Monthly Archive for January, 2010

Lakers 90, Celtics 89: Running Diary

59463519Click here for the Lakers Gameday Page
We took a look at the Lakers – Celtics contest in Boston while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked for their fourth straight road win.

Lakers: Adam Morrison*
Celtics: Marquis Daniels, J.R. Giddens
*Phil Jackson tends to activate D.J. Mbenga against bigger teams like Boston, and Morrison against smaller teams like Indiana.

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Phil Positioned to Tie Pat
With a victory tonight, Phil Jackson would tie Pat Riley with 533 victories as head coach of the Lakers. For more, CLICK HERE.

59463529First Quarter
10:27 Ron Artest appeared intent upon letting Boston know that he wears purple and gold now … his activity started before the game even tipped as he wrestled Paul Pierce for position before the ref threw the ball up (ref had to separate them). He then drew a Pierce defensive foul on L.A.’s first possession, and moments later nailed a three to put L.A. up 5-2 early.

4:07 A fantastic stretch from the Lakers showed through on the scoreboard, as an 11-0 run broke open the game after Bynum followed up Gasol’s layup and Kobe’s three with a layup near the rim. Pierce, Kendrick Perkins and Ron Artest had all committed their second personal fouls, bringing Tony Allen, Rasheed Wallace and Sasha Vujacic into the game, and L.A. was certainly the better team after eight minutes, leading 22-10 (speaking of Perkins … I’ve never once seem him smile. Ever.)

0:26.9 L.A. capped an excellent defensive quarter with a great individual defensive play, as Jordan Farmar picked off Tony Allen’s pass and threw down a breakaway two-handed hammer dunk at the other end. The C’s got a layup before the quarter ended, but had managed just 19 points to L.A.’s 30, the Lakers shooting 61.1 percent from the field.

Second Quarter
9:26 Rajon Rondo gave the Lakers’ second unit some problems to begin the second, resulting in consecutive and-1 layups after Luke Walton twice reached in before Rondo converted the buckets. His second hoop and free throw cut L.A.’s lead from 11 down to five.

5:33 It continued to be all Rondo for Boston, as the point guard scored his eighth point of the quarter and then earned his fifth assist in six minutes to cap a 21-10 run to start the period that tied the contest at 40 (related: Bryant was resting, not on Rondo). Gasol scored five points, meanwhile, for the Lakers.

1:27 Remember how good L.A. was in the first quarter? Boston matched that and more over a big stretch of the second, going on a 15-0 run as L.A.’s offense appeared to be back in California. That allowed Boston to push its lead to 10 points when Pierce hit a corner three, but Bynum’s put-back and Fisher’s first field goal attempt of the half – a three-pointer – cut that in half by halftime. In summation: L.A. scored the last five points of the quarter, but Boston still won it 33-17, thanks largely to Rondo, who had nine points, eight assists and two steals in the period.

59463608Third Quarter
10:00 The Lakers had yet to solve their Rondo problem from the second quarter, as the first-time All-Star scored consecutive buckets in the paint, though Fisher’s second three-pointer of the game kept the lead at six. Note on the crowd: probably the fewest Lakers jerseys of the season thus far, as the home fans managed to buy up most of the tickets. This is not surprising, of course.

7:36 Something we don’t see much of – an Artest pull-up jumper in transition – tied the score at 58. Off the box score and off the ball, Kevin Garnett continued to be as physical as possible with Gasol. The Spaniard wasn’t backing down, but he looked to be growing frustrated as the whistles weren’t blowing despite the contact.

0:31.3 Lakers fans love, on opposite day, when Pierce draws fouls by throwing his body randomly into the fray in the paint. His first successful such foray came late in the third, though his two free throws were negated by Bryant’s pull up jumper. The Celtics managed to add two point to their halftime lead, leaving the Lakers down 73-66 heading into the final quarter.

Fourth Quarter
8:27 L.A. needed a bench boost, and Shannon Brown provided a quick one by hitting a jumper in the lane and subsequently finding Odom in transition for a left-handed dunk that cut an 11-point lead to 81-74. L.A.’s bench had still been outscored 25-15 at that point.

