Monthly Archive for October, 2009

Page 4 of 6

Lakers 106, Nuggets 89: Postgame

58715395The biggest piece of news coming out of Anaheim actually occurred before the game, when Phil Jackson said that starting forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum would miss the Thursday evening contest against the Denver Nuggets.

The rematch of the Western Conference Finals would go on, of course, with L.A. managing to beat the Nuggets by _ despite the absence of 14 collective feet. Every player getting minutes contributed to a nice win, yet the story remained whether or not the Lakers would be healthy for Tuesday evening’s regular season opener against the Clippers, particularly when Jackson confirmed that Gasol would miss Friday night’s game as well.

Jackson explained that his All-Star forward had some questions about how his hamstring felt after Wednesday’s practice, and to alleviate those feelings, the staff thought it was best to keep him out of the final two preseason games.

“I’m not worried,” said Jackson before the game. “Whether he makes it (for the season opener on Tuesday) or not I’m not worried.”

Bynum, however, is a game-time decision for the Friday contest in San Diego, but since he didn’t go Thursday, fans got to hear this in the starting lineup call:

“Starting at center, a 7-foot center from the Republic of the Congo … D.J. Mbenga!!!!!!”

“Congo Cash,” as he’s called by his teammates, began the game with two early blocks of Denver center Nene, and finished the evening with an impressive seven blocks. Starting in place of Gasol was Lamar Odom – a major luxury off the bench – and the lanky lefty could barely miss in the early goings, nailing three consecutive three-pointers in the first quarter and two more in the second.

Odom’s previous career high from three in his 10-year career? Four. Too bad preseason stats don’t count. Nonetheless, his 15 points helped the Lakers to a 52-46 halftime lead, and Kobe Bryant’s 11 third quarter points spurred the Lakers to lead by 10 near the close of the period.

With the starters resting on the bench in the fourth quarter, the smallish fivesome of Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, Adam Morrison, Luke Walton and Josh Powell did well to preserve L.A.’s lead, even pushing it to 90-78 halfway through the quarter when Vujacic’s three bounced high off the front rim before sinking through. Powell, playing strong as the team’s center, guarded Nene and scored consecutive points at the other end before finishing with 15 points and six rebounds for the night.

Jordan Farmar and rookie Tony Gaffney joined the fray moments later, helping the Lakers close out with a 17-point victory to push L.A.’s preseason record to 6-1 as the team awaits more news about the minor injuries of Gasol and Bynum.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
4 Odom’s career high for three-pointers made in a regular season game.

5 Three-pointers hit by Odom in the first half on Thursday night.

7 Blocks for center D.J. Mbenga in 26 minutes of work.

11 Third quarter points for Kobe Bryant, who finished with a team-high 23.

26 Nuggets turnovers, compared to just 13 from the Lakers, a major factor in L.A.’s win.

Pregame Injury Update: Gasol, Bynum & Walton

D067369021.JPGLakers forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum will miss Thursday evening’s preseason game in Anaheim against Denver, though forward Luke Walton will dress and be a coaches’ decision to play.

Gasol, who strained his right hamstring earlier in training camp, will also miss Friday night’s game in San Diego and await re-evaluation early next week.

Jackson explained that his All-Star forward had some questions about how (the hamstring) felt after Wednesday’s practice, during which Gasol ran and went through some drills. The head coach said it might be more of a fatigue issue, but to “alleviate” Gasol’s response, the team felt it was best to keep him out of the final two preseason games as there was nothing to gain by playing him.

“I’m not worried,” said Phil Jackson. “Whether he makes it (for the season opener on Tuesday) or not I’m not worried.”

Bynum, who strained his rotator cuff and suffered a contusion of the left knee this week, will not play Thursday evening but will be re-evaluated on Friday morning. He’s listed as day-to-day.

Walton (back), meanwhile, practiced for the first time in over a week on Wednesday and will dress against the Nuggets, though his participation will be up to Phil Jackson.

