Monthly Archive for February, 2010

Lakers 95, Nuggets 89: Diary/Postgame Wrap

59765571Lakers – Nuggets Preview Podcast
We took a look at the Lakers – Nuggets contest in L.A. while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers used a huge second half to beat Denver.

Lakers: Sasha Vujacic (shoulder)
Nuggets: Renaldo Balkman

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Nuggets: Billups, Afflalo, Anthony, Martin and Nene

100228kobebryantFirst Quarter
10:07 The game’s first variation from the norm came when Derek Fisher picked up his second personal foul just two minutes into the game, bringing Shannon Brown off the bench. Defensively, at least, this wasn’t a blow to L.A., since Brown’s bigger body is something Phil Jackson likes to throw at the 6-3, 202-pound Chauncey Billups. Brown promptly gave something on offense after checking in, hitting a jumper to put L.A. up 6-5 early.

6:21 Denver got the better of the first half of the quarter, building an 18-10 lead thanks primarily to four Lakers turnovers that resulted in six Nuggets points. All four TO’s came on steals for the visitors. Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant had yet to take a shot, focusing on getting the ball inside to Pau Gasol (three field goal attempts).

1:13 Bryant, frustrated that J.R. Smith didn’t get called for a foul when reaching around him hard on an entry pass, drew his 11th technical foul of the season. Players can amass 16 techs before receiving a mandatory 1-game suspension, so with 22 games to go, perhaps the greater worry was that the Lakers had yet to get untracked while trailing 29-21 after Billups hit the technical free throw and a three-pointer on the ensuing possession. That was the margin by which L.A. trailed after the first, shooting just 40.9 percent from the floor to go along with seven turnovers, six personal fouls and 2-of-5 free throws (Denver made 9-of-13).

Second Quarter
9:56 After yet another Lakers turnover, and Andrew Bynum’s missed lay-in from five feet away, Carmelo Anthony scored on back-to-back Nuggets possessions to put Denver up 10, its biggest lead to that point. Bryant, meanwhile, was just 1-of-5 from the field, and Bynum had yet to score.

597655686:52 Jordan Farmar’s corner three was much needed after the Nuggets’ lead reached 13 as the Lakers continued to struggle in general. They simply weren’t getting it done at either end of the floor, yet at least remained within striking distance. Three minutes later, needing a lift from someone after Bynum and Gasol both picked up their respective third personal fouls, Phil Jackson turned to Josh Powell … and J-Peezy promptly responded with two straight buckets in the paint, the second a two-handed dunk from Kobe, to cut the lead to nine.

0:37.2 Powell continued to influence the game with another dunk a possession after he’d found Odom for a layup out of a pretty three-man sequence of the triangle also featuring Bryant. Smith, however, picked up his fourth steal of the half and dunked at the other end to keep Denver up nine at the break, 52-43. Denver had figured out that the refs were letting a lot of reaching on the perimeter go, and unlike L.A. took full advantage by slapping at balls, helping cause 14 turnovers by the Lakers, already more than their season average (13.3.) Fortunately for L.A., Phil Jackson is perhaps the league’s best coach at making halftime adjustments.
*Also notable: rookie point guard Ty Lawson would not return for the second half after suffering a shoulder contusion on a collision with Bynum.

100228ronartestThird Quarter
8:56 Ladies and gentlemen, Phil Jackson! The Lakers were far more aggressive defensively to open the third, recognizing how the game was being called, and that played a big part of Denver starting 0-for-4 from the field, all on contested shots. Meanwhile, Bynum scored on consecutive possessions in the paint over the shorter Nene, preceding Artest’s swipe of Anthony and resulting layup. Then came another Nuggets miss and 1-of-2 Gasol free throws to cut Denver’s lead to 52-50.

5:22 After all that positivity for L.A., the Nuggets reeled off a quick 10-0 run to push the lead back to 11 at 64-53, capped by a two-handed breakaway dunk and then a three-pointer from Afflalo. The dunk was a result of his and Nene’s strip of Bryant, the fifth turnover for Kobe, whose broken finger can make controlling the ball more difficult. Oddly, the player who hadn’t been a big part of Denver’s run was Anthony, who’d made only 5-of-17 shots with Artest absolutely attached to his body.

