Read about the Lakers vs. Bucks 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.
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Bucks: Andrew Bogut, Michael Redd
Lakers Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom and Gasol
Bucks Ramon Sessions, Charlie Bell, Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva, Dan Gadzuric
Jackson’s pregame session involved a fair amount of “Are you excited to be going home” questions, to which the answer was, of course, “Are you happy to be going home?” Um, yes. As for the Bucks, it’s been a tough ride since Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut went down for the season. The team has won just 6-of-19 games since the All-Star break to plummet to 32-43 on the season, but did manage to beat New Jersey on March 30 after dropping five straight.
A guy named Jamar Rogers, apparently an “American Idol” contestant, sang the National Anthem. I don’t remember him, but I generally skip all the opening rounds. Anyway, here’s what Simon Cowell would have said: “JA MAHR … Is that how you say your name? I don’t care. Listen, it was very average … Quite Karaoke … You’re just not that good. You’ll see when America votes. Sorry.
Paula Abdul: Oh come on Simon, shut up. You were great Jamar. You have a special, special talent and you just make my heart glow when you sing. I love you. You know I love you. And you look really, really great. I love you. Bye.
10:10 You think the Lakers will get to the line tonight more than the six times? I do. However, they got their first three buckets on put-back layups from Bryant, Ariza and Odom to open with a 6-5 lead.
7:09 Bryant made his second shot in as many attempts, this one a turnaround from the elbow. At the other end, Gadzuric – UCLA’s all-time leader in missed dunks according to the Press-Enterprise’s Jeff Eisenberg – scored his third straight field goal to put the Bucks up 13-12.
6:15 Jamar Rogers interview!!!! I don’t think “American Idol” contestants who don’t make the finals would get a courtside jumbotron interview in L.A., but this is Milwaukee. Jamar had this to say about the experience: “It’s a roller coaster of emotions – ups, highs and lows…” No word on how ups and highs are different.
3:41 Some great ball movement out of the triangle got Pau a nice look in the lane, which he buried plus the harm to cap a quick 5-0 run that put L.A. up 20-19. Moments earlier, Jordan Farmar was the first player off the bench as Fisher came out. Meanwhile, the Bucks have L.A.’s four beat writers (Bresnahan, Ding, Teaford and Eisenberg) and myself on the baseline adjacent to the player’s bench. I’m on the end, meaning I’m leaning up in my seat to see over Josh Powell’s corn rows and have trouble seeing Milwaukee initiate their offense from the left side of the floor (which they do every time).
0:05.9 Not exactly a great start for L.A.’s bench + Gasol, which failed to score after Odom’s layup at the 3:14 mark. In that time, the Bucks went on a 10-0 run capped by Jefferson’s three-pointer with under a second remaining. Jefferson does happen to be a close college friend of Luke Walton, whose extended hand he dropped that triple over. The Bucks managed to shoot 60.9 percent (14-of-23) on the Lakers, who hit a solid 47.6 percent of their shots.
8:58 Sasha Vujacic canned a corner triple off Walton’s pass to make it 37-32 after he’d successfully converted a driving layup in serious traffic, but the Lakers still couldn’t stop a Bucks’ team that stayed above 60 percent from the field. It’s possible that the Bucks, like me, ate at Real Chili before the game, and have extra energy. Meanwhile, Bryant and D.J. Mbenga joined Farmar, Vujacic and Powell on the court.
6:05 It was time for another massive Mbenga swat, so when Joe Alexander drove to the hoop, we weren’t surprised to see D.J.’s right arm send the ball close to midcourt. Bryant capitalized by pulling up for three to make it a 45-37 ball game. It’s still early, but already the Lakers already appeared destined for another tough game from a team playing hard and loose.
5:04 Before Bryant canned a 19-foot jumper (he was 5-for-5 for 11 points with three dimes), the Bucks’ mascot, Bango, came out in a wheelchair. I actually can explain this, because I’ve seen this video of when Bango feel through the hoop at All-Star weekend and tore his ACL.
3:50 Kobe’s officially feeling pretty good today, nailing a high-arching fadeaway over Luc Richard Mbah A Moute for his sixth make in as many attempts. This could be one of those nights that L.A. wouldn’t mind jumping on Kobe’s back for a while at least. By the way, we haven’t complained about the refs much lately, right? Well, L.A. got the rough end of three straight calls: an Odom charge (Villanueva clearly flopped); Ariza reach (very weak); and a Walton offensive foul (Jefferson played up an arm extension). That helped Milwaukee build their lead back to 10. Ariza, sitting about three feet from me, was the complete opposite of happy about this.
2:12 A timely 9-0 run from the Lakers came at a good time: Five straight points from Odom cut Milwaukee’s lead in half before Bryant snuck his way past three Bucks’ defenders to hit a difficult runner off glass. Walton then beautifully found Gasol cutting to the hoop as the Lakers found themselves down just 51-50.
1:00 Deciding to even things out, the refs allowed Jefferson to push Walton over, and awarded him with a free throw for the effort. Sometimes, however, those kind of bad calls galvanize a team, with Vujacic taking center stage to nail his second three, then add two free throws off Fisher’s steal to put L.A. up 55-54. Villanueva did manage a triple with six seconds left to give Milwaukee the lead back at half, but credit some newfound defensive intensity with L.A.’s spurt.
