Monthly Archive for February, 2011

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Lakers Conclude Trip in Cleveland

The Lakers coaches know that their team’s final of seven consecutive road games, against the Cleveland Cavaliers, is likey to be far trickier than it appears on paper.

In fact, the first words of the team’s scouting report, which you can read in entirety over at Lakers Courtside Connection, are: “This is a dangerous game.”

Why, you wonder, should a team that has only nine wins on the season and two since December be such a threat?

1) The Lakers beat the Cavs 112-57 on Jan. 11 in Los Angeles, an embarrassment that will surely have Cleveland riled up even more so than they’d be to beat the twice defending champs.
2) Mo Williams has returned to the line up after playing in only 35 of Cleveland’s 55 games, giving the Cavs a legitimate threat in the backcourt.
3) JJ Hickson has emerged into a low post threat after struggling for much of the season, averaging 19.9 points and 11.1 rebounds in February after just 8.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in December.
4) Antawn Jamison, averaging 22 points per game in February to lead the Cavs, is the kind of stretch four that can annoy Pau Gasol by making him guard out to the three-point line.

The Lakers, naturally, still own dominant matchup advantages at most positions against Cleveland, but their fate in Wednesday’s contest will likely come down to whether or not they’re able to match the energy of the Cavs.

Blake on the Road

On a trip like L.A.’s Grammy trek through seven NBA cities in 12 days, there are many sights to be seen, many things to do, all kinds of ways to keep oneself busy off the basketball court.

Even with limited time outside of the games, practices and film sessions, some players partake, particularly in cities like New York and Boston.

Steve Blake? He usually just chills.

“I watch movies in the room, mostly, maybe find some nice places to eat dinner,” he said prior to L.A.’s loss in Charlotte. “For the most part I just stay in the room unless I have family in the town that I’m in.”

In the past few nights, Blake said he’s watched “Skyline” and “Jackass 3,” the latter of which he found hilarious, particularly the scene where the guys were messing around with the jet from a plane engine and … uh, we probably shouldn’t print that.

Alas, Blake’s other primary past time on the road is calling his wife, Kristen, and three sons back in Los Angeles.

“I call home all the time,” he offered. “We always keep in touch just to see what’s going on and how they’re doing. My oldest is four, he can have a regular conversation where we talk about his school and stuff. My two year old just wants to hold the phone and speak whatever language he’s speaking right now. You can talk to him, but you can’t make out a lot of his words.

“We usually do use Skype but this trip we haven’t since my wife and kids have been kind of sick.”

Blake’s on-court team is not a cliquey one, a basketball squad that has little in common with the middle school lunch table.

“Everybody hangs out with everybody, which is nice,” the former National Champ at Maryland explained. “Some teams will have clique of two or three guys, but we don’t.”

Blake goes grubbing most often with Luke Walton and Shannon Brown, as well as Matt Barnes — currently back in L.A. rehabilitating his knee — when he’s traveling, but had dinner with Derek Fisher the other night and sometimes Kobe Bryant.

He’ll have a chance for one more dinner on Tuesday night in Cleveland before the final game of the trip against the Cavs on Wednesday. Then maybe one more movie on the flight back to his wife and boys in California.

Lakers 89, Bobcats 109: Feb. 14 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon road contest against the Charlotte Bobcats, the sixth of a seven-game road trip, 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
Bobcats: D.J. Augustin, S. Jackson, G. Wallace, B. Diaw, K. Brown

7:30 It hadn’t been so much sluggish starts, but sluggish games in general for the Lakers on the team’s last two trips to Charlotte, both losses, but in an 8-2 and then 10-4 start to this contest, L.A. was the more focused and effective team, with each starter not named Ron scoring a bucket.

0:22.0 OK, it was a bit premature to remove the “sluggish” tag in Charlotte, since the Lakers slowed considerably and allowed a 14-6 Bobcats run that allowed the home team to erase their early deficit and take a 24-22 lead into the second quarter. Gasol and Bynum had their pockets of success inside, scoring six points apiece, but the Lakers got away from running their offense effectively and were hurt at the other end.

8:22 Though Gasol thought he had the right to land, Bobcats backup big Eduardo Najera slid underneath and collapsed, drawing his second charge in the quarter and second of seven Lakers turnovers, off of which Charlotte had scored 10 points to help it lead 33-26.