0:17.2 How about Ron Ron? Two more all-up-in-Anthony’s-face defensive possessions caused two more turnovers, and L.A. capitalized half as much as it might have when Odom and Gasol each missed 1-of-2 free throws. Nonetheless, the game’s flow had returned once again to the Lakers thanks to some inspired effort on D, and L.A. had cut Denver’s 9-point halftime lead to just three at 70-67, despite only six points from Bryant.

Continue reading ‘Lakers 95, Nuggets 89: Diary/Postgame Wrap’

Podcast: Lakers – Nuggets Preview

59506128Last time they came into STAPLES Center, the Denver Nuggets emerged with a victory as Carmelo Anthony watched in street clothes due to a sprained ankle.

‘Melo’s back for Sunday’s matchup against the Lakers, which we previewed in full via podcast with Benjamin Hochman, the Nuggets’ beat writer for the Denver Post.

Among the topics we covered:

- George Karl: How does his illness affect the team?
- How and why Denver appears to think they’re better than the Lakers.
- As Hochman reported, Denver is 27-6 when Billups, Anthony, K-Mart and Nene all play … but do the additions of Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson – and not another big man – make the Nuggs better than they were last season?
- Anthony’s health. He missed 13 games combined in January and February, but appears to be almost fully back.
- Why Sunday’s game is different from the first two meetings between the teams.

Take a listen:

Backup Guards Chip In As L.A. Beats Philly

blog_100226brownfarmarWednesday in Dallas was not a good night for Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown.

Playing 28 total minutes off the bench between them in L.A.’s 101-96 loss to the Mavericks, the two guards combined for just nine points, two assists and two rebounds. Defensively, Brown had two steals and Farmar one, but they together drew the ire of Phil Jackson after ceding a buzzer-beating three-pointer to Jason Kidd at the close of the third quarter, giving Dallas a lead it would not give up.

That’s not ideal, to say the least, for two ultra-competitive guards that have collectively spent a large chunk of individual time honing their games not just in the offseason, but as the season’s gone on. Of course, winning remains the bottom line for both, and an unproductive game is easily shaken off when there’s a “W” after it.

Fortunately, the NBA season offers a new opportunity every a day or two, and the first chance to get Wednesday’s sour milk out of Brown and Farmar’s respective mouths came on Friday night at STAPLES Center against Philadelphia.

Take a look at the postgame box score from L.A.’s 99-90 victory, but don’t expect Farmar’s and Brown’s contributions to pop off the page.

Farmar: 19 minutes, 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting including 2-of-4 from three and 2-of-2 free throws, 1 block, 0 rebounds, 0 assists
Brown: 17 minutes, 5 points on 2-of-7 shooting including 1-of-3 from three, 1 assist, 1 rebound

But look a little closer: 10 points off the bench from Farmar and a defensive spark from Brown that woke up a somewhat dreary Lakers team were more than enough to help the Lakers win a game.

59491043Among Farmar’s points was a third-quarter-ending 3-pointer that put L.A. up five instead of two heading into the fourth, and his 17-foot jumper with 6:52 to play in the game gave the Lakers their biggest lead to that point (85-78). Brown’s defensive focus helped slow Philly point guards Louis Williams (nine points after the first quarter) and Jrue Holiday (eight total points), which is generally what L.A.’s coaching staff is looking for from both Lakers’ backups.

“We want them to bring some energy, especially on the defensive end,” said assistant coach Brian Shaw. “When they come in the game, maybe get a couple of steals, get out in the break, do something exciting and get everybody going.”

That’s good with Brown.

“Defense is always my main focus,” he said. “That doesn’t change from game to game. When I come in the game, it’s defense.”

Because Farmar and Brown play for the league’s most talented team – where Lamar Odom comes off the bench, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are capable of nightly double-doubles and Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant – they often don’t need to do much more.

“We really just try to play with a lot of energy,” said Farmar of what was left. “Stay aggressive but at the same time, don’t go out there and do too much.”

Not that they don’t want to do more, or that they can’t.

Farmar’s single game highs this season (24 points, eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and 27 minutes) and Brown’s (27 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals and 39 minutes) show as much. So did key playoff contributions last season, such as Farmar’s big Game 3 in Houston or Brown’s key third quarter stretch in Game 5 against Denver.