Bryant Doesn’t Miss
Kobe Bryant’s shot had been a bit off in the last few weeks. In fact, he’d hit over 50 percent of his shots in just two of L.A.’s last nine games, in wins over Dallas and Detroit. Well, it was a different story in Milwaukee, as he dropped all seven of his attempts in all kinds of ways – a fadeaway, a three, a drive, a pull-up – to lead L.A. with 15 points.
Before we start the third, a few notes from the first half: Milwaukee shot 57 percent, a.k.a. too high; the Lakers went to the line eight times; L.A. won the battle of the boards 20-16; L.A. turned the ball over 10 times.
11:22 As Fish hits two free throws, Peezy asks politely if he can have a few peanut M&M’s that are tempting him in front of my computer. Of course, Peezy.
10:36 Odom’s two free throw attempts followed two from Fisher and three from Bryant, putting L.A. up 61-59 and totaling more attempts than the Lakers had in the entire Charlotte game. So in this case, less than two minutes was more than 48 minutes.
9:55 Bryant finally missed, rimming out from three. Someone who hadn’t yet missed? Gadzuric, who made consecutive buckets to start 6-of-6 for 12 points. Now, strategy isn’t my area of expertise, but wouldn’t you feed Gasol and let him go to work on a guy with four fouls already? Gasol had taken only five shots for seven points at that stage, and continued to look at least a little bit tired.
6:10 Ariza passed on an open three, then turned the ball over trying to force Odom the ball in the lane, which allowed Sessions to get ahead of the pack and make a layup to put Bango’s squad up 70-64.
4:05 A specific example of Gasol being on the tired side, and thus being excited about Andrew Bynum’s progress: Fisher had Jefferson tied up, and Walton started screaming “Go Pau!!” from the bench, urging Gasol to blitz Jefferson with a double team. Gasol wandered over slowly, but Fish had stripped RJ, allowing Pau to pick up the rock.
3:34 Ariza, good this time from three. Good time for that one, cutting the Bucks’ lead to one at 75-74.
2:00 Bryant continued a really solid all-around game with a steal and transition layup, which got him to 22 points alongside a team-high six boards (tied with Odom), three assists and three steals. Farmar joined him with a transition layup on L.A.’s next possession to claim a one-point lead.
0:02.9 Odom’s three-point attempt rimmed out, allowing the Bucks to keep a one-point lead heading into the fourth thanks to consecutive layups from Sessions, who had amassed some ridiculous numbers to that point: 14 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds.
11:22 Peezy, boosted by his M&M consumption, hit a 15-foot jumper after an Alexander three. His strength was even more obvious on the subsequent defensive possession, when Sessions tried to get around a screen but ran smack into Powell, who didn’t budge at all. Now, I’m not lying when I suggest that Powell is one of the league’s strongest pound-for-pound guys, which you can learn either by looking at him or trying to get life back in your hand after he grabs it. Now, this could be a huge play in the game, because as we just mentioned, Sessions was carving the Lakers up, but had to be helped off the floor with an apparent shoulder injury.
10:22 Phil Jackson put Bryant and Odom back in early with Milwaukee up 84-82, and apparently has no interest in losing three games in a row for the first time this season.
8:24 Pau didn’t look tired on that play, pulling out his spin move and finishing plus the foul on the baseline to put L.A. up one. Sessions, however, came back onto the floor for a very ineffective Luke Ridnour.
7:52 There was Gasol again, with another pretty move to finish with his left hand in the lane. Vujacic and Odom then converged to get the ball back off a missed jumper, and used the inbounds pass to get Bryant a layup plus the harm.
6:44 Bryant, again at the rack, to get to 25 points and give L.A. a 92-86 lead. He was 9-of-14 at that point. A terrific few-minute stretch continued as Vujacic came up with a steal, leading eventually to two Gasol free throws (he made one) on an isolation play with the smaller Villanueva defending.
4:20 OK, Pau officially doesn’t look tired anymore. Another isolation play found him scoring with the left hand over Gadzuric.
3:47 Bryant’s fantastic night continued with a driving layup that he managed to finish despite getting crushed on his shooting arm. He converted the free throw, and like that, L.A. was up 10.
2:09 But the Bucks weren’t yet dead, getting a Jefferson triple and Villanueva leaner to cut L.A.’s lead in half.
1:23 There’s no amount of money I wouldn’t have put on Bryant nailing an open dagger three from the corner … So I guess it’s a good thing that we don’t gamble here, since his shot rimmed out. L.A. 98, Bucks 93 still.
0:52.2 Ramon Sessions, he of the 16-15-10 triple-double, drove to the hoop and drew Odom’s foul, cutting L.A.’s lead to three on 7-0 run.
0:26.9 Who knew the biggest play of the game would be an offensive rebound from Gasol, his first of the night, which forced the Bucks to foul Bryant with 18.8 remaining. He hit both to get to 30 points and give L.A. a five-point cushion.
Vujacic would add four free throws to the cause, and L.A. had earned a 104-98 victory despite a pretty solid effort from Sessions and the Bucks.
See you back in L.A. – finally.