3:00 It was more of the same for the bulk of the second, with the Lakers struggling to find energy, and committing two more turnovers that allowed the ‘Cats to take a 45-34 lead. Gasol managed to clean three consecutive defensive rebounds and convert free throws to temporarily stop the bleeding, but with Bryant being sick (missed shootaround with “aches” and such), Odom being uninvolved (two points, one rebound) and all the turnovers, it wasn’t a pretty half.

0:00 The Lakers did pull back a few points when Bryant hit a triple and Odom an open layup after a fortuitous bounce, chopping the lead from 11 to six entering halftime at 49-43.

11:40 Phil Jackson and his staff are always among the best at making halftime adjustments, and we saw one on the defensive end immediately as the Lakers went over some screens they’d previously chased around, ultimately resulting in a desperation three-point heave from Augustine that missed badly.

2:51 There were certain Lakers games particularly early in the season when Jackson would unhappily declare that the other team “wanted it more.” It’s actually not too surprising, since the Lakers are back-to-back champs and of course a win over such a team makes an opponent and its fans feel validated, and we were certainly seeing this occur in Charlotte. Using a 29-17 edge in the period, the ‘Cats took a 78-60 lead into the fourth quarter, getting a buzzer-beating three from Wallace for emphasis.

10:50 The Lakers were literally called for five personal fouls in the first minute and 10 seconds of the fourth quarter, including two on Bryant, which gave him five. The ‘Cats used the foul line to push their lead to 87-66 even after two Kobe free throws gave him 16 points on just 6-for-18 shooting.

1:14 The game long over, Derrick Caracter got into garbage time action with consecutive buckets, including a big dunk in transition, and Luke Walton’s jumper looked smooth as Bryant promised last week. It was of course for naught, as Charlotte ended up with a 109-89 victory, their third straight beating of the defending champs in their arena. Stay tuned for postgame numbers:

34 Combined points for little known Bobcats subs Nazr Mohammad and Gerald Henderson.

28 Charlotte’s biggest lead, acquired in the fourth quarter before L.A.’s subs trimmed off eight points.

27 Bench points for the Lakers, most of which came when the game was already over in the fourth quarter. Shannon Brown started the game 0-for-5, and Lamar Odom managed only nine points and four rebounds in 26 minutes. Kobe Bryant needed 20 shots to get his team-high 20 points, while Pau Gasol added 17 on 6-of-9 shooting, plus 10 rebounds and five assists, both team highs.

10 First half turnovers for the Lakers, the main ingredient in Charlotte’s 49-43 lead at the break.

9 Straight shots buried by the Bobcats to start the fourth quarter. As in, they didn’t miss once until

Bryant Under the Weather in Charlotte

Kobe Bryant missed his team’s Monday morning shootaround in Charlotte with “aches” and “chills,” according to the Lakers’ PR staff, and will be a game-time decision for a 4 p.m. Pacific tip against the Bobcats.

Phil Jackson said he’ll just have to wait and see how Bryant feels in advance of the game before determining his status. Of course, since he is the same Kobe Bryant who generally plays through everything, many of his teammates expect him to play.

The Bobcats (23-31) have played the Lakers extremely tough during their past two championship seasons, sweeping L.A. in 2008-09 and winning their home game last season in a 1-1 season split. In fact, Charlotte is one of only two teams in the NBA to post a winning all-time record against the Lakers (7-5), albeit with only six years of history.

Charlotte is a different team under Coach Paul Silas than it was over Larry Brown, who stepped down 28 games into the season. Silas has posted a 14-12 record since stepping in to coach for owner Michael Jordan.

“He has a very different personality (than Brown),” said Phil Jackson. “They all still have that toughness, they’ve always been a tough, defensive-minded team. Offensively I’m sure it’s simplified a little bit and probably a little (more free).”

One potential change the Lakers could see is at the point guard position, where D.J. Augustin — who was terrific when Silas first took over — has struggled markedly in recent games. Backup Shaun Livingston has been really good off the bench, meanwhile, and actually started the second half of the Bobcats’ come-from-behind victory at Atlanta on Saturday before finishing with 22 points, six boards and five assists.

Jackson said the Lakers went through the differences between the two point guards at shootaround, summarizing by likening Augustin to more of a screen/roll point guard and Livingston as one who has a nice midrange game to compliment a low post game and good all-around passing skills.

