Monthly Archive for March, 2009

Page 5 of 9

Lakers – Sixers Running Diary

KobeRead 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, they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Previous Lakers – Sixers Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Sixers Running Diary 12-03-2008
Lakers 114, Sixers 102: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Sixers: Elton Brand, Jason Smith

Starters
Lakers Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom, Gasol
Sixers Andre Miller, Willie Green, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Samuel Dalembert

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone – My mom’s mom was named “Fitzpatrick” (um, last name).

Phil Jackson Pregame
What does it say about an opponent when the head coach isn’t asked one question about them? Instead of talking about Philly, Jackson was peppered with MVP questions, though he revealed little. Essentially, he tries to stay out of it and thinks there are several qualified candidates, including Kobe, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard. The other thing Jackson mentioned was that he may start to play his veterans fewer minutes.

Podcast Drop
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to our two podcasts on iTunes, “The Popcorn Machine” and “J-Peezy’s Playlist,” simply head into your music store to check us out.

ArizaFirst Quarter
11:54 L.A. got right to work on an alley-oop from Kobe to Lamar, then forced Dalembert into an unwanted perimeter J. On the next possession, Gasol scored easily inside to make it 4-0. In related news, Pau’s kind of efficient offensively.

10:07 Smack – Odom’s been really solid on defense lately, as witnessed by his swat of Iguodala, resulting in a Fisher layup.

7:38 Following assistant coach Brian Shaw’s game plan to the letter, L.A. went inside early and often to create good looks, and got back in transition the few times they missed, forcing Philly into their (putrid) half court offense. The result? An 11-2 start, capped by an Ariza triple as the Sixers missed 9-of-10 shots. Were this pace to continue, the score would be 132-24.

7:02 Green hit a jumper, which is news because Philly, the league’s worst three-point shooting (and shooting in general) team, had yet to can a J. Their strength, rather, is the athleticism on the wings with Young and Iggy, made better by Miller’s court vision … But if you keep ‘em from running, the Sixers aren’t so dangerous.

4:30 A good time to link to Kobe’s St. Patrick’s Day green-laced shoes comes after he nails a triple, his second-straight jumper, to put L.A. up 19-8.

1:46 Ariza hit from three for the second time moments earlier, prompting this comment from Lakers TV analyst Stu Lantz: “If Trevor’s hitting his outside shot, you have some issues defensively.” Meanwhile, here was the solid Lamar line as L.A. went up 24-14 on 63 percent shooting: four points, five boards, three dimes and a block.

1:46 Worthy of its own line: Gasol sat down in favor of Mbenga. Usually Pau plays the whole first quarter and starts the second, but we’re obviously seeing what Jackson talked about pregame. Joining Mbenga off the bench were Luke Walton and Jordan Farmar.

0:00 It wasn’t necessarily the bench’s fault, especially with Bryant and Odom still on the floor, but nonetheless the Sixers scored the quarter’s last six points to pull within four at the break, practically negating a terrific start heading into the second quarter. The slight let down – as you might have expected – came due to a lack of defensive ball pressure that we probably won’t see in the playoffs.

Here’s the other problem: six turnovers.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Sixers Running Diary’

Lakers vs. Sixers: Video Preview

Jordan Farmar, Andre MillerLakers assistant coach Brian Shaw stepped into our office (er, L.A.’s practice facility) to take a look at the Philadelphia 76ers (33-31), a young, athletic team the Lakers beat 114-102 on the road back in early December.

Shaw talked about keeping the 76ers out of their running game, pounding the basketball inside on offense and controlling the team’s engine, Andre Miller.

To watch, just click over to our Lakers Gameday page.

Phil, Kobe Practice Video

Following Monday’s practice in Los Angeles, we turned the camera on while Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant answered questions from assembled media.

HERE’S THE VIDEO

Phil
Phil Jackson explained why it’s sometimes natural for players to lose focus while protecting a lead, expressed no concern that teams might use a zone defense on L.A., addressed the second unit’s struggles in the half court and talked about coaching a team that’s favored to win a title.

Kobe
Kobe Bryant said that it’s still too early to think about the playoffs, dealt with the usual few questions that come if the Lakers let a team back into a game and talked about dealing with a zone defense that Dallas used and Philadelphia’s expected to feature at times.

Philly In Town
At 33-31, the Philadelphia 76ers are sitting in the sixth spot of the Eastern Conference, 5.5 games behind Atlanta for the fourth spot and 2.5 games ahead of 9th place Chicago. The 76ers have actually been better without free agent acquisition Elton Brand (out for the season), in part because they’re now able to play to their strength – running. With three straight wins against Toronto, Chicago and Miami, Philly’s game at STAPLES sets off a five game trip out West that should produce a better understanding of their playoff position. Philadelphia first met L.A. back in early December, resulting in a 114-102 Lakers win.

