Monthly Archive for November, 2010

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Lakers Welcome Suns to L.A.

103892014PA000_Lakers_SunsBefore the Lakers beat the Suns 114-106 in the second game of the season in the Valley of the Sun, we took a look at just how difficult Phoenix’s schedule is, in contrast to the relatively soft schedule of the Lakers.

As it has turned out, Phoenix has managed to go .500 through eight games, falling at Portland, against L.A., against San Antonio and at Memphis, while managing to beat Memphis and Sacramento at home and Utah and Atlanta on the road.

Unfortunately for the Suns, at least in the short term, the schedule doesn’t get any easier through the month of November, starting with Sunday’s trip to Los Angeles, which precedes a home game against Denver and then a tough stretch on the road through Miami, Orlando, Charlotte and Houston.

As for Sunday’s game, here’s some background info on the series between the two Pacific Division opponents:

- The Lakers have won three consecutive season series against the Suns, each by a 3-1 margin.
- This will be the 215th meeting between the two teams with the Lakers leading the all-time series 126-88. The Lakers are 16-6 against the Suns all- time at STAPLES Center during the regular season and 7-3 in their last 10 regular season home games against Phoenix.
- Jason Richardson has played very well for the Suns, continuing his good form from the playoffs, leading the team with 21.7 points per game while adding 4.3 rebounds and making over three three-pointers a game.
- Steve Nash leads the team with 8.9 assists while adding 18.7 points per game.
- Newcomer Hedo Turkoglu has struggled, averaging 10.1 points on 44 percent shooting, and the Suns have gotten little production out of the center position between Robin Lopez and Channing Frye, who’ve combined for only 10 points and 10 rebounds.
- On the road, the Lakers have gone 5-5 in their last 10 regular season visits to Phoenix and are 5-2 in their last seven regular season games at US Airways Center.
- Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 27-14 against the Suns during the regular season. – In 50 career games against the Suns including 43 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 25.8 points.
- Suns guard Jason Richardson and forward Jared Dudley were teammates in Charlotte with Shannon Brown while Lakers forward Luke Walton and Suns center Channing Frye were teammates at Arizona for two seasons (2001-02, 2002-03).
- Also, Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright won three championships as a center for Phil Jackson’s Bulls from 1990-92 and served as an assistant coach under Jackson from 1996-98 when the Bulls won their final two championships of the 90’s.

Lakers 112, Nuggets 118: Nov. 11 Running Diary

62431331Below is a running diary of L.A.’s road test in Denver as the Lakers looked for a ninth straight victory to open the season, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and Gasol
Nuggets: Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Shelden Williams, Nene

FIRST QUARTER
8:12 Hot starts had become an early-season trademark for the Lakers, but on this night, neither Kobe Bryant nor Pau Gasol could find the rim in the early goings … enter Ron Artest, who scored L.A.’s first five points before two Bryant free throws tied the game at seven.

1:07 The Lakers seemed to be easing into the contest, yet still owned a six-point lead at 24-18 after three Shannon Brown free throws, resulting from J.R. Smith’s ill-advised foul on the perimeter. Artest led the Lakers with nine, while Steve Blake and Matt Barnes had entered for Bryant and Fisher, Fish having gone out after tweaking a foot or ankle landing on Chauncey Billups’s foot after a made jumper.

0:00 L.A. wasn’t efficient in the first, shooting only 36%, but Denver was only at 37%, and allowed 13 FT’s to L.A. while taking just two. The Nuggs did manage to trim four points off the Lakers’ lead to trail by two at 26-24.

62431336SECOND QUARTER
9:45 Consecutive steals (Brown, Gasol) produced consecutive easy buckets in transition (that’s how it works, after all). First came Brown’s double-clutch hammer dunk, and second a Barnes layup off Gasol’s feed that made it 33-30 for the visitors, prompting a George Karl time out.

