Monthly Archive for January, 2010

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Lakers Win 3,000th Game

57643338Time to self-congratulate.

The Lakers became the first franchise in NBA history to reach 3,000 wins after a tough win in Dallas on Wednesday night.

Win number 3,000 snapped a four-game road losing streak for the Lakers and improved the 2009-10 squad to a league-best 30-9 record.

In Minneapolis, the Lakers won 457 times in the 1950′s, leaving 2,542 victories in Los Angeles, where the franchise moved prior to the 1960-61 season.

They’ll go for 3,001 against the Clippers on Friday night.

Lakers 100, Mavs 95: Running Diary

We took a look at the Lakers – Mavs contest in Dallas while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked to snap a four game road losing streak.

Lakers: Pau Gasol
Mavericks: Eduardo Najera, Matt Carroll

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom* and Bynum
Mavs: Jason Kidd, Josh Howard, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Erick Dampier
*Odom continued to start in place of Pau Gasol, who missed his sixth straight game with a strained left hamstring.

Pregame Stories
Three options for you today (click to open): 1) Kobe update; 2) Lamar Odom on guarding Dirk Nowitzki; 3) Luke Walton back update.

59271648First Quarter
8:43 Looking much like the Lakers team that played effectively in the third quarter against San Antonio without Kobe taking a shot, L.A. got seven points from Andrew Bynum, three from Ron Artest and two each from Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher to take a 14-7 lead.

3:32 Bynum continued a terrific offensive quarter with a step-through jam in traffic to get to a game-high 14 points before leaving with two personal fouls. He found more success going against Erick Dampier than he had Tim Duncan the night before, making all five of his field goal attempts. We should note that Bynum only late last week began feeling good after battling an upper respiratory ailment, in addition to a bit of leg pain that was limiting his explosiveness. Not even a trace of either in the last three games.

1:15 Bryant almost reluctantly took his first field goal attempt when the Mavs left him wide open from three, and he was well short. It was his only attempt of the quarter, and he went to the bench ala Steve Nash in lying down flat along the baseline. But his teammates allowed the Lakers a 27-24 lead after one thanks to a solid all-around effort. Random note: the Mavs had really good Chinese food in the media room, though one’s palate was expecting Mexican food. It took a while to get over mentally.

Second Quarter
8:23 L.A.’s second unit looked like the exact opposite of Arizona and Green Bay’s respective offenses last weekend in failing to score during the quarter’s first two minutes plus the final two of the previous quarter, but then turned into Kurt Warner (or Aaron Rodgers) as Odom hit two free throws and Shannon Brown scored back-to-back buckets, putting the Lakers back on top 33-29.

5:11 Luke Walton sure didn’t look like a guy who’d missed 27 straight games, continuing his solid six fourth quarter minute with a nice stretch to open the second, setting up two Lakers hoops with his passing and hitting a leaner in the paint to help L.A. open a 39-34 lead.

1:01 With Bryant still lying on the baseline, Sasha Vujacic entered and directly helped L.A. out of a mini offensive slump, first finding Odom cutting to the hook for a layup after drawing the defense, and then getting two free throws to go after drawing a bump in traffic, halting a 9-0 Dallas run to give L.A. a 46-45 lead. Artest then closed a solid personal half by getting Dirk to foul him with 00.2 seconds left beyond the three-point line, making all three to give the Lakers a four-point edge at the half despite no points from Kobe. Bynum also managed to hit two more shots to go 7-of-7, which meant he’d literally not missed a shot against Dallas in a game and a half (he went 8-of-8 when they met in early January).

Jordan FarmarThird Quarter
6:35 Artest continued an effective offensive game by hitting a triple that got him to 14 points, putting the Lakers up by two after Dallas had drained 6-of-8 to open the quarter. Even battling injuries, Artest has the capability to step up his offense if needed.

5:57 So, last night in San Antonio, a fan threw up all over the place after swallowing a bunch of jalapeno’s during a contest. As it turned out, Dallas did the same contest, but thankfully we had no barf in this one. No word on how this will affect the game’s outcome.