59745757It’s just that on some nights, there might not be as much of an opportunity. For example, Farmar has played more than 25 minutes just once. And on a night such as Friday, there was this: Bynum put up 20 points and 13 rebounds, Gasol 23 points and 11 rebounds double-doubles, Bryant finished with a team-high eight assists in addition to his 19 points and two steals and Odom added 11 points, nine boards and three blocks.

There goes the steak, the potatoes, the broccoli and the rolls off the plate, leaving just the sauce and some butter.

“I think we did in the second half a little bit, got some stops, a shot clock violation, some three-pointers,” said Farmar. “We were able to establish the motivation in our favor.”

True enough. Then with 6:01 to play in the fourth, veterans Derek Fisher and Ron Artest returned to close out the game.

What Farmar and Brown were able to add to the effort against Philadelphia certainly surpassed what they put up against Dallas, but it wasn’t the increase in production – however insignificant in the box score it may have looked – so much as the result that mattered on Friday, and that always matters.

“It’s all about winning a championship,” said Brown. “That’s the big picture. We’re just trying to help the team win.”

That, they did.

6 Big time celebs shown on the jumbotron late in the fourth quarter: Will Ferrell, Alyssa Milano, Ron Howard, Anthony Kiedis, John C. Reilly & Denzel Washington. Unfortunately, Jack Nicholson had already bounced from his usual seat.

8 Assists for Kobe Bryant, three below his season high, to lead the Lakers. Andre Iguodala had 10 for Philly.

32 Combined rebounds for Andrew Bynum (13), Pau Gasol (11) and Lamar Odom (9) to help L.A. edge Philly 47-43 on the backboards.

24 Points for Samuel Dalembert of the Sixers, his career high. More importantly, Dalembert was recognized on Friday morning by the NBA for his hugely important charitable efforts in his native Haiti, as he received the NBA Cares “Community Assist Award” for January.

64 Points in the paint for the Lakers, thanks primarily to the Gasol – Bynum duo that combined for 43 points.

Luke Walton Remains Out Indefinitely

59354315Luke Walton, who has appeared in only 24 games in the 2009-10 season due to a pinched nerve in his back, has not played since a five-minute, 44-second stint in Utah on Feb. 10.

Walton remains out indefinitely due to the pinched nerve, and there is no timetable for a possible return.

Video: Lakers – Sixers Preview

The final game of a road trip can be difficult in any NBA arena, and for the Philadelphia 76ers, Friday evening’s contest against the Lakers at STAPLES Center will be no exception.

The Sixers (22-35) began their trip in Chicago on Saturday, falling 120-90 a day after beating the Spurs 106-94 at home, and followed up with a 110-102 win at Golden State on Tuesday. Then on another back-to-back on Wednesday in Phoenix, Philly fell 106-95.

The Lakers and Sixers have already met once this year, with Kobe Bryant out-dueling Allen Iverson (who is currently on leave of the team while dealing with family matters) in a 99-91 L.A. win in Philadelphia featuring 24 points from No. 24.

Last time the two teams saw each other at STAPLES, however, the Sixers overcame a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to shock the Lakers with a 94-93 victory when Andre Iguodala’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer dropped through the net [Iguodala leads the Sixers in points (17.3), assists (5.8) and steals (1.9) while Samuel Dalembert paces Philly on the glass (9.6) and in blocks (2.1)].

As assistant coach Brian Shaw explained in the above video, the Lakers would clearly like to avenge that loss.

Andrew Bynum Fined

From the NBA:

NEW YORK, Feb. 26, 2010 – Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum has been fined $25,000 for publicly criticizing game officials, it was announced today by Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

Bynum was fined for his comments made following the Lakers 101-96 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Lakers Take Thursday Off

59062825The Lakers will hold no official practice on Thursday, opting instead for rest leading into a Friday-Sunday slate of games against Philadelphia and Denver at STAPLES Center.

As is customary, however, several players will congregate at L.A.’s practice facility for unofficial work outs, lifting sessions and treatment for various ailments. This group often includes but is not limited to L.A.’s non starters such as Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, D.J. Mbenga, Adam Morrison, Josh Powell and Luke Walton.

Among the players that could use a bit of rest is Kobe Bryant, who after 18 days away from NBA games played about 40 minutes in consecutive games at Memphis and Dallas.

