Monthly Archive for May, 2009

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Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary 3

57525336Read about the Lakers vs. Nuggets Game 3 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 – Nuggets Running Diary, May 19, 2009
Lakers 105, Nuggets 103: Postgame

Game 2
Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary, May 21, 2009
Lakers 103, Nuggets 106: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Nuggets: Sonny Weems, Steven Hunter

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Gasol and Bynum
Nuggets: Billups, Jones, Anthony, Martin and Nene

Phil Jackson Pregame
Phil said he talked to Andrew Bynum after practice yesterday, explaining that eight minutes is the maximum he can play at full speed. Basically, Jackson is suggesting that Bynum’s activity level dwindles if he plays too many minutes. “We’re trying to monitor his level of conditioning,” he said. “If I see an opportunity to use him, I will … I don’t have any trouble with Andrew. We sit next to each other in the film room (and discuss things).” Jackson also noted that Derek Fisher hasn’t been a problem defensively, as he’s spent little time on Chauncey Billups, and said that Lamar Odom didn’t find a comfort zone in Game 2 as a rebounder or transition operator.

George Karl Pregame
Karl said the difference between his Nuggets at home and on the road is that the fans help with defensive intensity, and that they don’t have to rely on their stars as much since at least two role players seem to step up various portions of their game (3-point shooting in particular). He also talked about Carmelo Anthony getting out of the First Round having really helped his confidence, and how much his perimeter jumper has improved.

Adam Morrison: Video Game King
In news completely unrelated to and irrelevant for Saturday’s game, as I “tweeted” this afternoon, Adam Morrison is the best FIFA Soccer video game player I’ve ever seen. He deserves ample respect, though he is challenged by Luke Walton … who “completely copied my game,” according to Morrison. Walton also competes well in NCAA Football ’09 with Jordan Farmar, while Farmar adds NBA 2K9 to his arsenal. Lakers.com will take its shot at Farmar on Sunday afternoon, and we’ll let you know how it goes.

57525284First Quarter
12:00 Denver’s fans set a new 2008-09 season record for “Most Disparaging Remarks About an Opponent” during pauses in the National Anthem. In other game ops news, Houston’s intro was much, much better, but the Pepsi Center faithful are certainly amped.

11:33 Which two players were being chastised for 48 hours? Bynum and Fish … Who opened with a block and a deep jumper, respectively, for L.A.

9:07 The game started to look like Game 2′s final five minutes, with ten consecutive free throws taken. Denver hit 5-of-6, Fisher missed two and Bryant made two as Denver led 9-6. Meanwhile, neither Bynum nor Gasol had touched the ball in the paint on five offensive possessions.

7:48 L.A. finally got the idea by posting Bynum and Gasol on consecutive possessions. Bynum missed his shot, but Gasol didn’t. Bryant followed with an easy layup, then Fisher stripped Billups and fed Ariza for a 6-point-run-capping layup. L.A. 12, Denver 11.

6:06 Bynum swatted Jones for his second block, but was called for his second foul trying to block Nene on the put-back attempt, bringing Odom into the game. Bynum had two blocks, missed both his shots and didn’t grab a rebound, though Gasol grabbed three. Not a great box score, but Denver didn’t get anything easy at the rim.

4:37 The Lakers weren’t getting very good looks from their offense until Bryant found Fisher for a wide-open back door layup, but Denver hit three straight jumpers at the other end (two from Anthony) to take a 21-15 lead.

3:32 L.A. continued to give away some easy points, turning the ball over on a 3-on-1 break as Ariza lost the ball to Anthony and Fisher fouled him. ‘Melo’s free throws (bonus) put Denver up six, and after a Gasol baseline miss, Martin found Chris Andersen with a pretty behind-the-back pass to push the lead to 25-17.

2:37 Walton missed L.A.’s fourth and fifth free throws of the quarter as Denver.

