Monthly Archive for April, 2010

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Video Preview: Game 3 in OKC

L.A.’s coaching staff knows what it wants to do in Game 3 against Oklahoma City, since the game plan remains pretty similar to that of the first two contests.

Among the primary keys remains limiting the Thunder’s transition opportunities, which L.A. did successfully in Game 2 (OKC had 11 fastbreak points to L.A.’s six) in part by taking care of the basketball.

Futhermore, as assistant coach Jim Cleamons detailed to us on LakersTV after the team’s Thursday morning shootaround at the Ford Center, the Lakers will also look to stick with Kevin Durant around screens, use the crowd’s energy in their own way and focus on continuing to limit the productivity of the Thunder bench.

Energy, Pressure, or Both For OKC?

D072503018.JPGIn the First Round of the 2008-09 NBA Playoffs, a young Portland Trail Blazers team was set to face off against a veteran-laden Houston Rockets team in its first playoff appearance since the 2002-03 season.

The Blazers had earned home court advantage by finishing fourth in the Western Conference in the regular season, and one of the league’s more outwardly supportive and festive home crowds brought the house down long before the game even began.

But when the game tipped off, the Rockets started to nail shots. An anxious crowd, desperate to get involved, jumped over to the quiet side of the fence, and Houston just kept pushing, ultimately running away with a 108-81 victory. An obvious key factor was that Houston played both loose and aggressive, while Portland tightened up in its first playoff game in front of family, friends and partisan supporters.

Fast forward to April 22, 2010, when the Oklahoma City Thunder are the young team playing in their first home playoff game since 2004-05 as a franchise (Seattle Supersonics, as it were), and first ever in Oklahoma. The Thunder impressively showed little hesitation in Los Angeles, playing with no tightness whatsoever (perhaps with the exception of crunch time), playing with house money.

The question is, are the Thunder still playing with that house money in front of a crowd that will be as excited as Craig Calloway was after nailing the Mirage half court shot? Does the pressure shift to OKC, even with said pressure seemingly always on the Lakers to win (they’re used to it)?

Maybe. Maybe not.

60017551Phil Jackson, who has been in just about every possible playoff situation, could argue either side. Here’s what he said when I asked him if the home crowd’s energy, which he acknowledged should pump up the Thunder, could potentially work against them.

“It can, it really can,” he said. “(But) the idea that I think they have is that, ‘We’re not expected (to win), this is an underdog role, whatever we do is an unbelievable accomplishment for a very young franchise,’ and that’s probably the message they have.”

Then there’s Lamar Odom’s answer to the same question.

“If we can get them out of the game early, if we can seize the momentum and make it kind of quiet in there really early, their crowd can work against them,” said Odom. “You know how the crowd gives the home team energy? If we can take the crowd out of the game, we can sap the energy.”

Particularly since OKC hasen’t hosted a playoff game, one wonders?

“Yeah because they don’t know what to expect, they haven’t seen a lot of games like that before,” the lanky lefty continued. “If we can come out and execute, get some dunks and layups early, knock down our open shots hopefully we can take their energy.”

Maybe none of that matters at all. Maybe offensive execution and the continued defensive energy that both teams showed in Los Angeles is really what will decide the game.

But let’s keep an eye on that home crowd, and L.A.’s early offense. We’ll have an answer soon.

Phil Credits Bench, Still Wants More
The performance of L.A.’s bench in Game 2 of the team’s First Round series wasn’t particularly notable on paper, much like in Game 1. Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown combined for 15 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two steals, making 6-of-17 shots (Odom was 2-for-9).

That was more than the Thunder’s bench had to offer, however: 12 points, nine rebounds, two steals from Eric Maynor, Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka (who did have seven major blocks).

What does Phil Jackson expect now that the Lakers head to Oklahoma?

“I actually think we have to play our bench more on the road,” he said. “(The bench) has to give us a little more of a bump out there, (but we) have to give them credit, they’ve held their own against the Oklahoma bench. We’ve really survived that well.”

Jackson, of course, does want more particularly from Odom.

“Lamar has to give us an imprint on the ball game,” he said. “It’s an understanding of what the game is. Opportunities (for) shots, little things like that, pockets he finds for penetration. And then the ball movement that he can create by his penetration.”

