Monthly Archive for November, 2009

Lakers Crush Nets, Post Sixth Straight Win

59033595Poor New Jersey.

Losing their first 16 game wasn’t fun, and seeing their head coach get fired on Sunday morning must not have inspired a lot of smiles either.

But facing a Lakers’ team that had beaten five straight opponents by double digits was just kicking the ol’ dead horse, as L.A.’s dominant 106-87 performance sent the Nets to their NBA-record-tying* 17th-straight loss to open the season.
* The 1988-89 Heat and 1998-99 Clippers both began 0-17.

“They’re the defending champs for a reason,” said Nets guard Chris Douglas-Roberts. “They have an All-Star cast … a lot of guys who are superstars. It’s a challenge.”

To their credit, the purple and gold didn’t take victory as a foregone conclusion, instead bursting through the first quarter gates like a lion into a field of lambs behind Kobe Bryant’s aggressive play. After N.J. managed an 8-5 opening, L.A. reeled off a 22-7 run featuring 13 points from Bryant and some tough team defense to put the game out of reach before it really got started.

“The defense is getting better and better,” said Bryant. “We’re working really, really hard at it. Energy has been consistent.”

59033421It was, and things wouldn’t get closer; in fact, the second half could be summed up in these words, by 710 ESPN’s Andrew Siciliano on Twitter: “Nets hit back to back 3′s…still down 30.”

Bryant led the way with 30 points, eight boards and seven assists in three quarters, while Pau Gasol pitched in 20 points, nine rebounds and seven helpers for good measure. Eleven Lakers scored, including 15 off the bench from Jordan Farmar, while the team shot an impressive 13-for-25 from three (52 percent).

While New Jersey’s record speaks to its lack of talent, it’s not like they’re the only team L.A. has blown out of late. Take a look at the last six Lakers games:

Nov. 17 vs Detroit: Lakers 106, Pistons 93
Nov. 19 vs Chicago: Lakers 108, Bulls 93
Nov. 22 vs OKC: Lakers 101, Thunder 85
Nov. 24 vs NYK: Lakers 100, Knicks 90
Nov. 28 @ G.S.: Lakers 130, Warriors 97
Nov. 29 vs. NJN: Lakers 106, Nets 87

That’s a total of 651-454, an average score of 108.5-90.8.

Different Lakers had different theories regarding their recent dominance.

“We’re starting to play the right way,” said Jordan Farmar. “We have so much depth.”

“Our defense is playing well,” offered Lamar Odom. “We’re not giving up too many offensive rebounds.”

Talent, length, coaching, confidence, depth … take your pick.

Meanwhile, the Nets will try to avoid the distinction of owning the league’s worst start by themselves against Dallas at home on Dec. 2, while the Lakers look to continue their impressive run when New Orleans (minus Chris Paul) comes to L.A. on Tuesday.

Until then, your numbers:

5 Three-pointers made by Kobe Bryant in eight attempts, for 15 of his 30 total points.

7 Three-pointers Bryant had made heading into the game. In the process, Bryant improved his three-point percentage from 20 percent to nearly 28 percent.

11 Lakers players who scored at least one basket.

34 L.A.’s biggest lead of the night. New Jersey led 8-5, then trailed for the rest of the game.

39.1 Ron Artest’s three-point percentage after he connected on 2-of-3 attempts. He’s now made at least two threes in five straight games.

52 All-time wins for the Lakers against the Nets, to just 19 losses.

Lakers – Nets Pregame

The primary storyline heading into L.A.’s contest against New Jersey on Sunday involves the 16-game losing streak of the Nets to start the season, just one off the NBA record for a worst start.

Phil Jackson shared his thoughts on the streak and the team, reflected on the firing of Lawrence Frank and discussed how difficult it is for the Nets to operate in their location.

Jackson also talked about the big lineup he used briefly in Golden State (Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum), which he liked, and finally detailed the positive influence of Pau Gasol.

“He is a real good team floor player,” said Jackson. “He is a perfect fit, with Kobe (Bryant) who directs the ball and a lot of times needs the ball, Pau can play off that very well because he can play a role where he facilitates the offense … and helps other players be better. He really compliments Kobe in that way.”

Lakers 130, Warriors 97: Running Diary

We took a look at the Lakers handling of the Warriors while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter. Here’s the running diary:

Lakers: Luke Walton
Warriors: Andris Biedrins, Raja Bell

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Warriors: Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Corey Maggette, Vladimir Radmanovic and Mikki Moore

Phil Jackson Pregame
The all-time leader in coaching win percentage talked about the importance of getting out on Golden State’s shooters, containing their fast break opportunities and getting the ball inside to his big men (a solid general recipe for NBA success). Jackson explained that the Warriors can make it tough on defenses with four or sometimes five players that can all start a fastbreak.