0:01.7 Odom finished off a pretty spin move at the bucket, following a 20-foot jumper from Farmar (and a bad Anthony miss from three in transition) to cut Denver’s lead to just two points after one. Considering that the Lakers really didn’t play well, missed six free throws and didn’t hit a three, they’d take it.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary 3′

Saturday Shootaround Notes

We had the notepad out subsequent to L.A.’s Saturday morning shootaround in Denver. Here’s what we learned:

- Andrew Bynum expressed his excitement about playing and, as expected, denied any ill will for a lack of playing time in the second half when pushed by various reporters. Clearly he’d prefer to be playing more minutes, like any player, but he says his focus is on maintaining a good attitude and contributing as much as he can.
- Phil Jackson said that he thought there’s far too much focus being placed on Bynum, whom he said still lacks the conditioning to play for long stretches. On Friday, Jackson also cited Denver’s small lineup as a reason his big center didn’t get many minutes.
- Luke Walton, while icing down, joked around with Adam Morrison and Pau Gasol for a good five minutes. The mood, in general, was quite light.
- The team watched film for a good hour before taking the court.
- Kobe Bryant held court with reporters for a good seven minutes or so, revealing his awareness of how tough the Pepsi Center will be, but expressing confidence for the NBA’s best road team.
- The primary goal for the Lakers in Colorado is to win both games, not just the split that would return home court advantage.
- Assistant coach Brian Shaw talked about how much more difficult it is approaching a game as a coach than as a player, because as a player one feels an element of control that can be executed personally, while a coach has nothing but a clipboard and his voice.
- Tip off is at 5:30 Pacific.

Popcorn Machine: Jeanie Buss

On the latest Popcorn Machine…

Lakers Executive Vice President of Business Operations Jeanie Buss joined us to talk about the courtside celebrities at STAPLES Center, her new twitter account, playing scrabble and watching “American Idol” with Phil Jackson and more.

CLICK HERE to listen.

Lakers 103, Nuggets 106: Postgame 2

Melo - BillupsWhat were the chances of another up-and-down, cut-throat, skill-infested Western shootout between the Lakers and Nuggets after a Game 1 slugfest?

Decent, but not likely, right?

Wrong.

The only thing that was different from Tuesday to Thursday’s outstanding battles was the execution down the stretch and the result, which this time went to Denver.

“Not quite the same game but almost,” said Phil Jackson. “Different ending.”

Indeed.

The crunch time plays went to Denver, the biggest of which was a Trevor Ariza turnover after a jump ball, a play with plenty of intrigue in itself. After Kenyon Martin hit a baseline leaner with 29.6 seconds left to put his team up two, countering Kobe Bryant’s second-straight jumper, Nene tied up Pau Gasol at the top of the key. On the jump, J.R. Smith appeared to illegally enter the play, but Trevor Ariza gained temporary control only to fumble it away while trying to avoid a traveling call. There was contact on the play from Carmelo Anthony, whom Phil Jackson thought got away with a push, but no whistle could be heard.

Regardless of what really happened, the Nuggets gained control, and Billups ended up at the free throw line for the 15th and 16th time. He missed the first, however, allowing the Lakers a final 3-point attempt that would have tied the game … But it fell short as Nene got a touch on the ball out of the corner, and Denver – who had proven itself to be a very, very good team – earned an away split to capture home court advantage from the Lakers just as Houston had in Round 2.

Sure, execution down the stretch was what won the game, but you have to go back to the second quarter to get the whole story, to see how the tempo changed. L.A. had completely dominated the paint to build a 14-point lead with 7:18 to go in the half, getting easy layups and dunks for Andrew Bynum in particular, before Denver’s bench rolled off a big 12-0 run keyed by two Linas Kleiza threes to close the half down just one.

“I thought it invigorated them, got them going,” said Jackson. “It gave them some confidence in what they wanted to run, and defensively I thought they were better too.”

