Monthly Archive for January, 2011

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Pre-Denver, Lakers Look to Defense

After one quarter of play on Wednesday evening in Dallas, the Lakers had opened a 31-23 lead with relative ease, getting and making whatever shots they wanted on offense, while packing the paint and forcing the Mavericks to take long jumpers on D.

Nearly all of those deep attempts happened to miss early, with eight straight Mavs three-pointers coming out, which ultimately ended up being a bad thing for the Lakers.

“It was one of those games that was fool’s gold,” said Kobe Bryant. “Playing well offensively, you’ve got a lead, but defensively you’re making mistakes but they’re just not making shots. They started making shots and took over the game.”

In fact, the Mavs would go on to make seven of their next eight three-point attempts, drawing within four points of the Lakers at halftime despite continued solid offense particularly from Pau Gasol, who had 17 points at the half. And while Dallas started to hit shots, the Lakers weren’t able to fix their defensive break downs, continuing their struggles at closing out on shooters, often watching from inside the free throw line extended while the Mavs stroked four more triples and increasingly more shots inside before finishing with 12 triples, shooting a season-high 55 percent for the game and outscoring the Lakers 30-17 in the decisive third quarter, and winning the game 109-100.

“We were making mistakes all night,” Bryant continued. “We gave them some easy looks and (they) shot such a high percentage from the field because of our lack of defense and defensive recognition. We jut didn’t do a good job of that.”

Andrew Bynum, who hyperextended his right elbow and had a contusion on his ulnar nerve (funny bone) but said he’d play against Denver on Friday, called L.A.’s defense “lazy.”

“I’m quite sure if you look at the tape everyone is kind of stagnant and just staying still,” he said. “And we didn’t cut off the baseline, and had guys rotating, we were just playing lazy.”

Prior to Thursday’s practice in the Mile High City, Phil Jackson said that Bynum was fine, and will start on Friday evening, albeit with a big bandage over his elbow that Jackson quipped team trainer Gary Vitti loves to make. His attention then returned to L.A.’s lack of defense, which he had his team go through on film prior to practice.

“We’re going over some of that stuff so that the bodies get moving in conjunction with the mind,” he explained. “Sometimes we’re thinking it and not moving, so our reactions were really I thought slow last night in what we did.”

And why?

“The process, basically, is to understand where the help comes from so that the players that are on the ball in position to be off ball have security to know how they can play, so they can be as active as they want to be because (they know) where their help is coming from,” the Coach explained.

That’s the governing theory, but against the Nuggets specifically, things are a bit different because Denver runs so many screen rolls. Jackson still wants his team to “put bodies in front of people and make them have to shoot with a hand in their face,” but recognizes that it’s more about handling the pick and roll, not to mention trying to keep ‘em out of transition.

“Their game is an open court game,” Jackson added. “If they get you in the open court, get a defensive turnover or stop, they’re a much better team than if you’re scoring and they have to set up in the half court.”

How the Lakers are able to execute that defensive game plan is where Jackson thinks the game will be decided.

Lakers 100, Mavs 109: Jan. 19 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening road game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center as the Lakers looked for a second straight win, 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, Gasol and Bynum
Mavericks: J. Kidd, S. Pavlovic*, S. Marion, D. Nowitzki, T. Chandler
*Pavlovic, the former Cleveland Cavalier, was signed on a 10-day contract last week and is making his first start, with Jason Terry returning to the bench in a spot previously occupied by Caron Butler before his knee injury.

5:54 It was a strong opening stanza for the Lakers, capped by a 6-0 run featuring an Andrew Bynum dunk, Pau Gasol hook and Derek Fisher jumper that made it 13-8, causing Mavs coach Rick Carlisle to call time out. The Lakers were conceding some good open perimeter looks to the Mavs, but Dallas was largely unable to convert.

2:30 Focused more upon packing the paint, particularly with Bynum staying in the game as Lamar Odom came in for Gasol, the Lakers had conceded eight three-pointers, many of them good looks, but Dallas couldn’t capitalize until their eighth attempt, which Kidd got to fall. L.A. quickly responded with a 5-0 run, however, to open a 24-16 lead. Capping the run was Fisher, fresh off his season-high 15-point game, who hit a triple to go 3-for-4 in the early goings.