First Quarter
9:02 So far, so good for L.A.’s game plan: Gasol’s one-handed dunk followed two short hooks he converted easily over the much smaller Vlad-Rad, sandwiched around Bynum’s quick turnaround over Mikki Moore. That gave L.A. a 14-7 edge on 6-of-8 shooting, including Fisher’s corner two and Artest’s wide-open three. L.A. is reminding me of how I used to play when I worked at a daycare center for elementary school kids in high school.

590275925:21 Bryant went to the bench with two personals (plus his fifth tech of the season), bringing both Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom into the contest. With Golden State hanging around but L.A. in control, I wonder which Laker would have the best chance of swimming off Alcatraz. Hmmm. I’m going with Gasol (long, slender body, perfect technique) but am open to other ideas*.
*One twitter responder suggested that Shannon Brown couuld simply jump to the other side. Fair point.

0:10.6 Artest sank a 14-foot turnaround to give L.A. its biggest lead, 36-22, to end the quarter. Ron Ron was impressive with seven points, three assists and two boards, while Odom came off the bench to finish the quarter +11 behind five points and two boards. Shannon Brown added five points (including 3-of-4 free throws) to give L.A. the bench boost it had been asking for. Then Kobe returned to start the second, which isn’t always the best news for opposing teams.

Second Quarter
9:31 Brown got loose again! Oops. After receiving a pretty outlet pass from Odom, Go Go Gadget Calf Muscles went up for his (now patented) one-hand sky dunk, nearly violating Oakland air traffic control rules.

5:44 Growing up in North Carolina, Anthony Morrow of course idolized Michael Jordan … but Jordan was on the tail end of his career, and Morrow became a huge Kobe fan. Fast forward to today, and Morrow’s guarding Kobe. The league’s leading three-point shooter as an undrafted free agent rookie last year, Morrow’s at it again (54.4 percent), and dropped in a transition three over Kobe to make it 47-35 L.A. Of course, Kobe took him down to the post immediately, spun and converted plus the harm.

0:03.5 Maggette hit 1-of-2 free throws to cap a 5-0 Warriors run, all from the charity stripe, that got Golden State within 10 points at 60-50.

Third Quarter
7:06 Four straight points from Fisher and his dish to Artest for a transition layup put L.A. up 78-62. Fisher got to 11 points on the buckets, meaning the only Laker not in double figures at that point was Kobe Bryant, who had nine points on 3-of-10 shooting. That doesn’t happen often, but the scoring balance was something L.A.’s coaches had to enjoy.

590273823:13 Offensive efficiency hasn’t always been a Ron Artest staple (career 42 percent shooter), but he’s starting to heat up this season, particularly tonight. After his second three-pointer swished through, Artest scored in transition to get to 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and put L.A. up 89-68.

0:24.0 Odom stuck his second three to put L.A. up 23 heading into the fourth quarter, a lead on the strong side of commanding. Meanwhile, speaking of efficiency, how about Gasol? He’d made 9-of-10 field goals and 4-of-5 free throws to reach 22 points, plus 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. He was doing about as well through three quarters as “Twilight: New Moon” did on opening weekend.

Fourth Quarter
5:04 If Brown didn’t violate air space on his first huge dunk, he definitely put the Air Force on alert with his “Maybe-I’ll-put-it-on-my-hip-then-windmill-it” jam. Yikes. Lakers 113, Warriors 83.

4:07 Sasha Vujacic, in his first appearance of the game, swished a three thanks to Farmar’s drive and dish. Even in garbage time, the tape is always rolling and coaches always watching as guys like Vujacic try to argue their case for more playing time. Lakers by Scottie Pippen’s jersey number.

0:04.5 For good measure, Brown swished a 28-foot three to put the Lakers up 33 points for a final score of 130-97. Very impressive all-around effort from L.A., who had seven players in double-figures and never trailed throughout the contest.

0 Times Golden State led. L.A.’s biggest lead was 34.

5 Straight double-digit wins for the Lakers.

7 Lakers in double figures, led by Pau Gasol (22), Kobe Bryant (20), Ron Artest (19), Andrew Bynum (12), Derek Fisher (13), Shannon Brown (17) and Jordan Farmar (10).

75 Combined number of steals for Monta Ellis and Bryant entering Saturday’s game, Ellis second and Bryant third in the NBA on average. Bryant notched five thefts in this one, while Ellis managed just one.

