Monthly Archive for April, 2009

Page 3 of 9

Okur A “Possibility” For Game 4

Mehmet OkurJazz center Mehmet Okur may be on track to play for the first time in L.A.’s first round series against Utah on Saturday in Salt Lake City, he told assembled reporters after Utah’s Friday practice.

“So far, so good,” Okur said, according to NBA.com’s Dave McMenamin. “It feels good. Less pain. I was able to do more moving and more stuff. I’m probably going to more stuff with the team and see how I feel.”

Of course, Okur also gave the proverbial “We’ll see how it feels after practice” bit that means we won’t really know if he’s playing after Saturday’s shootaround, or later: Jerry Sloan’s pregame press time. But Okur’s tone alone is a marked change from his previous comments about his strained right hamstring, and even if he’s dragging it around the floor, you have to think that Utah can benefit from Okur’s ability to stretch the floor on offense and his size on the low block.

After all, Jarron Collins, who’s been starting in Okur’s stead, has averaged just 2.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and three fouls in 11.7 minutes. Sloan instead played backup power forward Paul Millsap at center to the tune of 32 minutes, in which he put up 11.7 points and 9.7 rebounds. Even if Okur plays only 15 minutes, Utah’s bench will get the boost of more time with Millsap, and perhaps most importantly, can pull Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol out of the paint with his ability to shoot the three.

The Lakers, however, prepared for the series as if Okur was going to play in game one, and will be able to call upon previous experience of dealing with him. There will be no surprises with the Turkish star on the floor, but another weapon with which to deal nonetheless.

The contrarian perspective is that a less than 100 percent Okur could end up hurting his team, especially defensively … But the Jazz will be more than willing to take their chances if he says he can play on game day.

Lakers 86, Jazz 88: Postgame 3

Carlos BoozerWith 2.2 seconds left in Thursday evening’s Salt Lake City contest, the stat sheet was the opposite of promising for the Lakers: Kobe Bryant had missed 18 of the 23 shots he’d taken, and his team wasn’t much better in hitting a collective 37 percent from the field; Utah had a 15-rebound edge; L.A. had missed 10 free throws, and Andrew Bynum had played just seven minutes due to foul trouble.

But with Utah clinging to an 88-86 lead, Bryant rose for a potential game-winning three … How many thought the ball would swish through the net?

This time, it just didn’t happen.

Miss No. 19 for No. 24 sealed L.A.’s fate two seconds after Deron Williams had nailed a 15-foot jumper. That pull-up had broken a tie that resulted from a one-handed Pau Gasol dunk courtesy of Bryant’s pass just seconds after Carlos Boozer and Lamar Odom – also from Bryant – exchanged hoops in the heavyweight fight.

“It was a combination of two things,” said Bryant of his rare to quite rare off night. “One, I just didn’t shoot the ball well, and two, they did a good job mixing up their defenses.”

“Everybody goes through a game once in awhile like this,” added Phil Jackson. “A lot of things didn’t click for him out there tonight … But he made some big plays down the stretch, gave us a chance to win.”

While the Lakers were collectively disappointed at conceding a 13-point lead that they’d built with a fantastic third quarter run keyed by Odom (who was L.A.’s lone star with a bullet), they weren’t sounding any alarm bells, instead standing confident in a positive postgame mood that they’d see the Jazz again on Saturday.

“They say we still need to get that road win so the series will be in our favor,” said Gasol. “We took care of our two homes games and they took care of theirs. Hopefully we’ll do a better job and have a chance in the next game to get a W. Then things will definitely be in our favor.”

Indeed, will Bryant make just 20.8 percent of his shots again? Would Gasol miss six free throws? Would Andrew Bynum play only seven minutes and eight seconds due while amassing five fouls? Would Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton contribute only seven total points in limited minutes?

Probably not.