Finally, Jackson was asked the usual questions about his relationship with Michael Jordan — who often sits on the end of Charlotte’s bench — and shared that he usually spends between 20 and 30 minutes catching up with the focal point of Phil’s first six championships. Jackson quipped that Jordan may have practiced with his Bobcats’ team the other day because he needs to “lose some weight,” adding that he “might be able to” average 20 points in the NBA even to this day, as was suggested by Silas.

Lakers 75, Magic 89: Feb. 13 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon road contest against the Orlando Magic, the fifth of a seven-game road trip, 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
Magic: J. Nelson, J. Richardson, H. Turkoglu, R. Anderson, D. Howard

8:23 Andrew Bynum is one of the few matchups in the league in which Dwight Howard’s actually at a size disadvantage, which the Lakers used to their benefit early as Bynum reached seven points and five boards to Howard’s two and four with the Lakers holding a slight early lead.

2:01 Next came a 9-0 Magic run that resulted off four consecutive misses on the other end, but LAL responded with a 6-0 burst of their own, featuring a Bynum put-back layup, a leaner in the lane from Bryant and Odom’s alley-oop layup from Artest’s hand to make it a 24-21 deficit.

0:17.0 The biggest play of the quarter may have been Gasol’s drawing Howard’s second foul when Orlando’s big man led with his front elbow on a pivot move, which would put him on the bench for at least a portion of the second quarter. L.A. did manage to hold the Magic scoreless for the final 3:17 of the period, but made only 9-of-25 field goals (36 percent) to keep the score where it was with 2:01 to go.

7:08 Keyed by Odom, the Lakers reeled off an 8-0 run to reclaim the lead at 31-30, holding Orlando without a point for a three-minute stretch. They were doing it with defense, creating a series of turnovers and capitalizing in transition.

0:00 The Lakers played fine in the second, but had similar problems making shots as they did in the first quarter, no matter how easy or difficult. As such, they trailed the Magic 45-41 at the break despite committing six fewer turnovers and scoring 12 more points in the paint. Bryant’s 13 points led the way, while Bynum had 11 and seven boards.

7:45 An end-of-shot-clock triple from Ryan Anderson was Orlando’s sixth make of the game in 14 attempts, while Artest’s miss at the other end was the eighth in nine attempts, a difference of 15 points from the perimeter as Orlando enjoyed a seven-point lead.

3:30 Fisher and Artest had made just 1-of-9 total shots before nailing back-to-back long jumpers sandwiching a reverse layup from Bynum to cut Orlando’s 9-point lead to two at 58-56. From that point on, Orlando controlled the action almost entirely, scoring nine points while conceding only four to the Lakers, who bogged down on offense as Bryant isolated himself on Turkoglu. The Lakers were generally poor in the period, failing to get the ball inside to challenge Howard and settling for jumper after jumper.

10:14 The Magic kept up their late run in the third with consecutive baskets to make it 71-60, their biggest lead, though Bynum’s deuce and 1-of-2 Odom free throws cut the lead back to eight.

5:38 The Lakers just couldn’t get any traction in this one, momentarily cutting Orlando’s lead down to six before the Magic pushed back to go up 84-69 on Howard’s spectacular and-1 put-back over Gasol’s outstretched arms. LAL came from 15 points down to beat Boston, the only time in the past six seasons they’ve overcome such a road deficit, but that lead was in the second quarter.

3:50 Phil Jackson waived the white flag by pulling Bryant out, his team down 87-71, knowing the Lakers have to play another tough road game tomorrow evening at Charlotte. His squad just didn’t have it on this night, for the first time on their road trip.

Your final: 89-75, Orlando.

84 The previous fewest number of points scored by the Lakers in Orlando, which came on 3/23/97, prior to Sunday’s contest. It was also a season-low in points on the season, the previous coming in a loss to Milwaukee (98-79).

39.6 L.A.’s field goal percentage in a poor offensive first half, in which the Lakers made only 1-of-8 triples, 2-of-5 free throws and 18-of-40 two-pointers.

31 Points for Dwight Howard, for whom the Lakers didn’t have an answer throughout. They let him get off 16 shots, of which he made 13, forcing him to shoot only six foul shots, five of which came in the fourth quarter, and he added 13 boards with three blocks.

