Monthly Archive for March, 2009

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Bryant a Game-Time Decision

Kobe Bryant received treatment on his sprained right ankle from Lakers Head Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti along with doing some shooting on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. L.A.’s leading scorer will be listed as a game-time decision for the 12:30 p.m. Pacific tipoff against the Hawks.

However, it should be noted that after L.A.’s 103-96 victory in New Jersey on Friday night, Bryant told reporters that he would indeed play in Sunday’s game, questioning only how much pain he’d have to play through.

Easily one of the league’s toughest players, playing in pain has never been something Bryant’s shied away from … Nonetheless, we’ll have to wait for the opening tip to know for sure if No. 24′s going to go.

Bryant Day-to-Day with Ankle Sprain

Kobe BryantUpon colliding with Nets guard Devin Harris late in the second quarter of L.A.’s 103-95 win in New Jersey, Kobe Bryant sprained his right ankle and left the floor under his own power.

After getting taped at halftime, however, Bryant scored 12 of his 14 points in the third quarter, nine of which came on consecutive threes within a span last just over two minutes that prompted the crowd to its first “MVP!” chant of the evening. Bryant also dished out five of his nine assists after halftime in 23 second half minutes, and didn’t feature any obvious limp on that right ankle.

After the game, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson simply said that Bryant “sprained his ankle” and will be looked at in the morning. No. 24 and the team will stay in New York City for the evening, and Bryant and L.A.’s training staff will re-evaluate the ankle on Saturday morning.

In the meantime, Bryant’s listed as day-to-day heading into Sunday afternoon’s contest in Atlanta. We’ll have an update for you when one’s made available on Saturday.

Lakers 103, Nets 95: Postgame

LakersJust hours after a rather strange game in Detroit complete with runs and lulls, the Lakers pulled out a win in New Jersey by following a similar pattern in winning their fourth consecutive game on their seven-game trip.

This one may be a bit sweeter, however, as the Lakers clinched the top seed in the Western Conference Playoffs three weeks before the regular season ended.

On Friday night at Jersey’s IZOD Center, Pau Gasol was entirely fantastic offensively, making 14-of-19 shots plus 8-of-10 free throws for a season high 36 points, not to mention 11 boards and seven assists. L.A. did suffer a temporary scare when Kobe Bryant left the floor with under a minute to go in the second quarter (sprained ankle), but he returned to score 12 points in the third including three triples in just over two minutes. He’d add a team high nine assists, and is listed as day-to-day, set to be re-evaluated tomorrow.

Alas, here’s how the swings went: After leading by as many as 14 in the first half, New Jersey came back to within two thanks to a late run to close the half, and eventually tied the game at 57 with 8:46 left in the third. The Lakers promptly went on a 13-0 run that eventually became a 30-10 spurt sparked by three Kobe Bryant triples … before conceding the final 11 points of the quarter that cut a 22-point advantage in half.

Still following?

The Nets then chopped that lead down to three with a bit over six minutes to go in the fourth, before Lamar Odom (12, 11 and four) and Derek Fisher (18 points) went on a 6-0 spurt to again gain control of a game that Gasol would put on ice with four points in the final minute.

It’s on to Atlanta, Charlotte and Milwaukee as L.A. attempts to become the first team in league history to finish a trip 7-0, all the while keeping pace with Cleveland for the league’s best record.

Your numbers:

36
Season high points for Pau Gasol, who was fantastic in making 14-of-19 shots with 8-of-10 free throws and adding 11 boards and seven dimes. Gasol didn’t have quite as much energy on defense, but did come up with a key fourth quarter block.

29
Assists on 41 field goals for L.A., who moved the ball very well in its offense.

13
Point run in the third quarter to give L.A. a 70-57 lead after Vince Carter’s three had tied the score.

12
Bench points for the Lakers; L.A.’s starters all played at least 30 minutes, but the bench was solid to start the second quarter for the first time on the road trip.

11
Straight points scored by the Nets to cut L.A.’s 22-point third quarter lead in half heading into the fourth quarter.

3
Triples made by Kobe Bryant in just over two minutes late in the third quarter.

Lakers – Nets Running Diary

57063887Read about the Lakers vs. Nets 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 – Nets Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers 120, Nets 93: Postgame
Lakers – Nets Running Diary 11-25-2008

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Nets: Maurice Ager, Eduardo Najera

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom and Gasol
Nets: Devin Harris*, Vince Carter, Trenton Hassell, Ryan Anderson and Brook Lopez
*Harris had missed the last five games due to a strained left shoulder. He’s averaging 22.6 points and 7.0 assists on the season to lead the Nets.