In the Rankings: Week 20

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

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

Monday’s (bad) loss in Portland puts the Lakers and Cavs even in the standings. Cleveland plays seven of their next eight games at home and have 11 remaining at the Q, while the Lakers begin a seven-game trip on Saturday and have just seven games remaining at STAPLES. But Andrew Bynum says he’ll “definitely be back this season.”

ESPN.com
This Week: 1 | Last Week: 1 | Diff: N/A

They swept Houston and San Antonio back to back and see the West’s top two presumed challengers (Spurs and Jazz) on course to beat each other up in Round 1. I’d say the Lakers are over their Portland debacle.

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

Already running away with the West, their biggest issue these days is establishing a consistent rotation. Trevor Ariza replaced Luke Walton as the starting small forward last week, and the debate is already raging about whether injured center Andrew Bynum, who has begun running on a treadmill, should reclaim his starting spot when he returns or if Lamar Odom should remain in the first unit.

Average Ranking: This Week: 1.66 | Last Week: 1.33 | Diff: -.33

Bryant Wins Third Western POW Honor

Kobe BryantFor the third time this season, Kobe Bryant was named the Western Conference Player of the Week, this time for games played between Monday, March 9 and Sunday, March 15.

Bryant led his conference in scoring with 28.5 points per game, alongside 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists to lead the Lakers to a 3-1 week highlighted by tough road wins in Houston and San Antonio. In the 102-95 win over the Spurs on March 12, Bryant hit a clutch fourth quarter three-pointer (as he did in Sunday’s win over Dallas) while recording 23 points and six assists just a night after scoring 18 fourth quarter points to lead L.A. past the Rockets. The latter road win allowed the Lakers to clinch their 20th Pacific Division title and their 56th postseason appearance in 61 NBA seasons.

Here’s a break down of Bryant’s four-game week, courtesy of the NBA. If you want to review the game more specifically, click on the purple link to read the respective running diaries:

March 9 @ Portland: Recorded 26 points and three assists in a 111-94 loss to the Trail Blazers.
March 11 @ Houston: Posted 37 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals in a 102-96 win over the Rockets.
March 12 @ San Antonio: Tallied 23 points, six assists and four rebounds in a 102-95 win over the Spurs.
March 15 vs. Dallas: Scored 28 points, and added eight rebounds and five assists in a 107-100 win over the Mavericks.

LeBron James, Bryant’s primary competition in the MVP race, won in the Eastern Conference. Other nominees were Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, Cleveland’s Mo Williams, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, Miami’s Dwyane Wade, New Orleans’ Chris Paul, New York’s Nate Robinson, Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young and Portland’s Brandon Roy.

Lakers 107, Mavericks 100: Postgame

PostgameIn the NBA perhaps more than any other professional league, big leads can be fickle.

With 1:18 left in the third quarter of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon game against Dallas, the Lakers led by a comfortable 87-74 margin, a scoreboard reward for generally controlling the Mavs for the entire game.

In the next six minutes, however, the Lakers were reminded what happens when a team takes its collective foot off the gas pedal in the league, as Dallas went on a 21-2 run to take a five-point lead with 7:48 to play in the fourth. Jason Terry got hot from three, and Dallas put in a zone defense that took L.A. out of its offensive comfort zone and put a scowl on Jack Nicholson’s face.

As it turned out, any STAPLES Center unrest was quickly rebuked, thanks to an explosive 12-0 run started and closed with Kobe Bryant threes, with a whole lot of Trevor Ariza in between. Two layups in traffic capped a banner day for Ariza, who finished with a career high 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-5 three pointers. Yet it all started with his D.

“Yes it’s important to score points and Trevor had a good night tonight in the first half particularly, but his defense and his ability to change things up made the difference,” said Phil Jackson. “That’s what he did late in the ball game that gave us a chance to get the lead back and continue. That was really important.”

Of course, L.A. couldn’t do it without Kobe – it was the MVP who scored seven of his team’s last nine points when buckets were most needed, capping a 28-point performance on 11-of-20 shooting with eight rebounds and five assists. He nailed the game’s two biggest shots, the initial three to cut Dallas’ lead in half with 6:50 remaining, and a 19-foot jumper with 1:15 remaining that buried the Mavs.