7:02 L.A.’s bench was terrific to open the period, making 7-of-8 shots to create a 42-34 lead when Brown’s second field goal went through, though the effective Barnes had to go to the pine after picking up his third foul. With Odom and Gasol still on the bench, however, the Nuggets began to score at will in the paint, going on a 14-2 run to turn an eight-point deficit into a 48-44 lead.

2:51 While Bryant was starting to get his offense rolling late in the period, there was a long brawl in the lower level between two guys wearing respective Nuggets and Lakers jerseys that was finally broken up by security. A few of the players looked onward from the floor in what would moments later be a 52-all tie with a few minutes to go in the half. Moments later, Bryant exploded to the hole for a two-handed dunk, then found Fisher for an open three to allow for a 64-59 Lakers lead at halftime.

Continue reading ‘Lakers 112, Nuggets 118: Nov. 11 Running Diary’

George Karl Has Plenty of Praise For Pau

60109854Prior to L.A.’s Thursday evening contest in Denver — which Phil Jackson called the team’s biggest test of the season — his Nuggets’ coaching counterpart George Karl had the following to say about Pau Gasol after watching some Lakers film throughout the past few days:

Gasol … I don’t want to tell you how good I thought he was. He was really good in the games I watched. My thing with my staff was, who has played better than this kid in the last 10 years? A big guy. Name a big guy that’s playing better than (Gasol right now). He (and Odom) are great rebounders, they’re good runners and they’re efficient. When they touch the ball, something good happens. One game, Gasol had to be like 85 percent. Decisions – he’s making passing decisions, he’s making low-post decisions, he’s making high-post decisions, transition decisions. He’s playing like a guard a little bit.

Karl also shared that he’d prefer to have his team guard Gasol when he’s playing the high post – as he does more often when Andrew Bynum’s in the game – than the low post, but explained why it’s a ‘pick your poison’ game:

I’d prefer him in the high post. I beleive the further away you are, the worse percentage you’re going to shoot. But he’s still pretty good out there. The further he gets away from the basket, the more he’s a distributor. But they do a good job of balancing, they’re going to put him in both places. What he’s done very good is he and Kobe have gotten a knack, Kobe draws two and they throw it to (Gasol) and he finds the open man. Most teams have to cover Kobe with two, or at least one and a half.

Kobe Bryant – 17 points to 26,000

62394386If Kobe Bryant scores 17 points in Thursday evening’s contest at Denver, he will become the youngest player to do so in the history of the NBA (32 years, 80 days), surpassing former Lakers Wilt Chamberlain (32 years, 114 days) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33 years, 331 days).

Seven players in league history reached the 26,000 mark in fewer games than Bryant likely will (1,030 if he does so at Denver), most recently Shaquille O’Neal, who needed 1,022 games. Chamberlain was the fastest in terms of games, doing so in 734 games, while Michael Jordan got there in 815 contests, Abdul-Jabbar in 925 and Karl Malone in 997, a list which doubles as the top five scorers in NBA history (though in a different order).

Bryant, who eased into the season while gaining strength on his knee, is averaging 24.1 points per game to lead the Lakers while playing 31.8 minutes per game, far below his career minutes average of 36.6 and 38.8 in 2009-10.

Lakers – Nuggets Podcast Preview

D065013007.JPGTo take a closer look at the Nuggets heading into Thursday evening’s game in Denver, we enlisted the Denver Post’s Benjamin Hochman to provide some details.

The Nuggets come into the game angry off a bad loss in Indiana (144-113) in which the Pacers literally hit their first 20 shots of the third quarter before a buzzer-beating miss, while the Lakers boast an 8-0 record after a sloppy victory against Minnesota (99-94) on Tuesday.

Hochman offered an update on Carmelo Anthony, looked at Denver’s rather thin front line in the absence of Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen, told us how Chauncey Billups looks in person and described the solid play of UCLA product Arron Afflalo.

To listen, click here:

Lakers – Wolves Postgame Numbers

62394331We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s Tuesday evening win over Minnesota at STAPLES Center, the eighth straight victory for the Purple and Gold to open the 2010-11 campaign:

3 First half steals from Ron Artest, who continues to lead the Lakers in swipes on the young season (1.87 coming into the game).

