Monthly Archive for February, 2009

Page 3 of 9

Lakers 111, Wolves 108: Postgame

Pau GasolAfter a relatively dull first 44 minutes of action, the Lakers found themselves in a battle of attrition with a young Timberwolves squad that fought tooth and nail throughout Sunday’s contest at Minneapolis’ Target Center.

In fact, 27 combined points were scored in the game’s final 3:40 of action, including eight from Kobe Bryant, whose two free throws with seven seconds remaining ultimately sealed L.A.’s 46th win. The game’s biggest play, however, came from Lamar Odom, who was also the game’s best player with 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, not to mention 14 rebounds and three assists.

The play came after Minnesota hit back-to-back threes and got a Sebastian Telfair layup to bring the Wolves within one down the stretch: Bryant rose up for a three with 22 seconds remaining, but rimmed out only to watch Odom flash into the picture and use the glass to tip in the miss and put the Lakers up three. Two missed Wolves perimeter jumpers later, and L.A. had the game.

Yet, since the Lakers were forced to miss this year’s Oscars thanks to the game and an immediate flight to Oklahoma City, we thought we’d summarize the team’s 46th Academy Awards style.

Performance by a player in a leading role
Lamar Odom, who at times appeared the only Lakers’ player competing at the effort level brought by Minnesota’s youngsters. Odom finished with the aforementioned 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, grabbed a game-high 14 boards and chipped in three dimes. He also guarded whichever post the Wolves threw at him with equal aplomb (from centers to small forwards) in a terrific performance.

Performance by a player in a supporting role
Kobe Bryant, who led the Lakers with seven assists and grabbed six boards to supplement his 28 points on 11-of-21 shooting. As he was often the focus of Minnesota’s defense, Bryant generally made the right play in deference to his teammates.

Best animated feature film of the year
Sasha Vujacic, after being called for a foul with 11:02 left in the fourth quarter. Vujacic’s face was certainly award worthy, especially because of his consistency.

Achievement in art direction
Derek Fisher, for the beautiful arc on his key three-pointer with 1:44 to play. Fisher’s bomb, on the heels of his game-tying three on Friday night, answered a Mike Miller three that had the home crowd going nuts, and gave L.A. a much-needed four-point cushion. Fish had nine points, four assists and three dimes. No slight here to Phil Jackson, who’s troops have brought it when they’ve needed to throughout the season, particularly against stronger opponents.

Achievement in directing
Kevin McHale of the Wolves, for getting his team to play hard for the full 48 minutes. January’s Coach of the Month in the NBA, McHale’s been dealt a tough hand with Al Jefferson (23 points, 11 boards every night) going out for the season with an ACL injury, but his players clearly enjoy playing (hard) for him.

Best foreign language film
Pau Gasol, holding it down for Spain with 25 points, five boards and five assists. Gasol was at times unstoppable, and at others seemed to be conserving a bit of energy, though he was again very efficient in making 9-of-13 shots. The Wolves were at a disadvantage in this category, seeing as they have not one player born outside of the U.S., while L.A. can offer three.

Best motion picture of the year
“Slumdog Millionaire” or “Milk,” we’re fine either way. Sorry, couldn’t come up with a sensible basketball metaphor for this category.

Best music in a motion picture
Kevin Love
, for the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love,” played after he scored by the Wolves’ sound guy.

In closing, we’d be remiss not to mention that Bryant’s 28 points allowed him to past Lakers legend Elgin Baylor on the NBA’s all-time scoring list at No. 20, in addition to No. 3 on L.A.’s list.

And with that, we’ll leave you and check in from Oklahoma City tomorrow.

Lakers – Wolves Running Diary

Ryan Gomes vs Trevor ArizaAs 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 – Wolves Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Wolves Running Diary 12-14-2009
Lakers 98, Wolves 86: Postgame
Lakers – Wolves Running Diary 1-30-2009
Lakers 132, Wolves 119: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Timberwolves: Corey Brewer, Al Jefferson, Sheldon Williams

Starters
Lakers Fish, Kobe, Luke, Lamar and Pau
Wolves Sebastian Telfair, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, Kevin Love

Before the game, Wolves Head Coach Kevin McHale – coach of the month in January – had this to say about the Lakers:

“They’re not as long as they were (without Bynum), but you still have to play them the say way. They’re tough. They’re very efficient with their triangle especially when it’s anchored by a guy like Kobe (Bryant) or Michael Jordan that can play all different positions in it. They’re moving constantly, they’re in unison, it’s really an effectifve way to play basketball. We just have to try and make them take jump shots … And we have to get out and run them, one thing you can do is get out and get transition points. The other thing they have going for them is they have one of the best closers in the game in Kobe, so they hang around (and have a chance to win) no matter what. They’re tough.”

