Monthly Archive for March, 2009

Lakers 84, Bobcats 94: Postgame

BobcatsWhat exactly is it about the Bobcats that’s made them the only other team not named “Boston” to have a winning record against the Lakers?

Does L.A. simply overlook them more than they do other troubled franchises? Do the Bobcats, like Portland and Utah, just save their top level of effort for the purple and gold?

Whatever “it” is, it happened again on Tuesday night in Charlotte (with Michael Jordan sitting courtside), as L.A. went down to the wire with the plucky ‘Cats, who were fighting for the East’s 8th playoff spot in front of the largest crowd in the four years of Time Warner Cable Arena’s four-year existence.

After a rather sluggish first three quarters, the intensity picked up for both teams in the fourth quarter, with the Bobcats holding a 68-64 edge thanks to a 15-4 run to close the third. Charlotte increased that lead to 10 with 7:46 remaining, only to see the Lakers’ starters reel off eight straight points thanks to some suffocating defense.

Just as the flow seemed to be going L.A.’s way, the Bobcats responded with an 11-0 run of their own to seal their season sweep of the Lakers. Funny how that works out against the orange-clad franchise, huh?

It didn’t help the Lakers that they were awarded only six free throws for the entire game, two of which came on technical fouls, while Charlotte attempted 22 foul shots.

“It’s a road game,” quipped Phil Jackson, who was similarly brief regarding L.A.’s offensive struggles, saying that his team “Couldn’t hit shots.”

Particularly Kobe Bryant, who struggled to get back into an offensive rhythm for L.A. in hitting only 7-of-21 through three quarters and 11-of-28 overall for his 25 points. Lamar Odom went for 18 and nine through three, but scored just a bucket and failed to grab a rebound in the fourth, while Pau Gasol was sluggish in an 8-for-17 performance. L.A. continued to get little production from its bench, which scored 11 points (four in the final minute) on 5-of-22 shooting.

Gerald Wallace had 21 points, 13 rebounds and four assists to pace the Bobcats, who saw six players reach double figures.

Meanwhile, Cleveland emerged from a home battle with Detroit with a win to go three games up on the Lakers with eight to play in the race for the NBA’s best record. Surely, the Lakers are ready to be done with the regular season battles in road arenas, and return to the friendly confines of STAPLES to host their first-round series.

But not so fast. First, L.A. closes out its seven-game trip with a Wednesday-night contest in Milwaukee.

Until then, a few numbers.

4
Second half points for Lamar Odom, who was terrific in the first half with 14 points, 6-of-11 shooting.

6
Free throws attempted by the Lakers, who absolutely couldn’t buy a foul.

7
Assists from Pau Gasol to lead the Lakers, though he struggled to an 8-for-17 performance from the field.

11
Bench points for the Lakers, six of which came from Luke Walton before garbage time hoops from Vujacic and Brown.

17
Shots missed by Kobe Bryant.

18
Offensive rebounds for the Lakers in the one category dominated by L.A., since Charlotte managed just six boards on that end. Also the number of Bobcats’ turnovers, which kept L.A. in the game despite their poor shooting.

38.9
L.A.’s shooting percentage entering the fourth quarter, continuing the team’s poor to quite poor performance from the field of late.

Lakers – Bobcats Running Diary

57096669Read about the Lakers vs. Bobcats games as it unfolds. 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.

Previous Lakers – Bobcats Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers 110, Bobcats 117 (Double OT): Postgame
Lakers – Bobcats Running Diary 1-27-2009

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Bobcats: Alexis Ajinca, Dontell Jefferson, Sean Singletary

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom and Gasol
Bobcats: Raymond Felton, Raja Bell, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Emeka Okafor

Phil Pregame
You can listen to Phil defend Andrew Bynum and talk about Michael Jordan in our previous post.