Jackson To Pass Pat Riley for Most Games Coached
Funny thing was, when Phil Jackson was asked what it meant to pass John Kundla and Pat Riley to become the coach of the Lakers with the all-time most games coached, it wasn’t too significant for him. Jackson seems to measure his success on championships and happiness.

First Quarter
12:00 I think this is the first time all season that there are literally more Lakers – and Kobe specifically – fans here than fans of the opposing team. Kobe’s intro was greeted by, literally, 1,000+ screaming fans wearing No. 24 jerseys, let alone those who didn’t go with a jersey.

Pau11:45 I guess Devin Harris is back – he opened the game with a triple after missing his previous five, though Fisher countered with a long two at the other end, then continued his hot shooting by nailing a triple after an Odom block.

10:27 Kobe entered the early block party (attended by 10,000 of his friends) by swatting Harris at the rim, and it was Fish again from outside, claiming all seven of L.A.’s points as the defense continued to rotate well.

6:17 After watching Harris score on a slick move in transition off the glass, Bryant wasn’t about to let his fans forget who does that the best, promptly driving to the rack past two defenders and finishing a reverse … off glass. There’s the ol’ Kobe one-upped-ya. Meanwhile, Fish hit again (4-of-4) and Gasol scored +1 to put L.A. up 14-12.

4:06 As has been in recent games, Jordan Farmar checked in for Fisher and his nine points with L.A. up 23-18. Gasol and Bryant, on the other hand, haven’t seen any decrease in minutes.

2:46 Ariza took advantage of his defender doubling down on Gasol to nail a wide open triple, which was followed by a wide open Odom jumper, also good, to extend L.A.’s lead to 29-22.

0:20.0 L.A. missed not one … or two … but three layups in one possession. First was Farmar’s missed driving finger roll, next Odom’s putback and finally a Gasol baby hook. A hit there would have put L.A. up 33-22, but instead, Keyon Dooling hit a triple with 1.7 seconds remaining to make it a 31-25 ball game.

Though New Jersey was effective offensively to start the game, L.A.’s defense stepped it up once they became more familiar with the Nets Princeton-style offense.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Nets Running Diary’

Andrew Bynum Update: March 27

bynumPrior to L.A.’s win over Detroit, Phil Jackson answered a few questions about Andrew Bynum. Here’s the word-by-word transcription, followed by a chronological trail of Bynum updates since he tore his MCL on Jan. 31st against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Q: On if the Lakers are just as good offensively without Bynum:
Phil Jackson: “We’re more fluid as an offensive team without Andrew. With two seven footers, you don’t run as well … You don’t have probably as quick a fast break or as consistent a flow game, which the NBA is really suited for. Pau Gasol is a very mobile, active player that can step off the post, shoot shots, make passes and plays and gives us an opportunity to play Lamar Odom considerable minutes. He’s a terrific player, and gives us a whole different (way) to play – it releases Kobe (Bryant) to play a forward position, striking position and he’s much more aggressive in that spot.”

Q: On if Bynum will start or come off the bench:
Jackson: “We just have to see how he comes back. Is he going to be in condition where he can play 25-30 minutes and (be able to start) or is he going to play 12-14 minutes a game and increase it that way. We’ll see how it fits in.”

Q: On Bynum’s current activity:
Jackson: He’s running on the court and that’s about it. He’s doing some basketball skills, but he’s a considerable amount of time yet before he’s going to be able to even (practicing) with us.

Q: On why L.A.’s better defensively with Bynum:
Jackson: Better rebounding team, have a shot blocker that’s a considerable talent back there to face drivers. There’s a lot of things he gives us that we don’t have right now.

Past Bynum Links
1) Could Be A Bit For Bynum: March 19
2) Bynum Continues to Improve: March 12
3) Phil on Bynum: Ask Me In April: March 9
4) Andrew Bynum (Brief) Update: February 25
5) Andrew Bynum Update: February 17
6) Pregame On Camera Interview: February 2
7) MRI Reveals Torn MCL for Bynum: February 2
8) Scene of the Crime – Lakers/Grizzlies Running Diary: January 31

Knicks Sign Joe Crawford

Joe CrawfordThe New York Knicks today signed Los Angeles D-Fenders guard Joe Crawford to a 10-day contract.