17 Scoring total for Andrew Bynum, who added nine rebounds and two steals before leaving in the fourth quarter after banging knees. He helped the Lakers hold a slight edge in the paint at 44-40, but that would prove inconsequential as the Lakers were terrible from the perimeter (2-of-16 threes).

11 Points for Pau Gasol, who had one of his least impactful games of the season, adding only four boards and three assists in 35 minutes.

L.A. Yet to Allow 100 Points on 4-0 Trip

There’s been a consistently simple theme in L.A.’s 4-0 start to their season-long 7-game road trip, all starting on the defensive end of the floor.

In victories over New Orleans (101-95), Memphis (93-84), Boston (92-86) and New York (113-96), the Lakers are outscoring their opponents by an average of 9.5 points, holding all four below the 100-point threshold.

Three of the four opponents were held well below their average field goal percentage numbers, though the Hornets did manage to shoot the ball very well (49.4 percent compared to a 45.7 percent average), at least until a fourth quarter in which they managed only 13 points. Memphis hit only 39.8 percent (46.1 average for the season) for the game, Boston 40.2 percent (league-best 49.5 percent) and New York 41.2 percent (46.0).

The Lakers have three more tests on the trip against one of the NBA’s better offenses at Orlando (99.9 points on 46 percent field goals) before facing two of the league’s worst at Charlotte (93.6 points on 44.7 percent) and at Cleveland (94.8 points on 43.0 percent).

Phil Jackson took his squad through a short practice on Saturday afternoon, but will not hold a typical shootaround session on Sunday morning in advance of the 12:30 p.m. Pacific tip at the Magic’s new arena.

For more on any of L.A.’s previous four games on the trip, you can click on our Gameday pages for postgame quotes, videos of Shannon Brown’s ridiculous dunks, links to our Running Diary, the box score and more.

Click here for the Lakers – Knicks Gameday Page.

Lakers 113, Knicks 96: Feb. 11 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening road contest against the New York Knicks, the fourth of a seven-game road trip, 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
Knicks: R. Felton, L. Fields, D. Galllinari, A. Stoudemire, T. Mozgov

9:27 After a sloppy start that included two turnovers in three possessions, Andrew Bynum scored three straight points by converting 1-of-2 free throws and then his own offensive rebound, but the Knicks took advantage of yet another turnover with an alley-oop on the other end to take an 11-3 lead. Enter Kobe Bryant, who hit a three, then 2-of-3 free throws that preceded a Bynum dunk to cut the lead to one.

2:41 It took Kobe another seven minutes to miss a shot after sinking four field goals, three of them from three-point range, plus a long two and two free throws to reach 13 points and put L.A. up 22-18. Phil Jackson said prior to the game that he was fine with Kobe being aggressive on offense early as long as he was making shots, suggesting that he’d only discourage it if Bryant cooled off and ignored the offense.

0:01.0 Just to make sure everyone at Madison Square Garden got what they came for, Bryant added a buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper to reach 19 points in the period on 7-of-9 field goals. He added a game-high six rebounds, taking everything away from Pau Gasol (no points, one rebound), but he and the Lakers weren’t playing a ton of defense, thus being up only two points at 30-28. In fairness, the team’s D has been at its best in second halves on this trip, so we’ll withhold judgment.

7:10 Shannon Brown had already invaded New York City air space earlier in the quarter with a breakaway flush, but his one-handed alley-oop finish off Blake’s dish was even better, Brown hanging in the air before corralling the ball with his right hand at full extension, then slamming it home with his right and grabbing the rim for emphasis with his left. Just dirty. That was the start of a 6-0 run capped off with Brown’s layup (again from Blake) that made it 47-37 LAL, all with Bryant resting on the bench.

4:32 When Kobe checked back in, he immediately got a ridiculous, contested-by-Gallinari jumper to fall, preceding 1-of-2 free throws on the next possession that would give the Lakers a 51-39 lead, their biggest of the game. Bryant, who grew up in Italy, was speaking Italian to Gallo, though I’m afraid I can’t translate. I can, however, tell you that Steve Blake earned a technical foul by refusing to back away from Gallinari on the baseline as the Italian scrapped and scrapped for a loose ball. Blake never backs down, as Bryant could attest to from his days in Portland.