First Quarter
12:00 A Bobcats staffer who’s an old buddy of mine told me that this could be the “Biggest game in Bobcats history.” First of all, if Charlotte wins, it’d be the most wins in franchise history (34). Secondly, they’re in the ninth spot in the East, just two games behind the Chicago Bulls. Third, it’s the Lakers. What’s interesting about that fact (or opinion) is that this is, who knows, the 6,749th most important game in Lakers history? That said, if L.A. doesn’t play like it’s important, they’ll have a tough time winning.

Gasol11:25 You just knew Bryant was going to be aggressive today, with reports that he stayed late after yesterday’s practice and was very early to the arena today. Sure enough, a pull up jumper in transition quickly put L.A. up 4-0 after two Ariza free throws. By the way, if you’re in Charlotte, make sure to check out the “Epicenter,” which is a brand new food/shopping development just a few blocks from the arena. It pleased me yesterday.

9:35 Falling down 6-0, the ‘Cats quickly made three straight shots to even the score. Bryant continued to be aggressive, but missed his next three shots…

6:40 But more importantly, the Lakers didn’t allow Charlotte to outwork them in the first half of the first quarter, settling on a 10-10 tie. By the way, 6,749 would mean 82 seasons worth of basketball (regular season only), so we may have been aggressive on that guesstimate. Sorry Charlotte … I did complement your Epicenter, for what it’s worth.

5:29 Remember when Andrew Bynum fouled G. Wallace pretty hard in L.A., inciting some nasty Charlotte columns and a fan base (check the running diary link at the top to read more about it)? Two consecutive finishes at the rim from Wallace showed that he remembered … Well, that, or he had an open lane to the rim. Meanwhile, Bryant continued to struggle with his J (2-of-7) as the ‘Cats jumped up 18-15. Back to Wallace – he still chomps on the tip of his mouthguard, letting the rest of it hang several inches out of his mouth.

2:45 Former Bobcat Shannon Brown checked into the game, perhaps a surprise at first until you remember that no one knows Charlotte’s personnel better than him.

0:32.5 Lamar Odom for three … Again? Odom’s second triple of the first quarter bailed the Lakers out after a good defensive possession from the Bobcats. L.O. didn’t wait long to contribute again after that, tipping in Luke Walton’s near miss to cap a personal 5-0 that brought L.A. within one, 25-24, at the quarter break. L.A. needed Odom’s efficiency, as Bryant hit only 3-of-10 shots
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Bobcats Running Diary’

Jackson Has Bynum’s Back

Phil JacksonWhen Phil Jackson was asked his opinion of a photo of Andrew Bynum, he came to the defense of his young center:

“You know what, I think there’s a lot being made out of that that’s unnecessary … Andrew’s a 21-year-old guy who’s been out of basketball for six weeks, and he’s got to have some energy and have some fun. I don’t know if putting a girl on your shoulders or not is (the way to go) … But the fact that people are beating him up about it, I think that’s crazy. Andrew’s doing fine and he’s going to be fine.”

Jackson was much more concerned – for the better – with Bynum’s claim on his official website that he’d been playing 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 under Mitch Kupchak’s watchful eye.

“I think the best news out of his blog that he sent out is the fact that he said he thinks he’s going to play in a regular season game,” he said. “That shows me some confidence. The last time I talked to him before we left on this road trip, Andrew said he was ‘Hopeful.’ But this time he sounded confident.”

Here’s the pregame audio of Jackson’s comments not just on Bynum, but on Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats.

Among Jackson’s most interesting comments was a description of what made Jordan such a special player.

Shannon Brown On the Bobcats

Shannon Brown averaged four points in 9.4 minutes per game while spending the first 41 games of the season with the Charlotte Bobcats, before being traded alongside Adam Morrison for Vladimir Radmanovic.

One of Brown’s best games as a Bobcat came in Charlotte’s 117-110 OT win in Los Angeles on Jan. 27, when Brown scored 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting (two threes) with four rebounds and two assists.

As such, Brown has a unique – and streamlined – perspective on Tuesday’s Lakers-Bobcats game in Charlotte.