Lakers-Nuggets Scouting Report

Here’s a brief breakdown of tonight’s matchup against the Denver Nuggets:

We will see a familiar foe tonight in Anaheim and tomorrow night in San Diego. The Denver Nuggets have championship aspirations after taking us to six games in the western conference finals last spring. Their nucleus is back and they have a few new faces to replace Linas Kleiza and Dahntay Jones. This team bought into Coach George Karl’s challenge of playing team defense. We know we need to protect the ball or it will turn into a Nugget Dunk-fest. Chauncey Billups drives the squad and he usually starts games trying to get others involved but if he feels the team struggling to score he can and will kick his offensive game into a more scoring minded approach.

Some teams will slice and dice you with the execution of a number of playsets. While Denver has some plays that we will need to be aware of, they really want to get steals and get out and run. Billups and Anthony will look to probe the defense. There will be a lot of random screen and rolls set in order to free them and create an advantage. It is the secondary offensive thrust that we must be ready to defend. Getting back on defense in order to take away easy dunks is step one and that requires a physical effort. In order to take away their secondary or early offense we will need to communicate because there will be situations where we are not in our normal match-ups.

With two games left in the exhibition season it is time to gear up our intensity and this is a good opponent in order to do that.

Check Lakers Courtside Connection during the regular season for more extensive previews including video breakdowns.

Bynum Rotator Cuff

Lakers center Andrew Bynum suffered a minor rotator cuff strain in Tuesday night’s 113-107 win over the Golden State Warriors. Bynum did not practice Wednesday due to the injury but is being listed as probable for Thursday’s game against the Denver Nuggets in Anaheim.

“My training staff hasn’t anticipated anything that would prohibit him from playing, but we’ll see what it’s like (Thursday),” said head coach Phil Jackson.

Injured forwards Pau Gasol and Luke Walton both participated in Wednesday’s practice after missing the past couple games.

“I put them through practice today. We’ll see how they react to that tomorrow. They looked okay,” Jackson said.

The Lakers carry a 5-1 record into the first of back-to-back games against the Denver Nuggets. Tonight’s game is schedule for a 7pm tip from the Honda Center in Anaheim on KCAL/9 and TNT. Tickets available here.

Lakers 113, Warriors 107: Postgame

D067741004.JPGAfter two weeks of training camp, NBA players want nothing more than to see a different color jersey. As it were, a given player spends each day draped to a teammates’ hip, challenging his every move, trying to earn his minutes.

But then, mercifully, another team comes along; in this case for L.A., it’s Golden State that comes along, three times.

In 13 days.

That’s why it was no surprise that neither team came out playing like it were the preseason, instead exchanging (the opposite of) pleasantries in a hotly-contested first quarter. The first salvo was Kobe Bryant inspired, leading to a 17-4 Lakers burst behind six straight Bryant points to start the game. The Warriors, however, were sick enough of watching L.A. score this preseason to battle back and trail by just eight at the quarter’s close, 29-21.

58601698Then in the second quarter, the intensity flared to the point that L.A.’s Josh Powell and G.S.’s Anthony Randolph fought for a loose ball for a full four seconds after the whistle was blown for a jump ball, neither willing to cede an inch.

Where’s the Dalai Lama when you need him?

Eventually, the teams would calm down (a bit) and play some basketball, the Lakers holding onto a slim lead until Golden State jumped ahead for the first time halfway through the third quarter when Anthony Morrow – last season’s leading three-point shooter as an undrafted rookie – hit back-to-back triples.

Punching back was the Lakers’ second unit, sparked by the athleticism of Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown, as they collectively led an 11-2 run to close the third with a 84-79 lead. Yet Golden State wouldn’t wither away, instead opening the fourth on a 7-2 streak to again tie the game.

Tired yet?

Next, Farmar was at it again, setting up three buckets and scoring five points in the first six minutes of the period to swing the pendulum back in L.A.’s favor, the home team posting a 98-92 lead with 6:00 to play. Stepping up when Farmar went to the bench were Shannon Brown and Adam Morrison, who knocked home back-to-back buckets in the final minutes, allowing Lamar Odom (who came off the bench when rookie Tony Gaffney had to leave after falling on his back) to nail a dagger three from the top of the key with 1:05 to play, sealing L.A.’s fifth preseason win in six attempts.

