Monthly Archive for December, 2010

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Bryant Approaching No. 11 on Scoring List

Friday evening’s contest between the Lakers and Chicago Bulls in the Windy City promises to be an exciting matchup between the twice defending champs and a rising power in the Eastern Conference, albeit with a significant historical slant.

This because Kobe Bryant is only 21 points away from passing Celtics legend John Havlicek for 11th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. With 24 points against the Clippers on Wednesday, Bryant reached 26,375 for his career, 20 points behind Havlicek’s 26,395.

Furthermore, if Bryant continues to score at his current pace, he’ll jump all the way up to sixth on the all-time charts by the end of the season, surpassing Dominique Wilkins, Oscar Robertson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Elvin Hayes and Moses Malone along the way.

Not bad.

Injury Update: Derrick Caracter’s Ankle is OK

UCLA Health SystemRookie backup center Derrick Caracter suffered a minor ankle injury after colliding with Kobe Bryant in the second quarter of L.A.’s 87-86 win over the Clippers on Tuesday, and did not return to the contest.

Caracter, however, said after the game that his ankle is “fine,” reporting that he would be able to play on Friday against the Bulls if Phil Jackson calls his number.

L.A.’s front line was so thin in the second half against the Clips that small forwards Ron Artest and Matt Barnes each saw extended time at power forward, with Artest shining in his defense of Blake Griffin.

Center Andrew Bynum (knee) is expected to play at some point of the road trip, while fellow big man Theo Ratliff remains a few weeks a knee while recovering from minor knee surgery.

Lakers – Clippers Postgame Numbers

We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from the Wednesday evening Lakers victory the Clippers at STAPLES Center that saw L.A.’s record improve to 16-6 on the season.

58 Feet covered through the air by Shannon Brown’s heave to close the third quarter. It swished home, capping his personal run of 11 points in the final three-plus minutes of the period when the Lakers really needed a bench boost. Brown made all four of his field goals, including three triples, to cut the Clips lead from 12 to six heading into the fourth, and Phil Jackson specifically mentioned the shot’s impact on his team’s energy down the stretch.

52.6 L.A.’s shooting percentage in the fourth quarter after it managed to make only 39.3 percent through the first three periods. The Lakers outscored the Clippers 22-15 in the final period.

30 Minutes played by Kobe Bryant, an uncommon fact in a close game. Phil Jackson let the bench unit ride as his Killer B’s were playing well early in the fourth quarter, and the extra rest seemed to do Bryant good as he buried back-to-back tough shots in the final two minutes.

24 Points scored by Bryant and Eric Gordon to lead their respective teams. Bryant was highly efficient, making 9-of-15 shots, and added four assists on the evening.

18 Total points for Pau Gasol and Odom, this a day after they went for 45 total against Washington.

13 The Clippers advantage on the glass, 52-39, signifying which team had the younger, fresher legs. Both Griffin and DeAndre Jordan grabbed 11 rebounds, including seven offensive as the red and blue team totaled 13 offensive boards to L.A.’s six.

Lakers 87, Clippers 86: Dec. 8 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening “road” game against the Clippers, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and P. Gasol
Clippers: E. Bledsoe, E. Gordon, A. Aminu, B. Griffin and D. Jordan

10:00 It’s always a bit odd to watch the Lakers play in their own arena as the road team, particularly with the overload of purple and gold jerseys standing out amidst the bevy of Clippers’ red throughout STAPLES Center. On the court itself, it was all Lakers to open, with Artest nailing an open three, Bryant converting a tough and-1 over Gordon and Odom adding an and-1 of his own. L.O. missed the free throw, however, the early lead at 8-0.

2:49 Generally, Phil Jackson doesn’t like to have Gasol and rookie center Derrick Caracter in the game at the same time, preferring to use the few minutes he gives Caracter to spell Gasol. However, Jackson chose to give Odom an early break this time, sliding Gasol into the high post, and the rookie was an immediate beneficiary of the Spaniard’s passing as he hit 1-of-2 free throws to put the Lakers up 20-12.