“We just need to come out, play hard and be really aggressive,” said Brown after L.A.’s shootaround. “Because the Bobcats pride themselves on playing hard. When I was in Charlotte, L.A. didn’t quite match the intensity, gave up too many open looks, but I think it’ll be a different story tonight.”

Brown went on to describe Charlotte’s improvement since the additions of Raja Bell and Boris Diaw from Phoenix, and talked about some of their more effective sets, but more than anything else simplified things down to one word: Effort.

He’s right.

Garnett Shut Down

After Boston’s practice on Tuesday, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers suggested that Kevin Garnett’s knee remains sore, and that he’ll be in dress clothes until at least the final three games of the regular season.

“After watching him today we’re just gonna shut him down until the soreness goes away,” said Rivers, as reported on the Celtics’ Twitter page. “Our goal is the last three games.”

Due in part to KG’s absence, the Celtics have dropped to third place in the East at 56-19, four games in the loss column behind the Lakers. Garnett has missed 15 of Boston’s last 19 games with a sore knee, seven of which Boston has lost.

What’s it all mean? Most likely, that Cleveland (60-13) will earn the East’s top seed, and have home court advantage over Boston (or Orlando) to earn the right to play the West’s champ. Boston has resigned itself to winning on the road in the playoffs instead of pushing Garnett to an early return.

The Lakers and their STAPLES Center faithful would have to nod in agreement with that decision.

In the Rankings: Week 22

Every Monday, the Lakers Basketblog checks the net to bring you the latest NBA power rankings.

NBA.com
This Week: 2 | Last Week: 2 | Diff: N/A

A season-low 76 points in Atlanta puts the Lakers two games behind the Cavs for the best record in the league. Of greater concern is the health of Bryant and the play of their bench, which has shot 16-for-52 (30.8 percent) over the last three games.

ESPN.com
This Week: 2 | Last Week: 1 | Diff: -1

You’d typically pardon an L in Atlanta knowing what the Hawks are like at home. In this case, though, L.A. has to take a hit, failing to get to 80 points right after the Hawks fell to the Timmy-less Spurs and KG-less Celts.

SI.com
This Week: 2 | Last Week: 2 | Diff: N/A

Either Phil Jackson doesn’t have any idea when Andrew Bynum will be back or he’s having some fun making reporters think he doesn’t. On Thursday, Jackson told reporters that Bynum “has a considerable amount of time yet before he’s going to be even at practice with us.” But on Saturday, Jackson talked about using the final regular-season games for “getting [Bynum's] rhythm back.”

USAToday.com
This Week: 2 | Last Week: 2 | Diff: N/A

Kobe struggling with sore right ankle.

Average Ranking: This Week: 2 | Last Week: 1.75 | Diff: -.25

Vladimir Radmanovic – Then and Now

RadmanovicWith the Lakers set to take on Charlotte for the first time since the teams swapped Vladimir Radmanovic for Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown, we thought we’d take a quick look at Vladi’s Lakers numbers vs. his Bobcats stats.

With L.A., Radmanovic played in 46 games, averaging 16.7 minutes to score 5.9 points on 44.4 percent shooting from the field and 44.1 percent from three-point range. He added 2.5 rebounds, 0.83 assists and 0.60 steals.

In Charlotte, Vladi’s appeared in 23 games, averaging 22 minutes and scoring 9.3 points on 42.3 percent shooting, including 38.1 percent from three. He’s grabbing 3.7 boards, tossing 1.4 dimes and collecting 0.48 steals for the Bobcats.

Perhaps due in part to the fact that he isn’t playing with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol anymore, Radmanovic may be getting fewer wide open shots, which could account for his lower shooting percentage. Essentially, teams know how dangerous Radmanovic is from the perimeter, but having two teammates that commanded double teams in L.A. made it quite difficult to keep Vladi’s rainbows out of the air. While Gerald Wallace has been terrific of late, the Bobcats don’t have that one dominant offensive player who draws a great deal of attention.