0:36.5 The Lakers continued to get good looks on offense, Bryant the latest to make two straight shots in a 12-for-20 start, while the Mavericks were largely confined to the perimeter, operating without a real low post threat. Butler had been able to post up many guards and small forwards while healthy, but with him out and Dirk still getting healthy, it wasn’t almost all long two’s and three-pointers taken by Dallas, on pace to attempt 40 triples (2-for-10).

7:47 It wasn’t a great stretch for L.A.’s bench unit, which saw their team’s lead cut in half as Jason Terry went for five points. Nonetheless, the Lakers were controlling tempo, looking far more comfortable getting the shots they wanted while Dallas continued to depend upon perimeter J’s … And sure enough, it caught up with the home team moments later, with jumpers clanging off, and the Lakers taking advantage at the other end to open their biggest lead at 45-35 on Shannon Brown’s put-back layup.

1:00 With a short hook shot, Gasol scored the 13,000th point of his career, then went on to convert an and-1 to reach 17 points in the half on 8-of-12 shooting. Dirk had lots of trouble with the Spaniard on the block, and L.A. smartly continued to call his number.

0:00 Despite Gasol’s success inside, the Lakers left much to be desired at the other end of the floor, allowing the Mavs several open looks at triples. After missing their first eight of the game, they caught collective fire to hit 7-of-8, keeping it close at the half with a 56-52 scoreline. The Lakers controlled the glass 22-17 and points in the paint 30-16, but were very poor running the Mavs off the three-point line as an Antonio did so successfully in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

5:50 Kidd, who has struggled considerably of late from the field while literally going 1-for-14 in his last two games, scored seven straight points for the Mavericks all on perimeter jumpers to cut the Lakers’ lead to a single point.

2:47 A tough combo of poor Lakers defense (still not closing out on shooters) and six turnovers at the other end contributed to a 15-5 run for the Mavs, allowing a 72-69 lead along with the re-entrance of the crowd into the game. The Lakers had plenty of time to regain control, but Phil Jackson couldn’t have been happy with how things had turned.

0:00 It got worse quickly for L.A., however, as we’re starting to sound like a broken record in saying the Lakers would not get out on Mavs shooters, allowing two more open threes from Kidd and Pavlovic, respectively, the Mavs pushing suddenly to an 11-point lead. Gasol did manage a tip-in to make it 82-73 after three, reaching 21 points.

9:03 Perhaps seeing all of those shots go down against the twice defending champs snapped the Mavs out of the funk of their 6-game losing streak? Their lead reached a game-high 13 points when Dirk hit a tough baseline jumper.

5:46 Kobe tried to energize the Lakers again with two straight jumpers, but as had been the case all second half, the Mavs responded with a run, this time 7-0, capped by Terry’s corner three. Odom did counter with an and-1 triple at the other end to cut the lead from 16 to 97-85, but the Lakers may have dug themselves too big a hole…

3:00 Even a scoring burst from Odom, who posted a 4-point play when getting fouled on a three, a layup and an and-1, wasn’t enough as Nowitzki’s and-1 at the rim made it 104-91 for the Mavs. The Lakers failed to take an opportunity to distance themselves from Dallas and close in a bit on the Spurs in what was a very winnable game, losing defensive focus until the Mavs built too much momentum to counter.

Final: Dallas 109, Lakers 100; L.A. will have a chance to right the ship on Friday in always-tough-to-play-in Denver.

13,000 Career points reached by Pau Gasol late in the second quarter, becoming the sixth-fastest player to 13K points, 6K rebounds, 2K assists and 1K steals in NBA history. The other players on that list, in order: Chris Webber (fastest), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and David Robinson.

30 Points allowed by the Lakers in what proved to be a decisive third quarter, managing only 17 points themselves, as Dallas erased an 8-point lead to open a 9-point edge of their own entering the fourth period.

14 Points in the fourth quarter for Lamar Odom, who totaled 20 in the game along with 10 rebounds.

12 Three-pointers made by the Mavericks after missing their first eight of the game, a major factor in the contest. Jason Kidd made 5-of-8, and Jason Terry 4-of-6, the two combining for 43 points. Factoring in Shawn Marion’s 22 bench points, the three vets were the clear reason Dallas broke its six-game losing streak.

10 Assists for Kobe Bryant, who played facilitator for much of the contest, though he did add 21 points on 10-of-18 field goals, including nine points in the fourth quarter.