0:00 And then the offense stopped. L.A. missed five straight shots to close the quarter with just a two-point lead, with Lakers not named “Kobe Bryant” making only 3-of-12 field goals. Bryant was 4-of-7 for nine points.

5:01 Luke Walton’s reverse layup made it 32-29 Lakers, and signified a change in Jackson’s rotation due to the left ankle sprain of Caracter in the first quarter. Both he and Matt Barnes could be expected to see more playing time in the paint in a game that had thus far featured really poor shooting from both teams (a combined 34 percent).

0:00 That stalled offense from the end of the first returned for the final moments of the second, the Lakers again failing to score a point amidst a 7-0 Clippers run that put the red and blue squad up 43-41 at the half.

Perhaps the best way to describe a relatively listless half from the Lakers is to understand the degree of mental fatigue of L.A.’s front court, forced to play with both Andrew Bynum and Theo Ratliff for most of the season. It wasn’t an issue during the first eight games when all were fresh, but the fact that Gasol and Odom in particular had so much defensive responsibility without Bynum in particular has reared its head in the past two weeks. L.A.’s front court depth was obviously a major factor towards the two straight championships, and it literally hasn’t been there for 21 games in 2010-11. That said, Bynum has suggested that he could return in six days (Dec. 14) when the Lakers play at Washington.

10:00 When’s the last time you saw an NBA team miss three dunks in one minute? Well, the Clips just did it for ya, and Kobe scored five straight on the other end to make it a 46-43 lead for the Lakers.

5:40 Yet for the next five minutes, L.A. barely scored until two more Bryant free throws snapped a 13-1 Clippers run that put the home team up seven points. Griffin answered Bryant’s FT’s with just his third field goal of the game in 12 attempts, though Bryant came right back with a deep triple from one of his favorite spots, the left wing. The Lakers would need plenty more from No. 24, as the bigs continued to look fatigued.

0:00 Anyone in the mood for a major Shannon Brown scoring boost? Boy, did he respond, sinking the final 11 points of the third quarter for the Lakers as Bryant stood and cheered on the sideline. Most emphatically was an absurd buzzer-beating 57-footer that swished directly through the rim, coming just 13 seconds after Brown’s corner three and two minutes after No. 12′s first triple.

10:55 The energy created by Brown to close the third carried right into the fourth, with Killer B ‘mates Barnes (a slashing banked hoop from Brown) and Blake (his first three of the night) combined to score five quick points, cutting the deficit to just one at 71-70.

6:00 The bench continued a solid effort, with Barnes reaching eight points with seven boards, and Jackson rewarded them with extra minutes before eventually putting Bryant and Fisher back in to close things out. After Fisher cut LAC’s lead to one, Griffin got to the hoop for a deuce and Gordon buried a three off a Ryan Gomes’ offensive rebound to quickly push the lead back to six at 83-77.

0:00.1 Wow, what a stretch of basketball from the Lakers after a sluggish 46 minutes. How about an 8-2 run to close the game, featuring two tough buckets from Bryant, a big jumper from a struggling-all-game Gasol, two huge defensive steals on back-to-back possessions, and finally a driving, game-winning layup from Derek Fisher. More details: L.A. had gone up 85-84 when Bryant dropped his second straight J thanks to Artest’s second swipe, but the Clips answered with a dunk from DeAndre Jordan with 15 seconds remaining. Gordon then took the Clips foul to give with three seconds left, allowing L.A. enough time to execute a play in which Bryant drew all of the attention on the strong side, only to feed Fisher for the layup on the weak side as time expired. With the win, the Lakers improve to 16-6 on the season heading into a six-game road trip.

Lakers – Clippers: Podcast Preview

The Los Angeles Clippers are 5-17, a record reflective of their combination of youth and injuries in the young season, but things aren’t quite as bleak as they seem across town.

