Monthly Archive for March, 2009

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Chicago Bulls – 10 Things to Know

Ben Gordon - Sasha VujacicHeading into Saturday evening’s contest in the Windy City, we identified 10 things you should know about the Chicago Bulls, whom L.A. will face in the first of seven consecutive road games.

1) Chicago has won seven consecutive games at the United Center, and their opponents have been anything but bad: Denver, Orlando, Houston, New Orleans and Boston are among the conquered.

2) The Bulls are 8-7 since acquiring Brad Miller and John Salmons from Sacramento for Andres Nocioni, Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons and Michael Ruffin.

3) Salmons has scored at a solid clip since joining the Bulls. In March, he’s scored at least 20 points in 6-of-9 games, while in 14 total games in the red and white he’s averaging 21.1 points. Salmons has started the last nine games, and does better on Kobe Bryant than most players in the league.

4) The Lakers have beaten the Bulls 80 times in their collective history, to 54 losses. L.A.’s currently on a three-game winning streak, including last season’s sweep.

5) Bulls starting small forward Luol Deng is out with a right shin contusion.
Joining Deng on the bench is Jerome James, who has a ruptured right Achilles.

6) The Bulls have won 17 games versus 12 losses against the Western Conference, though they’ve gone just 15-25 against the East for an overall record of 32-37. That’s still good for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, while the West’s eighth team, Dallas, is 41-28.

7) Teams like Milwaukee (31-39) and Charlotte (30-38) are right on Chicago’s heels for the last playoff spot, so the Bulls are scratching and clawing for every win.

8) The Bulls have shot a solid 41.5 percent from three over the last nine games, led by Kirk Hinrich’s 14-of-24 (58.3 percent) and Ben Gordon’s 19-of-40 (47.5 percent). In related news, the Lakers have been susceptible to threes all season.

9) Derrick Rose ranks among the rookie leaders in several categories, including scoring (16.5, second), assists (6.2, first), minutes (36.8, second) and shooting (46.6 percent, fourth). His primary weakness is his outside shot, which allows opposing guards to play off him or go under on screen rolls.

10) Chicago is only 12-29 when their opponents score 100+ points, and the Lakers average 108.1 points per game.

Check back tonight for a live running diary from the United Center.

Lakers 114, Warriors 106: Postgame

Warriors PostGameScoring against the Warriors isn’t much of a problem for any team, let alone the Lakers.

In fact, in the three previous matchups between the two California squads, L.A. had averaged 124.3 points, all in winning efforts.

Make that four wins for a season sweep.

L.A. had to settle for 114 points on Thursday night at STAPLES in a game that was at once a blowout and a nail-biter.

A smoking hot 20-6 run to start the second half seemed to have put L.A. well on its way, but the plucky Warriors can score too, as they proved in coming almost all the way back late in the fourth quarter. A Monta Ellis layup made it 106-103 Lakers with 1:31 to play, but a key Trevor Ariza three pointer preceded two Lamar Odom free throws and a breakaway Ariza dunk to close the game.

It was the right way for the Lakers to go into their longest road trip of the season – a seven-game Eastern swing that commences in Chicago and concludes in Milwaukee – particularly after dropping the late January double OT contest vs. Charlotte prior to the six-game Grammy trip.

Leading the way for Los Angeles was Pau Gasol, who put up 21 points and 14 boards, while Sasha Vujacic contributed 12 points off the bench, highlighted by three three-pointers in a three minutes stretch around the start of the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant needed 25 shots to get his 21 points, while Odom matched Gasol’s double-double with 16 and 12.

It wasn’t just Vujacic that was effective off the bench, which combined for 32 points (led by Vujacic), 13 boards (four from Josh Powell) and 12 assists (seven from Jordan Farmar).

The Lakers now take off … for a while. Their longest road trip of the year, seven games in 12 days, begins in Chicago and ends in Milwaukee.

Until then … a few numbers:

10
Straight games without a three-pointer for Luke Walton before his baseline triple in the second quarter.

12
Straight points for Golden State to cut what had been an 18-point third quarter lead down to six with just over a minute remaining.