0:00.9 Jordan Farmar nailed a deep three-pointer from the top of the key to send the Lakers into the fourth up five thanks to a 7-0 run to close the third. Bynum got to a 21 and 10 double-double, in addition to some solid paint defense that largely kept Dallas out of the lane. Bryant managed eight points on 4-of-6 shooting to get himself into the action.

Fourth Quarter
12:00 As expected, Bryant stayed on the floor without a rest to start the fourth. The key for stiff backs is to keep them warm, which Phil Jackson obviously knew in keeping Bryant out of the second quarter so that he could play the entire second half.

5:55 For the second time on the evening, the Mavs grabbed two long rebounds on the same possession and scored on the third attempt, but Farmar hit a pull-up jumper at the other end to keep L.A.’s lead at six points. It was also a strong stretch from Walton, whose two assists gave him four off the bench in 14 minutes.

0:28.0 A crazy stretch in which Dallas erased a 5-point lead with two Dirk jumpers concluded with Bryant nailing a 19-foot jumper, just a possession after he’d air balled a jumper from the other side of the floor. The Mavs then ran a nice play to get Dampier what looked to be an open layup, but Bryant slid in and fouled him hard. Damp, who’s only a 58 percent free throw shooter, missed both to give L.A. possession.

0:05.6 After Bynum made 1-of-2 free throws, the Mavs had a chance to tie with a Josh Howard corner three, but he missed and Farmar corralled the rebound. Jordan, a 76.9 percent free throw shooter, nailed both to send the Lakers to their most impressive victory of the season. No Pau Gasol, a hurt Kobe … but they banded together and got the job done.

L.A.’s back in action against the Clippers on Friday. Until then, your numbers:

3 Lakers frontcourt players who finished with a double-double (that would be all of them). Andrew Bynum was terrific with 22 points and 11 rebounds, Lamar Odom was solid with 18, 14 and four assists, while Ron Artest battled injuries to post 16 points and 11 rebounds.

7 Turnovers for the Mavs; L.A. had to work for nearly all of its points.

10 Points for Kobe Bryant on 5-of-11 shooting, making L.A.’s victory that much more impressive. Of course, the team’s biggest shot was Bryant’s 19-foot jumper to break a 95-all tie with 28.9 seconds remaining.

31 Bench points for the Lakers in an impressive all-around effort, led by 12 from Jordan Farmar, and helped by four assists in only 14 minutes from Luke Walton.

48.8 L.A.’s solid shooting performance from the field, led by Bynum’s 8-of-11.

20,000 Point mark reached by Dirk Nowitzki, becoming the 34th player in the history of the league and first European player to get there. He led Dallas with 30 in the contest.

Walton Feels “Great,” Ready to Face Mavs

Luke’s back.

As in, he has returned from his back injury … not just that he’s back … you get it.

“I feel good,” said Walton, who returned for a six minute fourth quarter stint against San Antonio, his first action in 27 games. “I came in here and got treatment this morning, and I feel great right now. I’m excited … I told Phil I’d love to play more tonight.”

Walton explained prior to Wednesday’s game in Dallas that once his name gets called, he’ll forget all abou this back. It may be stiff in the morning, but, to be fair, it’s stiff every morning.

His primary focus in terms of basketball is to help improve L.A.’s ball movement, particularly with a second unit that managed not a single assist against the Spurs.

“It’s been missing in our offense for a while, just that fluid ball movement that the triangle is made for – the passing it to the open man, making the extra pass type of play,” said Walton. “I’m definitely going to try and do that as much as I can as opposed to go out there and try to score. Just get the ball moving and hope you get that flow back that makes us such a dangerous team.”

Phil Jackson thinks that will be the case.

“(Luke) just has a knack of playing, he knows how to play the game and fit in the system pretty well,” said Jackson. “He’ll help it out. We’ll see if he can play a few minutes tonight to give us some support.”

In Lamar’s Words: Guarding Dirk

Lamar Odom Dirk NowitzkiPrior to Wednesday’s game against Dallas, we sat down with Lamar Odom to discuss guarding one of the NBA’s best scorers of today and the last decade, Dirk Nowitzki.