Veterans Chris Kaman and Baron Davis have already missed a combined 26 games, and new coach Vinny Del Negro is playing three rookies and two third-year players significant minutes, but the Clips have still managed to rebound from a 1-13 start to go 4-4 in their last eight games, beating San Antonio, New Orleans and Sacramento twice.

Meanwhile, leading Rookie of the Year candidate Blake Griffin has been hammer dunking his way onto SportsCenter on a nightly basis, averaging 20.2 points and 11.8 rebounds along the way, and guard Eric Gordon is seventh in the NBA in scoring with his 24.3 points per game.

For all the Clippers information you want to know heading into Wednesday’s Clips home game at STAPLES Center, we enlisted the voice of radio play-by-play man Brian Sieman:

Lakers – Wizards Postgame Numbers

We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from the Lakers victory on Tuesday evening over Washington at STAPLES Center that saw L.A.’s record improve to 15-6 on the season.

1 Triple doubles on the season for Pau Gasol, who scored was two assists away from his second after scoring 21 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing eight dimes … plus five blocks. Gasol’s TD of 20, 14 and 10 came on Nov. 7 against Portland.

8 Games this season in which Kobe Bryant has scored at least 30 points. He’s second in the league in scoring to Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (27.4 ppg) with a 26.7 per game average.

10 Of 21 Lakers games in which Gasol has played at least 40 minutes, after another 43 on Tuesday night.

13 Points made up in a three-minute stretch to close the third quarter by the Wizards, who outscored L.A. 14-1 as soon as Bryant, Fisher and Artest went to the bench.

14 Offensive rebounds for the Lakers … in the first half. For some perspective, the Lakers average 12.6 offensive boards a night, good for sixth in the NBA, and finished with 22 in the contest.

30 Points off the bench for Wizards sub Nick Young, a USC product and L.A. native, for his season high. Young made 10-of-17 shots, including 6-of-10 threes, showing that his 171 field goal attempts to eight total assists coming in weren’t a fluke or an accident.

30.7 Lakers shooting percentage in the second half after a 56-percent performance in the first half, allowing the Wizards to hang around.

76 Points away from 11th on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list for Kobe Bryant heading into the game. Bryant posted 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting to cut that margin down to 44. John Havlicek (26,395) will be Bryant’s next victim on the list, while Dominique Wilkins currently ranks 10th with 26,668 career points.

Lakers 115, Wizards 108: Dec. 7 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home game against Washington, the Lakers playing the first of a back-to-back with the Clippers coming on Wednesday, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and P. Gasol
Wizards: J. Wall, G. Arenas*, A. Thornton, Y. Jianlian, J. McGee
The Wiz usually start Kirk Hinrich at the two guard, but with leading scorer Andray Blatche a late scratch due to a bruised hip, Flip Saunders needed more scoring in his line up, giving North Hollywood native Arenas the nod.

4:52 On a pretty day in Los Angeles, the Lakers beautifully moved the ball around, with each starter not named Pau Gasol making at least two field goals. Among the only non-assisted hoops was a put-back layup by Ron Artest, made more fun since he didn’t jump to either grab the ball or throw it back in off the glass.

3:01 The pretty passing didn’t go anywhere two minutes later, with Odom receiving yet another pretty look from Gasol and throwing down a one-handed dunk to put the Lakers up 10 points early. L.A. would finish the quarter with a 36-23 edge, thanks in no small part due to dominance of the glass (17-4), particularly on the offensive end. Gasol had three of the team’s seven O boards, while Odom’s 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting led the offense. Bryant added eight points of his own, while Gilbert Arenas notched eight for the visitors.
Side note: Speaking of Arenas … back on Dec. 17, 2006, North Hollywood native Arenas dropped 60 points in a 147-141 Wizards OT victory, with Bryant adding 45 in a losing effort.