Of this, Odom’s well aware.

“I’ll find it,” he said. “I want to get myself going offensively.”

Bynum A Bit Tender … As Expected
Andrew Bynum’s Game 2 production didn’t match the 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks he offered in Game 1 despite not playing for almost a full month. Instead, the Thunder completely packed the paint, and limited Bynum to six points with 10 boards and a block in 31 minutes.

This was no cause of concern for Phil Jackson, however. Neither was the fact that Bynum sat out Wednesday’s practice in favor of treatment for his Achilles, which was a bit sore. As team spokesman John Black confirmed, that was not a surprise, and Bynum will start against OKC on Thursday.

Craig Calloway Nails Mirage Half Court Shot

60223715Craig Calloway, a 29-year-old transportation electrician from Compton, California, stepped up and buried the biggest shot of his life, from half court, on Tuesday night before the fourth quarter of L.A.’s win over Oklahoma City.


Just like that, Calloway was the Mirage Big Shot Jackpot Winner, taking home a clean $235,000 for just a few seconds of work (insert Marv Albert’s “Yesss!!!!”).

We caught up with Calloway during the fourth quarter of the contest:

MT: First of all, congratulations. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Craig Calloway: I’m from Compton, California, I’m 29 years of age. I played basketball, actually. I went to Long Beach Jordan High School, and California State Northridge after that. I’m a transportation electrician, local union 11, IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers). Intersections, street lights.

60223702MT: Great. Take us through your halfcourt shot. Nice form, by the way…
Calloway: Man, I’ll tell you the honest to god truth: we’re in the gym, we shoot, we start making them in close and like everyone else you start gradually getting further and further away. Everybody knows, the half court shot is the thing to shoot (Editor’s note: Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar certainly agree). So you just sit there and shoot them. I just shot it the same way I do in the gym. That’s all I know how to do, just shoot.

MT: How does this change your life?
Calloway: Man, to be honest, the same thing. I’m going to keep doing the same things I’ve been doing. It’s been working for me, I’ve made some changes in my life. Thanks to Mirage.

MT: Is this the kind of thing where you can take care of some things that have been hanging over your head? I know we all have bills to pay…
Calloway: That’s exactly what I plan on doing, and not just mine, I want to take care of some of my family’s as well.

MT: Some people would immediately take this money and think about what they could buy, but you seem focused on taking care of things and living your life the same way.
Calloway: Exactly. That’s exactly right, all I want to do is clear my credit and help out some other family members, but I won’t be high profile with it. I won’t do it.

MT: I’m guessing you’re a big Lakers fan, and as we do this interview, Kobe just hit back-to-back jumpers in the fourth quarter. That works, right?
Calloway: The atmosphere is unbelievable. The Lakers are playing a tough game and these young Thunder boys are playing tough. But I know you all can’t hear me since Kobe hit an and-1!

MT: Back to the shot itself, you had a solid approach, I have to say. Kept the walk up short, went from the chest … and then swish.
Calloway: To be honest, I thought it was short. I knew it was straight, but thought it was short … but when I saw it, it seemed like something pushed it up and then it went straight through.

MT: What was your first thought when it went through?
Calloway: (pauses) I told you so. Ha. No, but I have so much confidence in myself, I relished the opportunity like this. You can only make or miss it, and I said, ‘I’m gonna hit it!’ I’m not going to tell myself, ‘I might,’ I’m gonna say that I can. And it happened.

MT: Congrats once again, awesome stuff Craig.
Calloway: Thanks to everyone, man.

Kobe, Lakers Go up 2-0: Postgame Wrap

60223884Though it took them all 48 minutes of Tuesday evening’s Game 2, the Lakers ultimately prevailed with a 95-92 victory against Oklahoma City behind 39 points and some vintage toughness from Kobe Bryant.

With his father Joe “Jellybean” Bryant seated across from L.A.’s bench, Kobe missed a number of good looks to go 8-for-20 shots in the first three quarters.

But as he’s done so many times when it counts, No. 24 rallied to convert down the stretch. He buried three consecutive jumpers in the middle of the period, then closed the game with another jumper and five makes from the foul line to score 15 of the team’s 22 points.