I first asked Odom where his focus lies in playing Nowitzki, who has such a unique skill set:

You have to play the percentages, but it’s tough because in this game, you can’t have someone scoring in the paint. The contradiction of it all is that you have to make him take jump shots, and that just happens to be where he’s most comfortable. You just try to contest them and try to make him finish at the rim, which goes against all the rules of defense. He’s such a great scorer – he’s really good in the middle of the court. If you’ve watched NBA basketball in the last three of four years, you’ve had players post up in the middle of the floor, where it’s really hard to double-team. Dirk has a tremendous spin move and step-back (move) that at seven feet you can’t really guard … just contest it.

I was also curious how Odom thinks about dealing with Dirk in transition, because (as Odom explains) as a big man, Odom will often be responsible to sprint back on defense to get to the paint, which against Nowitzki can sometimes be fatal:

Dirk is a good defensive rebounder, and you have to be aware of where he’s at. Because he’ll grab the board, kick it (out) and then jog up the court. Sometimes as a power forward one of your responsibilities is to guard the basket, so he gets the rebound, passes it, you bust your (butt) to try to get back to the basket and protect the basket and there he is trailing for what just happens to be his strength, the three-point shot.

Kobe to “Give it a try” Against Dallas

In the third quarter of Tuesday night’s loss in San Antonio, Kobe Bryant’s back stiffened up on him to the point that he could barely walk, which kept him – reluctantly – on the shelf for the entirety of the fourth quarter.

Yet Bryant, determined to play against the Mavericks on Wednesday night, awoke at 5 a.m. to begin working his back into game-ready shape.

“I think he’s going to give it a try,” said Phil Jackson. “He’s spent all day trying to get himself ready for the game.”

Jackson explained that even if Bryant is hurting, he won’t necessarily remove him from the game if he’s still helping the team. If the team play is suffering due to Bryant’s back, however, he’ll likely come out.

“If he hurts our effort on the floor, you have to (remove) him as a coach,” said the head coach. “I didn’t like the way he was moving in the third quarter, but he was helping us play better as we went through that quarter.”

Jackson was also asked if he’d consider holding Bryant out for an extended period of time due to his various ailments.

“I don’t see why, unless he’s hurting the team out there and it would be a long-term situation where if he played now it would affect him five, 10 games down the line,” he explained. “I just don’t see that happening.”

In other injury news…

- Sasha Vujacic, who tweaked his hamstring against San Antonio, would play at the two guard in Bryant’s place, with Shannon Brown next on Jackson’s list after the Slovenian.

- Ron Artest, who’s battling finger and foot injuries, will start.

- Luke Walton (back) is again available, hoping to play as many minute as Phil Jackson allows.

- Adam Morrison, who suffered from a sore throat and flu-like symptoms yesterday, is feeling better and could play.

Lakers 85, Spurs 105: Running Diary

We took a look at the Lakers – Spurs contest at the AT&T Center while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked to snap a three game road losing streak.

Lakers: Pau Gasol
Spurs: Matt Bonner, Michael Finley

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom* and Bynum
Spurs: Tony Parker, Keith Bogans, Richard Jefferson, Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair
*Odom continued to start in place of Pau Gasol, missing his fifth straight game with a strained left hamstring.

Pregame Notes
In a pregame conversation with Stu Lantz, I essentially learned that we can’t learn too much from San Antonio’s early schedule (that make sense? no?). In short, the Spurs have beaten only three +.500 teams in 17 tries, but as Stu explained, we really aren’t sure what that means. Have they been giving their best effort? Gregg Popovich teams generally don’t turn it on until later in the season. Have they been healthy? Ginobili’s still working his way back. Have they played many road games? Not really. Either way, we really don’t know what kind of effort we’ll get from the Spurs in early January. Conclusions and rankings, Lantz said he’d save until the playoffs.

First Quarter
9:21 In Gasol’s absense, Andrew Bynum had put forth three straight double-doubles, and was well on his way to another after making back-to-back buckets inside, both courtesy of nice passes from Lamar Odom. In unrelated news, you gotta appreciate San Antonio’s mascot, which is basically a tall/skinny coyote that started juggling a soccer ball during a time out.