Kobe - Foye - WolvesFirst Quarter
10:36 In a major mismatch, Gasol scored over Love quite easily from the right block. Moments later, Telfair (who hit six threes against Miami in Minny’s road upset) hit a three but was countered by Walton at the other end for a 5-5 tie.

9:30 Telfair, again, from three. If Minnesota’s going to stay in the mix tonight, the triples are going to have to keep falling. L.A. gave up way too many easy looks from three against the Hornets, and may not be the most aggressive in popping out to contest as they might against Boston or Cleveland.

5:33 Though the Wolves came out much hotter than the weather (14 degrees) in hitting 6-of-9 shots, Fisher’s J gave the Lakers a 16-15 lead after the game’s first timeout. Let’s ask this question … What’s more of a lock tonight, Gasol posting 20 and 10 or Heath Ledger winning “Best Supporting Actor?” Can I push?

3:33 I was trying to explain to the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding and LA Times’ Mike Bresnahan that Gomes should be a starter in deep fantasy leagues like the one in which they play each other, just as he missed a field goal. No matter, he started the game with seven points, two assists and a board as the Wolves went into the second time out down 21-20. L.A. was led by seven points from Gasol and eight from Bryant.

1:25 Randy Foye, who’s Minnesota’s go-to guy on offense with Al Jefferson on the DL (ACL), is in quite a tough matchup with Kobe Bryant. Foye missed his second attempted shot of the quarter because he rushed it, wary of Bryant closing in on him, though he did have three assists to help the Wolves take a 26-25 lead.

0:36.0 Odom nailed his second consecutive perimeter jumper and watched Ariza dunk ahead of him in transition to reclaim a three-point lead for the Lakers heading into the second quarter.

Continue reading ‘Lakers – Wolves Running Diary’

Laker Girls Ashley and Erica on the Oscars

Since the Lakers will be missing the Oscars due to Sunday evening’s game in Minnesota and flight to Oklahoma City, we asked Laker Girls Ashley R. and Erica to predict the outcomes for us.

Here’s what they had to offer:

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Ashley: Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon.” Nixon intrigues me.
Erica: Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” because he was fantastic, and because his dog just died. He needs something to cheer him up.

EricaPerformance by an actor in a supporting role
Ashley: This is easy. Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight.” He will win.
Erica: Without question, Heath. Although Robert Downey Jr. was hilarious in “Tropic Thunder,” you still have to give it to Heath.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Ashley: I’m going with Kate Winslet in “The Reader.” I heard she was great in “Revolutionary Road” as well.
Erica: This is a tough one because Meryl Streep has the most nominations ever and I feel like it’s her time to win again … And I love Kate Winslet but she just won the Golden Globes … So I’m going with Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married” because she’s had a tough year.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Ashley: I have to choose Penelope Cruz in “Vicky Christina Barcelona.” She’s beautiful … I love her as an actress.
Erica: I’m going with Taraji P. Henson from “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” because I saw her on “Ellen” and she was super cute. Let’s reward her. But I have to say, I haven’t been a Brad Pitt fan since he left Jennifer Aniston. There were a lot of us on “Team Anniston” here.
Ashley: That’s true…

Best animated feature film of the year
Ashley: I’m going with “Kung Fu Panda.” It’s hilarious, and it’s about a kung fu panda. Come on. And I love Jack Black.
Erica: I’m taking “Bolt.” I love dogs.

AshleyAchievement in art direction
Ashley: “The Dark Knight” again. It was portrayed in a different light … It was very creative.
Erica: I have to agree with that, “The Dark Knight” was really great.

Achievement in directing
Ashley: I’ll take Danny Boyle for “Slumdog Millionaire.” I hadn’t heard of him before this movie, but I sure liked his movie.
Erica: You can’t lose with Ron Howard for “Frost/Nixon.”

Best foreign language film
Ashley: “Waltz with Bashir,” let’s give Israel some support.
Erica: I’ll take “The Class” from France. I’d like to go to Paris sometime soon and I took French in middle school.

Best motion picture of the year
Ashley: For me it’s “Frost/Nixon.” I’m sticking to my guns with Langella.
Erica: I’m going to go with “Frost/Nixon” as well. I actually haven’t seen it, but out of all the movies, that’s what I wanted to see the most. That era fascinates me.