“He was probably a little fatigued and tried to help other guys get going,” said Phil Jackson of his guard that scored 20 points and narrowly missed a game-tying three in the final minute.

Bryant and his full complement of teammates will head back to official work at Friday morning’s shootaround, when they’ll prepare for the 76ers.

We’ll be on hand to speak with assistant coach Brian Shaw for a video preview of the matchup.

Lakers – Mavericks Running Diary

59720396Click here for the Lakers Gameday Page
We took a look at the Lakers – Mavericks contest in Dallas while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked to win their third straight road game.

Lakers: Sasha Vujacic (shoulder)
Mavericks: Caron Butler (illness)

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Mavericks: Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood

How Good Is Dallas?
Few have questioned L.A.’s place as the team to beat in the Western Conference, particularly since the defending champion Lakers (43-14) have built a solid 5.5-game lead on second place Denver (37-19). But after making a trade with Washington that netted Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson for Josh Howard, James Singleton and Drew Gooden, the Dallas Mavericks (36-21) have thrust themselves into the “Who’s second best in the West?” argument along with Denver and Utah (36-20). For more CLICK HERE.

59720384First Quarter
8:10 Dallas showed L.A. something that they didn’t have in the past early, as Brendan Haywood scored on a turnaround jump hook from the baseline over Bynum. Erick Dampier, out a month with an injury, is not a scorer. Bynum, however, responded moments later with an offensive rebound and stick-back over Haywood to put L.A. up 12-10, which was close to the score of the Canada – Russia Olympic hockey game.

2:14 On Tuesday night in Memphis, Kobe Bryant barely grazed the rim all night on a beautiful looking jump shot (particularly with his two threes in the final minute), but he was all over the orange cylinder on Wednesday. He missed his first five shots against Dallas, but Bynum (eight points on 4-of-4 shooting*) and Artest (five early points) helped the Lakers stay level.
*How easily had Bynum been scoring against Dallas? He was 8-of-8 on Jan. 3, 8-of-11 on Jan. 13 and began 4-of-4 in this one.

0:44.7 On back-to-backs, it’s typical of Phil Jackson to play his bench guys early, and Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar had all checked in by the three-minute mark. It was Farmar who made the final contribution of the quarter, using Brown’s steal to convert a tough and-1 layup in transition despite being fouled by Jason Kidd. That hoop put L.A. up 23-20 after one despite Kobe’s 0-for-5 start.

Second Quarter
10:11 Odom had a spark of his own going to start the second, first nailing a three and then filling the lane for a lefty layup to make it 30-27 Lakers. Before the game, Phil Jackson was asked if he was at all worried with Odom’s rhythm being affected by Bryant’s return, particularly after his poor game against Memphis. Jackson’s response was, effectively, not at all.

7:07 As Odom scored again, getting to nine points to match Artest, LA revealed how its depth sometimes takes two games to showcase. Last night was all Kobe and Pau, but Odom/Artest/Bynum carried the Lakers early in this one, creating a 38-34 lead. In other news, Jay-Z and Beyonce were sitting courtside for the game, prompting the Mavs to put Beyonce’s SNL skit up on the jumbotron with the heads of Steve Nash, Manu Ginobili and Yao Ming in place of her dancers. Over/under on songs by those two played over loudspeakers: five (I’ll take the over).

3:25 Bryant hit for the first time on a tough baseline jumper, in the process passing Reggie Miller for 13th on the NBA’s all-time leading scoring list with 25,280 points. Up next is Alex English (25,613). Kobe then hit another jumper amidst L.A.’s 10-0 run, but the Mavs countered with a 10-2 run, including the final six points of the half, to get within one at 50-49.

59720393Third Quarter
7:20 Fisher made a ridiculous over-the-shoulder shot after being wrapped up be Stevenson on a breakaway, but the continuation bucket was waived off in favor of a clear path foul. Fish nailed both free throws and Bryant hit his third straight jumper, however, to make it a four-point possession. That helped the Lakers cut into what had become a five-point deficit when Dallas scored the first six points of the quarter.

5:45 Make that four straight jumpers for Bryant, who was scoreless in the first quarter but was clearly starting to heat up. That gave him 14 points on 7-of-17 shooting, 4-of-6 in the third, to put L.A. up 61-60. In other news, we were up to three Jay-Z/Beyonce songs at that point (I set the over/under at 4).