His increased averages in rebounds and assists, on the other hand, are right in line with his additional six minutes per game.

As for Brown and Morrison … Well, they simply aren’t logging enough minutes to measure anything statistically. Morrison has appeared in only five games, averaging 6.4 minutes per, while Brown’s averaged just 4.0 minutes in 11 games.

In Vladi’s absence, both Trevor Ariza and Luke Walton have played well for the majority of the time, even if Lakers fans don’t get to watch the ball rise (roughly) 25 feet in the air before contacting the hoop.

Lakers 76, Hawks 86: Postgame

Josh SmithHaving clinched home court advantage through the Western Conference Playoffs on Friday night, just how enticing was a chance to become the first team in NBA history to go 7-0 on a road trip for the Lakers?

As forward Josh Powell explained, it wasn’t so much about that potential streak … The team never wants to lose in general.

“We’re trying to win every game,” he said. “Being satisfied with losing isn’t gonna happen.”

That said, it could have been another feather in L.A.’s impressive 2008-09 cap had the squad managed not only to beat Atlanta on a dreary Sunday afternoon down South, but then to close out Charlotte (never easy) and Milwaukee. Too bad the Hawks had other things in mind, primarily by getting hot from three in the second half in a flow running contrary to L.A’s 35 percent shooting for the game that netted a season-low 76 points.

“You can always blame poor shooting,” said Phil Jackson. “But it comes down to the reality of basketball – getting penetration and getting the kind of shots off penetration that you want.”

The Lakers didn’t do that, and Atlanta didn’t help out. Up one at the half, the Hawks started the second by launching threes like Maverick fired Mig-intended missiles in “Top Gun,” nailing eight from long range (10 for the game) to essentially blow up L.A.’s chance for victory. The Lakers did mount a fourth quarter comeback that had them within eight with seven minutes to play, but if any of Atlanta’s triples were emblematic of the game, it was Mike Bibby’s with 5:32 remaining.

From the top of the key, Bibby’s attempt clanked hard off the back side rim, bounced high up in the air, landed on top of the basket and bounced back up … And then slowly trickled through the twine to put Atlanta up 12 and effectively squash the counter assault.

Kobe Bryant struggled to play through a sprained ankle incurred Friday against the Nets, making just 7-of-19 shots for 17 points as he wasn’t getting his regular lift on his jump shot. And with Bryant off his MVP form, L.A. needed much more than a combined 6-for-25 effort from Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza.

In fact, the only offensively effective Lakers were Pau Gasol, who made 7-of-10 shots, and Luke Walton, who was 3-of-4 off the bench. That Gasol only took 10 shots was certainly less than ideal, as L.A. both struggled to find him down low and the Hawks did well to swarm the big Spaniard when he did manage to catch it. Meanwhile, Hawks sub Zaza Pachulia was a force on the block, out-muscling L.A. to the tune of 13 boards and 11 points, and former Laker Maurice Evans made three third quarter triples to finish with 13 points himself.

With the loss, the Lakers fell two games behind Cleveland – which beat Dallas earlier on Sunday – but Phil Jackson had mentioned before the game that L.A. simply wasn’t concerned with the prospect of ceding potential home court advantage in the Finals. If L.A. and Cleveland manage to get out of their respective conferences, Jackson’s squad seems confident they can win a road game there. Still, Jackson emphasized more pointedly that there’s a great deal of work to do and time to pass before such a concern enters his mind.

To the numbers:

4
Three pointers hit by the Lakers despite 20 attempts (20 percent), exemplifying Phil Jackson’s complaint about settling for jumpers without penetration.

5
Threes hit in six attempts by Mike Bibby, who finished with a game high 21 points to tie Pau Gasol.

13
Points in the first quarter for the Lakers.

14
Assists for the Lakers, who had 29 assists in New Jersey two nights earlier.

19
Shots missed by L.A.’s starting forwards, Lamar Odom (3-for-14) and Trevor Ariza (3-for-11).

66.6
Atlanta’s three-point percentage in the second half on 8-of-12, including their first six shots in the third quarter.