What You Need to Know about ‘Sota

Randy Foye - TimberwolvesWe decided to switch things up a little bit, flip the script and all that, to bring you a preview of the Minnesota Timberwolves heading into L.A.’s Sunday evening contest in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

As such, we called up our Minnesota Correspondent Robby Sikka, a USC med school graduate who feels more strongly about the Wolves than coffee does caffeine.

We asked Sikka to give us 10 things we need to know, with my comments in italics underneath:

1. The Timberwolves were one of the league’s best teams in January and Kevin McHale was NBA Coach of the Month.
Sort of true. The Wolves started out 10-2 in January before dropping consecutive games to the Pistons and Lakers, though their schedule was on the easy side. Still, McHale deserves credit for completely turning around a team Randy Wittman had completely buried.

2. Kevin Love is an automatic double-double the last two months. No player in the NBA has better rebounding instincts.
This might be true. Love’s one of five rookies in history to grab more than 20 percent of all boards available during his time on the floor.

3. Slumdog Millionaire is going to win Best Picture, and Freida Pinto is more than welcome to Minnesota to watch a game out here with us…just saying the offer is out there…
Sikka’s of Indian roots, and since the Oscars are tonight we’ll allow this random digression.

4. Randy Foye is quietly having a terrific season, increasing his scoring average each month and becoming a team leader.
For the season, Foye’s averaging 16.6 points, 4.6 dimes, 3.3 boards and 1.13 steals, but he’s been much better since McHale took over, routinely scoring 20 points and dishing six assists. He’s been cursed by how good traded-for Brandon Roy’s been, but Foye’s steadily gaining ground.

5. Al Jefferson going down for the season with a torn ACL is just one of a rash of injuries affecting the league’s top stars: KG, Amare, Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, T-Mac, Jameer Nelson, Andrew Bynum…yet amazingly Kobe Bryant continues to play through injuries and tough it out. He has to be one of the league’s iron men at this point.
Good point.

Kevin Love - Pau Gasol6. The Wolves are positioning themselves to have one of the league’s most productive off-seasons with potentially four first round picks, and lots of cap room and tradeable assets.
Ideally Minnesota will package some of those picks to get an elite talent. They’re in a good position, also, to take a risk on a prospect, and should see their lottery balls go up significantly considering Jefferson’s (23 points, 11 boards) injury.

7. Rashad McCants had a tough month, first getting dumped by Khloe Kardashian, and then getting sent to the NBA’s equivalent of the outhouse in Sacramento. Only Chris Brown and Rihanna had a worse month, and maybe A-Rod too.
Um, yup.

8. Ryan Gomes is a quintessential glue guy and was pivotal to the team’s success in January.
Gomes is severely underrated by fans, since he’s anything but flashy and always makes the right play, but coaches and GM’s know his worth.

9. The Wolves have struggled against the Lakers this season because of the Lakers length and athleticism, not to mention talent.
True, but with Jefferson out, the Wolves are basically a drive and kick team that shoots a lot of threes, which is actually gives teams a better chance of beating the Lakers (should they convert a good 60 percent of those threes, of course). Pounding it inside on L.A. works better without Andrew Bynum, but it still doesn’t work with the Lakers compact defense.

10. New Timberwolf Shelden Williams is married to WNBA super star Candace Parker. She is out for the season having her first baby. Do the Wolves get draft rights to the new baby? Mike do some homework on this, that kid could be a superstar in the making.
I like where he’s going with this point and will bring it to Phil Jackson before the game.

OK folks, we’ll check in before the game.

Shannon Brown Two Weeks In

It’s been just about two weeks since the Lakers acquired guard Shannon Brown, along with forward Adam Morrison, in exchange for three-point specialist Vladimir Radmanovic.

We grabbed Shannon at Shootaround on Friday after he finished up a game of H-O-R-S-E with Morrison (and just hours before he scored his first two-points as a Laker) to talk about his transition to the team and what it’s like to learn the triangle.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the things we learned while talking to Shannon.

  • His vertical is sick. Jordan Farmar’s 43-inches is ridiculous and Brown can get even higher.
  • The excitement of being a Laker hasn’t worn off.
  • Shannon’s thoughts on the attitude of this Lakers team:

    “They have a high IQ of basketball and they want to be here, they want to play. I don’t hear guys talking about ‘man I wish we didn’t have to come in today’ or ‘man why we gotta practice so long.’ It’s all about man we want to get out there and we want to play, we want to win. They got a taste of what it’s like last year to be in the Finals and not be able to win it. Now i think we’re hungrier to get back.”