Lakers Draw Mavs for First Time in 2010-11

Two weeks ago, the Dallas Mavericks were jostling with the San Antonio Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference, losing only five times in 29 games with Dirk Nowitzki leading many early season MVP ballots.

But on Dec. 28 at Oklahoma City, the German power forward who arguably keeps Pau Gasol from being called the best European player in the NBA sprained his knee after landing awkwardly on a jumper. Three games later, the team’s next-best shot creator, Caron Butler, ruptured the patellar tendon of his right knee. In related news, the Mavericks have lost 9-of-11 games, including their last six in a row, while struggling considerably to find their early season rhythm.

And who can blame ‘em, as on top of the Nowitzki/Butler injuries, defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler — whom none other than Phil Jackson volunteered as an All-Star candidate — has missed the last two games with the flu.

The Lakers have had their own injury issues, most notably in the form of Andrew Bynum missing the team’s first 24 games of the season, which took its toll on the loss column and on the legs of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Sure enough, since Bynum’s return, the Purple and Gold have won 10-of-12 games. Also hurt are Theo Ratliff (knee soreness), who hasn’t played since early November, and Matt Barnes (arthroscopic knee surgery), expected to miss another seven weeks or so after tearing meniscus.

In stark contrast, the Spurs have stayed healthier than any team in the NBA, missing nary a game to injury while Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Co. roll through the season, establishing a league-best mark of 35-6 (.854), good for a 4.5-game lead on the Lakers (31-12, .721) and now, suddenly, 8.5-game edge over the Mavericks (26-14, .650).

It’s the latter two teams that will meet for the first time this season on Wednesday evening in Dallas. Nowitzki is back, fresh off a 32-point performance in Detroit, and Chandler’s expected to play opposite Bynum, while Barnes and Butler will be in street clothes.

The Lakers seem to be rounding, if deliberately, into form, while whether or not the Mavericks can reclaim some of their early-season rhythm remains to be seen. This even if the Lakers expect Mark Cuban’s squad to play with fervor, as is always the case when Kobe Bryant brings his team to Texas.

Joe Smith’s View from the Bench

Joe Smith has played a total of 17 minutes for the Lakers this season, scoring two points with six rebounds and a block. The former No. 1 overall pick in 1995, a year before Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher entered the league, Smith recognized when he was traded from New Jersey as part of the Sasha Vujacic deal that playing time would be hard to come by.

But that doesn’t mean he’s sitting around twiddling his thumbs.

His primary focus has been on learning the triangle offense, perhaps the only system he didn’t see while playing for 11 other teams. Additionally, he’s trying to be a positive locker room presence for a group of like-minded veterans. He has even taken over the role of the final pregame motivator previously occupied by Josh Powell, offering words of encouragement and varying hand shakes to Kobe and Co. just before opening tip.

Smith arrived prior to the team’s road contest at Philadelphia, and, after wins against the Sixers and Raptors, he watched from the bench as the twice defending champs lose three straight games to Milwaukee, Miami and San Antonio. But Smith’s been around too long to read too much into a short December swoon, and remained confident things would turn around particularly once Andrew Bynum returned to the starting line up, signifying his return to relative health. The night after the loss to the Spurs, Bynum was there for the opening tip, and since then the Lakers have won 10 of 12 games, including a run of seven straight wins.

It’s pretty simple, really, says the guy who practices against L.A.’s nearly 21 feet of big men.

“You’ve got two seven footers out there starting and that’s tough on anybody to begin with,” said Smith. “One (Gasol) that can stretch the floor, put the ball on the floor and the other (Bynum) who commands the paint. That’s always going to be effective in this league, and when you have a talent like Lamar (Odom) accepting that role off the bench and playing like he’s been playing, that’s a trio that is always going to be tough for anybody to match up with.”

In Smith’s eyes, the Lakers are getting closer and closer to being the dominant team he thought he was joining, outscoring opponents by a total of 127 points during that 12-game stretch (10.6 per game) .

“The team’s really been showing up lately, and it’s been a team effort now that everyone is getting more used to the defensive scheme,” he said. “Offensively, shots are falling that weren’t really going down when I first got here, but mostly it’s just a greater intensity out there.”

There were countless games in which Smith wore the jersey of the Sixers, Timberwolves or Warriors and watched Bryant go on one of his patented scoring bursts, but Smith took particular pleasure in witnessing Bryant’s 17-point fourth quarter explosion at Golden State on Jan. 12.