Good thing these teams don’t face off until Nov. 28th in Oakland … They need a bit of time to see some different colored jerseys.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
4 Threes made for Warriors second-year guard Anthony Morrow through three quarter, the same amount as L.A.’s team (4-for-13).

8 Lakers players to notch an assist in the first half, as the team dimed on 15-of-19 field goals. Ron Artest led the way with five of his own, and finished with a team-high eight on the night in 28 minutes.

20 More points for Andrew Bynum, now averaging 20.3 for the preseason, good for third in the NBA. He needed just 11 field goal attempts and six foul shots (making seven and six, respectively) to get there in 30 minutes, adding nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks in a terrific effort.

21 Team-high points scored by Kobe Bryant, who made 7-of-12 shots and all six free throws in addition to five rebounds, three assists and three steals in nearly 29 minutes.

50.6 L.A.’s field goal percentage on the night.

Lakers – Warriors, Take 3

Lakers WarriorsFor the third time in 14 days, the Lakers will face off against the Golden State Warriors in preseason action.

L.A. took Game 1 (118-101), and the Warriors emerged victorious in Game 2 (110-90), with both teams learning a few things in the process. Here’s a look across some of the more notable story lines between the two teams:

1) No One Can Guard Andrew Bynum
L.A.’s young center did whatever he wanted against Andris Biedrins and Anthony Randolph in the first two matchups, making a combined 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) of his shots for 43 total points. He played roughly 31 minutes per game, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked two shots. Low post defense is not Golden State’s forte in general, but the task was even harder without Ronny Turiaf, out with a sprained left knee. Of course, no one else has stopped Bynum either, who ranks third among preseason scorers with a 20.4 average, and 17th on the glass at 7.4 per night.

2) Young Talent’s Fun to Watch
They’re not old, they’re full of athleticism, and they like to push tempo. A snap shot at the precocious Warriors:

- Anthony Randolph, 20: The league’s youngest player last season, Randolph closed out his rookie year by averaging 13.5 points, 10.5 boards and 1.59 blocks in 32 minutes over the final 12 games.
- Stephen Curry, 21: The 7th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Curry busted onto the national hoops scene by shooting Davidson deep into the NCAA Tournament during his junior season, and is ninth in the NBA in preseason assists (5.8).
- Andris Biedrins, 23: The lengthy Latvian put together 17 straight double-doubles last season.
- Monta Ellis, 23: The explosive guard averaged 25.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists in last season’s final 11 games.
- Anthony Morrow, 24: As an undrafted rookie last season, Morrow ranked first in the NBA in three-point percentage, nailing 46.7 percent of his shots, becoming the first player in franchise history to lead the league from distance.

3) The Lakers are Long
Sure, the Warriors (and every other team) already knew this from last season, but that doesn’t mean they have an answer. Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom give not just the Warriors but every team in the NBA fits, but when your starting power forward is a super-talented but lean 6-10, 210-pounder (Randolph)and your center (Biedrins) is quick but also quite movable at 240 pounds, it’s going to be a particularly long night in the paint. And while Gasol (hamstring) could miss the game, Lamar Odom (shin) is expected to play. Furthermore, wings Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant can be just as devastating on the low block as Gasol, Bynum and Odom, so there’s no break defensively when you’re playing the Lakers.

4) MASH Unit
Last season, the Lakers suffered their share of injuries, most notably Andrew Bynum’s MCL tear and minor injuries to Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton, but the Warriors combined to miss the third most games of any team in the NBA. Ellis missed 57, Brandan Wright 41, Corey Maggette 31, Stephen Jackson 21 and Biedrins 20. Wright, injured in training camp, is out for the season; the rest are healthy.

