Monthly Archive for May, 2010

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Video Preview: Game 4 in Utah

As NBA coaches will tell you, the close-out game in a playoff series is always the toughest contest to claim.

With the Lakers up 3-0 heading into Monday evening’s Game 4 in Salt Lake City, Lakers assistant coach Frank Hamblen fell in line with that sentiment, and went on to explain why.

Among Hamblen’s notes:

- The Lakers will look to better control tempo in Game 4, acknowledging that the Jazz were able to dictate things in Game 3 (thus the 111-110 final score).
- Hamblen is looking for better transition defense from L.A., since the Jazz won the fast break points battle 10-3 in Game 4.
- Rim protection is also a premium for Hamblen, since the Lakers blocked only five shots in Game 3 after sending back 13 Jazz shots in Game 2. With fewer blocks came more Jazz lay ups.
- Utah quite effectively shut down the lane, conceding three-point looks instead of allowing easy catches or movement from L.A.’s big men. While the Lakers are happy to launch wide-open looks, Hamblen said they’ll focus on ball movement around the perimeter to open things up inside.
- Jazz sub Kyle Korver was NBA JAM “en fuego” in Game 3, nailing his first eight shots and 9-of-10 overall, including 5-of-5 from three-point range for 23 bench points. He’ll certainly draw additional attention from the Lakers in Game 4.

For more on the matchup, make sure to follow along on Twitter (@LakersReporter), where we’ll weigh in starting with Phil Jackson’s pregame session an hour and a half before tip.

Lakers Bomb Away from 3 to Win Game 3

60398001In 2004, Derek Fisher nailed his “0.4″ offering against San Antonio in the Western Conference Semi’s. Last season, L.A.’s co-captain won Game 4 of the NBA Finals for L.A. with two late three-point daggers against Orlando.

Game 3 of the 2010 Western Semi’s against Utah may not have been as critical as either circumstance with L.A. holding a 2-0 series heading in, but there was Fisher yet again, burying a deep three with 28.6 seconds to go that put the Lakers up 109-108 in a game the Purple and Gold would hold on to win 111-110.

“That’s what he does,” said Deron Williams, who just missed a potential game-winning jumper himself. “He’s done it his whole career. It’s no surprise.”

Kobe Bryant, who was terrific throughout in leading all scorers with 35 points on 13-of-24 shooting, wasn’t surprised either.

“Fish was being Fish,” he said, “What more can you say. This is something he’s done his entire career. Just making big plays.”

But it wasn’t just Fisher hitting clutch three-pointers for L.A..

60397986Ron Artest, who’d hit only 7-of-42 threes (16.7 percent) in his first eight playoff games, nailed his fourth of the game early in the final quarter; Lamar Odom, who’d missed all but one of his previous five shots, buried a triple with 2:25 left to put L.A. up a point; then Kobe entered Black Mamba mode to tie the game at 106 with 54 seconds to play.

It was almost for naught, however, as the final seconds saw Utah’s chance to win come off the rim by an inch.

First came two Kobe free throws that put L.A. up 111-108 with 7.8 seconds left; then two Williams freebies with 6.1 to play as L.A. chose to foul and not concede a three; next a Lakers’ turnover as Fisher thought he was fouled on an inbounds pass that Utah ended up with, 4.4 to play; finally came Williams’ missed J from the top of the key, and a couldn’t-have-missed-by-much-less Wesley Matthews tip-in at the buzzer.

“That was quite a game,” said Phil Jackson. “Unexpected guys stepped up tonight … (Utah) took away our post game by double-teaming and rotating. We didn’t start off very well, but we gained traction in the second quarter and played a much better game.”

Indeed, the Lakers got almost nothing in the paint a game after Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom combined for 50 points, 44 rebounds and nine blocks (Game 2), with Bynum being held scoreless on one attempt in 20 minutes, Odom scoring just five points before his big three and Gasol going for 14, 10 of which came in the third quarter. However, those aggressive Jazz double teams did lead to L.A.’s numerous wide open attempts from the three-point line, and after a 4-for-13 first half from distance, the Lakers punished Utah with nine makes in 16 second half attempts.

“We had good looks and good opportunities and our shots fell at the right time,” said Bryant. “The threes we got tonight were threes with our feet set.”

And while Bryant and Fisher, both of whom made three triples, have hit from distance throughout the postseason, Artest’s four bombs came as a surprise to many … but not his coach.

“You heard me before the game, I said we know he can make them,” said Jackson. “Three-point shooters run hot and cold and tonight he was pretty hot. All in all, I thought he made really good decisions tonight.”