“You get excited … it’s just a whole different scenario,” he explained. “I know what type of closer he is in the fourth quarter from watching him opposite the court, but seeing how much confidence he has taking those shots is what makes him Kobe. For my first time, it was real impressive.”

Smith didn’t play in that game, but he was of course in the locker room when Bryant walked in, thinking to himself that it was telling to see Bryant acting the same way as he had after the previous (55-point) win over Cleveland, keeping the even keel Smith said is so important in the middle of the regular season.

Right now, Smith’s content to watch, and learn, trying to get himself ready in case Phil Jackson has to call his number.

Lakers – Thunder Postgame Numbers

We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s Martin Luther King night victory over Oklahoma City at STAPLES Center, which saw the team’s record improve to 31-12 on the season.

50 Percent shooting for the Lakers, who executed quite well throughout the contest. Kobe Bryant made 7-for-12, Andrew Bynum 5-for-8 and Lamar Odom 6-for-9 to lead the way from an efficiency standpoint.

33.3 Kevin Durant’s shooting percentage, thanks largely to the defense of Ron Artest, on an 8-for-24 shooting night, Durant needing seven free throws to get to his 24 points. Artest similarly held Durant well below his usual percentage throughout the first round of the playoffs last season.

16 Fast break points for the Thunder, eight coming in each half, which is an acceptable if not ideal number for the Lakers to concede to perhaps the league’s most athletic team. Much of L.A.’s game plan against OKC is to execute in the half court and limit transition opportunities, which happened

15 Season high in points for Derek Fisher, who scored five straight early in the third to give the Lakers some breathing room. Fisher had struggled from the field coming into the game (3-for-18 in his last three games), but made five of his first eight shots, including two three-pointers.

5 Key minutes in the fourth quarter from L.A.’s bench that Phil Jackson specifically cited after the game, which kept the Lakers up comfortably as Kobe Bryant, among others, rested for the home stretch.

1 Dribble it takes Russell Westbrook to get to the rim, as Jackson described after the game. Westbrook was a handful all night, scoring 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting to lead the Thunder, plus 12 assists.

0 Second half points for Andrew Bynum, after he scored six in the opening few minutes of the game, due to foul trouble. He still finished with a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double in 22 total minutes.

Lakers 101, Thunder 94: Jan. 17 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday evening home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at STAPLES Center as the Lakers looked to bounce back from a Sunday loss, 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, Gasol and Bynum
Thunder: R. Westbrook, T. Sefolosha, K. Durant, J. Green, N. Krstic

6:07 In the Lakers’ first six minutes against the Thunder since the first round of last year’s playoffs, many of the same concepts prevailed in what wound up a 15-12 edge for the home team. When the Lakers slowed the game down and got the ball inside, they were successful, as seen by Andrew Bynum’s 3-for-4 FG start, while two turnovers led to Thunder run outs at the other end, with Russell Westbrook reaching six points. The game plan for L.A. is to limit turnovers to keep the athletic OKC squad from running, and use matchup advantages with Bynum (Nenad Krstic) and Gasol (Jeff Green), which should tell the tale of the game.

0:54 In a manner of 10 seconds free of Ron Artest, who got cross matched in transition, Kevin Durant scored five points, first after drawing Steve Blake’s foul on an arm swing through from the three-point line, then with a steal of Shannon Brown at midcourt, resulting in his dunk, to put the Thunder up 28-26 after the Lakers had led by as many as seven points. The theme continued to be about transition opportunities, with eight of those Thunder points coming on the fast break off Lakers mistakes. Brown did pull the Lakers back even by the break, however, with a transition layup, knotting the score at 28 after one.

7:11 A pretty alley-oop layup from Blake to Odom made it a 36-35 Thunder lead, though a Lakers second unit with Gasol on the floor while Durant and Westbrook rested wasn’t able to gain any traction, due in large part to solid low post defense from Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka. Ibaka would add a free throw as Westbrook checked back in, Durant at the scorer’s table and Bryant still on the bench after taking just one first quarter shot with four assists.

3:48 Lakers opponents used to spend a lot of time worrying about how many times Bryant would get to the foul line in games, but the I-can-get-to-the-line-whenever-I-want card seems to be now controlled by Durant, who shot his seventh free throw after slight contact from Bynum in the paint. A great foul shooter (88 percent), Durant made ‘em all to keep the Thunder within three points despite tough paint buckets from Bryant and Odom.

