Monthly Archive for April, 2009

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Game 5 Video Preview: Frank Hamblen

Assistant coach Frank Hamblen, in charge of L.A.’s scouting reports for the Utah Jazz, sat down with us to talk about the Lakers’ need to close out the series, about Kobe Bryant’s fantastic Game 4, containing Deron Williams and missing Luke Walton.

CLICK HERE to watch the video.

Luke Walton Injury Update

After receiving only eight minutes of burn in L.A.’s Game 3 loss at Utah, Luke Walton was critical to L.A.’s success in Game 4, sparking a 20-2 second quarter run with a three-pointer and collecting two key third quarter steals that helped push the Lakers to a 20-point advantage.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, Walton also sprained his ankle in that third quarter, and found out this news on Monday, as stated by L.A.’s PR department:

Lakers forward Luke Walton, who suffered a sprained left ankle in Saturday night’s Game 3 at Utah, had an MRI exam this morning. Results of the test show a partial tear of the deltoid ligament.

Walton will be out indefinitely and his status will be re-evaluated in approximately one week.

What does this mean for the Lakers?

Phil Jackson said that both Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom would see time on the wing in Walton’s place, which signifies that Sasha Vujacic in particular will see more time at guard. Furthermore, Andrew Bynum may be needed to play more than the 14 combined minutes he played in games three and four, and would probably start if Utah doesn’t play center Mehmet Okur, who was ineffective in 13 minutes in L.A.’s 108-94 Game 4 win.

If Walton’s is the bad news for L.A., the good is that starting small forward Trevor Ariza – who also tweaked his ankle on Saturday – is expected to play. Ariza told Jackson he was fine while taking shots alongside teammates at Monday’s shootaround, and is listed as “probable.”

Game 5 Scouting Report


A game is not won or lost on a single play in the second quarter but one play can swing the momentum and flow of the game. We were struggling and down seven when Luke Walton hit a three point basket from the corner. This sparked us on a run to the lead and following a couple more three point buckets, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan took a timeout.

To read the rest of the breakdown of this play login into Lakers Courtside Connection.

Ariza Probable, Walton Questionable for Game 5

What was it about L.A.’s small forwards and ankle injuries in Utah?

Let’s take a look:

Starter Trevor Ariza: Prior to L.A.’s 108-94 Game 4 victory in Salt Lake City on Saturday evening, Ariza tweaked his right ankle by stepping on Josh Powell’s foot, and aggravated the injury during the first quarter. That didn’t prevent him, however, from playing 27 minutes and coming up with a key steal and three-pointer in the fourth quarter. He finished with five points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Status: Ariza is listed as probable for Monday’s game and expected to start.

Sub Luke Walton: During a third quarter run in which Walton played a crucial role, he jammed his ankle – spraining it without rolling it – and missed most of the rest of the ball game. Nonetheless, he contributed markedly with nine points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals in only 18 minutes.
Status: Walton is listed as questionable and will be a game-time decision.

After Sunday’s practice, Phil Jackson confirmed that Ariza is the more likely Laker to play, but didn’t rule anything out. Fortunately for Jackson, he can slide Sasha Vujacic, Kobe Bryant or Lamar Odom over to the wing, and might activate Adam Morrison should Ariza or Walton not be able to go. Clearly, clinching their series against the Jazz is paramount for a team that would like not only to allow its small forwards to rehabilitate, but get some needed rest for Pau Gasol and additional practice time for Andrew Bynum.

Post Practice Video: Sunday
To watch Jackson’s post-practice comments, along with those of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, CLICK HERE.

Lakers 108, Jazz 94: Postgame 4

Kobe BryantTwo days ago, Kobe Bryant made just 5-of-24 shots in L.A.’s last-second 88-86 loss, an entirely out-of-character game for last season’s MVP.

But he’s still Kobe Bryant, and if you didn’t think he’d bounce back in a big way … Well … You’re not too familiar with how Kobe rolls.

It wasn’t just his 16-of-23 (70 percent*) shooting for 38 points, but the business-like way in which he dropped contested jumper after contested jumper, inspiring a confidence in his teammates that carried over to the defensive end and sparked a double-digit lead in the first half that would eventually swell over 20 points early in the fourth quarter.
*Until he missed a end-of-clock heaved triple in the final minute.