In the first half, it was Pau Gasol who toyed with Dallas, making 10-of-10 shots for 20 points with five boards (he’d finish with 25 and eight). As a team, L.A. shot 61.4 percent in the half to take a 66-54 lead into the locker room. For the game, Lamar Odom pulled in 14 boards to complement his 10 points and four blocked shots, though L.A.’s bench managed to contribute just 12 points.

Among the defensive keys for L.A. was contesting Dirk Nowitzki’s looks and not giving the German anything easy … Well, Gasol and Odom did exactly that, combining to hold Dirk to just 6-of-20 shooting (30 percent).

With the win, L.A. improved to 53-13 on the season, winning all three games against Dallas with Philadelphia coming to town on Tuesday.

46
Points in the paint for the Lakers, who conceded just 24 to the jump-shooting Mavericks.

29
Jason Terry’s point total to lead all scorers. Terry canned seven triples, but took 16 of them to get there.

26
Career high points for Trevor Ariza, who made 9-of-13 shots including 3-of-5 threes, plus all five of his free throws. He added three steals, three boards and two assists.

14
Field goals missed by Dirk Nowitzki, who had quite a bit of trouble with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. The All-Star forward made just 6-of-20 shots (30 percent), struggling for the third straight time against L.A.’s length.

12
Bench points for L.A. on 4-of-17 shooting, including 1-of-7 from three-point range.

1
Point by which the STAPLES crowd missed Jack In The Box free tacos.

Lakers – Mavs Running Diary

Diary
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 – Mavs Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Mavs Running Diary 11-28-2008
Lakers 114, Mavericks 107: Postgame

Lakers – Mavs Running Diary 11-11-2008
Lakers 106, Mavericks 99: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Mavs: Josh Howard*, Jerry Stackhouse , Shawne Williams
*Howard has yet to appear against the Lakers this season, on this occasion due to an ankle injury.

Starters
Lakers Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom, Gasol
Mavericks Jason Kidd, Jose Barea, Antoine Wright, Dirk Nowitzki, Erick Dampier

Phil Pregame
The most interesting of Phil Jackson’s pregame comments had to do with whether or not L.A. saves things (like plays and schemes) for the playoffs. At first, considering all of the scouting and game tape teams go through, it’s hard to think that teams can really save much (since Dallas is a possible first-round matchup, it would apply if the playoffs were a few weeks closer). But Jackson went the other way, saying that there’s “a lot” that L.A. will withhold.

One other note: Kobe dropped 62 on the Mavs in 2005. I’d never suggest that Kobe couldn’t do that today, but chances are he really won’t need to score that much, particularly with the Lakers wearing white (still undefeated in the whites) and the Mavs without Stack and Howard.

DampierFirst Quarter
In ABC’s pregame intros, Jeff Van Gundy called Gasol “The best second best player on any good team in the NBA.”

11:19 After an Ariza miss and Wright breakaway layup (he simply beat L.A.’s whole squad up the floor), Gasol hit an open jumper from Kobe as Dampier wasn’t interested in stepping out. Pau then swatted Dampier on the block, which ultimately resulted in a Fisher three and a 5-2 lead.

7:46 Gasol, apparently having listened to Van Gundy’s comments, nailed his fourth straight shot to put L.A. up 15-8. Gasol also received his Western Conference Player of the Month trophy for February from Mitch Kupchak at center court.

7:08 “If you’re going to give it to me, I’ll hit it.”
- Ariza to Kidd after nailing a three.

6:11 Again left wide open, Ariza was all nylon. His sixth point put L.A. up 19-14 (despite Dallas’ 3-of-4 from three) and caused the first timeout. He averaged about seven points on L.A.’s three-game road trip, and made just 2-of-7 threes. Moments later, Ariza showed his primary skill by picking Kidd’s pocket, which resulted in a Gasol put-back (5-for-5).

3:34 After coming out very strong defensively, the Lakers suffered a momentary lapse, resulting in a quick 4-0 run that brought Dallas within two. Fortunately for L.A., Gasol wasn’t interested in missing shots, making his sixth in as many attempts to get to 12 points. If Pau were a toy, he’d sell out weeks before X-Mas.

1:04 Remember when Michael Jordan ended Patrick Ewing’s basketball pride with that spin-move to baseline hammer dunk? Luke Walton, coming off the bench, grabbed an offensive rebound, pretended like he was going to dribble out, and then spun back to the hoop. The main difference between the plays was that Walton missed a layup … But Pau was there to clean it up, so no harm.