109.3 Warriors scoring average heading into the contest. They finished about 12 points below that average, shooting only 39.1 percent.

Turiaf To Return Against Lakers

Ronny TuriafThe Warriors won’t be quite as thin up front as was expected.

Ronny Turiaf, the former Lakers and Golden State’s backup center, will return to the Warrior lineup after a 12-game absence due to a left knee sprain.

Turiaf started the season opener and scored four points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots in 26 minutes vs. Houston, then played 16 minutes against Phoenix (two points, four boards) before bowing out with the injury.

The Warriors will start Mikki Moore at center, but regular starter Andris Biedrins is expected to be out for a few more weeks with Osteitis Pubis (inflammation of muscular attachments of right groin and abdominal muscles).

Lakers – Warriors Pregame Numbers

Shannon Brown DunkThe highlight of L.A.’s heavy load of Warriors preseason games (three total) was clearly Shannon Brown’s monster dunk on Mikki Moore, but on Saturday night in Oakland the Lakers hope to do much of their damage with 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

Golden State will be without its two best big men, Andris Biedrens (osteitis pubis) and Ronny Turiaf (left knee sprain), starting Moore at center and former Laker Vladimir Radmanovic at the four.

A few other things to upon which to keep an eye:

4 Games won by the Lakers in as many matchups last season. The Lakers have won 3-of-the-last-4 season series with Golden State.

8 Times the Lakers have won in their last 10 games at ORACLE Arena, including 7-of-8.

13.3 Points averaged by Derek Fisher in his best of two seasons with Golden State (2005-06).

14 Seasons since Golden State has won a season series against the Lakers (1994-95).

22 Career-high rebound total collected by Lamar Odom last season against Golden State (3/23/08), a day before he posted 21 more rebounds in a back-to-back. Odom also posted his first career triple-double against the Warriors (15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists on 4/11/06).

26.6 Career average by Kobe Bryant against G.S., with a high-game of 51 points. His career average is 25.2 points, but this season, Bryant is second in the NBA in scoring (Carmelo Anthony) at 30.1 points per game after a hot start in the absence of Pau Gasol.

42 Career-high tying points for Monta Ellis in a loss against San Antonio (11/25), getting him to a 23.4 average that makes him 9th in the NBA. He’s also 2nd in the league in steals (2.5) 16th in assists (5.5) and 4th in minutes (39.7).

54.5 Three-point shooting percentage of Anthony Morrow, a second-year player who led the league in that category as an undrafted rookie.

69 Age of Warriors Head Coach Don Nelson, who will miss three more games with pnemonia. Assistant Keith Smart will continue to lead the team in place of Nelson.

80.6 Phil Jackson’s winning percentage against the Warriors while coach of the Lakers.

109.3 Golden State’s scoring average, good for 2nd in the NBA.

291 Meetings between the Lakers and Warriors in the regular season, 182 of which have been won by L.A.

Podcast: Mbenga, Vujacic talk “Turkey Trot”

If you hadn’t heard, Phil Jackson-coached teams go through a Thanksgiving tradition affectionately known as the “Turkey Trot,” in which players bigger than 6-8 go against the “small” guys.

Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant were given the day off to watch, while the injured Luke Walton took control of the whistle.

Bigs: Mbenga, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Josh Powell
Smalls: Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, Adam Morrison, Ron Artest

I’ll let D.J. tell you how the game went, but here’s a hint.

“When I saw that Luke was the referee, I already knew we lost,” said Mbenga. “I know how it is.”

That, and the smalls apparently went nuts from three-point land, led by Vujacic, who stepped in towards the end of the podcast to clear things up (“What was the final score, D.J.? … Next year again, huh?):

Phil Jackson After Practice (Audio)

Following Friday’s practice, Phil Jackson spoke to assembled media members about L.A.’s coming matchup with the Golden State Warriors, set for 7:30 p.m. in Oakland.

“There is a style they play, they’re going to play it whether it’s the preseason or the regular season,” he said of the team L.A. saw an inordinate number of times in the preseason. “The style is difficult to adjust to in the course of a season. You have to make adjustments and pick up people on the fly. Transition defense becomes ultimately important.”

Jackson made particular note of guard Monta Ellis, who’s averaging 23.4 points per game (seven spots behind league-leader Kobe Bryant) and talked about the importance of getting the ball in the paint against Golden State, even though the Warriors make that difficult to do.

Here’s the audio:

Artest Adds to Team Defense

Ron ArtestDuring L.A.s’ 2008-09 regular season, the to-be champs gave up an average of 99.3 points per game.