The win was significant for L.A. as during the 2009 championship run, the Lakers failed to win three straight games to start a series even once, dropping Game 3 to Utah, Game 1 to Houston, Game 2 to Denver and Game 3 to Orlando in respective playoff rounds.

Add losses in Games 3 and 4 to Oklahoma City in the First Round of this season’s playoffs, and the Lakers’ last 3-0 start had come in the First Round of the 2008 playoffs during a 4-0 sweep of Denver. But now, the 3-0 lead provides an opportunity for L.A. to close things out on Monday, if they have their way. Of course, they don’t expect anything less than an all-out effort from Jerry Sloan’s Jazz, whom he said “played as hard as (they) could play) on Saturday.”

“They’re going to come back out in Game 4 and play a similar game,” concluded Jackson. “We hope that we can compete at this level again Monday night.”

Until then, your numbers.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
6 Second half turnovers for the Jazz, double what they’d had in each of their first two games. A key here was L.A.’s being able to play defense in front of their bench in the second half, a prerogative afforded the visiting team (being able to choose). None was bigger than Carlos Boozer’s unforced error with 2:35 to go in the fourth and Utah up two, as his fumble out of bounds resulted in Lamar Odom’s three at the other end.

13 Three-pointers made by the Lakers, establishing a new playoff high. They’d canned 12 triples in Game 6 against Oklahoma City in Round 1, but made only six combined in Games 1 and 2 against Utah.

21 Lead changes in the second half after just one in the first half, which came after the first possession.

32 Paint points for the Lakers, who instead got 39 points from three-pointers. Andrew Bynum missed the only shot he took, while Odom was only 2-for-6. Pau Gasol shot just 12 times, making six for 14 points.

35 Points for Kobe Bryant on 13-of-24 shooting to lead the Lakers, his fourth straight playoff game with at least 30 points. After the game, Bryant confirmed that his legs felt as good as they looked. He added a team-high seven assists.

Lakers 111, Jazz 110: Game 3 Running Diary

60397237Lakers – Jazz Gameday Page
The Lakers looked to follow up consecutive home victories over Utah at STAPLES Center with Game 3 in Salt Lake City. We were there to make sure you didn’t miss a thing:

Inactives
Lakers: Sasha Vujacic (ankle)
Jazz: Mehmet Okur (Achilles)

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz: Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, C.J. Miles, Carlos Boozer, Kyrylo Fesenko

By The Numbers Preview
We took a look at some of the standout statistics from L.A.’s first two games with Utah and the previous six in the playoffs to preview Game 3 in Salt Lake City. To check it out, CLICK HERE.

60397278First Quarter
12:00 The crowd’s always among the league’s loudest in Salt Lake City, but the atmosphere was not as electric as Oklahoma City in Round 1 (no doubt in part because that was OKC’s first ever playoff series). The last time L.A. was in this building in the playoffs, Kobe Bryant responded to a 5-for-24 Game 3 by going nuts in Game 4 with a 38-point performance on 16-of-24 shooting. On Saturday, Bryant opened the scoring for L.A. with a mid range J, though Utah hit back-to-back jumpers to take an early 5-3 lead.

6:08 Andrei Kirilenko, making his first appearance since March 26, tipped in his own miss to push Utah’s early lead to 15-6. They’d been doing most of their damage on the glass (10-4) and from three, making 3-of-4 including two from C.J. Miles. Bryant then hit a three, however, to give him all nine of L.A.’s points. Utah was effectively overloading the paint and conceding open perimeter looks for the Lakers, who just weren’t hitting anything (0-for-6 other than Kobe) inside.

1:30 Now that’s a small line up. Utah subbed Carlos Boozer out and went with Paul Millsap at center (he had come in four minutes earlier for starting center Kyrylo Fesenko), Kirilenko at the four and Kyle Korver at the three. L.A., however, couldn’t punish the Jazz inside, as Shannon Brown missed an open layup and Gasol a baseline jumper while Utah managed 3-of-4 free throws at the other end to go up seven. Gasol countered with two freebies of his own to cut the margin to 22-17, which the Lakers would take after shooting just 29 percent from the field.

Second Quarter
8:50 Utah’s bench had quite a start to the game, reaching 17 points, more than half of their 36, with two Millsap free throws following seven points from Korver. A 13-point lead was the result of that production, the Lakers not yet clicking at either end.

5:08 And then came the answer from L.A.’s bench, Brown and Farmar combining for 14 quick points as Brown nailed a three-pointer, his fourth straight field goal make after an 0-for-4 start. In the process, L.A. cut the Jazz lead to seven, the team seeming content to hang around before the presumed second half push.