Confidence aside, on this night, it was only Odom’s star that shone brightly with his 21 points on 10-of-17 shooting, 14 boards (five offensive), plus a block, a steal and some terrific weakside defense. It was he who kept L.A. afloat despite 30.4 percent shooting in the first half, and who was everywhere in a 25-8 run to start the third quarter.

“Lamar kept us in the game,” said Gasol, needing few words to describe Odom’s 41-minute performance. “He was fantastic.”

Boozer was the star for the Jazz, adding an impressive 22 boards to his game high 23 points, while Williams struggled to 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting with nine assists but did hit when it counted.

Ultimately, it was a 15-4 Jazz run to open the fourth that put the home team on the victory track, at once instilling confidence and bringing what had been a subdued, if still loud, crowd into a frenzy that nearly went the other way when the last-second shot flicked off Bryant’s wrist.

It just missed.
Continue reading ‘Lakers 86, Jazz 88: Postgame 3′

Lakers – Jazz Running Diary: Game 3

Lakers FansRead 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

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Jazz: Mehmet Okur*, Kosta Koufos, Morris Almond
*Okur will miss his third straight playoff game with a strained right hamstring.

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Andrei Kirilenko*, Carlos Boozer and Jarron Collins
*Kirilenko is starting in place of Kyle Korver for defensive purposes.

Pregame Thoughts
That Jerry Sloan would tweak his lineup at this stage of the season shows a certain sign of desperation … In other words, Utah had to shake something up to have a better chance to beat L.A. In that case, going defensive isn’t a bad idea in principle (with Kirilenko assigned to the hot shooting Ariza), but it’s also an idea that could backfire since Utah won’t get the bench boost it’s used to from the Russian. Furthermore, L.A. probably doesn’t want Ariza taking a great deal of perimeter shots, as it will focus on ball control and getting the rock down to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

GasolFirst Quarter
12:00 Left ear drum nearly pops during warmups. If the regular season game here in February was like a Metallica concert, this is closer to having Metallica play in your dorm room.

11:55 The noise level dropped off about 100 decibels when Kirilenko threw his opening touch into the crowd. But here’s what you should know about Utah’s crowd … When the ball went off Boozer’s leg out of bounds on Utah’s next possession, protests went up like it were a hugely obvious wrongful conviction in a Supreme Court trial. This will get worse, and makes the job much tougher on the referees.

9:36 While the Lakers had yet to get a good shot, turning the ball over twice, Kirilenko finished at the rim for a 4-0 lead that could have been 8-0 had Brewer and Williams not missed open looks.

8:17 However, some great ball movement resulted in a Fisher three as the Lakers began to settle down a bit, staving off the early Jazz charge with just a one-point deficit. Subsequently, Bynum, who’d committed a silly foul in the first minute, was charged with his second as Collins went up for a layup, and Odom checked in for the visitors.

7:03 Odom doesn’t wait long to make his presence felt, does he? A top-of-the-key three put L.A. up 10-7. The only other player that’s as good as Odom off the bench in the NBA is a healthy Manu Ginobili, and in these playoffs, the only guy even close is Jason Terry … And he only helps you on one side of the floor.

5:23 Did you know that if you foul somebody on an inbounds play before the pass is made, it’s two free throws? Fisher found out as Williams’ two shots made it 13-10 Jazz, which preceded a Boozer jumper and Millsap layup that capped a 10-0 run.

3:30 Fisher finally stopped the bleeding with a tough, contested, running banker in the lane that was of the no … no … no … yes variety. The Lakers were shooting only 25 percent to that point, 4-of-16, not quite as good as Thursday’s 18-for-21. Jazz 19, Lakers 12.

2:40 After a Boozer free throw, the Lakers starters were lucky to be down by just eight. They were relatively soft in the lane defensively, didn’t get great ball movement with the exception of a few plays and were short on most jumpers. Into the game came Shannon Brown and Luke Walton, joining Bryant, Gasol and Odom. It was Bryant who took the first shot, and was short for the fourth straight time.