0:00 After a dominant few minutes in which the Lakers pushed their lead to 17 points, they allowed three soft points late by fouling Stoudemire with 0.8 seconds to go, then (Odom and Gasol) forgot to box out on the second shot, and Landry Fields took advantage by sneaking in for a tip-in that cut the halftime lead down to 14 at 62-48.

8:00 The “Oh’s!” and “Ah!’s” continued to come in for Kobe, who crossed over Gallinari before a pretty pull-up jumper that pushed him up to 25 points, not to mention a game-high 10 rebounds. The Knicks tried to hang around with consecutive transition hoops, but the Lakers had things well under control at that point.

5:38 Perhaps a few of the Lakers realized that in a bad way, as the effort/focus dropped off a bit in the next two minutes, and the Knicks took advantage by rolling off a 6-0 run to creep back within single digits at 71-62.

0:39.0 A two-man game between Gasol and Blake ultimately produced three free throws for Blake, who drew a never-foul-a-jump-shooter foul on Toney Douglas, then made all three to push L.A.’s lead back up to 15, just before Gasol’s baseline hook on the next trip made it 85-68.

8:32 The Lakers barely missed a shot at the start of the fourth quarter, Brown’s layup out of a time out play making it 95-78 for the road team trying to improve to 4-0 on their trip. That gave Brown 10 of L.A.’s 28 bench points at that point, which grew to 31 when Odom’s three-pointer made it a 102-82 lead two minutes later.

3:02 L.A.’s bench was good enough in the fourth that Bryant didn’t need to return to the contest, content to rest on the bench with his 33 points and 10 rebounds, watching his squad hold onto a 106-88 lead as Jackson emptied the bench. Joe Smith and Derrick Caracter came on to join Blake, Brown and Luke Walton, who’d played quite well in his 15 minutes prior with six points and three assists.

0:00 All else you need to know: Lakers 113, Knicks 96.

54.0 Lakers shooting percentage in a game where they pretty much got what they wanted offensively.

19 First quarter points for an absolutely en fuego Kobe Bryant, who hit 7-of-9 shots, including 3-of-4 three-pointers, to lead the Lakers to a 30-point quarter. They visitors did, however, concede 28 points on NYK’s 58 percent shooting, before L.A.s bench created a 10-point lead in the first six minutes of the second quarter as Bryant rested. He’d rest again for the whole fourth quarter, content with 33 points and 10 boards in three quarters of work.

17 L.A.’s biggest lead of the first half, attained late in the second quarter, before the Knicks scored three points in the final 0.8 seconds to cut the lead to 62-48 at the half. Though the Knicks would eventually cut it to nine, a fourth quarter run by L.A.’s bench opened things up further at 102-82, capped by Odom’s three with 6:24 to play as many fans started walking out of the building.

9 Turnovers for the Lakers after a first quarter in which they posted five, helping the Knicks stay in the game.

4 Three pointers hit by Bryant, for the fourth time this season, the most he’s managed on the season.

Lakers 8-1 in 2nd Game of Back-to-Backs

Usually, earning a victory on the tail end of a back-to-back is among the harder things to do in the NBA, particularly for one of the league’s older teams like the Lakers.

Yet this season, L.A. has gone 8-1 in such contests.

Thursday night produced a 92-86 victory over the Celtics to improve the Lakers’ record to 7-3 on the front end of back-to-backs heading into Friday night’s latter half at Madison Square Garden against New York.

One reason for L.A.’s success in back-to-backs this season has been the play of Kobe Bryant, which runs contrary to a prevailing notion that he’s better when having a day or two to rest. Bryant is averaging 27.7 points on 53 percent shooting (and 40 percent from three) with 5.6 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 1.67 steals. Each one of those statistics surpass his season averages of 25.4 points on 45.9 percent shooting (31.5 percent threes), 5.0 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.25 steals.

Lamar Odom’s and Andrew Bynum’s numbers are also up slightly in such contests, though Pau Gasol’s are down, though the Spaniard in particular often plays better against better teams. This makes sense as the Lakers have beaten, in order: Sacramento; Detroit; the Clippers; Indiana; New Orleans; Phoenix; Golden State; and Oklahoma City on the second night. The only loss came at Houston on Dec. 1, a night after losing at Memphis.

