Monthly Archive for April, 2009

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Lakers 119, Jazz 109: Postgame 2

LakersIt wasn’t as easy as it had appeared to be, but after 48 more minutes on a playoff Tuesday night at STAPLES Center, L.A. had its second win.

Three different Lakers made respectively key plays in the final 1:20 of action as the home team staved off a late Jazz charge to take a 2-0 lead with the series bound for Salt Lake City on Thursday.

First came two swats from Pau Gasol, protecting L.A.’s goal as the Jazz tried to cut a five-point lead to three. Next, a tough baseline jumper from – you guessed it – Kobe Bryant to create some breathing room.

Then came the dagger, a three-pointer from the suddenly on-fire Trevor Ariza, who nailed the proverbial coffin shut on his fifth make in six attempts two days removed from his playoff career high 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Both Ariza and Bryant added nine assists to an effort that demanded but one thing.

“That’s a good win,” said Phil Jackson. “It’s hard to beat a team three times in succession, and that was a trial out there for us tonight.”

It hadn’t appeared that the Lakers would need to make any clutch plays down the stretch, as the purple and gold exploded for 41 first quarter points and maintained a double-digit lead for most of the game. Indeed, at times brilliant offensively, L.A. made 18-of-21 shots to start the game – including 12 in a row – with a smattering of layups, jumpers and open threes.

“As an offensive display, not always great ball handling but a lot of great shooting and scoring out there tonight,” said Jackson of a team that shot 60 percent yet turned the ball over 21 times.

The offense was coming so easily for the purple and gold that its defense was, at times, less effective. Utah took advantage to shoot 60 percent in the first half and nearly 50 percent for the game, cutting the lead to as few as three with 3:17 to go before L.A. shut the door.

And the players? Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom each made their first four shots of the game, and Bryant led the way with 26 points for a Lakers’ team that once again got a marked contribution from Shannon Brown, who scored 12 points with two assists in 16 minutes. Odom was fantastic with 19 points (tying a Lakers’ bench player high) on 8-of-9 shooting (he missed only his last three) while Gasol went for 22 points and six boards in addition to those crucial blocks.

Deron Williams showed why he’s arguably the league’s best point guard, scoring 35 points on 12-of-23 shooting, which came as no surprise since the Lakers’ bigs were more committed to sticking with their men and not allowing any offensive rebounds. In other words, L.A. paid a bit less attention to Williams, almost daring him to score, and he thus didn’t get as much help as he had from his friends in game one. Carlos Boozer, for one, had just six points in the second half to finish with 20 after leading all scorers with 27 in game one, and Williams finished with eight dimes fewer than he had on Sunday (17).

The Lakers, on the other hand, spread the ball around with ease, notching 33 assists on 45 field goals as seven players scored in double digits, including each starter.

After the game, Phil Jackson acknowledged how difficult it will be for L.A. to play in the hostile Salt Lake, but also looked forward to seeing how his team responds in a game where ball control will be more a point of emphasis.

We’ll see in less than 48 hours, but until then, some numbers:
Continue reading ‘Lakers 119, Jazz 109: Postgame 2′

Lakers – Jazz Running Diary: Game 2

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

Lakers Playoff Central
All you need to know about the 65-win Lakers can be found by clicking HERE.

Inactives
Lakers: D.J. Mbenga, Sun Yue
Jazz: Mehmet Okur*, Kosta Koufos, Morris Almond
*Okur will miss his second straight playoff game with a strained right hamstring.

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz: Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver*, Carlos Boozer and Jarron Collins

Pregame Thoughts
Okur’s continued absence is certainly not a good sign for the Jazz, who really struggled with L.A.’s length – especially defensively – in game one. Click here for a picture of Okur testing the leg before the game.

In other news, the Lakers are hoping to keep Utah off the free throw line, in part by doing a better job on the defensive glass so as not to foul opponents on easy put-back layups. While L.A. would like to keep Deron Williams out of the lane, they realize that point guards around the league (just look at Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo or Chris Paul in the playoffs) can get into the lane no matter how good the on-ball defense is with the current interpretation of the rules.

GasolFirst Quarter
11:40 What’s the best way for Bynum to start his sixth game back from injury and second in the playoffs? A step-through dunk from Kobe would do just fine.

