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Lakers: Sun Yue, Andrew Bynum
Warriors: Andris Biedrins, Brandan Wright, Kelenna Azubuike
Lakers Fish, Kobe, Luke, Pau and Bynum
Warriors Monta Ellis, Jamal Crawford, Stephen Jackson, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf
I was excited to see that Golden State simply borrowed the NBA’s “Where ___ Happens” for their pregame video, not worrying about any potential lack of originality. Whatever, the fans in this building will soon make up for it – to my mind thus far this season, it’s been the best (non Lakers) crowd.
Also, Nellie Ball is going to be in full force tonight, because Golden State’s four best players are all shoot-first guys: Ellis, Crawford, Jackson, and Corey Maggette off the bench. That’s fun.
11:42 It didn’t take long to notice the sizeable presence of Lakers fans here, not with the explosion of support after Fisher opened the game with a triple.
8:38 Pau’s first assist of the night came after Bryant smartly cut to the hoop to put L.A. up 11-7. Gasol seems to never miss the open man, so this is no surprise coming off his 10 assist game last night at STAPLES. In fact, Pau and Odom’s passing at the five and four positions combines with a great passing three man (Walton) and two solid passing guards to make this current group of Lakers the league’s best passing starting five. Wouldn’t you say?
7:36 How dumb is defensive three seconds sometimes? While Ellis was dribbling the ball on the opposite side of the floor, Odom had one foot in the lane about 20 feet away, and was given the technical. What’s the point? No one was stacking the paint.
6:08 Randolph, a rookie out of LSU, has been doing his best Odom impression in grabbing four offensive boards (though two were on his own missed layups), the latest tip-in giving G.S. a 18-15 lead. Meanwhile, Odom got whistled for his second foul, bringing Josh Powell in early as the Warriors went on a 7-2 run to take an eight-point lead.
3:47 Well there’s something we haven’t seen yet this year: Kobe’s 360 dunk. It came thanks to a Bryant steal and ensuing breakaway, capping a 6-0 run to cut the lead to three.
1:47 Gasol’s second dunk of the quarter followed another vicious Bryant dunk to again cut the home team’s lead to three after they’d pushed to seven behind Turiaf. The former Laker was everywhere in the quarter, going for nine points, two boards, two assists, two blocks and a steal. But his replacement hasn’t been bad either, with Josh Powell registering three offensive boards (four total) plus four points in five minutes.
0:00 The quarter ended with a missed three from Ariza, and the Warriors took a 34-30 lead into the second. Scoring has been quite easy for L.A., so once the purple and gold picks up its defensive intensity a bit they have to feel OK about their chances.
In the quarter, the Lakers shot 52 percent but turned the ball over six times and committed six fouls, and the Warriors sunk 4-of-5 threes to just the game-opening triple from L.A.
8:35 The differences in respective offenses is pretty obvious. The Lakers are throwing it inside first and forcing the defense to react, while the Warriors swing it around the perimeter and take any open shot, driving to the hole if none exists. As a result, L.A.’s been been getting some easy looks from Gasol (10 points) and Powell (eight points), but the Warriors just happened to be hitting everything. In fact, they made 6-of-7 shots to start the quarter, getting to 48-40 on Maggette’s three-pointer before Peezy drew a foul in the paint.
Trade Deadline Approaching: No trade made thus far seems to threatening to Lakers fans, the biggest of which was Brad Miller and John Salmons going from Sacramento to Chicago today. Should Cleveland manage to get Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler or Gerald Wallace, that’d be an issue for a potential Finals matchup, though the player I’d want to see least on say, the Spurs, is Rasheed Wallace. That’d be tough, but it doesn’t seem like San Antonio has the right young pieces that Joe Dumars would covet in Detroit.
5:53 The Warriors are on fire this quarter (not quite Selma Hayek in “Desperado,” but close), getting another triple – this time from sub Bellinelli – to counter Ariza’s three and give the home team a 55-47 lead. They’re missed only twice, going 9-for-11.
2:40 Bryant, Odom, Fisher and Walton checked back in alongside Powell with about 5:30 remaining in the quarter, and promptly picked up L.A.’s defense. The Warriors finally missed a few shots (2-for-6) while the Lakers didn’t miss at all, resulting in an 12-4 run that tied the game at 59 on an Odom and-1 bucket. Odom has been forced to chase Warriors around the perimeter and hasn’t had much of a chance to rebound, notching just two so far after consecutive games of 17, 18, 19 and 20. Give Lamar credit for some solid weakside defense, however.
1:08 Jack-O for three, and a six-point Warriors lead. Crowd loving that. What the Lakers couldn’t be loving was Golden State’s 11th offensive rebound on the next possession, resulting in two free throws that made it 68-60. A nice, timely burst.
0:28.6 Guess who led the Lakers in scoring after 24 minutes? That’s right … Josh Powell. Peezy didn’t miss a shot in his 18 productive minutes off the bench, going 4-for-4 from both the field and the line to get to 12 points, plus a team-high seven rebounds. His final two foul shots completed a terrific individual half and got the Lakers within six at the half.