0:00 The final few minutes of the third was one part a Kobe-attacking-the-rim show, and one part Westbrook doing damage at the other end. Kobe’s push included a two-handed slam through traffic, plus a tough finish off glass, while Westbrook hit two foul shots after drawing a transition PF, then added a pull-up J to close the half, keeping L.A.’s lead at 58-55.

9:06 Fisher was struggling with his shot of late coming into Monday’s game, making only 3-of-18 total shots in his last three games, and notching nine total field goals in his last five. That didn’t stop him from making 5-of-8 field goals tonight, however, including two triples and five straight points early in the third to reach a season-high 15 points. After his triple, he found Artest for an open look on the next possession, putting the Lakers up seven. The run became 11-0 moments later when Bryant beat the shot clock with a high-arching three of his own.

5:02 A terrific all-around stretch from the Lakers eventually resulted in an 18-2 push that opened their lead up to 76-61 when Bryant nailed a tough baseline fade-away over James Harden. Bryant was the spark plug, with two Gasol free throws and the Spaniard’s tip in adding to the effort.

2:16 The Thunder, however, reeled off eight straight points of their own, Durant hitting a pull-up jumper to make it 76-69 as he tried to rebound from the field goal struggles he suffered in the first round of last year’s playoff series. He’d made just 5-of-16 shots to that point, after Artest held him 13 percentage points below his season average in Round 1.

0:00 OKC kept up its counter run, getting points in transition from Westbrook (24 for the game) to cut a once 15-point lead down to just two, at least before Steve Blake’s first shot attempt of the game sank home, a three from the corner in front of the Thunder bench, to give L.A. an 81-75 lead after three.
Continue reading ‘Lakers 101, Thunder 94: Jan. 17 Running Diary’

Lakers 92, Clippers 99: Jan. 16 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon “road” contest against the Clippers at STAPLES Center as the Lakers looked for their eighth straight win, 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, Gasol and Bynum
Clippers: B. Davis, E. Gordon, R. Gomes, B. Griffin, D. Jordan

6:00 An evenly played first six minutes resulted in an even 12-12 scoreline, with Gasol and Bryant pacing the Lakers with four points apiece and Baron Davis scoring five, Eric Gordon four for the Clips. The matchups were different from the last time these two teams played* due to Bynum’s return, meaning Blake Griffin had to guard Gasol.
*Derek Fisher won the game for L.A. with a buzzer-beating layup.

4:15 The next two minutes belonged to the Clippers, who went on a 7-2 run to open a 21-14 lead thanks to Jordan’s second put-back dunk and an Al-Farouq Aminu three-pointer. Meanwhile, we saw Artest strip a thought-he-was-by-him Gordon on a drive, making me think of a pregame chat I had with Clips reserve guard Randy Foye about how Artest had the league’s strongest hands.

0:10.7 A tough put-back layup through traffic from Gasol closed the scoring in the first period, though he missed the and-1 free throw, and Bryant 1-of-2 moments earlier as the red and blue team held a 27-22 lead. Griffin, Gordon and Co. have hurt teams of late with their athleticism and youthful exuberance, which did have an early affect on the Lakers.

10:24 A terrific offensive rebound in traffic and put-back drop-in layup from Bynum quickly cut the Clips lead to one, and was followed by a tough and-1 from Odom over Griffin after Odom won a jump ball from a guy with whom he’s competing for a Western Conference All-Star berth. The two added respective blocks on defense, sparking the Lakers 7-0 run that put the Lakers on top by a point.

5:28 More Bynum (a power dunk) and Odom (a pull-up three) resulted in a 36-33 Lakers lead, with Steve Blake providing key energy and direction — if not statistics — in the backcourt. The collective energy from the Blake-Brown-Walton-Odom-Bynum group allowed extra rest for Bryant and Gasol, who’d check back in up three instead of down five after the first quarter.

0:01.8 L.A.’s starters gave up their lead almost immediately to the Clips before rallying back to take a 1-point lead at the break, Odom adding a bucket and Bryant 1-of-2 free throws to make it 45-44 for the visitors. Odom, knowing that Griffin is among his main rivals for a coveted All-Star berth, out-performed the rookie with eight points, five boards and two blocks in 15 minutes, compared with Griffin’s two points and five boards in 14 foul-plagued minutes. L.A. held the Clips to just 24 percent shooting in the period, getting solid perimeter defense from Blake and Brown and good rim protection from Bynum and Odom inside.