2:45 While Brown and Farmar’s boost was critical for the Lakers, Bryant was clinical, nailing his fifth shot in six second quarter attempts to reach a game-high 19 points, including a superbly-athletic-body-control pull-up J in transition. Completing the Lakers’ backcourt contribution was Fisher, who hit a three, drew two offensive fouls on Williams, then D-Will’s third personal while attempting a three-pointer. Those three free throws, and one more from Kobe, helped L.A. cut Utah’s lead to just four at 54-50 heading into the half, much of the momentum sucked out of the home team despite Gasol, Bynum and Odom combining for only six points.

60397030Third Quarter
11:15 Would Gasol’s 15-foot jumper bode well for L.A.’s bigs in the second half? Tell you in 23 minutes. Utah got five points from their first two possessions, however, an and-1 layup and Fesenko dunk affording the Jazz a seven-point lead.

7:44 L.A.’s first big surge of the game came courtesy of a solid stretch of defense, which came as no surprise to the Lakers’ coaching staff. Jim Cleamons detailed in yesterday’s Practice Report that the Lakers were eager to play defense in front of their own bench, as the visiting team is afforded the right to choose. Sure enough, two turnovers were key in an 8-0 burst capped by Kobe’s three-pointer, giving L.A. its first lead since the game’s opening bucket.

4:24 With Utah finding its way on offense, L.A. needed both of Artest’s three-pointers, which he sank after being left all alone on the perimeter, finally punishing the Jazz neglect after struggling to hit from distance in his first eight playoff games for the Lakers.

0:28.8 Though Odom and Bynum took only three total shots without a make in the third, Gasol scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including a late tip in (L.A.’s sixth offensive board of the quarter) that capped a 32-26 edge in the period and gave the Lakers a two-point lead into the fourth. A solid push for L.A. it was, since Utah was certainly playing hard despite an outwardly nervous crowd.

60397995Fourth Quarter
10:35 Artest opened the quarter with another deep jumper to reach 13 points, but Utah reeled off five straight to retake the lead on a Korver three. Korver then hit yet again to finally get an almost dead crowd fully back into the game until Artest, so criticized for his shooting throughout the playoffs, nailed his fourth triple from the corner. A huge momentum breaking shot for Ron Ron, who followed it up by driving to the hoop, drawing a foul and hitting both freebies to put L.A. up 89-88.

8:29 The Artest offensive show continued, as Ron Ron first got to the line, then stuck a tough reverse layup to reach nine points in under four minutes, getting to 20 for the game. Timely, too, as Korver got to 8-of-8 on the game for Utah as the teams traded buckets.

3:10 With Kobe missing three straight shots for a suddenly quiet Lakers offense, the Jazz tacked only two points onto its lead, Williams getting two foul shots to go after a three minute scoreless stretch for Utah.

1:06 Though Bryant nailed a baseline J to follow Odom’s three-pointer, putting L.A. up one, Korver hit another three to put Utah back up two. Gasol was then called for over-the-back, getting Wesley Matthews 1-of-2 free throws, after Artest’s corner three rimmed out.

0:54.0 Black Mamba mode for Kobe, draining a pull-up three-pointer early in the shot clock to tie what had become an increasingly fantastic game for the Lakers. Moments later, Williams swished a baseline jumper to put Utah back in front as the lead changed for the 21st time of the ball game.

0:28.6 In 2004, Derek Fisher nailed his “0.4″ offering against San Antonio; last season, he won Game 4 of the NBA Finals for L.A. with two late daggers. And while Game 3 of a series that L.A. led 2-0 wasn’t as critical as either circumstance, Fisher was at it again in Utah, burying a deep three-pointer that put the Lakers up 109-108 with 28.6 seconds remaining. An absolute dagger, which gave Fisher 20 points to match Artest.

0:04.4 The ending was fitting for a terrific game. First came a wide-open three-pointer that Matthews missed, then Boozer’s missed layup after an offensive rebound. Bryant stepped up to hit the ensuing two foul shots (35 total points) after Utah wrapped him up, putting L.A. up three. Phil Jackson then opted to foul Williams before he could attempt a shot, the Illinois product making both freebies to cut L.A.’s lead to one with 6.1 seconds to play. The drama reached a fever pitch when Fisher appeared to get wrapped up from behind by Matthews, but no call was made, Utah regaining possession on the inbounds turnover, 4.4 seconds to play. Let’s take a breath…

… OK. Jazz ball, a chance to win the game. It was Williams calling his own number from the top of the key with 1.8 to go, but his J rimmed out … as did, JUST barely, a tip-in attempt by Matthews. As the ball rolled off the rim, L.A. had secured a 111-110 victory to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the Second Round series.