Fourteen games into the 2009-10 campaign, that number has dropped to 96.5 points per game. From Head Coach Phil Jackson to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, several Lakers have credited the addition of Ron Artest’s defensive skills with the early improvement of a team still learning how best to play together.

It’s no wonder than Artest ranks 5th in the NBA in plus-minus (+135), meaning the Lakers have outscored opponents by 135 points when he’s been on the floor. The only players above him are Dirk Nowitzki (+157), Al Horford (+155), Mike Bibby (+145) and L.A.’s own Kobe Bryant (+137).

Lakers Handle Glass, Knicks in Win

59006032Control the boards, control the game.

Basketball can sometimes be that simple, and it proved to be the case in L.A.’s 100-90 drubbing of the New York Knickerbockers that saw the Lakers dominate the glass 60-36.

L.A. was Mt. Everest to New York’s Santa Monica “Mountains;” L.A. was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar* to New York’s Danny Devito; L.A. was Shannon Brown’s hops to those of New York’s Spike Lee.
*In “Airplane!”, obviously.

“They took a lot of threes, and we rebounded the ball,” said Ron Artest (New York made 11-of-33 triples).

Not that it was a major surprise … after all, the Lakers came into the game ranked second in the league in rebounding, the Knicks just 25th, in part due to their style of play.

59006079“The up-tempo that they play with helps with more shot attempts,” added Pau Gasol. “They didn’t shoot a high percentage tonight so there were more rebounding opportunities” (N.Y. shot 39.8 percent).

L.A.’s control of the glass at both ends and what Kobe Bryant called “exceptional defense” allowed the Lakers to take a 21-point lead into the fourth quarter, and while New York would take advantage of 16 second half turnovers to cut L.A.’s lead in half late in the final period, the contest was never in question.

“They’re really aggressive on defense, made it hard for us to catch the ball easy,” said Knicks forward Wilson Chandler. “They pushed our offense back a little farther than we usually do so it was harder to get a decent shot.”

When Bryant hit two free throws to close the game while boosting his game-high total to 34, L.A. had sealed its fourth-straight double-digit win.

“We’re playing really well,” said Bryant. “We know what we can do, we know where we’re at, we’ve done it many many times before.”

Back to the glass: likely the league’s longest team (OK, definitely), the Lakers got 16 boards from seven-footer Pau Gasol in 28 minutes, 12 rebounds from 6-10 Lamar Odom in 32 minutes, eight glass cleans from seven-footer Andrew Bynum in 32 minutes and seven window swipes in 37 minutes from 6-7 Ron Artest.

59006034“They had a lot of length on us and the only way we are going to beat them is if we made some jump shots,” said Knicks Head Coach Mike D’Antoni. “Probably the biggest thing is, they are good.”

Arguably D’Antoni’s best player, David Lee, was certainly impressed.

“I think, and it’s only my opinion, (that) they’re the best team in the league,” he said. “I think until somebody proves otherwise, at this point they’re the best team in the league because of their depth and the weapons that they have.”

The Lakers, now 11-3, have three days until their next game on Saturday in Golden State, when they’ll resume their attempt at proving Lee right.

Until then, your numbers:

5 Lakers starters in double figures, led by Kobe Bryant’s 34, 17 each from Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest, 12 from Derek Fisher and 11 from Pau Gasol.

9 Bench points for the Lakers, compared with 41 for New York’s pine unit, which in fairness received considerably more playing time.

9 Fourth quarter turnovers by the Lakers, helping New York outscore the home team 28-17 in the period.

24 L.A.’s edge on the glass (60-36), not surprising as the Lakers are the 2nd-best rebounding team in the NBA and New York ranks 25th.

25 Times Kobe Bryant has been named Western Conference Player of the Week after he earned the honor for his 29.8-point, 6.7-assist, 6.7-rebound performance in a 3-0 week … sort of. The NBA used to honor only one player for POW honors until the 2001-02 season, when they split it up between conferences. Bryant earned two such honors prior to that season, and now has 23 in the West.

25Times Michael Jordan won Player of the Week honors in his career, which was the all-time high before Bryant matched him last week. Bryant further surpassed Magic Johnson’s 18 NBA POW awards as the franchise’s all-time leader.

Video: Lakers – Knicks Preview

Assistant coach Jim Cleamons joined us to preview the New York Knickerbockers (3-10), who won two consecutive games before falling to Boston in overtime most recently.

Cleamons explained why the Knicks remain dangerous and can beat anyone on any given night, talked about dealing with Mike D’Antoni’s offense and how the Lakers plan on controlling tempo.