5 Double-doubles for Pau Gasol in eight games after his 18-point, 10-rebound effort to follow up Sunday’s triple-double.

9 Game-high assists for Minny’s Sebastian Telfair, forced into 39 minutes of duty since Luke Ridnour (hamstring) and Jonny Flynn (hip) were both out due to injury. No Lakers player had more than four assists (Ron Artest, Derek Fisher).

12 More rebounds collected by the Wolves than the Lakers. Phil Jackson gave Minnesota credit for “working harder,” particularly on the glass.

13 Seasons since the Lakers started 8-0, when the 1997-98 squad opened 11-0. L.A. also started the 1987-88 season 8-0 before dropping its ninth game.

24 Rebounds by Minnesota’s Kevin Love, including 11 on the offensive end. Love added 23 points and five assists in a losing effort.

26 Minutes played by Lamar Odom, saddled with foul trouble throughout, though his seven straight points in the fourth quarter helped L.A. close the game. He finished with 15 points, eight boards and three assists.

27 Turnovers committed by the Wolves, compared to 18 from L.A., a deciding factor in the contest. That was about the only thing Wolves Coach Kurt Rambis didn’t like about his team’s effort: “This was the best game of the year by far in terms of executing what we want to get accomplished at both ends of the floor,” he said.

31.8 Minnesota’s second half field goal percentage, including 2-of-11 from three, after a perfect 5-of-5 first quarter from the Wolves, as the Lakers picked things up defensively down the stretch.

33 Season-high points scored by Kobe Bryant, though it did take him 28 field goal attempts to get there. Bryant had a hard time earning foul calls from repeated drives to the hoop in the second half.

Lakers 99, Wolves 94: Nov. 9 Running Diary

62394830Below is a running diary of L.A.’s home contest against Minnesota as the team looked for an eighth straight victory to open the season, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and Gasol
Timberwolves: Sebastian Telfair*, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic
*Telfair was starting for the injured Luke Ridnour (hamstring) and Jonny Flynn (hip).

62394739FIRST QUARTER
7:24 For the first time in several games, the Lakers came out slow on offense, making only 3-of-13 shots to start a game tied at nine after four minutes. It wasn’t for a lack of open shots, however, suggesting a turn of the tide in a manner of time.

5:08 Well, that didn’t last long. With some stops on the defensive end, the Lakers started to get better looks on offense, and made four of five to roll off a quick 8-0 run that produced a 17-9 lead into a Kurt Rambis time out.

2:07 Phil Jackson saw that time out and raised Rambis with one of his own in response to a 16-4 run by the Timberwolves that found the visitors up 25-21. Minnesota would add one more three-pointer to go 5-of-5 in the period from distance, enough to produce a 28-26 lead into the first quarter break. Kobe Bryant was aggressive in the quarter, taking eight shots and making four to lead the way with 11 points plus five rebounds, but Lamar Odom struggled towards 2-of-7 shooting and Pau Gasol took only four shots, making two.

62394862SECOND QUARTER
10:15 We’ve mentioned a few times this year that Matt Barnes was an All-American wide receiver in high school, even garnering a Player of the Year award after catching 28 touchdowns as a senior. A few examples of his hands have come this year on Bryant QB passes down the court, and on Tuesday we saw him make a great catch on an alley-oop layup from Brown to ignite some early energy in the second.

5:45 With the offense still a bit sluggish, the Lakers turned to Bryant when he entered in the second, and he quickly produced a swished turnaround, a defensive board (his sixth) and finally attracted Minnesota’s full attention on a drive before feeding Odom for an easy layup, giving the Lakers a 40-39 lead.