Crawford, taken by the Lakers with the 58th pick in the 2008 Draft, averaged 20.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.0 steals in 43 games for the Lakers D-League affiliate. The Kentucky product also represented the D-Fenders at All-Star Weekend in the Dream Factory H-O-R-S-E competition.

The D-Fenders continue on without Crawford against the Erie Bayhawks this Sunday in Pennsylvania. They return home Sunday April 5th to host the Utah Flash at noon. Tickets to the game are free. Head over to D-Fenders.com or print out this flyer for more information.

Click here for the Press Release

Playoff Forecast: Who’s No. 8?

Pau Gasol - Dirk NowitzkiWith a win over New Jersey on Friday night or a San Antonio loss, the Lakers will make official what’s been known for weeks: L.A. will be the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

That sentence is just as simple as it is important, since every Western Conference team the Lakers face in the playoffs will have to start out in STAPLES Center, where the Lakers are 31-5 this season (not that a league-best 26-9 on the road is bad).

What’s entirely unknown, however, is whom L.A. will face in the first round, as the eighth spot in the Wild West is less secure than a fan wearing purple and gold in Salt Lake City.

There are literally eight teams that could wind up in the final playoff spot: San Antonio (47-24) looks to be the safest to avoid L.A. in round one with an almost untouchable four game lead on Dallas (43-28) with 11 to play. On the other end, Phoenix (40-32) is 3.5 games outside of the playoffs, but still has a slight chance to sneak in if some team collapses. More likely is that Houston (47-26), Denver (46-26) or New Orleans (44-26) slide back a few spots. However, what’s most likely – based on respective yet-to-play schedules – is that either Portland (45-27) or Utah (44-27) drop into the last spot, or that Dallas stays put.

Still following? Basically, one might limit the speculation for spot No. 8 to three teams – Dallas, Portland and Utah. That said, each team in the mix deserves a closer look, so let’s get to our team-by-team breakdown, with much of the emphasis on the three most likely opponents for L.A.:
Continue reading ‘Playoff Forecast: Who’s No. 8?’

Lakers 92, Pistons 77: Postgame

57053652Well folks, that was a strange one.

After a dominant first quarter that saw L.A. burst to a 25-12 lead in the Palace at Auburn Hills – a place the Lakers hadn’t won in seven years, mind you – it appeared that the purple and gold would continue its run of seven straight excellent quarters that started in the third quarter at Chicago and ran through Oklahoma City.

Apparently, the Lakers didn’t expect Pistons subs like Walter Herrmann and Will Bynum to stick that theory in the dumper, to the tune of a completely unexpected 17-0 run that turned a 13-point lead into a four-point deficit. As such, L.A. had a battle on its hands…

… At least until the 6:42 mark of the third quarter.

The Pistons had gone up 55-50 on a Kwame Brown layup, before being cut up by a defensive buzzsaw also known as the Los Angeles Lakers, failing to score a single point for the rest of the quarter as L.A. jumped to a 70-55 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The run was 20-0 for the visiting team, as Detroit finished with 13 points in the quarter after scoring 30 in the second after the 12-point stink bomb in the first.

The point was, L.A. won for the third straight time on the road, besting the Pistons in Detroit after nine straight losses that included the Lakers’ 0-for-3 performance in the 2004 NBA Finals.

Kobe Bryant led the way with 30 points, eight boards and seven assists in 39 minutes, while Lamar Odom added 12 points, 10 boards and seven assists of his own in 41 minutes. Also hitting the 40-minute mark was Pau Gasol, who managed 12 points, 11 boards and three assists. On the other hand, L.A.’s bench scored just 15 points, which prompted Phil Jackson to leave his starters on the floor for the bulk of the fourth quarter despite a double-digit lead.

Up next for Kobe and Co. was the second half of a back-to-back in New Jersey on Friday night.

Your numbers:

25
Combined Pistons points in the first and third quarters of Thursday’s game.

25
Points by Pistons sub Will Bynum on 9-of-14 shooting, not to mention 11 assists in what must have been his best career game.

22
Points in the paint conceded by the Lakers, who did a great job of keeping the Pistons out of the lane with the exception of Detroit’s 30-point second quarter.

20
Straight Lakers points to close the final 6:42 of the third quarter, allowing a 15-point lead that L.A. protected without threat in the fourth quarter.