Had you asked any Laker prior to Game 3 what he was looking for in Utah, “Winning both games” would have been the answer. But in reality, getting 1-of-2 against a tough team in a tougher arena heading into a potential close out Game 5 at STAPLES Center was what really mattered. Thanks to Kobe, plus myriad contributions from a slew of other Lakers, the West’s best will have a chance to close out its first round opponent on its own terms.

Here’s how they got it done:

- Kobe.
- Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol controlled the defensive glass, combining for 25 total rebounds, only four of which were offensive, and added a collective 23 points, seven assists and three blocks.
- The bench contribution was outstanding: Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton and Shannon Brown combined for 28 points, nine boards, five assists and five steals with nary a mistake. That trio was particularly effective in their second half stint towards the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth.
- L.A. was “helping the helper” defensively, rotating an extra man over to the strong side of the court, far better than it had in Game 3.
- Derek Fisher played solid defense on the extremely tough-to-guard Deron Williams, and added 12 points and four assists at the other end for L.A.
- Trevor Ariza battled through a sprained ankle he suffered before the game and aggravated in the first quarter to contribute four boards, two assists and a key fourth quarter steal and resulting three-pointer with 5:45 remaining that made the score 103-84, negating back-to-back scores by Carlos Boozer that had the Utah fans thinking about rising from their slumber.

Perhaps the only negative for L.A. was that due in part to matchup problems with the smallish Jazz (who often played Andrei Kirilenko or Matt Harpring at the four), Andrew Bynum played only seven minutes, totaling two points and a rebound.

Yet and still, only one number tonight for a Lakers team that built and protected a big lead in statement fashion for the first time in a while:

It was all about he who wore that jersey number.

Lakers – Jazz Running Diary: Game 4

LakersRead about the Lakers vs. Jazz game 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.

Game 1
Lakers – Jazz Running Diary, April 19, 2009
Lakers 113, Jazz 100: Postgame

Game 2
Lakers – Jazz Running Diary, April 21, 2009
Lakers 119, Jazz 109: Postgame

Game 3
Lakers – Jazz Running Diary, April 21, 2009
Lakers 86, Jazz 88: Postgame

Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Jazz: Kosta Koufos, Morris Almond, Kyrylo Fesenko

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom* and Gasol
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur
*It’s expected that Odom will start since Okur’s listed as a starter.

Pregame Thoughts
- It would appear that Jackson’s starting Lamar Odom as Jerry Sloan has Mehmet Okur in his Jazz lineup for the first time this series, an interesting development about which we’ll be able to reflect after seeing what Andrew Bynum’s able to do off the bench. How L.A.’s bench performs without Odom will be of interest as well, though Jackson’s expected to again shorten his rotation (Josh Powell and Jordan Farmar were DND-CD’s in Game 3). Yet in his pregame comments, Jackson said that part of the reason behind starting Odom has nothing to do with Okur. Rather, Odom simply has more familiarity playing against the Jazz generally speaking, having gone to six games with this team last season and earning the complete trust of his teammates in the process.

- Odom, as usual, was the guy keeping everybody loose in the locker room – he could be seen talking, at one point, to each of his Lakers teammates. There’s a reason the guy that everybody loves is in the middle of the pregame huddle.

Shannon BrownFirst Quarter
12:00 The noise level hadn’t dropped off from Thursday evening’s game … And neither had the number of (superfluous) high notes that the National Anthem singer attempted to hit. The young man singing on this occasion looked to be about 12 years old, and we’ll give him the edge over the lady from Game 3. By the way, the biggest downside to being in Utah instead of L.A. today is that I missed Spencer and Heidi’s wedding (sigh).

Also, the Jazz played four songs in the final two minutes before tip: “Let It Rock,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” some random techno bit, and “Jump.” Talk about superfluous.

11:44 Kobe Bryant = made jumper. That’s just one shot, but I think we all knew Bryant was going to be aggressive early on.

9:37 Bryant nailed a pull-up jumper on Brewer from the top of the key, then countered Boozer’s jumper with another from the top of the key. The second, however, also produced a foul on Brewer, and went in off glass.

7:27 L.A. was getting great looks thanks to its ball movement and because Utah was doubling Gasol, but Fisher missed two open threes, and Ariza one as Utah went up 10-7 on a Williams’ triple and two free throws. Bryant did answer with his fourth make in as many shots, and Utah pulled a hobbled-looking Okur for Paul Millsap.