3:24 Bynum doesn’t always get a lot of looks in crunch time, but when isolated on Perkins, he responded with a pretty move to the baseline and swished the shot to bring L.A. within two points. Gasol, meanwhile, was on the bench and Brown remained in the lineup. The Lakers had trailed by as many as 11 earlier in the quarter when Eddie House hit two three-pointers, but had rallied to give themselves a chance.

0:07.3 Wow. Kobe nailed the game winner. We’ve said that sentence before this season a few times, right? It didn’t come at the buzzer, but instead on a pull-up jumper in the lane over Ray Allen as the shot clock wound its way down. Swish. Boston still had a chance to win the game, but Allen missed an open three created by Pierce’s penetration (it was his sixth miss in six attempts from three for the game). Kobe had the chance to win it in part thanks to Artest’s driving layup on the previous possession, and like that, the Lakers had won four road games in a row to improve to 5-2 on the long trip.

They’ll close it down in Memphis on Monday, but until then, your numbers:

533 Coaching victories for Phil Jackson, who tied Pat Riley for the all-time Lakers lead.

61.1 L.A.’s shooting percentage in the first quarter, a number which dipped to 47.9 for the game.

50 Points in the paint for the Lakers, 18 of which came in the fourth quarter.

12 Assists for Rajon Rondo, who also led the Celtics with 21 points, though he cooled noticeable in the second half (just two assists). Phil Jackson credited Kobe Bryant’s defense in slowing the first-time All-Star late.

3 Straight regular season wins for the Lakers over Boston since losing in the 2008 NBA Finals.

Phil Jackson One Away From Riley

Phil JacksonWhen the Lakers beat the Celtics on Christmas Day last season, Phil Jackson earned the 1,000th win in his illustrious coaching career, then proceeded to pass Celtics legend Red Auerbach with his 10th NBA coaching title.

Fast forward to Sunday in Boston, when Jackson has the chance to tie Pat Riley for the most regular-season victories as the head coach of the Lakers at 533.

Jackson, who won 545 games and six championships with the Chicago Bulls from 1989-1998, explained that different people will identify him with both teams.

“There’s a generation of people that identify with the Showtime Lakers of the 80s and similarly with the 90s Chicago teams,” Jackson said. “I don’t know if you can say we’re the dominant team of this decade, but we are pretty close. I’m sure there’s a whole generation of kids who see me only as the Lakers coach.”

Either way … it’s quite a remarkable accomplishment, particularly as his .707 winning percentage (he’s lost only 446 games) is the league’s best of all time.

Practice Notes From Boston

Practice in BostonWhile winning three straight games has made the road a bit less weary for the Lakers*, the team was nonetheless a bit on the tired side after a morning flight out of Philadelphia to Boston prior to the team’s first full practice since the current trip began on January 20.
*Eleven of 13 days and seven of eight cities: check.

We took some notes during pre-practice interviews with Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to make sure you didn’t miss anything important:

- Jackson explained that the Lakers – Celtics rivalry is still alive, even if it’s different from how it was back in the 1960′s and 1980′s. “It’s a more civilized crowd,” he said, after referencing old fighting in the stands, beer throwing and the like.

- To Phil, Ron Artest can certainly continue to play as well as he did in Philadelphia. Jackson quipped that perhaps it was due to the presence of Artest’s father, though we learned last night that Artest is simply feeling healthy, finally.

- Jackson failed to attribute too much to Boston’s two-game losing streak through Orlando and Atlanta. “They’re still a team to be reckoned with in the playoffs,” he said.

- Kevin Garnett missed the first nine games in January with a knee injury and may not be back to 100 percent, but Jackson said that L.A. will still approach him as if he were. “He’s still a rover defensively, and he’s still a guy that’s going to hit those shots from 20 feet – you have to account for that.”

- Bryant said that he’s feeling OK after tweaking his knee and ankle in Friday evening’s win at Philly. He explained that it was his knee that hurt at first, but he simply walked it off until the pain was gone about five minutes later. His ankle began to get sore as the game wore on, but is not an issue for Bryant, who said he’s looking forward to trading blows with the Celtics.

- To Bryant, L.A. simply needs to match Boston’s intensity and energy on Sunday. It’s not so much about playing a specific style (i.e. a physical style), but bringing effort.