“One of the best players ever,” said Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks. “You expect him to make big shots and tonight he did … (but) it’s not about scoring points … he brings that toughness. He was great tonight.”

“I put in a lot, a lot of work over the last month or so every day, just kind of fine-tuning things,” said Bryant, referring to his shooting with a broken finger. “Trying to figure things out with the stroke, trying to get it back to being consistent, and tonight it felt good.”

60223876L.A. certainly needed it, because it was only fellow All-Star Pau Gasol – 25 points and 12 rebounds – from whom else the Lakers got offense. Derek Fisher and Ron Artest made just 2-of-10 shots apiece, while Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum combined to go 5-of-18 as the team shot 37.5 percent overall.

“Our shooting was horrendous tonight,” said Phil Jackson. “Ron, Fish, Lamar, guys that are experienced players in the NBA … We’ll have to shoot much better to beat them in Oklahoma.”

L.A. led by eight after the first quarter, trailed by two at halftime and led by four into the fourth quarter before holding on thanks to Bryant on offense, and the Spaniard’s active hands that helped forced two key turnovers in the final minutes on Kevin Durant.

“Those plays were big,” said Gasol, who impressed with a 25-point, 12-rebound double-double. “Defensively you have to get stops no matter what to win ball games, and that’s what I try to do. I try to be active, and I just tried to help Ron (Artest) as much as I could with active hands.”

Artest was again draped to OKC’s leader throughout the evening, stripping him several times and playing a role in his 12-of-26 shooting. Durant, despite eight turnovers, still had a chance to give his team the lead on a 3-point attempt in the final seconds, but it wasn’t to be.

“Ron has done a great job,” said Odom. “He’s made him take tough shots.”

Durant still managed 32 points, and while Russell Westbrook added 19 with three assists on 5-of-10 shooting and 8-of-8 from the line, the Lakers did a good job of containing his penetration, limiting the Thunder to just an 11-6 edge in fastbreak points.

OKC did manage to block a ridiculous 17 shots, led by seven from sub Serge Ibaka, but their activity left the offensive glass open for the Lakers, who won that category 19-7 and claimed the overall edge on the backboards 49-37.

We’ll have much more from Lakers practice tomorrow, but until then, your numbers.

5 OKC’s edge in fastbreak points, much better than the 14-2 margin it held in Game 1.

8 Turnovers for Kevin Durant, including two crucial cough ups in the final minutes, thanks to Ron Artest (four steals) and Pau Gasol’s helping hands. Durant did manage 32 points on 12-of-26 shooting with eight boards and four blocks.

17 Blocks for the Thunder, the league’s best shot-blocking team in the regular season, though they managed only three swats in Game 1. Serge Ibaka had seven of them himself.

19 Offensive boards for the Lakers, thanks in part to the Thunder’s super-aggressive defensive style, as OKC’s bigs repeatedly went for blocks. L.A. won the overall battle of the glass 49-37.

39 Points from Kobe Bryant to lead all scorers, on 12-of-28 shooting and 13-of-15 from the line. He scored 15 of his points in the fourth quarter and added five boards with two steals and an assist.

Lakers 95, Thunder 92: Game 2 Running Diary

60223737Lakers – Thunder Gameday Page
The Lakers looked to hold serve against Oklahoma City in Game 2 of their first round series, and we took a quarter-by-quarter look at the contest to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Lakers: Sasha Vujacic (ankle)
Thunder: Byron Mullins, DJ White

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic

Phil Jackson on Kobe Bryant
Lakers head coach Phil Jackson talked Kobe, Kobe and more Kobe in his pregame session with the media, which you can read in its entirety by CLICKING HERE.

60223892First Quarter
11:25 Kobe Bryant’s father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, was seated directly across from L.A.’s bench wearing a black Nike cap. His son promptly nailed his first jumper of the game from the wing near JellyBean’s seat. Give him the assist on that one.

6:36 Bryant added two more early buckets to score six of L.A.’s first eight points, and Artest hit an open three after going 1-for-8 in Game 1 to tie the game at 11. On the other hand, Andrew Bynum had yet to take a shot, and Pau Gasol’s only attempt was a face up 17-foot jumper. That went against what Phil Jackson and his coaching staff generally look for, but the Thunder were doing a good job of denying entry passes. However, L.A. still went on a 9-4 run capped by Jordan Farmar’s fresh-off-the-bench 3-pointer to take a 20-15 lead in a good stretch at both ends.