10:15 When L.A.’s bench is dropping threes, the Lakers can be unreasonably good, so when Steve Blake hit his second three of the second quarter in two minutes, a few Wiz players may have been on the demoralized side of things. But that didn’t stop USC product Nick Young from shooting – what can, anyways, for a guy that had attempted 171 shots on the season while totaling only eight assists – and making a 15-footer that caused a Phil Jackson time out despite L.A.’s 12-point lead.

8:03 As Bryant and Odom sat and watched, the Wizards leaked out in transition behind lightning-fast rookie point guard John Wall, cutting the lead down to seven after consecutive fast break hoops. In related news, Bryant then approached the scorer’s table to check back in. Meanwhile, Gasol was on triple-double watch despite not playing to his usual high standard, reaching six points (3-of-10 shooting) with seven assists and eight rebounds.

3:10 The Wiz kept their roll going for a moment, cutting the lead to as few as four, before L.A. got annoyed any pushed it right back to double-digits at 61-47 after a Fisher and-1. That gave Fish eight points, not to mention four dimes and a season-high five rebounds. That Fisher already had a season-high on the glass reflected the rebound destruction for L.A., who at that point led Washington 24-10, boasting 12 offensive boards to allow for nine more field goal attempts than Wall and Co.

Your one-line summary: Thanks to 57 percent shooting & dominance of the glass (26-11), the Lakers took a 69-56 lead into the half.

6:10 Gasol continued to pile up statistics as the Lakers continued to build their lead, the Spaniard getting to 14 points, 11 boards and eight assists (two dimes short of his second triple-double of the season) in an 82-65 ball game. So much for that sore hamstring…

3:15 … That said, Phil Jackson was certainly going to use the opportunity to rest Gasol and Bryant as much as he could, taking Bryant out with L.A. up 16, and Gasol moments later with the lead down to 11. But with five straight points for the Wiz, including another Nick Young three (his fourth, for 24 total points off the bench) cut that margin down further to nine. Maybe we’d have to see Gasol, two assists away, with a chance for that triple-double after all?

0:00 Turn that “maybe” into a “very likely,” since the Wiz closed the third on a 14-1 run to cut L.A.’s lead to just three at 87-84 heading into the final quarter.

8:15 Remember how the Lakers got annoyed that Washington cut their double-digit lead down to four in the first half and promptly pushed it back to 14? This time, the three-point lead quickly grew back to 10 behind Brown’s bank shot and Gasol’s finger roll.

3:25 Despite continued displays of footwork brilliance from Bryant, showcasing much of his expansive arsenal of moves, the Wizards continued to hang around, down seven after a monster transition dunk from rookie Trevor Booker, who had 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting. One never got an idea that L.A. wasn’t in control, but Washington was certainly keeping the fans on their toes.

0:00 It was Gasol making several key plays in the final seconds, including a block, rebound, free throw make and loose ball tie up that resulted in his winning a jump ball, as the Lakers emerged with a 115-108 win over a young, feisty bunch of Wizards. We’ll see you back on for Wednesday’s “road” game against the Clippers.

Early Season NBA Standings

Having begun both the 2008-09 and 2010-11 seasons 17-3, the Lakers became pretty used to looking exclusively into their rear view mirror as the respective campaigns wore on.

But after last week’s four-game losing streak in which L.A. looked more than eager to have injured big men Andrew Bynum and Theo Ratliff back in the mix, the Lakers actually have a few teams to chase after 20 games in 2010-11:

Western Conference Standings
1) San Antonio Spurs (17-3)
2) Dallas Mavericks (16-4)
3) Utah Jazz (15-6)
4) L.A. Lakers (14-6)
5) Denver Nuggets (13-6)
6) Oklahoma City Thunder (14-7)
7) New Orleans Hornets (13-7)
8) Phoenix Suns (11-9)

Of those three teams, L.A. has seen only the Jazz, dropping a post-Thanksgiving game 102-96 despite leading by three with 1:16 to play in the fourth quarter. The Lakers don’t play the Spurs until Dec. 28 (at San Antonio), nor the Mavericks until Jan. 19 (at Dallas), while their chance for Jazz revenge comes on Jan. 25 at STAPLES Center.