5) They’ve Got Shooters
Seven Lakers have hit at least one three-pointer in the preseason, in part because of item No. 3 – since so many Lakers require a double-team, there are going to be open three-point shooters. Period. Enter Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic, Artest, Adam Morrison, Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton (when playing) and also Bryant. Yet it’s actually the Warriors that have shot the ball better from deep in the preseason, ranking 7th in three-point percentage, while the Lakers are sitting at 20th. Leading the way for the Warriors is Morrow, who’s made a preseason high 19 threes in 37 attempts (51.4 percent).

Monday Injury Update

58679772After Monday’s practice at L.A.’s facility in El Segundo, Phil Jackson provided an injury update for his three players on the MASH list:

Lamar Odom: The small forward, who suffered a bruised shin against Sacramento on Thursday in Las Vegas, participated almost fully in practice and is probable for Tuesday night’s game in Ontario, CA, against Golden State. Odom confirmed that he was feeling better after a few days of ice and stim.

Pau Gasol: Gasol, who tweaked a hamstring and first missed practice on Tuesday, Oct. 13, was a limited participant in practice but is listed as doubtful to face the Warriors.

Luke Walton: Like Gasol, Walton first missed practice last Tuesday, and is also doubtful for the Ontario game.

The next chance for Gasol and Walton to play will be on Thursday in Anaheim when the Lakers take on the Denver Nuggets, though Jackson has said that team’s priority is getting each Lakers’ player ready for the Oct. 27 season opener.

Lakers 114, Clippers 108: Postgame

Bryant - GriffinPrior to Sunday’s Staples Center Shootout finale between L.A.’s two basketball teams, Phil Jackson was asked if he’d hold anything back, considering that the Lakers and Clippers open the regular season in just nine days.

“I hold back almost until March,” said Jackson.

Right. In other words, Jackson may toss in some sprinkles, hot fudge and (if he decides to get crazy) Gummy Bears come playoff time, but particularly in the preseason, it’s straight vanilla. No toppings.

Vanilla or not, 17,932 people saw a better-than-average preseason game that moved far more quickly than Saturday night’s win over Charlotte thanks to fewer fouls (55) and turnovers (29). As it turned out, the L.A. team wearing purple and gold overcame a poor first quarter to emerge with a 114-108 victory over the Clippers. The “home” team managed just 22 points to the Clips’ 33 in the first, but outscored their red and blue counterparts 92-75 for the rest of the game to get to 4-1 in the preseason.

58679342Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Luke Walton missed the game with minor injuries for the second consecutive night – though Jackson said that all could have played were it a playoff game – leaving only Andrew Bynum to fill the void against a rather large Clippers squad.

That he did.

While L.A.’s 21-year-old center struggled to finish inside for the first time this preseason, hitting only 2-of-8 shots in the first half and 7-of-17 for the game, Bynum still managed to get the shots he wanted near the hoop despite the presence of seven-footer Chris Kaman, and impressed defensively and with his work rate in transition. Better yet, he had his best rebounding game of the preseason, cleaning the glass 13 times in 32 minutes to complement his 20 points.

“It was much better,” said Phil Jackson of his center’s performance on defense and the glass. “I thought the rebounding was good, and the fourth quarter run by (Bynum) and the second unit that played well enough to hold them off.”

Ron Artest had arguably his most comfortable performance of the preseason with 13 points, five rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes (“I thought he was very good,” said Jackson), while Adam Morrison, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar were all very effective off the bench. Morrison nailed all four of his three-pointers and had 14 total points, Brown went for 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting and Farmar added 11 points and a team-high seven assists in 24 minutes.

And so, whether Jackson is interested in the team’s preseason record or not, the Lakers coasted to their fourth win in five tries heading into Tuesday’s game in Ontario, CA, against Golden State.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
1 Lakers double-double in the game, assembled by Andrew Bynum. The young center scored 20 points and 13 rebounds in the first three quarters. No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin (pictured at top) added a double-double with 13 points and 12 boards of his own.

5 Lakers players to hit at least one three-pointer (Adam Morrison, Ron Artest, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and Tony Gaffney), led by four from a slick-shooting Morrison.