5:58 The Lakers took a timeout down 14-9, with all nine points coming on Bryant jumpers. Odom had three boards, but Ariza*, Gasol and Fisher had produced nothing, literally, on the stat sheet. Out of the break, Kobe hit another jumper to go 5-of-6, equaling the number of field goals he hit in L.A.’s 88-86 loss. Meanwhile, anyone who doubted Bryant heading into this game pounded their head on the table.
*One assist.

4:25 Bryant, using a pick from newly-entered Bynum, glided to the hoop for a layup. He’d scored 13 of L.A.’s 15 points, the other two coming on a Fisher jumper, to put L.A. up 1.

2:47 A sick, flu-infested pass from Walton allowed Bynum a two-handed dunk, and to ‘Drew’s credit, he’d established some solid low-post position.

1:44 We were (the opposite of) treated to the worst “We Will Rock You” (Queen) remix of all time by the Jazz Dancers. The arrangement alone would have caused Simon Cowell’s head to explode, and even Paula would have hated it. All negative. Meanwhile, 1-of-2 Fisher free throws made it 21-18 Jazz.

1:05 The group of Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, Bryant, Luke Walton and Gasol played two consecutive excellent defensive possessions, causing two Jazz turnovers. Utah was able to convert its final two possessions of the quarter into hoops, however, while Brown’s charge and a Vujacic miss from the corner (in and out variety) allowed the Jazz a 25-20 lead.

Injury Update: John Ireland reported that Ariza sprained his ankle, though the starting small forward remained on the bench.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Jazz Running Diary: Game 4′

Playoff Podcast #5:

Lakers Reporter Mike Trudell and I knocked out a quick podcast before checking out of our hotel and heading to the arena for game four of the Lakers series against the Jazz. We talk Lakers, the rest of the NBA and more pop culture happenings.

As always, listen below or check out Playoff Central for everything else you need to know about this series.

Game 4 Shootaround

After L.A. concluded its Saturday shootaround building into Game 4 against the Jazz, Phil Jackson suggested that there is a possibility of Lamar Odom starting in place of Andrew Bynum.

“I think it all depends on if Mehmet (Okur) is going to play or not,” said Jackson. “If he does that’s a tough cover because he’s a 3-point line shooter. He’s a guy that we probably have to put someone that has a little more mobility than Drew on him. That’s alright with us, we’re fine with that. Otherwise the lineup will stay as it has been.”

Okur is being called a game-time decision after the Jazz went through their morning shootaround at EnergySolutions Arena. Okur is particularly threatening from the three-point line, Jackson would prefer to have the more mobile Odom for defensive purposes.

Check out the video above to see all of Phil’s remarks and what Kobe Bryant had to say about tonight’s matchup.

Game 4 Scouting Report

Utah Power

Sometimes it’s the most basic plays that kill you. Late in Game 3 Utah simply ran some of their early offense sequences – which they call “POWER” and POWER SWING – to get good scoring opportunities.

To read the rest of the breakdown of this play login into Lakers Courtside Connection.

Practice Battle in Salt Lake

It’s not the guys you think of immediately when viewing the Laker logo that were battling like Game 7 of the Finals during Friday afternoon’s practice in Salt Lake City.

In white practice jerseys, you had Jordan Farmar (who broke down the matchup for us on video above), Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton and D.J. Mbenga. In purple, it was Shannon Brown, Adam Morrison, Josh Powell and Andrew Bynum.

On paper, give me white every time – you see a playmaker on the purple team?

Sure enough, the whites that swept an at times heated best-of-five series against the purples, 3-0.

Games two and three were open to the media, who watched alongside Phil Jackson, Mitch Kupchak, Kobe Bryant and the rest of his teammates, plus L.A.’s assembled coaching and training staffs. Such is often the case on a day between games, in which Jackson rests his vets and lets the youngsters go at it.

Jordan FarmarIn other news, as you can see in that picture, Farmar could be seen all alone in EnergySolutions Arena after his teammates had left after Thursday’s shootaround. Simply trying to stay sharp while battling through an almost sudden dearth of minutes isn’t easy for any NBA player, regardless of if his performance warranted a demotion of sorts or not. Nonetheless, Farmar’s simply plugging away on the court as he should … It’s hard to imagine that his number won’t be called at some point if the Lakers are going to make the deep run they expect.