0:42.5 OK, Pau, we get the point. You’re good at basketball. The Spaniard’s eighth bucket on eight tries put L.A. up 34-26. Dirk managed his third jumper in seven attempts, but Jordan Farmar got the quarter’s last laugh with an open triple (courtesy of Kobe) that made it 37-28.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Mavs Running Diary’

Saturday’s Pre-Mavs Practice Report

Dirk and KiddPerhaps the most interesting aspect coming out of Saturday’s practice deals not with Sunday’s game against Dallas (12:30 p.m.), but the fact that Dallas may well be L.A.’s first round opponent in the playoffs…

Or not.

As things currently sit in the Western Conference, the Lakers (52-13) hold an essentially insurmountable 8.5 game lead over the second-place San Antonio Spurs with 17 games left to play. But while the Mavericks (40-26) hold a similarly commanding 5.5 game lead over ninth place Phoenix, it’s not unlikely that Dallas will move up a spot or two. Denver (41-25), Portland (41-24), New Orleans (41-23), Utah (41-24) and Houston (43-24) are all within only 2.5 games of the Mavs, who are coming off a road win in Portland and narrow loss at Golden State.

Accordingly, Phil Jackson wasn’t even willing to entertain thoughts of a potential first-round matchup.

A more pertinent question involves balancing minutes for the Lakers’ stars while trying not to lose any ground to Boston (50-16) and Cleveland (52-13) in a race for the league’s overall top record and potential home court advantage in the Finals.

“It’s tough to do that when the competition (level) is so high, because we definitely want to pursue that home court … but at the same time you don’t want to be too worn out for the playoffs,” said Pau Gasol, whose minutes have gone up considerably in Andrew Bynum’s absence. “The coaching staff will have to think about making an adjustment.”

Indeed, but for now, Jackson’s more worried about the Mavericks.

“I think they’ve been playing really well,” said Jackson. “(Owner Mark) Cuban jacked them up a few weeks ago … They’re playing really hard and look determined. They have a squad of guys that can really carry them now.”

While Jason Kidd has become quite comfortable running the show, averaging 8.4 assists alongside 6.3 boards, 9.4 points and 2.2 steals, it’s Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry that Jackson said L.A. will need to limit offensively, something Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom did well earlier in the season.

“(Maybe he just) had bad nights on his part, off nights,” said Gasol. “Great players are extremely hard to stop even if you’re playing at your best – you just have to make sure to contest his shots, stay in front of him and not let him get too comfortable.”

When L.A. beat Dallas 106-99 in Texas early in November, L.A.’s front line held Dirk to only 14 points on 5-of-17 shooting. Two weeks later at STAPLES, Nowitzki wasn’t much better in a 114-107 loss to the Lakers, scoring 19 points on 7-of-15 from the field. One key player Dallas missed in those two contests was Josh Howard, who’s been out for the Mavericks’ past four games with an ankle injury, and may well miss Sunday’s game. He’s listed as day-to-day, though no timetable has been established for his return.

Lakers Have Played Big in Big Games

Lakers TeamThere’s one factor that stands out above all others in L.A.’s 52-13 start to the 2008-09 season: the Lakers have really brought it when it’s counted, with almost no exceptions throughout the season.

Of the Lakers 13 losses, only three (arguably) have come against serious title-contending teams (Utah, San Antonio, New Orleans), and each had its own reasonable out-clause (fatigue, injury, interest). The other losses generally came when the Lakers simply didn’t match their opponent’s energy, for whatever reason. Now, there’s no suggesting that it’s a good thing not to bring it 100 percent, but after all, it’s an 82-game season, and chances are slim that a lack of energy will plague the purple and gold in the playoffs.

Alas, here’s a list of L.A.’s losses, with the primary reason for losing in parentheses: vs Detroit (energy), at Indiana (energy), at Sacramento (energy), at Miami (energy), at Orlando (lack of respect), New Orleans (energy, game 7), at San Antonio (injuries), Orlando (three-point shooting, energy) Charlotte (energy), at Utah (fatigue, game 7), at Denver (energy, game 7*), at Phoenix (energy, game 7) and at Portland (energy vs. crazed team/fans [game 7]).
*The opponent played as if it were their own game seven in the playoffs.

Excuses about energy, lack of respect for an opponent and the like are certainly easy to come by, and could probably be said about the league’s other two elite teams in terms of wins and losses (Boston and Cleveland). Simply put, other teams go after the league’s top dogs with more fervor. However, L.A.’s record clearly shows that when they do come to play, they almost always win, no matter whom they’re playing. The evidence follows below, with quick summaries of and links to each of L.A.’s important games this season. Our respective Lakers Gameday pages include links to each game’s running diary, postgame story, box score and more.