- The 2008 Finals loss isn’t something Bryant really thinks about; he focuses more on the fact that Boston simply plays very well at home.

- Bryant said that his finger is feeling about 80 percent better than it was at its worst point, and demonstrated to reporters that he has a bit better range of motion. Of course, it still looked pretty swollen, but to Bryant it had undergone “an improvement.”

- On the affect of losing in the Finals: “Last season we played the way we were supposed to. We played hard, and we carried the frustration from the year before. Hopefully we’ll do the same (on Sunday). It’s a game we look forward to, a game that’s going to be extremely hard.”

- Gasol said that while this is certainly a game L.A. would like to win, it’s not something that’s going to define a season one way or the other. Jackson and Bryant have echoed that sentiment as well.

- On attacking Kevin Garnett: “My understanding is that his leg is not completely healthy. I’ve seen him play, and I don’t know how much he’s struggling and hurting with it, because his injury was never clear to the public. But I’m just going to try and be aggressive with him no matter how his leg is doing. He’s playing, he’s a competitor and he wants to help out his team; I think he’s a good leader, and his team needs him.”

- Since Brown was traded just a few days after the team’s win in Boston last season, he’s yet to face the Celtics while wearing a Lakers jersey. Yet he already realizes that the stakes are different: “I never had the chance to play in this matchup, but I’m definitely excited to be apart of it. You still have to take the approach of respective them as a basketball team while just playing our own game. But maybe a little bit more focused.”

Artest (Finally) Feeling Healthy

Ron ArtestIt wasn’t until Jan. 24 in Toronto that we confirmed Ron Artest had been suffering from plantar fasciitis in both feet.

It wasn’t until Friday evening in Philadelphia that Artest admitted that the pain had been there dating all the way back to the previous season.

Fortunately for both Artest and the Lakers, the pain finally seems to be subsiding.

The evidence could be seen on the floor across L.A.’s last three road wins and in particular during L.A.’s 99-91 victory over the Sixers (he scored 18 points and locked down Andre Iguodala) and heard off of it.

“I started to feel good in Toronto,” said Artest. “Ever since Toronto I’ve been running really fast, and moving. Just moving. Even in the game where I had two points (Indiana), I felt great.”

Artest explained that while playing for Houston last season, he had torn two ligaments in his ankle but decided not to rest as he was not only trying to help his team, but because it was a contract year and he was determined to put himself in the best position to help his family.

“I played on bad ankles, and (the pain) went from my ankle to the bottom of my heel right to the bottom of my foot, and it kept on going from there,” he said. “I rested in the summer time, but I never really addressed it.”

Artest credited L.A.’s training staff with its great job in helping him rehabilitate the injury this season, all the way through his breakthrough in Toronto. He couldn’t have been happier to get his legs back; in fact, he had gone so far as to question his age.

“I’m like, ‘Is it fixable? Am I just getting old?’” said the 30-year-old small forward. “But (now) I”m able to play hard. I feel almost like old Ron, like I might be able to get it back.”

The best evidence, to Artest, came during the Washington and Indiana back-to-back games this past week, when he was still able to run well despite heavy minutes. He said that L.A.’s trainers continue to help him with the bottoms of his respective feet so he can carry his weight, and it’s working, particularly on defense.

“I couldn’t chase anybody that was coming off a curl, and that was a problem,” he explained. “I wasn’t able to really pressure, but ever since my feet have been feeling well, I’ve been able to pick up (defensively), run and cause havoc defensively. It’s great, I’m just happy that (athletic trainer) Gary (Vitti) helped me.”

The 18 points he scored against Philadelphia were key to L.A.’s win, as the first 10 helped overcome Kobe Bryant’s slow 1-of-7 start, and the last six were back-to-back three-pointer in the final three minutes that sealed the win. But it was his three steals and lockdown defense of Philly’s best player, Iguodala (3-of-7 from the field for eight points) that really impacted the game.

Yet as Artest revealed, his goals are simple.

“I don’t care about the points at all, I just care that I can run and cut hard,” he said. “Stop short, move again, hustle, chase hard off down screens, that’s all I care about.”