6:43 Perhaps noticing that his starting backcourt was being outscored 27-10 by Davis and Gordon, Bryant converted a tough and-1 and then a pull-up J to put the Lakers up 56-53. The scoring margin was due in part to Fisher’s slow start (1-for-6) and the fact that Davis/Gordon had attempted 24 shots to Kobe/Fisher’s 12 before the two Kobe makes.

5:10 Just a minute later, and Bryant had thrown an alley-oop to a flying-high Bynum, then added a soft baseline jumper — his Oscar Robertson tribute — to put the Lakers up 62-55. On the other end of the court, Griffin continued to struggle, missing two more shots to fall to 1-for-10 from the field.

0:01.0 With a buzzer-beating three from the corner, Gordon capped a 13-4 Clippers run to close the quarter, erasing the full control L.A. had exhibited behind Bryant’s scoring burst that opened a 12-point lead on his three-pointer. Both shooting guards had 22 points, while Bynum had a healthy 16-point, 12-rebound double-double in the post.

Continue reading ‘Lakers 92, Clippers 99: Jan. 16 Running Diary’

Lakers – Nets Postgame Numbers

We highlighted some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s Friday evening’s victory over the New Jersey Nets at STAPLES Center, which saw the team’s record improve to 30-11 on the season.

49.3 Lakers shooting percentage in the game thanks to a hot second half, paced by Ron Artest’s 5-of-7, Shannon Brown’s 6-of-10 and Kobe Bryant’s 10-for-19.

35 Free throw attempts for the home team, producing a 14-point advantage despite 10 misses as New Jersey attempted only 17 attempts (11 makes).

35 Points for Brook Lopez in a losing effort thanks to 13-of-19 shooting, the Lakers struggling to deal with a legit center after facing smallish teams New York, Cleveland and Golden State in succession.

29 Total points for former Lakers Sasha Vujacic (17) and Jordan Farmer (12), who played quite well in their respective returns to Los Angeles.

8 New Jersey’s edge in paint points (44-36), which doesn’t happen often. Andrew Bynum managed just two points on 1-for-5 shooting, plagued by foul trouble throughout the evening, while Gasol was only 6-of-15.

4 Second chance points for the Lakers, far below their average due to strong defensive rebounding from the Nets, who out-rebounded the home team 45-38.

1 Double-double in the game, courtesy of Lamar Odom and his 14 points with 11 rebounds, much of his production coming in the second half after he opened 0-for-3 from the field and 0-for-4 from the foul line.

Lakers 100, Nets 88: Jan. 14 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday night home contest against the New Jersey Nets as the Lakers looked for their ninth win in 10 games since Andrew Bynum returned to the starting line up, 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, Gasol and Bynum
Nets: D. Harris, S. Graham, T. Outlaw, D. Favors, B. Lopez


12:00 With Kanye West’s “I’m Coming Home Again” blaring in the background over a video tribute, L.A. native Jordan Farmar came out to receive his championship ring from the 2010 season, a moment Farmar said he expected to be emotional. Lakers captains Bryant and Fisher met the former backup point guard at midcourt to hand off the hardware and exchanged warm embraces; later in the game, the Lakers planned a video for Sasha Vujacic, who’s averaging 27 minutes per game for the Nets.

6:24 The Nets are among the most deliberate teams in the NBA, scoring more than only one other squad, and here tried to slow things down as the teams exchanged half court sets. Two straight Bryant field goals gave the Lakers an early 10-8 edge despite poor shooting (4-for-12). Moments later, Vujacic checked in for the first time, playing opposite Ron Artest at the small forward position.

0:32.6 With the rest of L.A.’s offense stalling, Bryant took over scoring duties, making his fifth field goal in eight attempts with a beautiful reverse layup around Farmar, then adding two foul shots to tie the score at 22 and reach 13 points. Farmar responded with a pull-up jumper to put the Nets up two at the break, however, as Lakers not named Kobe made only 4-of-14 field goals, including Pau Gasol’s 1-for-5.


8:27 The start of the second quarter brought up memories of Lakers practices from the last two years, just at the end when everyone was exhausted, as Vujacic and Brown took turns missing long jumpers with the Nets holding onto a 28-24 advantage. Meanwhile, the Lakers had scored only 10 points in the paint, with Bynum, Gasol and Odom combining for only two points.