Then in the third quarter, Bynum – who was a team-high +7 in 18:27 – played just under five minutes and didn’t appear in the fourth, forcing Pau Gasol to play the entire second half as the Spaniard tired noticeably. That seemed to sway L.A.’s control of the paint, and with it, their control of the game. Indeed, the Lakers outscored Denver 36-18 in the paint during the first half with Bynum patrolling the lane, but ceded a 20-16 advantage in the second, with two Anthony offensive boards looming large.

“Their presence of scoring paint points is as good as anyone in the league,” said George Karl. “They do it with post ups in size and rebounding.”

Just not in the second half, when they needed two extremely tough pull-up threes from Bryant to stay in the battle after falling down by seven early in the fourth.

In a game that saw a total of 56 whistles blown, Billups made 13-of-16 free throws en route to 27 points, while Anthony scored 34 points on 12-of-29 shooting. Bryant ended up with 32 points on 10-of-20 shooting, while Trevor Ariza put in 20 points on 6-of-7 and was a big factor in a 7-0 third quarter run that re-claimed the lead momentarily for L.A.

A tough loss, no question, but there was no panic in the Lakers’ locker room. After all, L.A. had the league’s best road record in the regular season (29-12), including wins in Cleveland, Boston, San Antonio and … yes … Denver.

“We’re not the best road team in the NBA for no reason,” said Bryant, who led his team to road victories in Round 1 over Utah and Round 2 over Houston.

Just 48 hours and they’ll have their chance for redemption in what’s shaping up to be quite a Western Conference Finals.

Until then, some numbers:
Continue reading ‘Lakers 103, Nuggets 106: Postgame 2′

Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary 2

57510567Read about the Lakers vs. Nuggets Game 2 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 – Nuggets Running Diary, May 19, 2009
Lakers 105, Nuggets 103: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Nuggets: Sonny Weems, Steven Hunter

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Gasol and Bynum
Rockets: Billups, Jones, Anthony, Martin and Nene

Why L.A. Needs a Big Bynum
Last season, when the Lakers swept the Nuggets 4-0 in Round 1, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol destroyed the Nuggets with interior passing. A big difference on the block this season, however, is that Nene has taken over for Marcus Camby, and he’s simply a much more physical presence, if without the shot blocking. This is to the disadvantage of Pau Gasol, upon whom Denver effectively sicked Nene with Bynum in foul trouble. In addition to some affective game planning, that allowed Denver to control the paint until the final two minutes, which L.A. can’t allow once again.

Pregame Video Scouting Report
Frank Hamblen joined us to talk about countering Denver’s Game 1 advantage on the low block, defending Carmelo Anthony and the importance of winning the bench battle. The watch, CLICK HERE.

57510856First Quarter
10:14 For the third straight possession, L.A. dumped the ball down low to Bynum. The first time, Gasol was called for three seconds, and the second, Martin was whistled for a non-shooting foul. But the third resulted in a two-handed dunk for L.A. This is the matchup Lakers.com has been looking for.

8:20 After barely touching the ball on offense, Gasol stuck back a Fisher miss to tie the game at six. Eleven of his 13 points in Game 1 came in similar fashion.

6:49 Martin was fronting Bynum, and he was fed with a nice lob pass that resulted in a free throw. A possession later, Jones picked up his fourth foul in less than six minutes as Bryant scored plus the harm … But is that good for L.A.? If I’m Denver, I’d rather have J.R. Smith in there anyway. The real problem could come if Bryant gets Smith in foul trouble as well. Lakers 13, Nuggets 10.

5:22 Two straight nice plays from Gasol, first a swat of an Anthony three and second another tip in. In the process, Billups was T’d up by the league’s best official, Steve Javie.

4:25 Another put-back, this time a dunk, came from Lamar Odom. After Game 1, Odom said these opportunities were available since Denver tried to block so many shots, and he was onto something. That play was followed by an Odom rebound, then an Ariza and-1 that put L.A. up 21-14.

2:30 More solid help defense on Anthony (1-for-6) resulted in a Bryant pull-up at the other end that found L.A. up 25-16 and looking very good doing it.