There’s another explanation, however (at least in Artest’s mind), to why his defense hadn’t been as good as it once was. In both Houston (especially after Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming went down with injuries) and in Sacramento, he was asked to handle the offense. But with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Artest said all he has to focus on is “hustling.”

Now that his feet are finally feeling good, he can do just that.

Lakers 99, Sixers 91: Running Diary

59443164Click here for the Lakers Gameday Page
We took a look at the Lakers – Sixers contest in Indiana while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked for their third straight road win.

Lakers: D.J. Mbenga
Sixers: Primoz Brezec

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Sixers: Jrue Holiday*, Allen Iverson, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Samuel Dalembert
*Assistant coach Brian Shaw suggested that Holiday may be starting because he’s more willing to play to Allen Iverson’s strengths than Lou Williams, the former starter, may do naturally. Williams, like Iverson, is more of a shoot-first guard.

Sixers Pregame Notes
To read about how the Sixers like to play, the change in their starting lineup, last season’s matchups between the teams and more CLICK HERE.

59443242First Quarter
6:53 An observation from the first four-plus minutes of play: Ron Artest seems to be moving better on his feet. He told Phil Jackson before the game that his feet were both feeling better, certainly good news since he’d been battling plantar fasciitis on both feet for the past few weeks. The result was three early hoops for L.A.’s only three field goals, the first coming after his defensive steal and sprint up the floor.

5:35 Thought you should know that Philly’s mascot is a rabbit named “Hip Hop.” Get it? Yeah. In basketball news, Shannon Brown checked in for Kobe Bryant, who’d committed two fouls.

0:33.9 Lamar Odom managed L.A.’s second bench bucket with a baseline jumper to give L.A. its first lead of the quarter after a sluggish 7-for-20 start (35 percent); moments later, Jordan Farmar’s jumper rimmed out, as L.A. took a 19-18 lead into the second quarter. The Sixers shot poorly as well, managing just 35 percent from the field including 0-for-3′s from Dalembert and A.I. (Iverson, not Iggy).

Second Quarter
8:41 Bryant’s first field goal in four attempts came off a nice out of bounds play, the result of which was a two-handed dunk. Shannon Brown, meanwhile, snapped the nets on two high-arching jumpers as L.A. opened a 31-23 lead.

6:21 “Cutting down the paint, Odom hammers it in!” – Spero Dedes, calling the play for us as Odom went on a three-step burst through the lane before slamming home a left-handed flush that put the Lakers up by 10. Moments later, Gasol’s tip in of Bryant’s miss capped a 16-4 Lakers run as L.A. continued to handle its business against on-paper inferior foes, as it had in Washington and Indiana.

3:25 Gasol went on a scoring binge in the second quarter with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, adding five assists and three boards to get to 10, five and five (triple-double watch) with time to spare in the half. He’d thus accounted for 20 of L.A.’s 26 points in the quarter to that point, which had built a double-digit lead that dipped only a point at halftime to 51-42. This despite Bryant making only 1-of-7 shots … but at least my cab driver on the way to the arena honked five times and frantically waved when seeing Kobe get off the bus upon arrival (Kobe waved).

59443156Third Quarter
11:13 Anytime Kobe appears to injure anything, near panic enters for those associated with Purple and Gold, but after appearing to tweak his left ankle and talking to Gary Vitti about it during a time out, Bryant simply walked it off … then picked Iguodala’s pocket … then hit a jumper. So no worries, after all.

8:02 Philly, to its credit, responded to L.A.’s opening salvo with a 10-1 run to bring the lead back to single digits at nine. Elton Brand led the way with back-to-back baseline jumpers to get himself to a game-high 15 points, and added an assist to Iggy.

2:31 All of a sudden, Allen Iverson turned into All Star starter A.I., going on a scoring binge to the tune of 15 points in the quarter, bringing the 76ers within just three points after L.A. had led by 16 points. But the Lakers happened to have the No. 13 pick in A.I.’s 1996 draft class, Kobe Bryant (A.I. was No. 1), and Bryant continued to shake off that knee tweak as he scored the final six points of the period and shifted over to Iverson on defense. No. 24 is something else … Lakers by nine after three, 76-67.