10:36 Ariza, who scored 10 points in Sunday’s first quarter, got all the way to the hoop and finished high off the glass before Gasol’s easy bucket put L.A. up 6-2.

9:11 A lefty hook from Bynum? Pretty stuff from L.A. on offense to start the game, who got a triple from Ariza, who had more space than a baby in first class. Williams managed a triple for the Jazz, who also got two jumpers from Brewer to hang in there.

7:22 L.A. was putting on some kind of offensive clinic, getting shots from wherever they wanted to open up 15-7. It doesn’t hurt to have Gasol, who spun right around Boozer for a two-handed dunk, and Bynum, who had his way in the lane with another close look at the rim.

With the Lakers flying high after a Fisher three-pointer, there was an interesting contrast in benches: Odom, Powell, Farmar, Walton, Vujacic, Morrison and Brown were all standing and clapping, while the Jazz bench was sitting rather silently.

4:50 Andrew Bynum: dominating. You know you’ve played well when Kobe waits for you after the other team calls time out, walks heartily towards you and hits you hard on the head. That’s Bryant’s “Yeah boy!” mode, which rightly rewarded Bynum’s 5-of-5 start that netted 10 points for the Lakers and delivered a 24-14 lead. L.A. made 11-of-13 shots to start the game, otherwise known as 84.6 percent. He also managed a swat of Williams and two rebounds, and had already surpassed his game one total of seven points.

2:42 The Lakers were clearly feeding off a great crowd, which was noticeably more fired up than they were on Sunday as the offensive display continued with threes from Fisher and Bryant and a swished J from Gasol that made it 32-19 L.A. That was a long sentence. Meanwhile, Jack Nicholson stood up for an extended and hearty standing ovation after L.A. posted a “Happy Birthday Jack!” graphic on the jumbotron.

2:20 As Bryant hit a jumper, the Lakers had literally hit their last 12 shots and 15-of-17 for the game. Things as hot as the Lakers in the first quarter: A full helping of Chipotle hot salsa on a burrito (like as much as they put in a chips/salsa combo, which destroyed the roof of my mouth yesterday); the Sahara desert; Heather Locklear (“Melrose Place” years); fire.

0:37.8 Gasol continued an excellent personal quarter by nailing his fourth shot in as many attempts to get to nine points, making him and Bynum a combined 9-of-9. Odom added a nasty dunk that delivered an amazing 18-of-21 quarter (85.7 percent) for 41 points, a season high for a quarter in both percentage and points. Utah, however, also shot well, making 57 percent of their shots including three triples to score 29 points of their own to keep the game within reach.

“We’re still in the ball game, but we need to do a better job of slowing them down,” said Jerry Sloan to TNT’s Craig Sager after the quarter.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Jazz Running Diary: Game 2′

Okur Officially Out for Game 2

Mehmet OkurRoss Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune reported earlier today that Jazz center Mehmet Okur is not playing against the Lakers in game two of the teams’ best-of-seven series due to his right hamstring strain.

Okur was seen testing the hammy on the court two hours prior to tipoff (pictured), but Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan confirmed in his pregame media session that his Turkish center will not play. Utah’s primary three-point threat averaged 17 points and 7.7 rebounds on the season, though he missed the regular season finale and game one of the playoffs against L.A.

He’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow to check his availability for Thursday night’s game in Utah.

Mario Lopez on Lakers.com

At L.A.’s practice facility to interview Kobe Bryant, “Extra” host Mario Lopez went through some shooting drills with the MVP before joining us on camera to describe the experience. The former “Saved by the Bell” star and “Dancing with the Stars” runner up shared his thoughts on Kobe’s teaching technique and speculated about how he’d take No. 24 down in a wrestling match.

Frank Hamblen Video Preview

We sat down with assistant coach Frank Hamblen, who’s L.A.’s point man on the Jazz, to preview game two in the first round best-of-seven series.

Hamblen talked about the importance of keeping Utah off the foul line, anticipating adjustments from the other team and more.

You can watch the video on our Lakers Gameday page.