592649863:27 Kobe Bryant went back to the splint he’d worn after initially injuring his finger in order to get some more support (i.e. strength), and it certainly appeared to be working early as he made his fourth jumper in six attempts to get to nine points. He did, however, head to the locker room with apparent back spasms before returning shortly (this would become an ongoing issue that kept him out of the fourth quarter).

0:03.8 Antonio McDyess made the fifth straight shot for the Spurs to give San Antonio a 27-23 lead after a quarter. The Lakers did well to match the Spurs’ energy, which was superb from the jump.

Second Quarter
9:34 Bryant found a way to deal with his back initially, canning a turnaround/fadeaway three as the clock expired on one possession before nailing another jumper on the next. His 6-of-8 had produced 14 points. He’s good.

5:45 The Spurs got a terrific boost from their bench both at the end of the first and early in the second, capped by a George Hill steal of Bryant and resulting dunk. That hoop brought San Antonio’s field goal percentage to nearly 60 percent, enabling a 46-34 lead. By the way, did you know that San Antonio is the state’s second largest city, and seventh-largest in the U.S. with 1.3 million people? FYI.

1:56 Tim Duncan is still very, very good. As one of only three 20-10 guys in the NBA, he’s proven his still-elite status throughout the season; in the first half, he nailed 8-of-12 shots despite close defense from Bynum, helping the Spurs take a 53-41 lead into halftime. As a team, San Antonio hit 56 percent of its shots (roughly the percentage of phone calls that pay off for “The Situation”), while the Lakers managed just 44 percent shooting (more like Vinny).

Third Quarter
9:20 The third quarter has generally been kind to the Lakers of late, thanks in part to increased defensive pressure, but the Spurs refused to comply when Parker, Duncan and Jefferson combined to hit five jumpers (three for Parker, and a Jefferson triple) in S.A.’s first six attempts.

592649875:03 The Spurs continued to hit everything (8-of-9 to open the quarter), but L.A. was able to cut slightly into what had been a 22-point lead when Bynum scored on three straight trips for the Lakers, the third a thunderous alley-oop dunk from Bryant. Speaking of Kobe … he was clearly smarting from those back spasms, deferring both to Bynum and Artest (10 points in the quarter).

0:38.3 Two free throws from Odom cut 10 points off San Antonio’s 22-point lead, giving L.A. at least a puncher’s chance to come back in the fourth quarter. It’d be tough, however, without Kobe Bryant, whose back kept him from attempting even a single shot after hitting 7-of-10 in the first half, and would keep him on the bench (and in the locker room getting treatment) in the final quarter.

Fourth Quarter
8:25 Phil Jackson picked a rather important juncture to send Luke Walton in for the first time since mid November, the Lakers down just nine points after trailing by 22 in the third, and Walton responded by almost immediately converting a tough jumper in the lane to make it a seven-point game.

5:44 What an impressive stretch Walton turned in, all things considered … after that first jumper, he nailed another and then picked off Duncan’s pass in the lane before feeding Farmar for a fast break layup at the other end, cutting San Antonio’s lead to just six…

4:13 … But it took just 1:31 for the Spurs to roll off six straight points, essentially putting the game back on ice. That Bryant was unable to return due to a back injury was particularly ironic since Walton, whose back had kept him out for more than seven weeks, received many of Bryant’s fourth quarter minutes.

As it turned out, the Spurs wound up running the score back up to a 20-point margin (105-85) to close the game, sending L.A. into the second game of a back-to-back in Dallas with a loss.

Until then, your numbers:

0 Shots Kobe Bryant took in the second half, succumbing to back spasms that kept him out of the fourth quarter.

3 Injuries suffered by L.A., including Bryant’s back, a strained groin from Sasha Vujacic and a hurt Ron Artest finger. Pau Gasol missed his fifth straight game with a strained hamstring (though he targets Friday’s game against the Clippers for a return), but on the bright side, Luke Walton returned.

6 Minutes of effective action from Walton, who made two shots and grabbed a steal in his first minutes since mid November.