14
Point margin in the first seven minutes of the third quarter, as the Lakers turned a one-point halftime lead into a 74-57 blowout.

17
Straight minutes played by Pau Gasol in the first half

22
Turnovers from the Lakers, allowing the Warriors to stay in the game.

48.0
Shooting percentage for both teams in the first quarter on 12-of-25.

52
Combined points for Monta Ellis (27) and Kelenna Azubuike (25) to pace the Warriors.

54
Wins for the Lakers.

Lakers – Warriors Running Diary

Fish PowellRead about the Lakers vs. Sixers 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 – Warriors Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Warriors Running Diary 2-18-2009
Lakers 129, Warriors 121: Postgame

Lakers – Warriors Running Diary 1-7-2009
Lakers 114, Warriors 106: Postgame

Lakers – Warriors Running Diary 12-28-2008
Lakers 130, Warriors 113: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Sun Yue, Andrew Bynum
Warriors: Andris Biedrins, Jamal Crawford*
*Crawford, Golden State’s second leading scorer, is sitting due to head coach Don Nelson’s informal “play the young guys since we’re of of the playoffs” rule.

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom, Gasol
Warriors: Monta Ellis, Marco Belinelli, Stephen Jackson, Brandan Wright, Ronny Turiaf

Bynum Update
Before the game, Phil Jackson said Andrew Bynum could miss another month of action, but that in the best case scenario he’d be able to play in early April (not likely, according to Phil’s opinion). Click here for more.

ArizaFirst Quarter
11:19 Once Lamar gets his stroll going left with any kind of a step, it’s generally good for two points. That’s what we saw as an answer to Jackson’s jumper, and you know what? Maybe we should name that move … Is the “Queens Stroll” lame? Eh, yeah.

9:58 Well, it wasn’t a QS, but Odom’s left-handed hammer dunk was just ask pretty, courtesy of a slick Bryant bounce pass past the defense.

8:13 Heidi and Spencer are here!

7:05 Kelenna Azubuike came off the bench and immediately hit two open threes for the Warriors, who took a 12-10 lead in the process. Meanwhile, Gasol actually missed two shots in a quarter for the first time in two games.

5:39 Perhaps intent upon getting Kobe in rhythm, Jackson called an out-of-bounds play for Kobe, who responded by nailing a three. Gasol scored on the next possession to complete a 5-0 run that left G.S. up 17-16, thanks mostly to their 14-6 edge on the glass (five offensive boards).

Spencer and Heidi2:56 A timeout with L.A. down 24-20 (another Azubuike triple) allowed us to change the channel on the lil’ monitors to the NCAA Tournament, and CBS had a camera trained to what I at first thought was a lone Virginia Commonwealth player. Wearing a white jersey, the dude was freaking out with his dance moves, which seemed extremely odd since VCU was down 10 to UCLA at halftime. Of course, Ty made me realize that it was just a male cheerleader. Oh yeah. Rhetorical question: why do we have male cheerleaders? Do we like them?

Out of the timeout, Bryant scored inside from Odom to get to seven points. Meanwhile, let’s keep an eye on L.A.’s bench, starting with the checked-in Vujacic and Farmar.

1:26 Odom’s second foul didn’t bode well for Lakers fans hoping Gasol wouldn’t have to play big minutes tonight. Josh Powell checked in for Lamar, and immediately tied the game with a 17-footer, but Jackson generally doesn’t like to go too long without either Odom or Pau, who remained on the floor.

0:20.2 Peezy hit again, this time from the baseline, to halt a quick 4-0 Warriors run. The Lakers bench responded with a nice defensive possession full of effort to force a turnover and head into the second down 28-26. It’s been clear that defensive effort has been the primary plague of L.A.’s bench, whom Phil Jackson says can be more interested in scoring, but needs to put in the kind of energy Spencer shows Heidi. To clarify, Phil didn’t reference “The Hills” when he explained this.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Warriors Running Diary’

Could Be A Bit for Bynum

Two weeks ago, when Phil Jackson mentioned that he wasn’t interested in answering questions about Andrew Bynum until April, it didn’t keep reporters from asking.