Playoff Podcast #3: Lakers.com

In case you didn’t get enough knowledge from today’s Live Chat, feel free to check out the podcast Mike Trudell and I busted out before practice today. We talk about the Lakers first game for a bit before perusing the other playoff matchups from the weekend and finishing up with some trashy reality TV talk.

Listen below or check out Playoff Central for everything else you need to know about this series.

Monday Practice Report

There were almost three media members for each Lakers player at Monday’s practice in El Segundo.

It’s the playoffs, after all.

As such, we trained the camera on Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum to learn how the squad’s feeling a night after their game one 113-100 victory over Utah, what adjustments will L.A. make heading into Tuesday’s game two and so on.

CLICK HERE to watch.

Lakers.com Live Chat at 3 p.m.

Want to talk Lakers?

Just log onto Lakers.com, where I’ll be waiting at 3 p.m. Pacific to take questions about “The Duel” or “The Hills,” and (I guess) the Lakers and the NBA playoffs. Or whatever.

See you in a few.

Lakers 113, Jazz 100: Postgame

Bryant - OdomThe Lakers won 65 games in the regular season … That’s pretty good.

Yet in some ways, L.A. seemed to be holding something back in the reserve tank, prompting the more skeptical of Lakers fans and critics alike to wonder what exactly the purple and gold would bring into the playoffs.

Surely bursting to a 62-40 lead on a blistering 65.7 percent from the field in the first half was a good way to start, and while the plucky Jerry Sloan-coached Jazz (predictably) fought back in the second half, the visitors ultimately would never get closer than nine points as the Lakers took a 1-0 series lead.

“We had a very difficult time, we gave up 62 points in the first half and it’s virtually impossible to try and beat this team giving them that kind of edge,” said Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan. “But we stayed in our offense and executed. I felt like we were at least able to try and make them play us a little more.”

Indeed, Phil Jackson wasn’t exactly pleased with L.A.’s second half performance – not as Utah grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and went to the foul line 28 times – yet even so, the bottom line was that the Lakers were the better team. Utah, who was missing key starting center Mehmet Okur to a hamstring strain, didn’t once lead after Trevor Ariza’s back-to-back threes early in the first quarter.

L.A. was paced by 24 points and eight assists from Kobe Bryant, while Ariza gave L.A. a somewhat unexpected boost highlighted by 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-4 from three-point land. Fittingly, it was Bryant’s emphatic and-1 dunk and Ariza’s final-minute three pointer that ultimately nailed Utah’s coffin.

Pau Gasol was characteristically efficient in making 7-of-11 shots primarily against the shorter Carlos Boozer for 20 points with nine boards before fouling out later in the fourth, while Lamar Odom put up 13 points, eight boards and two blocks in 34 minutes off the bench. Andrew Bynum was plagued by foul trouble and played for just 20 minutes en route to seven points and three boards, but his defensive presence was felt particularly in the first half.

“It wasn’t our best game and our most complete game but still, it’s a pretty good win against a really good team,” said Gasol. “And that’s the way you want to start.”

The Lakers also received a very tangible bench boost from Shannon Brown, who nailed all three of his three-point attempts and added three assists in 21 minutes. Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton and Jordan Farmar all chipped in positively, while Josh Powell managed six points and two boards in just four minutes.

“He works extremely hard, as all our players do,” said Bryant of Brown. “He’s in the gym early; he’s working on his shot. When I see that it makes it even more easier for me to trust him in a game situation.”

For the Jazz, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer played solid games, as the point guard amassed 17 points and 16 assists while the forward went for a game high 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting, but it simply wasn’t enough.

One down, and 15 to go for a Lakers’ team determined to stop at nothing short of a championship.

5
Fewer assists than the entire Lakers team for Deron Williams, who’s good at basketball but struggled with his shot (4-of-14).

8:44
Time on the clock in the first quarter when Trevor Ariza nailed his second three, putting the Lakers up 8-6. The Jazz would never reclaim the lead.

21
Career high playoff point total for Ariza.

50
Points in the paint for the Lakers, who added 19 fastbreak points to 44 and 10, respectively, for the Jazz.

65.7
Lakers shooting percentage in an outstanding first half, including 5-of-9 from three, 5-of-7 from Trevor Ariza and Kobe Bryant and 4-of-4 from Pau Gasol.