13 Assists for the Lakers on a tough offensive night.

23 Points from Andrew Bynum despite Tim Duncan’s defense throughout the game, in addition to eight rebounds.

57.3 San Antonio’s field goal percentage on the evening, compared to just 44.2 percent from the Lakers.

Lakers Set for Spurs in San Antonio

FarmarDuring the offseason following L.A.’s 2009 NBA title, San Antonio added veterans Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess and drafted effective rookie big man DeJuan Blair, moves at least in some part intended to better match the length of the Lakers.

With Manu Ginobili coming into the season healthy, and Tony Parker and Tim Duncan still sporting silver and black, most expected the Spurs to be among the Lakers’ toughest road blocks to a potential championship repeat.

If it were possible, the Spurs slid off the league-wide radar a bit after a 9-9 start, but are back on it after winning 13-of-17 games on the back of Tim Duncan, who’s averaging 20.0 points and 10.4 rebound as one of the NBA’s three 20-10 players.

“I think they’re playing probably the best ball they’ve played all year,” said Lakers Coach Phil Jackson. “Maybe they were disappointed with their Dallas loss last week, but they’ve been playing well enough to sit right in there. After a slow start, they have come back.”

The Dallas loss is indicative of the fact that the Spurs have had trouble beating good teams, going only 4-12 against teams at or above .500, and beating up on the weaker sub .500 teams to an 18-2 extent. Yet the principals for what made them successful throughout the decade remain.

“They’re a good defensive team, (and) they always stay in ball games defensively,” said Jackson. “They have three-point shooting concept in their offense; you have to be able to cover the penetration of Parker and still be able to recover to three-point shooters in the corner.”

Meanwhile, the Lakers aren’t exactly the Lakers, not without All Star Pau Gasol still on the shelf with a left hamstring strain (L.A. is 10-5 without him), Finals MVP Kobe Bryant nursing a fractured finger and Ron Artest still recovering from a concussion.

Of course, you won’t hear any excuses out of Jackson or Bryant in particular, who – as always – expect a fully competent effort out of the purple and gold.

The game tips at 5:30 p.m. Pacific and can be seen on KCAL/9 HD, NBATV and heard on 710ESPN.

Injury Update: Kobe’s Finger

Kobe Bryant made just 1-of-14 shots in the first half and 4-of-21 for the game in L.A.’s 95-77 win over Milwaukee, struggling to hit from the field for the fourth consecutive contest (33 percent combined).

The difference in that first half was that Bryant was attempting to play without a splint on his right index finger, on which he suffered an avulsion fracture earlier in the season that he said he aggravated against Sacramento (he also appeared to take a swipe to the finger against Houston on Tuesday evening).

Bryant explained after the contest that playing without the splint afforded him increased range of motion, but made his finger too weak to support his shooting stroke.

“It’s just not strong enough,” he said of the finger, which will of course not keep him out of any game action.

Phil Jackson blamed Bryant’s finger almost exclusively for his shooting struggles:

He has been fiddling around with his “prosthetic” for his broken finger. He went from hard to semi-hard protective plate that was in there and made from lead that was conformed to nothing at all now. It is noticeable in his shooting and he knows it so I think he is going to go back to what worked before.

In short, the splint will go back on until Bryant feels strong enough to shoot without it.

Lakers Buck Milwaukee, Win 95-77

59255024Free throws aren’t the most fun topic in basketball about which to talk (or write).

Not when you have dunks, three-point shooting, pretty passes, Kobe Bryant, or, well, anything (second-chance points, anybody?) to go over.

Yet after the Lakers made only five freebies to Portland’s 32 in a 107-98 Friday night loss – the biggest free throw discrepancy in the NBA since March of 2006 – the purple and gold took a different approach in converting 25 during Sunday’s 95-77 blowout victory over Milwaukee.

In what was otherwise a rather sloppy basketball game – the team’s combined to shoot just 36 percent for the evening – the Lakers repeatedly drove the ball to the basket at one end and flooded the paint at the other, producing a 61-43 edge on the glass and a gap from the charity stripe as wide as the Panama Canal (OK, not quite).