    Check out the 1:21 mark in the video above for that part of the conversation.

    Check back tomorrow as Shannon watches his block against Atlanta for the first time.

  • Lakers Hornets : Postgame

    KobeWith a 13-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter on Friday night, the Hornets looked all but buried as the Lakers seemingly had the win locked up like a criminal for the third time in four regular season meetings between the Western foes.

    Not so fast…

    After eight minutes had passed in the quarter, the visitors had managed to charge all the way back to tie the game at 93 before eventually holding a three-point lead with just 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

    Enter Derek Fisher.

    Exhibit A: After stealing the rock with 24 seconds left in the game and his team up three, Chris Paul streaked up the floor, flanked by two teammates, and chose to go to the rim for a layup attempt. Unfortunately for Paul, Fisher never gave up on the play, sliding over to draw a charge and regain possession for the Lakers.

    Exhibit B: Coming out of the timeout, the ball found its way to Pau Gasol at the high post, with Kobe Bryant rolling to Pau’s right. Sneaking in behind at the top of the key was Fisher, whom Paul unexpectedly left to double Gasol. Though the play had been designed for Bryant, Gasol read CP3′s overplay and quickly fed Fisher, who rose and fired from three in rhythm to tie the game with 14 seconds left. L.A. then hung in on defense, watching Paul’s 22-foot jumper rim out to force OT.

    L.A. wasn’t about to blow it once again.

    Bryant simply dominated the overtime, scoring 11 points from the right block, left block, top of the key and free throw line to ensure that a feisty swarm of Hornets wouldn’t win for the second straight time at STAPLES Center after a similar fourth quarter comeback (and win) on Jan. 6.

    The MVP finished the game with 39 points, Lamar Odom grabbed another 17 rebounds, Gasol put up 20 and 12 and Luke Walton had a great all-around game (14 points, eight boards, four dimes) in L.A.’s 45th victory of the season.

    “Well, it gives us the confidence that we can make mistakes or have a game like that and still come out of it with a win,” said Phil Jackson in summary. “(But) I wasn’t happy with the ball game. I thought we made it a lot harder on ourselves which we have to give New Orleans credit for.”

    Indeed they did, but nonetheless, the Lakers held on to the league’s best record heading into a road trip to Minnesota (Sunday) and Oklahoma City (Tuesday).

    Some numbers:

    2
    Derek Fisher’s number. Also, the number of huge plays made by Fish in the fourth quarter to force OT, starting with the drawn charge and concluding with the game-tying triple.

    12
    Free throw makes in as many attempts by Kobe Bryant en route to a game-high 39 points.

    16
    Assists from Chris Paul, who added 21 points and four steals but still finished the game at -15.

    25
    Shooting percentage from L.A.’s bench, who was quite bad in hitting only 5-of-20 shots for 16 collective points.

    31
    Points from New Orleans shooting guard Rasual Butler, who’s been starting in place of the injured Morris Peterson. Butler nailed 6-of-8 threes, including two in overtime, to lead the way for the Hornets.

    38
    Points in the paint scored by New Orleans, which is quite low for an overtime game, but makes more sense when you look at the 32 threes they attempted.

    Lakers – Hornets Running Diary

    Bryant - Rasual ButlerAs 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 L.A. – New Orleans Running Diaries
    Game 1: Lakers 93, Hornets 86
    Game 2: Lakers 100, Hornets 87
    Game 3: Lakers 105, Hornets 116

    Inactives
    Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
    Hornets: Morris Peterson, Tyson Chandler

    The lineups tonight are slightly different from Jan. 6, when these two teams met for the third time this season. The Lakers were without Jordan Farmar and Luke Walton, while Andrew Bynum and Tyson Chandler played for their respective teams. Add the first two and take out the latter for this contest.

    Starters:
    Lakers Fish, Kobe, Luke, Lamar and Pau
    Hornets Chris Paul, Rasual Butler, Peja Stojakovic, David West and Hilton Armstrong

    D-Fenders Dominate
    And lets not forget about our D-Fenders (courtesy of PR magnate David Caldes):
    L.A. coasted to a 108-90 wire-to-wire victory over the visiting Rio Grande Valley Vipers Friday at STAPLES Center. Los Angeles (9-22) jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, growing their lead to as many as 22. Rio Grande Valley dropped their fifth straight game sending their record to 10-20 on the season.

    Chris PaulFirst Quarter
    11:17 L.A.’s already seen Bryant (twice) and Gasol earn Western Conference Player of the Week honors … Could Odom be next? He’s averaging 19.3 points and 14.5 rebounds in his last six games, and opened this one with a 17-foot jumper.