Take a gander:

Nov. 12: Lakers 93, Hornets 86 (7-0)
- Coming days after decisive road wins in Denver and Dallas to start the season, this victory was particularly impressive as the Lakers came out with guns fully blazing, forcing the Hornets to exert full effort just to get back into the game. L.A. emerged unblemished with a 7-0 record.

Nov. 20: Lakers 105, Suns 92 (9-1)
The Lakers improved to 4-0 in four tough Western Conference cities against a team featuring Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shaq with a Lakers-hating fan base. No matter.

Dec. 23: Lakers 100, Hornets 87 (23-5)
After last-minute losses in Miami and Orlando – L.A.’s first two-game losing streak of the season – the Lakers responded with wins in Memphis and, more impressively, in New Orleans for the second time. At this point in the season, the Lakers had yet to lose when bringing a full effort.

Dec. 25: Lakers 92, Celtics 83 (24-5)
This game was set to be L.A.’s biggest of the regular season even before Boston marched in with a 19-game winning streak, but thanks to Kobe Bryant’s 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists and some clutch hoops from Pau Gasol, the Lakers were equal to an important task.

Jan. 13: Lakers 105, Rockets 100 (31-6)
Sinking late three-pointers was to become a frequent custom of Kobe Bryant’s, but his final-minute bomb put the next of L.A.’s tough road victims down in Houston.

Jan. 14: Spurs 112, Lakers 111 (31-7)
The first of L.A.’s losses in a game where they gave full effort came very narrowly, when Roger Mason Jr. hit a jumper with 10 seconds left and made a free throw after being fouled by Derek Fisher. L.A. was shorthanded, however, missing both Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic to injuries, and Lamar Odom had come back from a bone bruise early to play.

Jan. 19: Lakers 105, Cavaliers 88 (32-8)
One game after L.A. took Orlando lightly for the second time – and lost due to late three-pointers for the second time – there was no messing around with the Cleveland Cavs. L.A. dominated the Eastern Conference contenders, not allowing LeBron James much room at all thanks to Kobe Bryant’s defense.

Jan. 25: Lakers 99, Spurs 85 (35-8)
The Lakers avenged their earlier loss to the Spurs in style, getting a solid effort from Andrew Bynum (his first of a torrid stretch) to win by 14. Boston, Cleveland and San Antonio had all come out of STAPLES empty-handed.

Feb. 2: Lakers 126, Knicks 117 (38-9)
A game after the emotional letdown of Andrew Bynum’s ACL injury, Kobe Bryant was completely ridiculous en route to an NBA season-high 61 points, all of which L.A. needed against an offensively effective if defensively weak Knicks team.

Feb. 5: Lakers 110, Celtics 109 (40-9)
Without question, this was the signature win of L.A.’s season. Going into Boston – this time riding a 12-game winning streak – and winning a hard-nosed game without backing down made as big of a statement as can be made in the regular season.

Feb. 8: Lakers 101, Cavaliers 91 (41-9)
Just three days after the huge win in Boston, L.A. became the first team to beat Cleveland at home on the season, getting an inspired 28 points and 17 rebounds from Lamar Odom, who’d been huge in Andrew Bynum’s absence.

Feb. 11: Jazz 113, Lakers 109 (42-10)
L.A. certainly brought a solid effort in perhaps the toughest road arena in the league, but looked tired in its 8th game in 14 nights – in eight different cities. Utah took advantage and ultimately won on a Mehmet Okur three with just over a minute left.

Mar. 11: Lakers 102, Rockets 96 (51-13)
L.A. had just lost three consecutive road games in which it was clear that its respective opponents had come with more energy. Denver, Phoenix and Portland had all brought considerable fire to the Lakers, who couldn’t ultimately match it in March. Furthermore, Houston had won 12 in a row at home and L.A. was without Lamar Odom, but the team re-found their mojo thanks in part to Kobe Bryant’s huge fourth quarter.

Mar. 12: Lakers 102, Spurs 95 (52-13)
Returning to the building that had produced a narrow lost, L.A. made no mistake about their chance for redemption, exploding to a huge first quarter and holding on to compile a 7-1 record against contenders San Antonio, Boston and Cleveland.

Put it all together, and L.A. is 12-2 against the league’s best when putting forth a full effort, with or without Andrew Bynum. That ain’t bad.

Pau & Jordan on Numb3rs Tonight


Lakers Pau Gasol and Jordan Farmar will be special guest stars on tonight’s episode of CBS’s Numb3rs (10pm ET/PT).

The pair of NBA stars come to the rescue and help the “Cal Sci” basketball team in their time of need.

The Numb3rs website has some behind-the-scenes footage (you can also watch full episodes there) for ya.

Let’s hope the whole thing goes better than this… just kidding Luke.