0:53.3 Gasol, with just nine points and four rebounds to that point, did show why he’s among the league’s best passing big men by spotting a cutting Brown for an easy layup to put LA up 72-71. Kidd, however, hit his fourth three-pointer of the game at the buzzer to give the Mavs a two-point cushion heading into the deciding quarter.

Fourth Quarter
8:53 Bynum, who hadn’t scored since the first quarter, got a baseline hook to go that brought L.A. within two points. The 80-78 score wasn’t indicative of the quarter’s early flow, however, as the Lakers had turned the ball over three times in the first two minutes and change, but watched the Mavs fail to convert the TO’s into points.

5:52 How much did the Mavs want to win this game? Dirk thrust his two hands up into the air after an and-1 put Dallas up 87-82 with nearly half the fourth quarter left, to be met by Terry’s two-handed fist pound on his chest. In related news, Terry had looked like someone who drank about five Red Bulls before the game, putting up nearly as many fist-bumps and crowd-prompts-for-cheering as points (24).

0:57.0 With L.A. down nine with 2:20 to go after a Terry layup, Odom exploded for six points in a minute, thanks to an and-1 layup and a corner three, before Bryant’s driving layup cut the lead to 97-94. Could the Lakers pull off two straight last minute comebacks?…

0:25.9 No. Bryant, just a night after nailing two threes in the last minute, actually missed a tying attempt after a big defensive stop from L.A. That forced the Lakers to foul, and Terry made both free throws to get to 30 points. Bryant and Dirk exchanged free throws in the final seconds, and the game was over, Dallas winning 101-96. L.A. seemed to run out of gas to an extent, as witnessed by the turnovers and some missed chances to clear rebounds. Bryant in particular looked a bit tired, playing big minutes for the second straight night after 18 days off.

L.A. will try to get back in the win column on Friday against Philadelphia at home, but until then, your numbers:

61 Combined points for Dirk Nowitzki (31) and Jason Terry (30). Lamar Odom’s 21 led the Lakers.

17 Turnovers for the Lakers, including six in the fourth quarter, which keyed the Mavericks’ final push.

8 Offensive rebounds for Dallas in the first half, helping the Mavs out-rebound L.A. by 10 (26-16).

6 Lakers in double figures, led by Odom (21), Bryant (20), Artest (13), Fisher (12), Gasol (11) and Bynum (10).

4 Three-pointers made by both Terry and Jason Kidd, on 17 total attempts. Kidd added 13 assists and seven rebounds for the Mavs.

Bryant Passes Miller For 13th on NBA Scoring List

59720393With a baseline jumper in the second quarter of L.A’s Wednesday evening contest, Kobe Bryant surpassed Reggie Miller for 13th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 25,280 points.

Bryant, who passed Jerry West for 14th in Memphis earlier this month, is within reach of Alex English (25,613), John Havlicek (26,395) and Dominique Wilkins (26,668).

Among the names Bryant has passed in the last few years: Larry Bird, Gary Payton, Clyde Drexler, Elgin Baylor, Adrian Dantley, Robert Parish, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson and Patrick Ewing.

Phil Jackson Pre-Dallas

Phil Jackson addressed assembled media before realizing that Caron Butler would not play in Wednesday night’s game due to a temporary reaction to some medicine that he took, so his answer (on video above) to the first question won’t apply to this game.

In response to a quesiton about Odom’s poor game on Tuesday in Memphis, Jackson declared that his versatile sub would be fine and that he isn’t someone the coaching staff worries about. “We don’t worry that much about Lamar,” he said. “He’s a pro and he knows how to get himself ready.” Jackson added that Odom isn’t like a Jason Terry, J.R. Smith or Manu Ginobili where quick offense might be available since Odom isn’t a quick-offense guy; in other words, sometimes he needs some time to get into the flow of the game.

The head coach also addressed how having Gasol, who didn’t play against Dallas last time the teams met, changes things particularly as related to Dirk Nowitzki. Jackson said that Gasol has shown the ability to guard him at times, but at others he hasn’t liked what he’s seen.

Jackson’s final note was that Kobe responded just fine to his first game back from injury.