0:47.7 Odom put a nice move on Millsap, didn’t get a foul call on his layup attempt but grabbed his own board and stuck it back to make it 24-17. Brewer answered with a jumper, and Walton missed good looks from three and in the lane, respectively, allowing Utah to take a 9-point lead into the second quarter. The good news for L.A. is they couldn’t have played much worse, and had 36 minutes to make up for it.

Boozer was terrific with nine points and 11 boards to lead the Jazz, while Bryant failed to score, Bynum had just two free throws and Gasol went 2-for-7. Odom was the only Laker to play well, and would remain on the floor alongside Brown, Sasha Vujacic, Walton and Bynum to open the second.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Jazz Running Diary: Game 3′

Bynum Good For Game 3

Andrew BynumThere was some question as to how Andrew Bynum’s knee felt after L.A.’s 119-109 victory in Game 2 of its first round series with Utah, and whether or not he was dealing with some pain caused by his much-talked-about knee. After Thursday’s shootaround in Salt Lake City, however, Bynum attributed the soreness elsewhere.

“The soreness has a lot to do with the brace,” he said. “I have to wear it because the ligaments are still healing, but at the same time it kind of changes my mechanics a little bit.”

Phil Jackson, after Wednesday’s practice, said that it wasn’t so much knee pain but fatigue behind Bynum’s struggles after a fantastic 5-for-5 start in Game 2, and Bynum admitted that he grew “a little bit tired” later in the game.

Yet heading into Game 3, Bynum said he’s feeling just fine.

“I’m feeling good, I’m ready to go,” said the young center. “It’s a late game for us tonight so I got my trainer here, we’re going to do a little workout and then hit the court.”

The good news for L.A. is that no matter how long Bynum sustains his success, they won’t be lacking for other productive bigs, not with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom both playing at such a high level. That three-big combination will certainly be crucial to L.A.’s chances at winning in Salt Lake City, particularly with center Mehmet Okur set to miss his third straight game for Utah and because the Lakers can’t expect to stay as red hot from three.

As the second of TNT’s double header, the game won’t tip until 8:30 p.m. local time, meaning the Lakers and Jazz have an extra hour to wait until we all see how Bynum and his purple and gold teammates really feel.

Jim Cleamons on the Pick and Roll

Earlier today we got the scouting report that broke down the Jazz’s 4x/5x screen and roll play that has been a staple of Jerry Sloan’s offense since the Stockton/Malone days. At shootaround we huddled up with assistant coach Jim Cleamons to talk about how the current version of the Jazz (specifically the Williams/Boozer combo) run this play and how best to defend it. Check the video above.

Okur Out, Kirilenko to Start on Ariza

Trevor Ariza - Andrei KirilenkoJazz head coach Jerry Sloan told the Salt Lake Tribune’s Ross Siler that Mehmet Okur would miss his third consecutive playoff game with a hamstring strain, while Andrei Kirilenko would replace Kyle Korver in the starting lineup to try and better deal with the suddenly on-fire Trevor Ariza.

The news on Okur isn’t much of a surprise, but that Sloan would make an adjustment at least in part to deal with Ariza’s offense is quite a revelation. L.A.’s defensive-minded starting small forward was really struggling with his shot before nailing 13-of-16 in his first two playoff games, including 6-of-7 three pointers.

The stats suggest as much: In April, Ariza made just 3-of-16 three pointers in eight games, which translates to 18.8 percent shooting, after he’d shot close to 34 percent from January through March. From the field overall, Ariza made 42.9 percent of his shots in April, just over half as good as his 81.3 shooting percentage in the playoffs. That’s quite a difference, but one could ask how he could possibly keep that up? Accordingly, as Utah devotes more attention to him, won’t it simply create more space for L.A.’s other four starters, each of whom is a better known scorer than Ariza?