Sure enough, prior to Thursday’s media session, the latest news we had was that the center had begun running on a treadmill with no negative repercussions, and that he had begun basketball-related activities, but he was still a ways away from playing with his teammates.

But Jackson went further prior to L.A.’s game against Golden State

Right now Andrew is, it looks like, a month away, and that’s like the end of the season. This is a from a guy who has been watching players recover and not a trainer, and certainly not a physical therapist, but I think he’s still a month away from being a player.

Jackson went on to say that the best case scenario is that Bynum plays in early April, but qualified his statement by saying that it’s “really hard to see him (playing) in two weeks.”

So much for no news until April…

Lakers Have Filled the Warrior’s Cup

Anthony Randolph, Lamar OdomFor the Lakers, scoring against Golden State has been about as difficult as it is for Jack Bauer to, uh, neutralize bad guys on “24.”

Try 373 points in three games, a handy 124.3 average that included a 130-113 rout at STAPLES Center on Dec. 28.

L.A. didn’t win quite as easily in Golden State, first emerging with a 114-106 win on Jan. 1 in a tough contest before coming from behind to win 129-121 as Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom all scored more than 20 points on Feb. 18.

The key to beating the Warriors, however, is quite simple: Limit their fastbreak points, and take advantage of their lack of interior size. Assistant coach Brian Shaw broke things down for us further on video, which you can check out by linking below:

LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE

Tip off is at 7:30 p.m. for the game you can watch on FS West HD or TNT, or listen to on AM 570 KLAC.

Sun Back to the D-Fenders

Rookie Guard Sun Yue has been assigned back to the Lakers Developmental League affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders, today.

This will be Yue’s second tour of duty with the D-Fenders. His first stint consisted of 4 games (4 starts), averaging 10.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.25 blocks in 36.0 minutes.

Here’s the link to the press release.

Even More Madness

Just in case the players brackets weren’t enough… and hearing SI’s Luke Winn talk about the tourney didn’t satisfy your March Madness hunger… we’ve got even more for ya.

Lakers Reporter Mike Trudell called up his buddy Robby (a USC grad who he describes as “unqualified but still somehow well-informed”) in Minnesota to go blow-by-blow through the bracket’s first round. Listen below.

Madness Breakdown with Luke Winn

Luke WinnAs mentioned in today’s practice report, we got a couple of the guys to fill out March Madness Brackets.

To get an expert opinion we called up Sports Illustrated senior college hoops writer Luke Winn to break down the chances for the teams of various Lakers players: Jordan Farmar & Trevor Ariza (UCLA); Luke Walton (Arizona); Shannon Brown (Michigan State); Adam Morrison (Gonzaga) and Kobe Bryant (Duke/Syracuse).

Winn, a Northwestern grad like Lakers Reporter Mike Trudell (don’t worry, you’ll hear more about that in the podcast), spent about 15-minutes talking hoops before catching a flight to Kansas City to see some first round action.

Check out The Popcorn Machine to listen to what Luke had to say.

Wednesday Practice Report

A few tidbits emerged from L.A.’s practice facility on Wednesday, including a Trevor Ariza’s post-Iggy thoughts, NCAA tournament talk, a look at the coming seven-game road trip and even some jury duty talk:

Ariza Guarantees Effort
Lakers small forward Trevor Ariza, who failed to commit L.A.’s foul to give before Andre Iguodala pulled up for a game-winning three pointer on Tuesday night, simply took the blame and said it wouldn’t happen again:

“We can’t settle for what we’re doing at the time, we have to keep the effort going the whole game,” explained Ariza after a few heated games of four-on-four. “Sometimes we just relax when we shouldn’t, we take things for granted a little bit, but I guarantee you that won’t happen again. We won’t take anything for granted again.”

Six Lakers Fill Out NCAA Tourney Brackets
Jordan Farmar (UCLA), Luke Walton (Arizona), Shannon Brown (Michigan State), Adam Morrison (Gonzaga), Derek Fisher (Arkansas-Little Rock) and Josh Powell (NC State) filled out NCAA Tourney brackets for us to score on Lakers.com. Lakers.com threw its collective hat into the competition as well, though Ty Nowell’s bias/insistence towards Alma mater Arizona State could be our downfall. Alas, you can track their respective brackets throughout the tournament to see whose personal bias affects them the least (Arizona in the final game, Luke? Really?). Click here to see everyone’s brackets.