8 Clipper turnovers forced by the Lakers in the third quarter, as the home team took a 26-17 edge in the preseason to head into the fourth quarter up 83-77. The Lakers turned the ball over only 13 times in the game, forcing 17 from the Clippers.

26 Game-high points scored by newly-acquired Clippers reserve forward Craig Smith in just 22 minutes.

31.8 Lakers shooting percentage in a rough offensive first quarter, including 1-of-6 efforts from both Bynum and Derek Fisher. The Clippers capitalized by taking a 33-22 lead out of the initial quarter.

49.2 L.A.’s shooting percentage for the rest of the game, allowing them to outscore the Clippers 92-75 in the final three quarters to win the game by six.

Shannon Brown Breakaway vs. Clippers

It’s quickly becoming the running theme of the 2009 preseason, but here’s another big dunk by Shannon Brown, this time on the breakaway against the Clippers on Sunday night.

Lakers 91, Bobcats 87: By the Numbers

58668191A total of 66 fouls and 43 turnovers considerably slowed L.A.’s 91-87 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats in Saturday’s preseason game, though in the absence of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Luke Walton due to minor injuries, it’s difficult to draw many conclusions from the fourth preseason game.

Prior to the contest, L.A.’s first at STAPLES Center, Phil Jackson said that he expects all three of his regulars to be fine by the start of the regular season on October 27; in the meantime, Andrew Bynum was again efficient and effective with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, Josh Powell added 15 points and eight rebounds off the bench and Kobe Bryant chipped in 13 points with seven assists.

To detail the game’s ins and outs, we let the numbers do the talking for the now 3-1 Lakers:

586682101 L.A.’s lead with 11 seconds remaining when Vladimir Radmanovic (traded from L.A. to Charlotte last February for Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown) hit a three to cut what had been a comfortable lead. However, Powell made 1-of-2 free throws, and Jordan Farmar stole Charlotte’s ensuing inbounds pass before hitting two from the charity stripe to seal the win.

2 Lakers turnovers in the first half, compared to eight from the Bobcats, numbers L.A.’s head coach was quite happy about. Of course, he was equally unhappy with L.A.’s 19 second half turnovers.

3 The number of regulars missing the game, with Gasol (hamstring), Walton (back) and Odom (shin) nursing minor injuries. Jackson said after the game that none of his three frontcourt players will play in L.A.’s Sunday evening contest.

4 Field goals, including three three-pointers, nailed by Sasha Vujacic in six attempts as the Slovenian continues his excellent shooting form in four preseason games. He’s now converted 11-of-15 shots (73.3 percent), which includes a full-court heave to end the third quarter of L.A.’s Thursday win in Vegas that Vujacic is quick to point out shouldn’t count against his stats.

5 Free throws missed by Ron Artest in as many attempts. Artest struggled in his nearly 18 minutes of play, scoring five points with three boards before fouling out with roughly six minutes remaining. Shannon Brown also struggled with his shot, though from the field, in missing all six of his attempts.

6 Shots attempted by Bryant in the first quarter. Bryant looked to be trying out a variety of shots (including a left-handed turnaround baby hook) and moves upon which he’s worked throughout the offseason and training camp, perhaps testing for the regular season. You know, preseason heat checks…

586682167 Assists handed out by Bryant, which gave him a team-high 17 in L.A.’s four games.

12 Point differential for the Lakers in a 17-5 run that turned a 21-17 deficit into a 34-26 lead halfway through the second quarter. Powell, Jordan Farmar and Vujacic were primarily responsible. Also the number of straight points scored by the Lakers out of the second half gate, turning a 46-39 halftime score into a 19-point lead.

20 Personal fouls called in the third quarter alone, leading to 23 collective free throw attempts in a slow-moving game that featured 66 total fouls.

37.5 Charlotte’s shooting percentage for the game on 27-of-72 as the Lakers were quite active on defense.

73.7 Combined shooting percentage from Andrew Bynum (6-for-8), Josh Powell (4-of-5) and Sasha Vujacic (4-of-6) to lead the Lakers.