a season high. Sasha Vujacic led the way with 14 while Jordan Farmar had 12, Trevor Ariza 10, DJ Mbenga eight, Josh Powell six, Adam Morrison five and Shannon Brown three as every Laker scored.

54
Season high in field goals made for the Lakers, who had made 48 shots from the field against Minnesota on Jan. 30.

38
Season-high assists for a Lakers’ team that matched a season-high 132 points. They scored a lot.

13
Wins in their last 14 games for the Lakers to get to 48-10, the league’s best record. Boston has 13 losses after dropping a game here at STAPLES to the Clippers on Wednesday, while Cleveland has 12 losses after dropping the first game in tonight’s double-header at Houston.

Lakers – Suns Running Diary

Kobe ShaqAs 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.

Previous Lakers – Suns Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Suns Running Diary 11-20-2008
Lakers 105, Suns 92: Postgame

Lakers – Suns Running Diary 12-10-2008
Lakers 115, Suns 110: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Suns: Amare Stoudemire

Some pretty big names there on the inactive list, huh? One stat: Phoenix is 6-16 since 2004 without Nash.

Starters
Lakers Fisher, Bryant, Walton, Odom and Gasol
Suns Leandro Barbosa, Alando Tucker, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill and Shaquille O’Neal

Perhaps more important than the starting lineups is my new favorite song, the lyrics of which I’ve incorporated successfully into three answers to normal questions (mostly asking how I’m doing) today, much to Ty Nowell’s displeasure:

“Oh, I’ve been travelin on this road too long … Just tryin’ to find my way back home. The old me’s dead and gone, dead and gone.”
“Dead and Gone,” T.I. featuring Justin Timberlake.

As such, T.I. (who hasn’t disappointed in a while) replaced “Human” by The Killers, 50 Cent’s “Get Up” and some Coldplay remix featuring Jay-Z as my go-to song. I’ll clear these with Josh Powell in Phoenix this weekend.

Kobe BryantFirst Quarter
12:48 Pregame After running out first from the tunnel per usual, Sasha Vujacic sprinted to halfcourt, said something to Grant Hill, then turned and swished a halfcourt shot near the sideline. It looked like he was trying to make a bet with Hill on a second shot, which looked good until it hit Sun Yue’s jumper right before it went in. Sasha was not happy, but that was fun. So were his post-shootaround ramblings.

12:00 It’s the first regular season Lakers game this season for Mr. “With No Regard for Human Life!!!!” Kevin Harlan called Timberwolves games with Kevin McHale and Trent Tucker (at different times) as I grew up … I feel the same way about Harlan as I do about Mountain Dew, Champions League soccer and T.I.

10:45 A few interesting matchups tonight: Pau’s trying to check Shaq, Kobe’s being guarded by Tucker (meaning you’ll see Kobe get down on the block) and Fisher’s on the ultra-quick Barbosa. Sure enough, L.A.’s first two possessions saw Bryant catch the ball just off the left block, where he turned around (swish) then up-faked Tucker to get to the line. He then scored in transition, and the Lakers were up 5-0.

9:21 After two Shaq dunks (Gasol not surprisingly wasn’t able to keep him out of the paint) Pau took advantage of Shaq’s not wanting to pop out by hitting a jumper.

7:27 Though the Lakers opened the game making their first six shots, Phoenix went 6-of-10 including two threes to take a 14-13 lead on Barbosa’s triple. The defense really hasn’t been good on either end, with the Lakers not even committing a foul as Phoenix went through layup and dunk drills.

3:52 As L.A. picked up its defensive effort, Phoenix started taking contested jumpers, which L.A. cleared and turned into points. Gasol was everywhere during the 9-0 run, not only scoring over a super small Suns lineup with Shaq on the bench, but grabbing two rebounds and tossing two dimes to put L.A. up 26-20 before he attempted two free throws.

2:58 TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager used some weird globe to explain Stoudemire’s eye injury, while I was temporarily blinded by the yellow on Jordan Farmar’s shoes. Joining Farmar was fellow UCLA alum Trevor Ariza, who watched Gasol hit both free throws to get to nine points.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Suns Running Diary’

Rambis Previews the Suns

Though Phoenix brought back Mike D’Antoni’s “Seven Seconds or Less” offense after axing head coach Terry Porter and promoting assistant Alvin Gentry, they’ll be running it without quarterback Steve Nash, who sprained his ankle on Tuesday, and Amare Stoudemire, who’s out for the regular season with an eye injury.

To break down the matchup with the short-handed, orange-clad visitors, we sat down with Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis.

If you’d like to hear the audio preview with Suns.com’s Steven Koek, simply click the link on the “Lakers.com Preview” tab.

Idle Chatter with Sasha

Sasha Vujacic plays better after coming on Lakers.com. That’s just how it’s been.

No, seriously, (check the archives).

That’s why we grabbed him after shootaround heading into Thursday evening’s game against the Phoenix Suns, in a game that might demand more minutes from the 6-7 Slovenian thanks in part to Leandro Barbosa’s presence (Vujacic is one of the few capable and willing to chase the Brazilian Blur).

Let’s make no promises, however, that we understand completely how the conversation went. The idle chatter, however, did produce an odd, random nickname that will soon be forgotten. Take a look:

Lakers Welcome Nash-, Amare-less Suns

Amare Stoudemire - Steve NashLast week, when Phoenix put up 140 points on back-to-back nights against L.A.’s other team, it looked like the old “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns were back.

On that second night, in STAPLES, Amare Stoudemire suffered an eye injury that’s set to put him out at least through the regular season, which stung even more as he’d exploded for 44 points on the Clips.

Then, as the Suns beat the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday night, Steve Nash sprained his ankle; We learned this morning that Phoenix’s floor general will miss Friday night’s game against the Lakers, which means a bit more of Goran Dragic than the Suns’ staff was hoping for.

We’ll ask you to keep that in mind when you listen to our Gameday interview with Suns.com’s Steven Koek, which we recorded yesterday.

Lakers Balancing Their Economy

Throughout the 2008-09 NBA season and particularly just before the Feb. 19 trade deadline, several teams seemed to be cutting salaries for purely economic purposes. Here’s why the Lakers weren’t one of them:

This basketball season, much has been made about the impact of the nationwide recession that’s adversely affecting so many people not just in America but around the world.

Owners throughout professional basketball have made deals that appear, at least on the surface, to have just as much to do with their respective economic situations as on-the-court performance (see: pre-physical Tyson Chandler).

““I think the country’s economic struggles will have an effect on the business of basketball and the NBA.” said Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchack. “It is obviously a tough economic environment right now with a lot of uncertainty going forward. It is essential that all NBA teams and the NBA in New York pay close attention to the economy and how it may affect this great game in the short term so as to ensure its success in the long term.”

To read the rest of the article, CLICK HERE.

Jackson Weighs in on Marbury, Celtics

So, what do the Lakers think of Boston’s likely signing of Stephon Marbury and already completed deal with Mikki Moore to shore up a bench that was clearly lacking despite the team’s lofty 46-12 record?

Phil Jackson thinks that the Celtics helped themselves with both; he likes Starbury’s athleticism, shooting skill and ability to get shots on his own, and noted that Boston needed more length with the undersized Glen Davis and Leon Powe getting all the backup minutes in the frontcourt. L.A.’s head coach also mentioned that he didn’t expect Boston’s team chemistry to be affected due to its current strength in the locker room.