0:00 The Wolves played the Lakers tough in each of their three meetings in 2009-10, and the first half was no different despite a late burst from Bryant, who scored eight straight Lakers points to help LA open a 58-52 lead. Minnesota turned the ball over 13 times, troubled in part by Artest’s three steals and constantly active hands, but made up for it with 15 offensive rebounds, eight from Love alone.
Continue reading ‘Lakers 99, Wolves 94: Nov. 9 Running Diary’

Lakers (Early) League Ranks

62370097With L.A.’s 7-0 start, predictably, comes a bunch of superlative statistics when compared to the rest of the NBA’s teams.

Here’s a breakdown of pertinent categories, with the disclaimer that it’s only seven games into the 82-game season, and the Lakers have played a relatively easy schedule:

Scoring: No. 1
The Lakers are averaging a healthy 114 points per game to lead the NBA. With Pau Gasol (24.1) and Kobe Bryant (22.9) leading the way, L.A. is also getting a healthy 15.9 poings from Lamar Odom, while four other players are averaging at least 9.1 points: Derek Fisher; Shannon Brown; Ron Artest; and Matt Barnes.

Three-Point Field Goal Percentage: No. 1
Behind four players that are shooting at least 50 percent from three-point range, the Lakers lead the league with a connection rate of 45.0 percent. Last season, the Lakers ranked just 24th in the NBA from three, connecting on 34.1 percent and boasting not a single player at the 40 percent mark. But Lamar Odom (69 percent), Derek Fisher (67), Shannon Brown (52) and Steve Blake (50) have all been hot.

Turnovers: No. 1
When shooting that well from distance and scoring so efficiently (see below), to also lead the league in fewest turnovers per game is telling. The Lakers were actually tied with Sacramento heading into Sunday evening’s games in the turnover category, and after a 15-turnover game against Portland L.A. was averaging 13.6 per game.

Rebounding: No. 3
The Lakers have grabbed the third most rebounds per game in the NBA at 46.71 per contest, and rank fourth in rebounding differential at +4.28 per game more than their seven opponents. Odom ranks ninth in the league with 11.1 boards per game, while Gasol is 12th at 10.9. The team’s offensive and defensive rebounding has been equally effective.

Free Throw Percentage: No. 5
The Lakers are making 81.7 percent of their free throws, good for fifth in the league. Eight of the 11 players who have attempted a free throw are making more than 80 percent, led by Kobe Bryant’s 87.9 percent success rate (51-for-58).

Assists: No. 5
The Lakers have shared the ball very well to start the season, ranking fifth in assists with an average of 24 per game. Current starting center Gasol actually leads the Lakers in assists with 5.0 per game after his 10-dime performance in his triple-double against Portland, while Bryant has added 4.6 in six fewer minutes of playing time than Gasol.

Field Goal Percentage: No. 6
It’s not just from distance that the Lakers are shooting well, as they come in ranked sixth from the field at 47.8 percent. In 2009-10, they ranked 18th at 45.7 percent. Odom’s 62.7 percent is good for fifth in the NBA, while Gasol’s 54.4 percent ranks 21st. Both are significant due to the collectively high volume of shots taken as Bryant eases into the season.

Steals: No. 9
With an average of 8.4 swipes per game, the Lakers come in ninth in the NBA. Ron Artest leads the way with 1.87 steals per game, while both Fisher and Brown have nabbed 1.29 per contest.

Lakers – Blazers Postgame Numbers

62368719We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s Sunday evening victory over Portland at STAPLES Center, the seventh straight for the Purple and Gold to open the 2010-11 campaign:

4 Career triple-doubles for Pau Gasol after his impressive 20-point, 14-rebound, 10-assist performance against Portland. Gasol’s last TD came on 2/17/09 against Atlanta (12 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists); he did not have a TD in 2009-10, failing to produce 10 assists in any game.

15 Bench points scored by Shannon Brown, keyed by his 3-for-6 long-distance shooting. Matt Barnes added 13 of his own, plus four boards and two assists on 6-of-7 shooting.

16 Total points for Portland’s two best players, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. Jackson said that Roy didn’t look like himself, noting that he was less aggressive than usual, but credited Ron Artest’s defense as well.