Fourth Quarter
9:53 Speaking of Kobe … he didn’t slow down in the fourth, nailing three more shots to get to 8-of-10 in the second half, scoring 20 of his 22 points. The fans, a select few of whom likely saw him play at nearby Lower Merion High School, were clamoring for more.

7:53 The 76ers weren’t quite ready to die, as Iverson’s jumper made it a six-point game heading into the home stretch.

3:00 Artest, who had scored just two points since the first quarter, nailed a big three to push L.A.’s lead to 11 as the game drew to a close. Moments later, he dropped another dagger triple to get to 18 points – his highest scoring game since November 28 against Golden State. The Lakers ended up winning 99-91 for the team’s third straight impressive/easy road victory, bringing the team to a 4-2 mark on the eight-game trip.

Next up is a Sunday showdown in Boston. Until then, your numbers:

1 Double-double for the Lakers in a relatively low-scoring game, as Pau Gasol went for 19 points and 10 rebounds, plus five assists.

2 First half points for Kobe Bryant on 1-of-7 shooting. Of course, he nailed 9-of-15 in the second half to finish with a game-high 24 points.

15 Points in the third quarter for Allen Iverson, who suddenly caught fire as if he were playing in the 2001 NBA Finals again. Kobe Bryant switched over to him on defense, however, and A.I. scored just six in the fourth quarter.

18 Points scored by Ron Artest, his highest output since Nov. 28 against Golden State, including two clutch fourth quarter three-pointers that sealed the win.

18 Also the number of turnovers committed by Philly, where as the Lakers had only 10.

Lakers Set for Sixers

Lamar Odom - Samuel DalembertIt’s been a struggle this season for the Philadelphia 76ers, who have lost twice as many games (30) as they’ve won (15).

Yet Philly remains dangerous due to a mix of young talent and an untraditional style that has helped them earn several quality wins: at Boston (98-97); at Portland (104-93); at Denver (108-105); New Orleans (96-92); and Dallas (92-81).

In January, the Sixers are 6-7, and have made a change to their starting lineup by putting rookie Jrue Holiday and Elton Brand into the mix and sending Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young to the bench. L.A.’s coaching staff acknowledged that Brand may demand a double team at times, which opens the floor for cuts within coach Eddie Jordan’s Princeton offense.

The Lakers will also be well aware of Andre Iguodala, who leads the team in scoring (17.6), assists (5.7) and steals (1.87), and beat L.A. himself with a buzzer-beating three-pointer last season at STAPLES Center. He finished with 25 points in that game, and the 76ers overcame a 14-point fourth quarter deficit.

But in Philadelphia last December, the Lakers won rather easily (114-102), led by 32 points from Kobe Bryant.

A few other notes heading into the contest:

- Philly’s All-Star starter isn’t Iguodala, but Allen Iverson, who joined the team after parting ways with the Memphis Grizzlies and has averaged 14.5 points and 4.4 assists in 20 games this season.

- Offensively, the Lakers will likely look to go inside once again to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, who have combined for 86 points in L.A.’s last two victories at Washington and Indiana.

- Kobe Bryant says he’s starting to feel better from his various ailments, and the recent numbers are backing up his claim. He made 8-of-15 shots in Washington (53.3 percent) and 10-of-15 in Indiana (66.7 percent) after failing to shoot over 50 percent in 13-of-14 games in which he was bothered by a broken finger (among other things).

- Tipoff is at 4 p.m. Pacific; we’ll see you on for full coverage.

Gasol Named Western Conference All-Star

blog_0910allstar_gasolJust like last year, Lakers forward Pau Gasol will be joining teammate Kobe Bryant on the Western Conference All-Star team.

The Spaniard was among seven players voted in by coaches around the league out West, alongside Dirk Nowitzki, Zach Randolph, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy and Deron Williams.

When Gasol missed a combined 17 games due to respective right and left hamstring strains this season, the Lakers won 11 times (nine of those games were at home) and lost six (64.7 percent), but with him on the floor, they’ve won 24 and lost just five (82.8 percent).

To reiterate, the Lakers have won 82.8 percent of games in which Gasol has played, and the team has not once lost three straight games since acquiring Gasol in February of 2008. His crucial role in the 2009 NBA playoffs and Finals didn’t hurt either.