Lakers – Hawks Running Diary

ArizaRead about the Lakers vs. Hawks games as it unfolds. 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.

Previous Lakers – Hawks Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers 96, Hawks 83: Postgame
Lakers – Hawks Running Diary 2-17-2009

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Hawks: Speedy Claxton, Acie Law, Marvin Williams

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant*, Ariza, Odom and Gasol
Hawks: Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Maurice Evans, Josh Smith, Al Horford
*Bryant was listed as day-to-day after spraining his ankle on Friday night, but will start.

Phil Pregame
Jackson was quite brief in the first three minutes of his pre-game media session, which generally signifies not to continue asking him questions. He did, however, share a few theories about winning on the road (general stuff like not turning the ball over and experience), which is difficult in Atlanta particularly since the home crowd gets rather “vociferous,” according to Jackson. He added that the biggest difference in Kobe Bryant’s game this season is that Bryant is not at all concerned with his personal numbers, particularly scoring, and is comfortable with drawing double-teams (for example) and letting his teammates take over.

First Quarter
11:50 For once, an opposing team recognized (or reacted to) L.A.’s weak side alley-oop play: Horford tipped the pass, which went off Odom’s fingers and out of bounds. L.A., however, still struck first on two Gasol free throws a minute later after Smith missed a baseline jumper.

Odom10:21 The Lakers fans are out in full on the road once again, which you could tell in one of two ways: A) Opening your eyes (purple and gold everywhere); B) Listening to the roar after Ariza’s silly behind-the-head pass found Odom for a lefty layup and a 4-0 lead.

8:50 Kobe’s looked just fine on the ankle exploding past Bibby for a dunk, though he did take off on his left foot. He’s been active defensively, but didn’t get great lift on two perimeter jumpers that fell short.

6:35 L.A. completely controlled tempo in the first half of the first quarter, but wasn’t able to fully take advantage: Ariza missed two wide open threes, Bryant and Fisher missed two good looks a piece and Odom missed from near the rim. Sure enough, as a team, L.A. shot 3-of-11, but held the Hawks to only six points themselves. Perhaps more importantly, Bryant was tagged with his second foul and had to leave in favor of Vujacic.

3:43 Things continued to go Atlanta’s way despite L.A.’s better efforts, with Zaza Pachulia twice being stuffed by Odom before finally converting a layup. Vujacic missed his second triple on the next play, and L.A. was 4-of-16 from the field (25 percent). Though Bibby hit a deep jumper to claim Atlanta’s first lead, Jordan Farmar responded with a triple to make it 13-12 Lakers.

1:54 Completely alone up the court, Josh Smith went for one of the biggest dunks most of us have seen in person … And clanked it super hard off the back rim. The dunk would have put Atlanta up five, but instead gave the Lakers the ball.

0:09.5 Ariza just couldn’t find his shot, missing badly to go 0-for-6 on the quarter. His struggles were systemic of the entire team, who made only 5-of-23 shots, otherwise known as 21.7 percent.

Surely that, more than anything, was L.A.’s problem, and the reason they scored just 13 points. Good thing their defense was solid, holding Atlanta to 9-of-25 from the field (36 percent), to keep the deficit at just seven heading into the second quarter.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Hawks Running Diary’

Bryant to Start

Kobe StartLakers guard Kobe Bryant, who sprained his right ankle in L.A.’s win over New Jersey on Friday night, will start against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday afternoon.

Bryant was to be a game-time decision, though he said after the Nets game that he would indeed play in Georgia.

Phil Jackson did say that Bryant missed L.A.’s breakfast/video session at the hotel because he “wasn’t feeling well,” which the coach said could have been a reaction to medication to limit the swelling of his ankle.