Road Trip Looming
Chicago, Oklahoma City, Detroit, New Jersey, Atlanta, Charlotte and Milwaukee. That’s quite a bit of travel, right? While the seven teams don’t look as good as Boston, Cleveland or San Antonio on paper, most of the squads play well at home, and several are playing much better basketball of late. For example, the Bulls have won seven straight home games to improve to 21-11 in Chicago; Atlanta 26-7 at home, the league’s fourth best record; Charlotte is for some strange reason L.A.’s toughest opponent; Detroit’s playing better basketball, Milwaukee’s well above .500 in Wisconsin and OKC gets fired up in their building, leaving only New Jersey (14-19) as a team that’s struggled in their arena (is it the smog?). Of course, L.A. seems to bring out the best in its road opponent regardless of placement on the map.

Jury Duty
Finally, Kobe Bryant wasn’t available for L.A.’s team photo to be taken at the practice facility today thanks to … you guessed it … jury duty. Phil Jackson said that he doesn’t expect Bryant to be selected for a case, and that Kobe will be in the starting lineup for Thursday’s game against Golden State.

Lakers 93, Sixers 94: Postgame

Philly Wins“I’m not concerned … It’s a good lesson.”

Leave it to Kobe Bryant to put a last-second loss to Philadelphia – courtesy of Andre Iguodala’s pull-up three pointer as the clock went red – into perspective.

Is it a good thing that L.A. blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead? Um, no. Is it fun for Lakers fans that Trevor Ariza failed to take L.A.’s foul to give before Iggy pulled up? Not exactly. Was Phil Jackson pleased that the Lakers’ bench again failed to produce meaningfully? Negative.

But ultimately, as Bryant went on to explain, it was better that this kind of situation happened to the Lakers on March 17 than in the playoffs. After all, when the dust cleared the STAPLES Center, all the loss really meant was that the Lakers lost a half game to Cleveland in the race for the league’s best record.

That Iguodala needed a triple to win occurred because Bryant – after missing his first five shots of the fourth quarter and struggling to stay on the court due to foul trouble – nailed a 23-footer with 6.6 seconds on the clock to put L.A. up 93-91.

That almost bailed the Lakers out of after they failed to control the tempo and take care of the ball in getting outscored 32-20 in the final quarter.

“We are disappointed in the way that we played the game,” said Phil Jackson. “I told the team we had to work real hard to lose that game; we found a way to do it though.”

That they did, after a terrific third quarter in which L.A. conceded just 12 points while scoring 23 of their own. It all came down to the original game plan – keep Philly from running. Indeed, when L.A. kept Philly off its horse in the first and third quarters, the purple and gold dominated. Conversely, when L.A. turned the ball over, missed shots or stopped paying as close attention, Philly’s black jerseys were like a collective black stallion running right past the Lakers en route to easy shots.

But wait a second … what’s that Kobe? Ah, right. Just relax. The Lakers will be fine. They get their first chance to rebound against a Golden State team that’s fallen victim to L.A. three times already this season before taking off on a seven-game road trip.

1
Club Trillion player for L.A.: D.J. Mbenga, who played just under two minutes and didn’t put up a digit other than zero in any category.

3
Fourth quarter three pointers from veteran Donyell Marshall, who was in the game, basically, to shoot threes. Funny how that worked out.

4
Shots missed by Pau Gasol in L.A.’s last two games. Against the Sixers, Gasol made 9-of-12 shots, while on Sunday vs. Dallas, he was good on 12-of-13.

5
Offensive rebounds for Lamar Odom. As a team, L.A. grabbed 10, which was four less than Philly.

15
The most shots attempted by any one Laker. It was Bryant, who made just five (33 percent) in 32 minutes.

18
Turnovers by the Lakers, eight more than their opponent. Five came in the fourth quarter after a well-controlled third quarter (three TOs).

Also the number of bench points for L.A., signifying the continued struggles of the second unit.