“It definitely opens up the rest of the offense,” said Ariza after Thursday’s shootaround. “It gives ‘Drew, Pau, Kobe, Fish and L.O. (Lamar Odom) one-on-one opportunities to do what they can do and show their talents.”

Kirilenko, however, does give his team something the sweet-shooting Korver couldn’t.

“He’s a great shot blocker, particularly from the weak side, so that’s going to alter our awareness a bit depending on where he is on the floor,” said Bryant.

Ariza added that the Russian is a good passer who “Makes plays, gets in there and gets rebounds so you have to box him out and be aware of where he is at all times.”

Needless to say, the Jazz will need Kirilenko to do all that and more if Utah’s to get past the Lakers, particularly without Okur … Even in Salt Lake City.

4X/5X Breakdown


The 4X/5X play is one that Jerry Sloan has been torturing the NBA with for the last two decades. First it was with Stockton and Malone and now with Williams and Boozer.

Learn how it runs in today’s Scouting Report on Lakers Courtside Connection.

Playoff Podcast #4: Lakers.com

Upon arriving at their (our) Utah hotel, Ty and Mike (we) talked about getting shocked by metal keys, mused about the Lakers-Jazz series, reflected on how good Lamar Odom’s been (3rd in the entire NBA in adjusted plus/minus) and hit on another random pop culture update.

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

2009 Preseason Schedule Announced

Here’s the press release from the Lakers PR staff:

The Los Angeles Lakers have announced the preseason schedule for the 2009-10 season along with ticket purchase information. The preseason line-up includes games against the Denver Nuggets, the Golden State Warriors, the Sacramento Kings and the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Lakers will kick off the 2009 preseason on October 7 when they take on the Warriors at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The Pacific Division opponents will face each other again on October 20 at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario. Los Angeles will travel to Las Vegas on October 15 where they will play the Sacramento Kings at the Thomas and Mack Center.

The Lakers will host their annual shoot-out at STAPLES Center on October 17 and 18. In addition to Los Angeles, teams scheduled to participate in the shoot-out are the Charlotte Bobcats, the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Lakers will wrap up their preseason when they face the Northwest Division champion Denver Nuggets in back-to-back games on October 22 at the Honda Center in Anaheim and October 23 at the San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego.

Below is the complete 2009 Los Angeles Lakers preseason schedule:

Oct. 7 Golden State Warriors Anaheim, CA (Honda Center) 7:00 pm
Oct. 15 Sacramento Kings Las Vegas, NV (Thomas and Mack) 7:00 pm
Oct. 17 Charlotte Bobcats Los Angeles, CA (STAPLES Center) 7:30 pm
Oct. 18 LAC or Utah Los Angeles, CA (STAPLES Center) 7:30 pm
Oct. 20 Golden State Warriors Ontario, CA (Citizens Bank Arena) 7:00 pm
Oct. 22 Denver Nuggets Anaheim, CA (Honda Center) 7:00 pm
Oct. 23 Denver Nuggets San Diego, CA (Sports Arena) 7:00 pm

Individual game tickets for the Lakers preseason games will go on sale at 10:00 am on Monday, April 27, for all games with the exception of the games at STAPLES Center, which will go on sale in early October. Tickets will be sold at Ticketmaster outlets and ticketmaster.com and available by phone at 1-800-4-NBA-TIX for all games except Las Vegas, where tickets can be purchased at unlvtickets.com or by phone at 702-739-FANS. Group seats for the game in Anaheim are available for purchase by calling 714-940-2859 or via the website at groupsales@hondacenter.com . Group seats for the game in San Diego are available by calling 619-224-4171 ext. 311.

Lakers Postgame Video

After each game, we’ll put together the postgame videos from the previous night’s playoff game, which after Tuesday night’s 119-109 Lakers win included interviews with Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol, Shannon Brown, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza in addition to the game’s highlights.

CLICK HERE to watch for yourself.