0:34.2 Kevin Durant scored his 10th point of the quarter by hitting 1-of-2 free throws, but needed nine shots to get there (making four field goals). Artest remained just as much in his personal space as in Game 1, and forced two turnovers himself by stripping the ball out of the league’s leading scorer’s hands. Artest’s defensive energy leaked outwards, as the Lakers held OKC to only three points in the final five minutes to take a 26-18 lead into the second quarter.

Second Quarter
8:25 Bryant’s return from the bench was immediately marked by his made jumper off glass, which put the Lakers up 11, a high-point first reached when Shannon Brown joined Farmar with a three off the bench. The bench duo provided a similar boost in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Also, they have a combined vertical leap of about 77 inches.

4:48 Just an odd few minutes of basketball in the middle of the second quarter, including several missed layups from the Lakers (including one from Kobe in transition after Artest had artfully stripped Durant once again before saving the ball from going out of bounds with an in-between-the-leg pass), some interesting calls at both ends and the consumption of four churros in three minutes by me (last one unrelated). Alas, the Thunder got the better of the stretch, cutting an 11-point lead to two on Jeff Green’s corner three.

0:00 The odd quarter turned quite negative for the Lakers, as OKC rallied from the 11-point deficit to take a 47-45 lead into halftime. The Lakers had 10 turnovers, and Bryant continued to miss at the rim while protesting for fouls (credit Serge Ibaka’s presence to an extent), and Durant got it going on the other end to score nine of his 19 points. The expression on Bryant’s face heading into the locker room could serve as one of the scarier Halloween costumes. Of course, he still had 24 minutes…
Continue reading ‘Lakers 95, Thunder 92: Game 2 Running Diary’

Pregame: Phil Jackson on Kobe Bryant

D070840014.JPGPrior to L.A.’s Game 2 contest against Oklahoma City, Phil Jackson offered his take on Kobe Bryant’s struggle with his shooting and more in an interchange with collected media members. Here’s the transcription:

Q: On the reasons why Jackson wasn’t happy with how many touches his big men received in Game 1.
Jackson: I think a lot of it has to do with (having) Kobe back on the floor and the amount of attention he gets from some of our guys. They want to give him the ball inside of really seeing that the post is open, (and they’ve) got to pass it in there. They see where Kobe is a lot of times, and sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the most grease.

Q: On if he’s concerned about Kobe for the next 20 games.
Jackson: If Kobe’s going to play this style of basketball, he has to adjust his game to match ours. He can still play exactly the way he’s playing right now, but he has to limit the amount of shots he takes. Obviously he can’t shoot 30-something percent. He can’t shoot that percentage and have us be successful. Either his proficiency has to increase or he has to become a playmaker out of those things. But he can still draw all the attention and still make the plays.

Q: On how Jackson communicates about that with Bryant.
Jackson: Through various means. He is well aware of it. He’s a little befuddled by it, but coming to terms with it. He’s looking for a break out game. He hits a three the other night in a critical situation, clock-ending situation. Ball goes in. Great. Comes down and steps back for another three that doesn’t go in. Those are the things that he’s used to, that moment that when he gets hot he stays hot and can ride seven consecutive scoring opportunities down the floor. That hasn’t happened, and that makes all the difference in the world to his game. He’s still searching to step into that moment when he gets hot and stays hot.

Q: More on Bryant’s shooting:
Jackson: He had a lot of good look jump shots that he just didn’t want to shoot (on Sunday), or chose to drive or make a play. But he had some real good looks in the elbow area. His turnaround jump shot has always been a staple for him. That’s one of the things that he has to find. He’s been a guy that completes at the basket, and that’s something that hasn’t happened for him. He missed a couple inside that he makes on normal occasions.

Q: On what he thinks is specifically bothering Bryant the most:
Jackson: I thought he had live legs again on Sunday. I liked that. That’s why I’m optimistic. I think (what’s limiting him) is a combination of all these things. Right now it’s being out of rhythm having to sit out and get himself prepared for (the playoffs). But he’ll be back, and he’ll be back strong.