Jordan Farmar was one of three Lakers (Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant) to get to the foul line six times, and eight different Lakers went at least twice as L.A. made 25-of-30. The Bucks managed only 9-of-13.

“Personally, I like to get in the paint and make things happen,” said Farmar, who made all six. “(It helps) collapse the defense and make big plays.”

59255127And while Milwaukee’s defense was collapsing, L.A.’s was solid throughout the game, limiting the Bucks to an opponent-season-low 77 points.

In fact, L.A. made more free throws – 10 – in the first quarter than Milwaukee scored points as the home team took a commanding 24-8 lead that wasn’t seriously threatened throughout the evening.

By halftime, the Lakers had made 15-of-17 free throws and the Bucks only 2-of-2, which for once turned out to be the most exciting statistic as the teams combined to throw up 57 bricks, shooting a collective 29.6 percent in a first half as Milwaukee scored a season-low 28 for a Lakers’ opponent.

It wasn’t until a 13-5 run to close the third quarter, capped by Shannon Brown’s halfcourt, buzzer-beating three-pointer, that the game featured some good old-fashioned basketball fun. With the contest well in hand, Brown and Farmar put on a show, highlighted by two huge defensive swats at the rim by Brown and a personal 10-0 scoring run from Farmar that blew open a 26-point Lakers lead. The two guards combined to score 30 of their 36 total points in the second half, Farmar finishing with 17 and Brown a season-high 19.

Their scoring helped mask another rough shooting night for Kobe Bryant (4-of-21), which Phil Jackson blamed almost entirely on Bryant’s injured finger and the guard’s experimentation with and without a splint on his right index finger.

“He has been fiddling around with his ‘prosthetic’ for his broken finger,” Jackson explained. “It’s noticeable in his shooting and he knows it so I think he is going to go back to what worked before.”

59255094Also making up for Bryant’s shooting night was the glass dominance of Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, who collected 35 boards between them. Bynum set a new career-high with 18, and Odom had 17 to continue an impressive stretch that had him averaging 14 per night in the previous eight games.

As a team, the Lakers collected a season-high 61 rebounds, including 52 defensive. That, alongside the free throw gulf, was far too much for the Bucks to overcome.

L.A. is set to embark on a two-game Texas trip beginning Tuesday in San Antonio and continuing in Dallas on Wednesday; until then, your numbers:

1 Field goal made in 14 first half attempts from Kobe Bryant, who was experimenting by playing without a splint on his injured finger. He put it back on at the half, later saying that his finger simply wasn’t strong enough to support his shooting stroke without the splint. In other words, his range of motion is better without the splint, but the strength isn’t there. He re-aggravated the injury in the Sacramento game, and continues to deal with varying degrees of swelling.

12 First quarter points for Andrew Bynum, four more than Milwaukee’s entire team. Bynum finished a solid game with 17 points, a career-high 18 rebounds and three blocks. It’s no coincidence that Bynum was a game-high +31.

28 First half points scored by Milwaukee, a season low for a Lakers’ opponent in one half.

30 Combined second half points from Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar, both of whom scored 15. Brown finished with 19 and Farmar 17, while both players added four rebounds and three assists.

45 Feet from which Brown nailed a halfcourt buzzer-beating shot to close the third quarter.

77 Points scored by Milwaukee, tying a season-low for an opponent against the Lakers.

Pau Gasol Pre-Bucks Injury Update

Pau GasolBefore missing his fourth consecutive game due to a left hamstring strain, Pau Gasol told reporters that he felt some discomfort after running on a treadmill the previous day.

“There was soreness after a while,” he said.

Gasol, however, will try the treadmill once again prior to L.A.’s Sunday tipoff against Milwaukee, and said that he hopes to practice with the team on Monday.

Afterwards, he will accompany the team on its two-day trip through Texas, including a Tuesday game in San Antonio and Wednesday contest in Dallas. Whether or not he’ll play will continue to be determined on a day-by-day basis.

“I’m very hopeful that I’ll be able to play and be with the team soon,” he said, “How soon? I’m not sure, can’t really tell.”