100
Percent shooting from Shannon Brown from the three-point line. The first Laker off the bench, Brown nailed all three of his three-point attempts.

Lakers – Jazz Running Diary: Game 1

Staples CenterRead 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.

Lakers Playoff Central
All you need to know about the 65-win Lakers heading into the playoffs can be found by clicking HERE.

Inactives
Lakers: D.J. Mbenga, Sun Yue
Jazz: Mehmet Okur*, Kosta Koufos, Morris Almond
*Okur strained his hamstring in last Monday’s victory over the L.A. Clippers and did not play in the second half or in the regular season finale against the Lakers.

Kobe BryantStarters
Lakers Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver*, Carlos Boozer and Jarron Collins
*Matt Harping started Tuesday’s regular season finale against the Lakers. Korver’s inclusion is interesting as Ariza will need to do as good a job as Sasha Vujacic in chasing the three-point shooting specialist around.

Phil Jackson Pregame
Jackson spent much of his seven-minute pregame media session talking about his championship rings, as this is the first playoff round he’s not worn the 2002 ring since 2003. Though he revealed that there’s little that hasn’t already been covered regarding the Jazz, he spoke briefly on the matchup as well. Click HERE for the audio.

Pau GasolFirst Quarter
11:45 Bryant’s pass intended for Ariza was picked off by Williams, who pushed the ball and found Boozer cutting to the hoop for the game’s first points. Bynum then missed a baby hook, and Williams got to the rim to put Utah up 4-0.

10:40 As Gasol answered with a baby hook shot over Boozer, we see L.A.’s game plan pretty clearly – pound the rock inside. L.A.’s next possession saw Ariza hit an open three, and the fact that he hesitated not a second was a good sign. Fisher’s second foul on Williams brought Shannon Brown off the bench very early, but moments later Ariza nailed another triple to make it 8-6 Lakers.

7:05 Ariza continued a fantastic personal start by using Gasol’s steal to streak ahead of the pack for a one-handed dunk to get to eight points to see L.A. take a 12-8 lead.

6:05 As the Jazz continued to focus on Bryant, Kobe found Brown for another role player triple, then swatted Williams in the lane and got the ball to Brown in the open court. Fatman Sr. in turn found a streaking Gasol for a dunk, and L.A. found themselves up 17-10 before the Jazz took a timeout.

A few things stood out about the first six minutes, most notably that as Utah paid so much attention to Bryant, he complied by being the only Laker not to take a shot in the first six minutes while racking up four assists. Meanwhile, Lamar Odom was poised to come off the bench in a few minutes. Impressive start.

4:55 Ariza with 10 points already? Gasol found him with a beautiful look for a wide open two-handed dunk. Utah did manage to counter with two straight hoops, one by Williams and the other set up by the outstanding point guard (six points, four assists).

3:20 Gasol continued to make Boozer look like a middle schooler just learning the defensive slide with a left-handed hook, and then sprinted ahead in transition once again to finish a Brown setup after Fatman Sr. swiped the ball away from Williams. Lakers 23, Jazz 15.

1:55 With a lineup of Brown, Vujacic, Bryant, Odom and Gasol, Bryant immediately cut right through the lane for a layup, and Vujacic earned an offensive foul on Boozer by adeptly staying ahead of the screen. That’s one of Sasha’s strengths of which Jackson’s quite fond.

0:53.0 “Two for two from downtown for Shannon Brown!” That was ABC’s Mike Breen telling the story of another Brown triple. How about this line from Brown in his first meaningful playoff minutes: Six points on 2-of-2 shooting (both threes), two assists and a steal.

0:00.9 A emphatic opening to L.A.’s playoff run concluded with Bryant’s technical free throw make and 1-of-2 from Odom to give L.A. a 30-19 lead after one. Gasol had rebounded a Jazz miss and outletted to Vujacic, who found Odom slicing to the hole as Williams attempted to draw a charge. But if that was a charge, Lakers.com doesn’t support a CT reality show. Sloan didn’t like the call, earning his tech.

Stat of the Quarter: L.A. shot 70.6 percent from the field on 12-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three (two each from Ariza and Brown).
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Jazz Running Diary: Game 1′