    10:00 Something that’s not talked about enough for L.A. is just how good a passer Luke Walton is. His first dime of the night found Gasol cutting through the lane for a dunk in traffic, and a 6-2 Lakers lead.

    5:54 Walton continued a strong start by nailing a three, grabbing a defensive board and then finding Bryant up the court for a lay-in plus the foul to cap an 8-0 run that made it 16-9. That’s five points, three assists and the board for Luke in five minutes.

    3:35 If you’re a Lakers fan, you’re quite happy to see how aggressively your squad’s come out tonight. Basically anytime this season that L.A.’s taken its opponent seriously from the outset, it’s won, and the gold jerseys were on the right track after Odom’s patented defensive-board-streak-to-lefty-layup routine made it 20-11. The Hornets weren’t able to get anything offensively aside from perimeter jumpers, but in fairness, they weren’t helped much by making just 1-of-9 threes.

    2:16 Here are a few things that Lakers fans like more than James “I never said I played clean (I.n.s.I.p.c.)” Posey, whose three-pointer was countered by Jordan Farmar to make the score 24-16:

    A) Slugs
    B) War
    C) Bill Laimbeer/Larry Bird/Paul Pierce
    D) Taxes

    0:01.2 If Trevor Ariza’s going to keep hitting open threes, the Lakers aren’t going to lose much (not that 44-10 means they’re losing much … whatever). His latest – after back-to-back fourth-quarter makes in Golden State this week – made it 28-20 L.A. after one.
    Continue reading ‘Lakers – Hornets Running Diary’

    Lakers – Hornets Pregame Video

    It’s always a good day when you have an excuse to talk to Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons, which was our prerogative as L.A. got set to face the New Orleans Hornets for the fourth time this season.

    After playing extremely well in two victories in the Crescent City earlier this season, the Lakers watched the Hornets come out firing in their Jan. 6 victory in STAPLES Center. Cleamons highlighted what the Lakers need to do to prevent the same thing from happening on Friday night.

    L.A. vs. N.O. — Hornets Radio Host Discusses

    Chris Paul - Trevor ArizaWith the Hornets set to face L.A. for the fourth and final time this regular season, we dialed up New Orleans Radio Studio Host Joe Block to explain the Tyson Chandler situation, tell us something we didn’t know about Chris Paul and give us a quick update on Mardi Gras.

    You can listen to the podcast by clicking on our Lakers Gameday page.

    Block said that he doesn’t expect Chandler to play anytime soon, thinks the Hornets need to focus on keeping Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom away from the rim and guarantees that CP3 will have his troops primed for the moment.

    Kupchak Weighs in on Mihm Trade

    In a conversation we had Thursday with Mitch Kupchack subsequent to the passing of the NBA trade deadline, the Lakers General Manager offered some reaction on the trade that sent center Chris Mihm to Memphis for a future second-round draft pick.

    Q: On how the move was easier to make considering D.J. Mbenga’s place on the roster, Josh Powell’s solid play and Andrew Bynum’s expected to return to the team:

    We had two players at that position – D.J. Mbenga and Chris Mihm – and with a healthy Andrew Bynum, neither one of those players played much at all. With Andrew getting injured, I was curious to see if Chris’s time was going to go up dramatically, and it really didn’t. He did play a lot of minutes two nights ago (vs. Atlanta, Feb. 17) in a game, but other than that Phil (Jackson) really chose to play Lamar (Odom) and Pau (Gasol), and also Josh Powell.

    So here we are again, with Andrew – knock on wood – expected to return and even with the injury, neither Chris nor D.J. were getting much time. At that point you had to look at what was best for the organization and take into consideration Chris’s loyalty and his future as well. I think if you asked him, he would have preferred to stay here; I think there’s a degree of comfort that goes along with being in a certain place and I know he wanted to be a part of this. But I’ve been here for many, many years, and he really needs to go to a place where he’s going to play, get confidence – not only himself but confidence that other people who watch him play can feel. He has to be in a position where this summer he can pick a place to finish his career, because he’s still relatively young, and that’s tough sometimes for a player to understand. It was a painful thing for him; we kind of lived his frustrations here the last four years. Every time he had a surgery or went down with an injury, we felt it as well. It’s tough to part ways, but we get a roster space, we get some flexibility down the road and we get a trade exception. Chris has to go some place where he has a chance to play and set himself hopefully for next year and thereafter.

    Stay tuned for more trade deadline reaction from Kupchak.