0:32.0 A very fortunate bounce turned a Lakers turnover into a Linas Kleiza three in the corner, as the ball kicked off Billups when L.A. appeared to have a break out. That shot cut L.A.’s lead to six, but Bryant responded with two free throws after drawing Smith’s second foul, and it was 31-23. Bryant had followed up his 18 fourth quarter points in Game 1 with 14 in this one.

Quick summary: L.A. was much better defensively with rotations, again attacked the offensive glass and shot 52.4 percent to reverse the score of Tuesday’s Game 1.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary 2′

Game 2 Pregame Video

Nene - GasolFrank Hamblen joined us once again to talk about countering Denver’s Game 1 advantage on the low block, defending Carmelo Anthony and the importance of winning the bench battle.

You can watch from our Gameday page by CLICKING HERE.

A few other things upon which to keep an eye:

A) Andrew Bynum’s presence early, and how it affects what Pau Gasol’s able to do at both ends of the floor.
B) L.A.’s defensive adjustment, which should be designed to limit the easy buckets Denver got early on: As Hamblen pointed out, 19 of Denver’s first 20 field goals in the first half came from their starting front line, and the Lakers coaches aren’t planning a repeat.
C) How quickly the ball moves within L.A.’s offense as Denver sends multiple defenders at Bryant, which should create more touches in better position for Bynum and Gasol. Furthermore, when Odom’s in the game, the interior passing becomes even more dangerous.

Remember, tip time is again early, at 6 p.m.

Playoff Podcast #16: Chris Lewis

Our correspondent for the Nuggets series, Chris Lewis, is a sports reporter for 850 KOA in Denver that formerly spent four years covering the NBA as a member of the Orlando Magic’s broadcast team. We broke down L.A.’s Game 1 win, looked ahead at Game 2 and generally argued and debated the series.

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

WCF Game 2 Scouting Report

Denver FlexCarmelo Anthony had an extremely efficient game for the Nuggets and we must do a better job of making him work to get the ball and making him work on his defensive end. One of the plays that they were successful with was their flex offense which they call “BOSTON”…

To read the full scouting report log into Lakers Courtside Connection.

Lakers Practice Report – Wednesday

Denver BenchGenerally after a playoff game, the losing team has the benefit of looking at the tape and making adjustments that could benefit their cause in the second game.

But after breaking down the pluses and minuses of both teams in Game 1, it appears that the Lakers, not the Nuggets, are the team that will be making the greater number of adjustments before Thursday’s Game 2, which can only be seen as a positive going forward. This shouldn’t come as a major surprise, however, since the Nuggets had days longer to prepare for the matchup than did L.A. (come on, you know the Nuggets weren’t prepping for Houston).

Take out the final two minutes, and Denver couldn’t have executed their game plan any better, while the Lakers could hardly have seemed more out of sorts. Let’s take a look:

Denver Positives
- Attacked the rim with luster, getting 46 points in the paint and several layups/dunks as L.A. was slow to react particularly on the weak side. Clearly, the Nuggets had planned on exploiting L.A.’s strong side push, and they executed very well.
Melo - Pau- Got Andrew Bynum in foul trouble and pushed Pau Gasol around, allowing the Nuggs to control the lane at both ends. Essentially, they pushed the Lakers out of their preferred spots and forced offensive freelancing.
- Made Kobe Bryant work (very) hard for nearly everything he got at both ends of the floor.
- Got a transcendent 14-of-20 shooting performance from Carmelo Anthony.
- Controlled the tempo.
- Had the benefit of Chauncey Billups’ floor game, which helped expose that strong side trap, not to mention his two clutch threes.
- Saw Kenyon Martin go for 15 points, including some ugly line drives in the paint.
- Got a solid defensive effort off the bench from Chris Anderson, who also pitched in eight points.