Over in the Eastern Conference, two teams have managed a better start than the Lakers thus far, with three others not too far behind:

Eastern Conference Standings
1) Boston Celtics (16-4)
2) Orlando Magic (15-5)
3) Miami Heat (13-8)
4) Chicago Bulls (10-8)
5) Atlanta Hawks (13-8)
6) New York Knicks (12-9)
7) Indiana Pacers (9-9)
8) Toronto Raptors (8-12)

Bynum Plays 5-on-5 At Saturday’s Practice

After snapping a four-game losing streak with a 113-80 drubbing of the Sacramento Kings, the Lakers held a practice session on Saturday morning at the team’s El Segundo facility.

Playing center in the absence of Andrew Bynum (knee), Pau Gasol, bothered by a tight left hamstring, pushed through the discomfort and didn’t make things any worse en route to 16 points, five rebounds and five assists in three quarters of work.

“He did all right,” said Phil Jackson. “We’re still concerned, but it’s OK, he played under 30 minutes and that helped.”

Rookie Derrick Caracter, the lone backup big man for the Lakers until Bynum and Theo Ratliff return, had his best game as a Laker in relief of Gasol, scoring 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting and snagging four rebounds while blocking two shots in 21 minutes.

Nonetheless, the team is more than eager to get Bynum back into the mix. The 7-foot space-eater has increased his activity level with each practice, starting a few weeks ago with solo cardio exercises and accelerating all the way to a full contact five-on-five game with teammates on Saturday morning.

“He said he tired, which is natural, that’s going to happen,” said Jackson. “He said there was just one moment where he had a little twinge, but other than that he was OK … His conditioning is kind of the issue right now, and it’s timing more than anything else.”

It’s been customary for the Lakers to simply see how Bynum feels the day after a workout, and respond accordingly as far as what he does the next day. The team will take Sunday off, but if Bynum doesn’t have any set backs, soreness or swelling on Monday, he’ll get right back after it. It’s worth noting that the 23-year-old big man has yet to have a set back throughout his rehabilitation.

In other big man news, Ratliff resumed cardiovascular activity on the Alter G treadmill, but remains a few weeks away from playing.

Lakers – Kings Postgame Numbers

We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from the Lakers’ blowout 113-80 win over Sacramento, produced on Friday evening at STAPLES Center to improve the team to 14-6 on the season.

68 Points in the paint scored by the Lakers, compared with just 30 from the Kings. The margin was worse in the first half, L.A. dominating 34-4.

52 Bench points for the Lakers, many of which came in the fourth quarter as L.A.’s starters iced their knees. Shannon Brown led the way with 14, alongside four assists and three steals.

35 First half points scored by the Kings on 33 percent shooting, putting SAC in a 17-point hole at halftime.

31 L.A.’s biggest lead, attained in the middle of the third quarter on Lamar Odom’s and-1 layup.

27 Minutes played by Pau Gasol, who was questionable heading into the evening with a tight left hamstring. No matter. Gasol scored 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting with five assists, five rebounds and three blocks.

22 Points from Kobe Bryant in 26 minutes of action, coming on 8-of-19 shooting, alongside four assists and three boards with two steals.

19 Combined points for Lakers second round picks Derrick Caracter (10) and Devin Ebanks (nine) on an efficient 9-for-12 field goals. Each rookie hit their new career high in points.

5 Rebounds for Steve Blake, matching his season high. Blake hit all three of L.A.’s three-pointers towards his 11 total points.

4 The Lakers (14-6) rank in the Western Conference standings due to the now-snapped four game losing streak, as fellow veteran teams San Antonio (16-3), Dallas (15-4) and Utah (15-6) occupy the top three spots.

1 Sacramento’s rebounding edge at 40-39, surprising in such an uncompetitive contest.