17
Point run to start the second quarter for the Pistons, turning a 13-point deficit into a four-point lead.

13
Bench points for the Lakers, who had played well in both Chicago and Oklahoma City before drawing Phil Jackson’s ire in a (far) less than desirable performance.

5
Lakers starters on the floor despite a 17-point lead with three minutes to play, suggesting that Phil Jackson was trying to send a message to his bench. Finally, with 2:01 to go, Jackson would take Odom, Fisher and Bryant out, but leave Gasol and Ariza on the floor.

Lakers – Pistons Running Diary

BryantRead about the Lakers vs. Pistons 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 – Pistons Running Diary/Postgame
Pistons 106, Lakers 95: Postgame
Lakers – Pistons Running Diary 11-14-2008

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Pistons: Allen Iverson*
*Detroit listed both Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace as “DND,” which translates to “Did Not Dress” and obviously means neither will play.

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom and Gasol
Pistons: Rodney Stuckey, Arron Afflalo, Tayshaun Prince, Antonio McDyess and Kwame Brown

Phil Jackson Pregame
Jackson explained that L.A.’s seven-year struggle in Detroit was just “One of those things” that happens when one team establishes dominance over another. Of course, Tayshaun Prince’s defense on Kobe Bryant, and Detroit’s defense in general over the last few years has made it tough for any team to come into the Palace and win. L.A.’s coach, who will tie Pat Riley also talked about making sure his team doesn’t underestimate Detroit’s young guys that his team doesn’t know well, and answered a few questions about Kwame Brown.

First Quarter
12:00 Perched in the second row behind Mychal Thompson and Spero Dedes, I had a better view of L.A.’s extensive pregame routine. If you haven’t seen it on camera, the most important thing to know is that Josh Powell has retained the honor of being the last guy to slap hands/dap/insert handshake here with each starter.

Fish11:22 Taking advantage of the young Afflalo, Bryant used a pump fake to get to the line and open the scoring by hitting 1-of-2.

10:10 Kobe didn’t wait long for an explosive play … maybe he’s warm tonight? Driving right around Afflalo, Bryant went up fast in the middle of the lane before hammering down with his left hand, producing the “Ohhh’s” and “Ahhh’s” from the fans. After Shannon Brown’s two huge fourth quarter dunks in OKC, he told me it’s pretty tough to do that (even for a young guy) upon just checking into a game, which makes Bryant’s move more impressive.

7:35 Odom copied Bryant’s explosion to the rim, but opted to lay it in, moments after he’d hit a perimeter jumper. Gasol then hit his first shot as L.A. opened 5-of-6 to take an 11-6 lead.

“Jay’s Comedy Stimulus Plan”
Jay Leno’s putting on two shows for the unemployed right here in the Palace of Auburn Hills on April 7 and 8, which is pretty cool. What I’m wondering is who pays for the food and drinks? Rumor has it fans won’t have to pay for parking, drinks, or anything.

3:22 In a game that was starting to look a lot like L.A.’s blowout win in OKC on Tuesday, the Lakers jumped out to a 17-8 lead when Fisher finished a fastbreak that had resulted out of a great defensive possession. In fact, L.A.’s defense was in top form throughout, forcing the Pistons to settle for long jumpers in a 4-for-16 effort. It makes sense, since this Pistons starting lineup doesn’t have much offensive firepower, but you can still credit the Lakers for their collective focus.

2:13 The Pistons finally hit double digits on a Will Bynum jumper.

Continue reading ‘Lakers – Pistons Running Diary’

Odom Igniting His Natural Glow

The advertising slogan for Vaseline’s Cocoa Butter product just happens to apply quite well to Lakers forward Lamar Odom: “Ignite your natural glow.”

Anyone who’s been around Odom – at least anyone I’ve met – can attest to the fact that Odom has a natural glow to his personality. Now, it also didn’t take long to notice that Odom applies a substantial amount of cocoa butter to his skin. In fact, it’s the first thing he does before games as he’s changing into his uniform, and the first thing he does before putting on his clothes after a game (or practices, obviously).

The reason we bring this up just a few minutes before tipoff in Detroit? Odom had one of my personal favorite quotes when I asked him how much cocoa butter he went through: “The only person that’s going to take care of my skin is me,” he said with a broad grin on his face.

Good point, Lamar. Simple, yet right to the point.