4:59 After missing his first four free throws and three field goals of the game, typifying L.A.’s slow start, Odom hit two foul shots out of a time out and then watched Artest nail an open three on the next possession to give the Lakers a 33-30 lead. Things had been sluggish to start, but the home team’s defensive energy had picked up, the offense coming in turn at the other end.

0:00 Behind four straight points from a previously quiet Gasol and Artest’s second triple of the half, the Lakers opened a nine-point lead late in the period. Farmar and Vujacic managed a bucket each against their former squad, however, cutting the margin to 45-40 at the first half break. Bryant’s 15 led all scorers, with Artest joining him in double figures with 10.


5:28 After a somewhat sluggish start to the second half in which Bynum picked up foul No. 4 and Brook Lopez reached a game-high 21 points, the Lakers went on a quick 7-0 run, capped by Gasol’s drop-in hook courtesy of Fisher’s entry pass, to match their biggest lead at nine (58-49).

3:47 Moments after checking in, Farmar hit a running layup off glass, then a pull-up three-pointer to reach nine points off the pine, bringing the Nets to within six after Bryant’s and-1 through Farmar (due to a transition crossmatch) in the post. That gave Bryant 21 points, while Gasol’s two foul shots on the next trip down got him to 16 points, 10 coming in the quarter.

0:01.0 Gasol’s 3rd block of the game protected LAL’s seven-point lead into the fourth quarter, though the Lakers were unable to push their advantage into double digits despite hanging around the nine-point mark for much of the period. New Jersey kept battling, getting 26 points through three from Lopez and Farmar’s nine off the bench to hang around.


9:18 Just after the Lakers opened their first double-digit lead of the game with a Brown jumper, Farmar answered with a triple to cut it back to seven. That gave the L.A. native 12 points, three more than Vujacic’s nine after the Slovenian hit two straight jumpers in the opening moments of the fourth.

4:31 The Nets again refused to go away — a familiar pattern with Lakers opponents — while going so far as to cut LAL’s lead to two on Vujacic’s triple (after he’d grabbed his own three-point miss), but the Lakers responded with an immediate 9-0 run to push their lead back into double-digits. Bryant’s and-1 capped the run, getting him to 27 points.

2:00 Odom struggled at the game’s onset, but was terrific in the final quarter in particular, putting together a two-minute stretch in which he hit a jumper, grabbed a board, hit a three, fed Artest for a wide-open layup with a pretty extra pass, and then hit 1-of-2 free throws to put the Lakers up 94-85. A few free throws later, and the Lakers had their seventh straight win. Stay tuned for postgame numbers…

Farmar, Vujacic Return to Los Angeles

With the New Jersey Nets coming to town for a Friday night contest against the Lakers, so too do two players that earned a pair of championship rings for L.A. in Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic.

Vujacic, traded in early December for Joe Smith, is playing a healthy 27.3 minutes per game, averaging 11.3 points with 3.1 rebounds and 1.17 steals. He hit a game-winning shot for the Nets last week against the Bulls, and scored 22 points against the Timberwolves on Jan. 1.

“I had seven great years here,” said Vujacic prior to Friday’s game. “I learned how to become a champion in the NBA, and this organization was always good to me from day one. When I come to L.A., it always feels like I’m home.”

Vujacic has been particularly happy to be playing minutes again, saying that he was “suffocating” without playing time, but is now “breathing again.”

Farmar has averaged 9.8 points in 24.7 minutes since signing with the Nets in the offseason, and played very well in the absence of usual starter Devin Harris against Milwaukee on Jan. 8, scoring 20 points with 10 assists in a narrow loss.

“I’m (excited),” said Farmar of returning to his hometown to collect his ring and play for the first time in an opposing jersey. “I don’t get excited about a lot of things, but we worked hard for it … it’s a big deal, and I’m trying to cherish it.”

When asked if he expects and nostalgia to kick in, Farmar talked about his former teammates.

“I’m always going to miss the guys here, and our relationships were amazing,” he said. “You miss the day-to-day interactions with all the guys you’ve been to war with, but I’m happy to be playing ball, learning and trying to grow in my career.

Farmar will receive his championship ring in a ceremony prior the game from Laker captains Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, while a video of Vujacic highlights with the Lakers will be shown at some point during the game.