Stay tuned for postgame coverage on Lakers.com.

Lakers – Jazz Game 3 Preview: By the Numbers

98621663MW009_Utah_Jazz_v_LWe’re overdue for a look behind the basketball and into the numbers for the Lakers, up 2-0 on the Jazz and about to seek out a 3-0 lead in Saturday’s Game 3 in Salt Lake City.

Here goes:

0 Times Phil Jackson teams have lost a seven-game series after winning Game 1. Jackson teams are 45-0 after winning Game 1.

1 Time in franchise history that the Lakers have lost a series after winning Games 1 and 2, to 40 series victories.

3 Lakers players averaging 10+ rebounds in the first two games against Utah: Pau Gasol (13.5), Lamar Odom (13.5) and Andrew Bynum (12). The last team to have three players average 10+ boards through two games of any playoff series was the 1985 Portland Trail Blazers.

10.6 Assists averaged by Jazz point guard Deron Williams in the playoffs, good for second in the NBA behind only Boston’s Rajon Rondo (11.2). Kobe Bryant leads the Lakers with his 4.8 assists per game, 17th in the League, while Derek Fisher and Gasol are tied for 24th with their 3.5 dimes per game.

6035585716 Combined blocks for Gasol, Bynum and Odom in Games 1 and 2, led by Gasol’s seven.

19.5 Williams’s scoring average in Games 1 and 2, pulling his playoffs average down to 24.3 points, which still leads the Jazz. Teammate Paul Millsap leads the Jazz with 21 points per game against the Lakers.

23 L.A.’s advantage on the glass through two games, including Game 2′s 58-40 domination and Game 1′s 43-38 edge.

23.1 L.A.’s winning percentage in Utah, all time, in the playoffs. The Lakers have gone just 3-10 in Salt Lake City, though they did manage to win one game in the 2008 playoffs and one game in 2009.

30.5 Bryant’s scoring average through two games, after he put up 31 points in Game 1 and 30 in Game 2, the third straight playoff game in which he’d reached the 30-point plateau.

44.1 Fisher’s three-point percentage in the playoffs, which leads the Lakers and is 12th in the NBA. Fisher attempted only four three-pointers in Game 1 and 2 against Utah, but made 14-of-30 against Oklahoma City in Round 1.

44.7 Three-point percentage for Williams to lead the Jazz, and rank 11th in the NBA in the postseason. Rookie Wesley Matthews comes in at 42.4 percent, good for 17th.

59.2 Bynum’s field goal percentage in the playoffs, good for third overall. Millsap and Carlos Boozer ranked second and third in the NBA after Round 1, but are down to fourth (57.8) and seventh (55.3) after the first two games against L.A.

65 Game 1 wins for the Lakers in franchise history, compared with 34 losses. When winning Game 1, the Lakers have gone on to win 57-of-63 series.

104 Career playoff victories that Phil Jackson has overseen in L.A., a franchise record. He passed Pat Riley’s previous record (102) in Game 1 against Utah.

4,761 Points scored by former Jazz (and Lakers) power forward Karl Malone in the playoffs, good for fourth all-time. Kobe Bryant, who passed Jerry West (4,457) for first on L.A.’s all-time list, currently has 4,583 points, needing 178 to catch Malone. If Bryant continues his scoring average of 25.3 points in the playoffs, he’d need about seven more games to surpass the Mailman.

Fisher on Phil Jackson’s Unprecedented Success

D069188023.JPGWith L.A.’s Game 1 victory over Utah in the Western Conference Semi’s, Phil Jackson surpassed Pat Riley for the most playoff wins in Lakers history (103), then boosted his all-time postseason record to 215-93 (.698) with a Game 2 win. The 215 wins and .698 winning percentage are the most, and highest, respectively, of any NBA coach in playoff history.

Not bad.

Last season, when L.A. beat Orlando in the Finals, Jackson leapfrogged legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach for most championships won by a head coach, in addition to passing fellow Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell (11) for most championships won by a player/coach (Jackson won two as a player for the Knicks). Furthermore, if the Lakers advance to the NBA Finals in 2010, it will be Jackson’s 13th trip to the final round, tying him with NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman for most finals appearances in any major U.S. professional sport.

Derek Fisher seemed to have Jackson’s unprecedented success in mind when detailing his personal opinion that Jackson has not, and does not get the credit of which he’s deserving.