Q: On Bryant’s attitude and reception to coaching and playing:
Jackson: I think he searches for his teammates to show direction or initiative, and if they don’t, he’s going to step into the vacuum as quickly as a wink. Because if they’re not active and directive and attacking and doing things that he sees this offense has to do, then he’s going to step in and carry the torch.

Lakers – Thunder Gameday Page

Chick Hearn’s Statue Unveiled

blog_100420chickhearnstatuePrior to L.A.’s Game 2 contest against Oklahoma City on Tuesday afternoon outside of STAPLES Center, a touching ceremony took place to unveil a 16′, 5,000 lb. bronze and steel sculpture of Hall of Fame Broadcaster Chick Hearn, the legendary voice of the Lakers from 1961-2002.

Before the statue, created by renowned sculptor and artist Omri Amrany, was revealed, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak was among those who addressed the assembled crowd.

“People who listened to Chick can walk by, touch the statue and remember Chick and his contributions to the Los Angeles Lakers,” said Kupchak. “It’s also fitting that generations to come can walk by and although they might not know who Chick is, hopefully they’re with somebody – it could be a mother or a father – and they touch the statue and they say, ‘Dad, who was this,’ and the father says, ‘Son sit down, let me tell you about the greatest broadcaster ever.”

Kicking off and closing the ceremony was Hearn’s longtime partner and current Lakers’ analyst Stu Lantz, who shared memories of his time with Chick and honored Hearn’s wife, Marge. And while Marge Hearn was the guest of honor, several Laker legends were in attendance, including Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Rick Fox and Norm Nixon.

When the drape was dropped, a touching moment occurred as Marge Hearn was the first to sit alongside her husband’s likeness. She then expressed her pleasure at how great the statue looked, while making sure to point out the impact of Lakers Executive Vice President of Business Operations Jeanie Buss.

“She’s not getting enough credit, but Jeanie Buss – at least six or seven years ago when we were having lunch – said, ‘You know we should have a statue of Chick.’,” explained Hearn. “She’s the one who started it, she’s the one who did it with Linda Rambis’s help. They’re a great team.”

While on the podium, Big Game James detailed how much Chick Hearn helped create cohesivness within Los Angeles with his distinct call; now L.A. can collectively celebrate alongside Hearn’s likeness just by heading down to STAPLES Center.

Playoff Podcast: TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott

100420henryabbottWe called up TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott to discuss Joakim Noah’s postgame comments about Cleveland, Chauncey Billups’s decision making down the stretch (where’s ‘Melo!), L.A.’s series with Oklahoma City and more.

We interrupted Abbott from his Tuesday Bullets post to discuss why Noah’s fun, what might happen with Denver and Utah and whether or not Andrew Bynum’s successful return changed his view on the Lakers.

For more, head over to our Lakers 2010 Playoff Central page, or follow Mike on Twitter on the @LakersReporter account.

Video: L.A. – OKC Game 2 Scouting Report

Assistant coach Jim Cleamons joined us to break down Game 2 of L.A.’s first round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which began on Sunday with the Lakers’ 87-79 victory.

Cleamons detailed what L.A. wants to do to better contain OKC’s transition game, praised his team’s Game 1 effort in the defensive halfcourt, listed what he expects from Kobe Bryant and more.

Artest 6th, Bryant 12th in Defensive POY Voting

D072184014.jpgDwight Howard won his second straight Defensive Player of the Year Award on Tuesday morning, as announced by the NBA, while two Lakers – Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant – finished sixth and 12th, respectively.

Artest garnered seven second place votes (three points) and six third place notches (one points) for a total of 29 points, while Bryant garnered one second place vote and six third place nods for nine points.

Here’s the list of those receiving at least seven total points (five for first place, three for second, one for third)

Dwight Howard, 576 (110 first place votes)
Josh Smith, 136
Gerald Wallace, 113
LeBron James, 61
Rajon Rondo, 55
Ron Artest, 29
Andrew Bogut, 23
Thabo Sefolosha, 20
Anderson Varejao, 18
Dwyane Wade, 13
Marcus Camby, 13
Kobe Bryant, 9
Shawn Marion, 8
Tim Duncan, 7