Bryant, who led all Western Conference players in votes and will make his 12th All-Star appearance, has been constantly effusive about Gasol’s play, even saying in December that Pau was to him “absolutely” the best all-around post player in the league.

While sacrificing some of his scoring (17.6 this season compared to 18.9 last season on one fewer field goal attempt) to account for Andrew Bynum’s presence, Gasol has picked up his glass work (9.6 in 2008-09 to 11.0 this season), to rank seventh in the NBA. He’s also leading the Lakers with 1.7 blocks per game (12th in the league) and handing out 3.3 assists per night for good measure.

But what makes Gasol even more valuable is that he rarely, if ever, takes away from the team’s effort thanks to his elite efficiency on offense (54 percent field goals, 83 percent free throws), limited turnovers (1.9 per game) and ability to guard both forwards and centers without fouling (2.1 personal fouls per game).

Podcast: Building for the Second Half

Lakers Team in NYCAfter 41 games, the halfway point of the 2009-10 season, the Lakers led the league with a 32-9 mark (now 35-11) thanks in part to a heavy home schedule and despite various injuries including 17 missed games from All-Star Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant’s different ailments.

Instead of going through a game-by-game or player-by-player summary (the Lakers measure success in April, May and June, not November and December) – we enlisted assistant coach Jim Cleamons last week in Toronto to see how the coaching staff hoped to grow the squad from the first half to the second.

Among the topics we covered:

1) The difference of playing with and without Gasol
2) The bench rotation, specifically the emergence of Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown
3) Ron Artest’s integration with the team
4) The significance of earning home court advantage, and difference between competing in November and March
5) Playing with a target on their back
6) The impact of Kobe Bryant playing through pain

Just click the play button below to listen:

Lakers 118, Pacers 96: Running Diary

59424898Click here for the Lakers Gameday Page
We took a look at the Lakers – Pacers contest in Indiana while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked for their second straight road win.

Lakers: D.J. Mbenga
Pacers: Jeff Foster, Tyler Hansbrough

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Pacers: Earl Watson, Dahntay Jones, Brandon Rush, Danny Granger, Troy Murphy

Throw Out the Numbers at Home
While the Lakers happen to dominate the Pacers in most statistical categories and of course with their overall record (34-11 to 16-29), you can basically throw out the numbers at Conseco Fieldhouse, where the Lakers have won just three times in seven tries since 1999. CLICK HERE to read more.

59424925First Quarter
7:35 So much for being tired on a back-to-back … the Lakers conceded nothing energy-wise in the first four-plus minutes, scoring 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting including Andrew Bynum’s 4-of-4, to just eight Pacers points. L.A. was getting anything it wanted offensively, like Peyton Manning deciding which receiver to feed and calmly delivering. In related news, there were more than a few Colts 18 jerseys in the arena, but far fewer than I expected.

2:46 The Pacers went back to a more conventional lineup when center Roy Hibbert checked in for Granger, and immediately scored on consecutive possessions to highlight an 8-2 run that brought Indiana within a single point. The Georgetown big has nice touch around the hoop, and at least gives Bynum some length with which to contend.

2:03 Moments later, Hibbert got a welcome-to-the-game spin move and baseline hammer dunk from Gasol. Pau actually struggled with his shot in the period, making only 2-of-8 attempts, but both Bryant and Bynum made all five of their attempts to get the Lakers a 31-29 lead after one.

Second Quarter
10:53 Back on Jan. 3 in a blowout of Dallas, Bynum was a perfect 8-of-8 from the field in the game. In 11:22 of action tonight, Bynum’s again a perfect 8-of-8 from the field, for a game-high 18 points. For how easily Bynum was scoring (he was almost indifferent, just dropping in layups), Murphy and Hibbert may as well have been AAU guards.

7:45 Though Bynum and Bryant still had yet to miss, the rest of the Lakers were only 4-of-21 as a Brandon Rush three gave Indiana its first lead of the night. Suppose you could blame a part of L.A.’s defensive indifference on last night’s game but we’ll likely see that pick up in the second half. The Lakers also generally take a bit to feel out their opponent if it’s the season’s first meeting, then make appropriate adjustments at the break.