The Warriors shot 54.2 percent from the field, made 7-of-9 threes and 9-of-10 free throws while the Lakers moved the ball extremely well to assist on 19-of-25 field goals, led by four dimes from Walton and three each from Gasol, Bryant and Sasha Vujacic off the bench.
Halftime – Road Arena Rankings
Someone proposed at halftime on the jumbotron. Really? That’s still happening? Let’s not blame the crowd, however, who’s getting the top spot for “Best Road Atmosphere” so far this season. Here’s the top five:
1) Golden State; 2) Cleveland; 3) New York; 4) Phoenix; 5) Sacramento
One thing to clarify: in fairness, Cleveland may have been the best overall atmosphere this season due to the magnitude of the game that was played there, but it wasn’t quite enough to edge the Warriors, who continue to put out a great vibe despite having a 19-35 team. Furthermore, I would have thought about sticking Boston or Utah in my five, but the fans there hate the Lakers so much that the mood turns just a bit away from pure hoops enjoyment.
10:29 Apparently the Warriors didn’t feel like halting their strong shooting to start the half, making their first three shots. Fortunately for L.A., Fisher nailed his third triple of the game and Gasol his first two free throws to keep it close.
9:00 With so many good shooters on their squad, it’s not completely surprising that G.S. isn’t missing … But yeah, they’re not missing, hitting 5-of-7 to go up 78-69. But against the Warriors, you don’t worry so much about a nine-point deficit with their lack of D as you might against, say, the Celtics or Spurs.
6:44 The refs are really allowing the Warriors to play physically, and the Lakers are going to need to match the effort instead of react to it. Bryant was furious with a non-call in the paint when Jackson continued to slap at him, but made up for it by intercepting a pass near midcourt and converting the jumper for his 13th point and a 10-point deficit.
4:11 Kobe’s first three of the game followed a pretty dish to Odom (layup) to cut the Warriors lead to five at 86-81.
2:45 A Lakers timeout allows me to note the difference in hair thickness between Gasol’s curly mop and Turiaf’s thick braids. That’s a density difference equal to that of Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza’s calves.
The 28 fouls called thus far plus ESPN’s TV timeouts have allowed me to re-lace my shoes, call my parents and re-live Jack-O’s meltdown after he didn’t get a call (though he did receive a T).
0:37.5 Kobe’s having a block party, with personal invitations sent out to Crawford and Maggette. His first swat came on a corner three from JC, but the more impressive one was a vicious denial of Maggette that resulted in a Powell dunk to tie the score at the other end. Just like that, Golden State’s 11-point lead fell to naught.
Two Powell free throws were answered by a Maggette hoop at the buzzer that put the Warriors back up two, 94-92, at the end of the third, but the Lakers have to feel good about their comeback. L.A. held the Warriors to 10 points in the final six minutes of the quarter, but the question is if that comeback took too much energy, particularly in back-to-back format? We’ll see.
11:34 Great decision by Vujacic, passing up an open 17-foot jumper after drawing the defense and bouncing to Gasol for a layup. That’s four assists in 10 minutes for Sasha, who just checked in for Kobe. At the other end, Gasol coupled his 20 points with his 11th rebound on a Jackson missed three.
10:11 And there’s L.A.’s first lead since the first quarter, always a nice mental accomplishment. It came via an Ariza layup after Gasol’s steal, then grew to four with another missed Warriors jumper and Ariza’s tip in of Powell’s narrow miss. G.S., however, answered with a 5-0 run to reclaim the lead.
6:24 The run continued with a Maggette layup that put the Warriors up four, though Bryant answered with two free throws to make it a 105-103 game.
3:45 If you had to pick a Lakers player to hit back-to-back clutch threes, whom would it be? Probably like this: Kobe, Fish, Vujacic, Farmar, Walton … But nope, it was Trevor Ariza, giving L.A. a 111-109 lead.
2:47 Odom, from Pau underneath, plus the foul. Another big play, getting Odom to 18 points (he made the free throw) and giving L.A. a 116-112 lead. When the ball moves like that, L.A.’s offense is beautiful; it had briefly stalled when Kobe first checked in, but he made the adjustments and got things going.
2:05 There’s L.O. with another big play, intercepting a pass and drawing a clear path foul on Maggette for two free throws and the ball. Odom, like Gasol had on the previous possession, made both shots and kept the ball for a Lakers team that found itself up 120-112, its biggest lead of the game.
1:10 Dagger. Mamba. Whilst MVP chants rang out in ORACLE from a great display of Lakers gold, Bryant spun baseline, faded away over Turiaf and swished away Golden State’s chances. The game turned out just as many would have expected: Once the Warriors stopped hitting jumpers, they simply couldn’t get a stop, with the Lakers taking full advantage.
After some free throws from Bryant and a final Odom layup, the Lakers had scored 37 fourth quarter points to emerge from Oakland with a 129-121 victory to push their record to a league-best 44-10.
See you in a few with the postgame report.