21 Points for Lamar Odom, a season high, on 10-of-15 shooting. He added 12 rebounds and three assists; Portland Coach Nate McMillan said after the game that Odom was playing like an All-Star.

24 More rebounds collected by L.A. than Portland, 49 to 25, including a 14-6 edge on the offensive glass.

25 Point margin in the game after three quarters, things all but on ice for the Lakers, who’d built a 22-point lead at the half and 13-point margin after the first. Also the number of minutes played by Bryant, a luxury as always early in the season, towards his 12 points.

26 More points in the paint for the Lakers than the Blazers.

52.6 Three-point shooting percentage point at which four Lakers were at or above after the first seven games, significant because L.A. failed to have a single player over 40 percent last season: Lamar Odom (69 percent); Derek Fisher (66.7); Brown (55) and Steve Blake (52). Phil Jackson said that he was “enamored” with how well Brown’s shooting the ball, cited how much better Odom was shooting the ball and credited Bryant and Gasol with attracting a lot of attention to spread the floor for open shots.

121 Points scored by the Lakers, thanks to three quarters of at least 30 on the scoreboard. It was the team’s second-highest total, since 124 were dropped on Memphis.

Lakers 121, Blazers 96: Nov. 7 Running Diary

62368863Below is a running diary of L.A.’s home contest against Portland as the team looked for a seventh straight victory to open the season, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and Gasol
Blazers: Andre Miller, Brandon Roy,

62368428FIRST QUARTER
7:18 Perhaps the biggest reason for L.A.’s early-season domination on offense, producing a league-high 114 points per game, has been the great inside play of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, who were at it again early against Portland in hitting consecutive shots for an early edge that would soon grow bigger…

4:35 Kobe Bryant nailed back-to-back jumpers after four misses to put the Lakers up 17-10, their half court offense working to good effect against one of the league’s better halfcourt defenses. As a team, the LAL were at 8-for-14, good for 57.1 percent.

19.3 Gasol capped an 8-0 run with a short hook shot in the lane off some nice ball movement, though Blazers rookie Armon Johnson did manage to score the quarter’s final bucket to cut L.A.’s lead to 27-14 after one. While the Blazers did play on Saturday night, they were still expected to put up their traditionally strong fight against the Lakers, yet really struggled to get anything accomplished at either end. It was all Purple and Gold in the first.

62368227SECOND QUARTER
9:45 You know how we’ve been talking about L.A.’s bench being much-improved? Well, nothing changed early in the second, as the 3B’s quickly put eight points on the board (four from Barnes, a bucket each from Blake and Brown) to push L.A.’s lead up to 35-16.

7:08 Among Phil Jackson’s chief early-season concerns is not stretching Odom and Gasol out too much with extended playing time, which we saw play out early in the second. Odom started the quarter on the bench, then came in for Gasol and slid over to the center position, with Barnes at the four. Jackson has the luxury of the multi-capable Odom and Barnes (not to mention Artest) being able to float amongst the different positions until Andrew Bynum returns. We also saw rookie Derrick Caracter offer eight minutes off the
bench, in which he scored a bucket with two rebounds.

3:32 Ron Artest so consistently plays excellent defense that we sometimes take it for granted, but his first half effort was the key towards Blazers All-Star Brandon Roy failing to score a single point in his first 16 minutes, missing all four of his shots as Artest doggedly chased him around. Meanwhile, Artest used his size to muscle Roy out of the way at the other end to establish low-post position, and converted two shots right under the rim, the second of which put L.A. up 52-30.

0:00 The Lakers did everything but kick Portland’s dog in the first half, scoring 58 points to the Blazers 36, out-shooting the visitors 51 percent to 36 percent, and more importantly dominating the glass 25 to 11. Gasol nearly reached a first-half triple-double, posting 14 points, 11 boards and seven dimes in 21 minutes, while Bryant played only 16 minutes to score seven points. L.A.’s bench outscored Portland’s 13-7.
Continue reading ‘Lakers 121, Blazers 96: Nov. 7 Running Diary’