0:00 Sasha Vujacic, who’d checked in for the last nine seconds of the ball game, received a corner pass from a slashing Bryant but instead of shooting, kicked the ball out to Lamar Odom, who nailed the three at the buzzer. Vujacic, who is constantly playing shooting games with assistant Brian Shaw before games and generally bantering with him, sprinted over to Shaw and said something while Shaw laughed hysterically. Lakers 59, Pacers 56 at the break.

L.A. was led by Bynum’s terrific 22 points and seven boards, while Odom grabbed nine boards off the pine and Bryant put forth 10 points on six shots, with three assists and four boards.

59424948Third Quarter
9:54 What’s the deal with Murphy’s shots rolling around the rim for two seconds before falling in? His three just did so, much like last season’s game winner in this building, to bring Indy within two points.

7:58 While Josh Powell yelled “Let’s go D!!!” for a steady minute, the Lakers followed a general season trend by stepping up their defense in the third quarter. In concert, the offense found easy looks in transition to go on a quick 8-0 run that produced a 10-point lead, capped by a Kobe three and a Pau and-1.

1:14 Odom’s second three-pointer of the game pushed L.A.’s lead to 16 points, as the predicted third quarter push came to put the Pacers in serious jeopardy. Bynum (11-of-13) and Bryant (8-of-12) had combined for 48 points at that stage, and the Lakers headed into the fourth with a 92-78 lead after a Hibbert jumper pulled two points back.

Fourth Quarter
9:10 Bynum rightfully reached his season high early in the fourth on a baseline hoop, getting to 27 points on 12-of-14 shooting, which brought him to 57.2 percent on the season. He added 12 rebounds for good measure.

6:21 Shannon Brown’s two free throws capped an 8-0 bench run that also featured two Farmar buckets and an Odom jumper, creating a 104-87 lead for the purple in gold as the game looked increasingly over. At least the fans here have the Colts in two weekends.

3:19 Bryant left the game to a standing ovation from the scores of Lakers fans in the house after swatting Hibbert from behind. His totals: 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in 35 minutes, the team up 111-92. The game would end moments later with a 118-96 final, allowing the Lakers to improve to 34-11 on the season.

Up next is a Friday contest in Philadelphia, but until then, your numbers:

71 Points shy of Jerry West’s all-time points total after another 29, which came on 10-of-15 shooting and 6-of-8 from the line. Bryant added nine rebounds and a team-best seven assists in yet another impressive performance.

54 Points in the paint for the Lakers, thanks in part to Andrew Bynum (see below), to just 32 from the Pacers.

30 Free throw attempts for the Lakers, of which they made 25. The Pacers were just 11-of-14.

27 Season high in points from a super efficient Bynum, who made 12-of-14 shots and all three free throws, not to mention 12 rebounds.

7 Game streak snapped when Jordan Farmar didn’t connect on at least one three-pointer.

Lakers – Pacers: Throw Out the #’s in Indy

Here’s a quick team statistical comparison between the Pacers and Lakers, based on the NBA league leaders:

Points/game: Lakers 5th, Pacers 17th

FG%: Lakers 14, Pacers 27

FT%: Lakers 7, Pacers 12

3-pt FG%: Lakers 15, Pacers 26

Off. Reb./gm: Lakers 10, Pacers 24

Def. Reb./gm: Lakers 2, Pacers 5

Rebounds/game: Lakers 2, Pacers 10

Assists/game: Lakers 8, Pacers 19

Steals/game: Lakers 11, Pacers 24

Turnovers/game: Lakers 7, Pacers 28

Blocks/game: Lakers 16, Pacers 3

These numbers clearly reflect the discrepancy between the team’s records (34-11 vs 16-29), but yet in Indiana, the Lakers struggle to win, having earned just three victories to seven losses at Conseco Fieldhouse since it opened in 1999. Of course, the rankings apply only to this season, but the numbers were similarly disparate last season when Troy Murphy’s tip in beat L.A. at the buzzer.

“It’s been a hard place for us to play,” said Phil Jackson. “The Pacers play well here, they have a good fan base; they play a little bit of a different style. They push the ball relentlessly, and they have these angles that they work at that prevent us from doing our normal defensive system.”