Here’s what Fisher had to say when asked about Jackson after Wednesday’s practice:

I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves, because he’ll forever be – I guess unfortunately – saddled with, if you want to call it that, his past accomplishments. ‘Oh yeah, he had Michael Jordan, so that’s why he won. Yeah, he had Shaq, he had Kobe, so OK.’

I don’t understand that logic whatsoever, to be honest. I was taught that it’s more difficult to try and take talent or people that are supposed to be the elite and get them to buy into doing the things that need to be done to be successful as opposed to the less talented, and getting them to achieve maybe a little bit more than they would without you … but what else would they do?

It’s always hard for me when they throw around all these names of who is doing a great job coaching and the guy just wins championships and wins 70 percent of his games, but he’s always way down the list of people that are supposed to be good coaches.

Playoff Podcast: Salt Lake Tribune’s Ross Siler

silerNobody’s written more about the Utah Jazz of late than Salt Lake Tribune beat writer Ross Siler, who joined us for another Lakers.com Playoff Podcast.

Siler, who used to cover the Lakers, detailed some differences between two of the league’s most fun coaches to cover, offered some nuggets about the always interesting Ukrainian center Kyrylo Fesenko, shared some thoughts on point guard Deron Williams and looked ahead at Games 3 and 4 in Salt Lake City.

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

Bryant Makes All-NBA First Team, Gasol Third

The NBA announced on Thursday that Kobe Bryant was selected to the All-NBA First Team for the fifth straight season and eighth time in his career, while teammate Pau Gasol was named to the Third Team.

Kobe finished fourth in the league in scoring (27.0 ppg), and averaged 5.4 assists and 5.0 rebounds in the regular season. He was selected as an All-Star starter for the 12th straight time, and led the Lakers to a Western Conference-best 57-25 record. Tim Duncan is the only active player with more First Team selections (nine), while Shaquille O’Neal also has eight.

Gasol made the third team despite missing 17 games in the regular season due to hamstring strains on respective legs, averaging 18.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.74 blocks while making his second straight and third overall All-Star appearance. The Spaniard tied Carlos Boozer for fifth in the NBA on the glass, eighth in blocked shots and 12th in field goal percentage (53.6 percent).

LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade join Bryant on the First Team, while Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki made the Second Team. Gasol is flanked by Tim Duncan, Andrew Bogut, Joe Johnson and Brandon Roy.

For more details on the All-NBA teams, head over to Lakers.com.

Lakers.com Podcast: Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports

marcspearsLongtime NBA writer Marc Spears, currently covering hoops nationally for Yahoo! Sports, joined us on Wednesday afternoon for the latest Lakers.com Playoff Podcast.

Spears shared some of his travel secrets from years on the beat (do not fly in on the day of a game) and mentioned his most underrated NBA cities (Salt Lake City, anybody?), offered some names on his “Favorite Players to Interview” list (like Yao Ming), detailed why he thinks Andrew Bynum could dominate for years (underrated offensive skills) and more.

To listen, just click below.

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

Bryant named to 10th All-NBA Defensive Team

60355875The NBA announced on Wednesday morning that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team for the 8th time in his career and for the fifth straight season.

Bryant, voted to the first team in 2000, ’03, ’04, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09 by the NBA’s head coaches, was also named to the second team twice (2001 and ’02) for a total of 10 times in his 14 seasons.

Despite a terrific individual season on D, L.A. forward and defensive specialist Ron Artest didn’t receive enough points* to make the second team, earning 13 points, one fewer than Oklahoma City’s Thabo Sefolosha (14) for the final spot on the Second Team.
*Two points were given for a first team vote, one for a second team vote.

Lamar Odom received one first team vote, Pau Gasol one second team vote and Bryant 13 first team and eight second team votes (34 points) to round out the total margin for L.A.

To read the full release, CLICK HERE to head over to Lakers.com.

5/5 Injury Update: Sasha Vujacic

Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic told reporters prior to Tuesday’s Game 2 win over Utah that he’s ahead of schedule on the rehabilitation of his left ankle, though a timetable still does not exist for his return.

“I ran today a little bit on the Alter G, and it’s going really well, actually,” he said. “Hopefully (I can return) very soon.”

Vujacic is past the wait-for-the-swelling-to-go-down portion of his rehab, and on to strengthening the ankle and surrounding muscles.

Needless to say, a return can’t come soon enough for the Slovenian.

“It’s one of the worst things not playing and watching the games, especially when the playoffs come,” he said. “I would love to be on the court. That’s what most of us live for.”