Denver Negatives
- Missed 12 free throws, which really hurt. Billups missed three and J.R. Smith four.
- Conceded 17 offensive rebounds to the Lakers in part because of L.A.’s length, and in part because Denver’s bigs routinely leave their rebounding position to attempt blocked shots (of which they had eight).
- Made three critical mistakes in crunch time, including Anthony Carter’s turnover on the inbound pass that Ariza sniped, and two untimely Kenyon Martin fouls.
- Lack of a bench contribution from J.R. Smith* in particular, who made only 2-of-7 shots, took two terrible threes, missed four free throws and turned it over three times while committing five fouls.
*Smith, who hyper-extended his knee on Sunday, is expected to play in Game 2.
Continue reading ‘Lakers Practice Report – Wednesday’

Kobe Bryant Postgame Quotes

Kobe - MeloWhat a spectacular game Kobe Bryant played on Tuesday night at STAPLES, literally dragging his teammates across the finish line of a nail-biter that L.A. pulled out 105-103 despite trailing for most of the game.

Bryant scored 18 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter, set up the biggest shot of the game – a go-ahead three by Derek Fisher with 2:30 to play – with one of his four dimes, grabbed six rebounds including the game-clincher off a missed free throw and played outstanding defense on Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony. He also made 12-of-13 free throws, including 9-of-9 in the fourth, and hit 2-of-3 three pointers.

After the game, Bryant offered some reflection, talked about his teammates, vowed not to get another technical foul, addressed Jerry West’s comments regarding him and LeBron James and more.

Here’s a full transcript of Bryant’s comments from the postgame podium:

Q. Can you talk about your scoring performance tonight, where did you get the energy level coming off of a seven game series with Houston to find that energy to overtake the Nuggets in the end?
BRYANT: Just had to gut it out. It was a tough game. We were down virtually the whole game. So I just had to dig deep a little bit, see if we can’t pull it out.

Q. Any frustration again with a bit of a slow start at the start of this game for you as far as team just not getting out the start that I know you’re looking for?
BRYANT: You know, it’s a part of basketball. I mean, it’s just part of the game. Some games you’ll get out to a quick start, some games not. I think the thing we did better in this game is that we didn’t allow them to go on a huge run and put us in too big of a deficit. We kept it at seven, kept it at eight and nine. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Playoff basketball you see that happening all the time. I think that’s where we’ve improved from the last series. Houston, we virtually capitulated in the first quarter. That didn’t happen tonight.

Kobe BryantQ. Can you tell us how your finger is, what happened. And, additionally, toughness, it seemed like the Nuggets were kind of out toughing you early and the team kind of responded and obviously pulled out the victory. Can you talk about how physical the game was?
BRYANT: The finger is the same. It’s the same one I did against Cleveland. Tried to go without tape tonight. Just got caught with the ball, popped it out, popped it right back in place. Went to the bench, taped it up, good to go. In terms of physicality of the game. It’s playoff basketball. Guys bump a little bit. I felt like the first half their frontcourt really dominated us. During the second half I felt we did a much better job.

Q. You guarded Chauncey in the beginning and J.R. in the middle and Carmelo at the end. Were you asking for those and had you just basically made the decision that this might be a night that you were going to have to pull everybody kind of through this one?
BRYANT: Yeah, I mean, once I sensed we didn’t have the energy, I had to take it upon myself to try to lead by example. And there are certain parts in a game where Chauncey’s he’s in attack mode. And I know when those are and I try to guard him, try to do the best job I can on him. The same thing with J.R., Melo got hot and Trevor was in foul trouble and I had to go down there and wrestle with a bear. It’s just part of my responsibilities to this team.

Q. Kobe, talk capitulation, when you’re down 13 was there an air of desperation at all, or the team feeding off the Game 7 furry understood what it was to come back and keep rallying?
BRYANT: A little bit of desperation. You have to have that. It’s a sense of urgency it’s not sit back and relax, let the game come to us. Now is the time, the moment, what we’ve been waiting for all year. And, yeah, so it was a little bit of desperation.

Q. Are you concerned with your five technicals now in the playoffs?
BRYANT: I won’t get another one.

Q. You don’t have to be any more careful?
BRYANT: I won’t get another one.
Continue reading ‘Kobe Bryant Postgame Quotes’