The Lakers only have six sets of back-to-backs left after the Boston-New York combo a season after playing in 20. In fact, the only other time the Lakers have played 15 or fewer sets of back-to-back games came in the team’s first NBA season, 1948-49, when they also played 15. Chicago, Milwaukee and Atlanta are atop the NBA with 23 back-to-backs each in 2010-11, while Oklahoma City (17) and Phoenix (16) have the next fewest after the Lakers.

We’ll see in a few hours whether or not the Lakers can bring their B2B record up to 9-1 on night No. 2, or if tired legs from Boston catch up to the twice defending champs.

Odom Helps Lakers Win, Gets Eight Stitches

On ESPN’s late night version of “SportsCenter” out of Los Angeles, anchor Neil Everett quipped that Lamar Odom nearly had a triple-double in L.A.’s 92-86 victory in Boston on Thursday night.

He finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and … eight stitches.

After tipping in Pau Gasol’s near miss at the rim at the end of the third quarter, Odom turned quickly to get back on defense and ran straight into the Spaniard, slamming his head into Gasol’s mouth/chin area. It was a quite a collision, drawing an open wound on Odom’s bald head due to some contact with Gasol’s teeth.

“My grandma used to say, ‘Scars give you character,’” said Odom, laughing it off after the game.

It happened with 51 seconds left in the third quarter, Odom’s tip putting L.A. up 72-67 and capping what was a terrific quarter for the Lakers. Head trainer Gary Vitti then closed the wound with some glue on the bench, allowing Odom to return to start a fourth quarter in which he was terrific, grabbing six of his 12 rebounds and nailing a three-pointer for the first bucket of the final period. After the game ended, Odom had to get the stitches to close the wound, which seemed to knock a degree of sense into his game.

“Second half (Odom) played well, first half I was on him a little bit,” said Phil Jackson. “I thought he was trying to do too many things individually, (but) the second half he played the kind of game we know he can play.”

Odom sarcastically joked in the postgame locker room that the stitches came at a “perfect” time, since he’s hosting a launch party with his wife, Khloe Kardashian, for the couple’s unisex fragrance “Unbreakable.”

Lakers 92, Celtics 86: Feb. 10 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday evening road contest against the Boston Celtics, the third of a seven-game road trip, 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
Celtics: R. Rondo, R. Allen, P. Pierce, K. Garnett, K. Perkins

7:53 The major matchup Boston won in its win over the Lakers on Jan. 30 was at power forward, with Kevin Garnett going for 18 points, 13 boards and five assist, Pau Gasol only 12, seven and one. That didn’t look like it’d be the case for the playing-much-better lately Spaniard, who’d already grabbed four boards with two made jumpers in a 10-8 early lead for L.A.

5:00 Boston had a major lack of depth due to injuries to backup bigs Shaw, Jermaine O’Neal and Semih Erden, which meant Big Baby Davis had to defend Bynum after subbing in for Perkins. The Lakers immediately went to Bynum, who hit a hook over the 6-9 Davis plus the foul, though he missed the foul shot to keep the game tied at 12.

0:23.0 Bryant scored for the first time in the game on a driving layup off glass, which cut Boston’s quarter-high nine-point lead down to seven at 27-20. Turnovers were the big culprit for the Lakers, who gave the ball away five times to Boston’s zero, which made their 13-5 edge on the glass matter not a bit.

10:00 A poor start to the second quarter saw the Lakers miss four straight shots, and give up an easy and-1 in transition to Von Wafer that produced a 35-22 lead for the Celtics. Shannon Brown answered with a three, but the Celtics continued to score on the other end this time with a Perkins layup, their fourth make in five second Q attempts as LAL’s interior D suffered without Bynum on the floor.

6:28 Odom, so key in L.A.’s past wins at the Garden, struggled offensively in his first nine minutes. He made only 1-of-5 shots, and two of his missed layups led to wide-open shots in transition at the other end, Boston taking advantage to lead 42-30 into a Lakers time out.

2:19 Bynum had been very good for the Lakers in the first half, hitting two free throws to match Gasol with 12 points, cutting Boston’s lead from 15 down to nine by adding onto Gasol’s foul shots and Shannon Brown’s Chicago MJ tribute dunk (double-pump in traffic). The run grew to 10-0 as Fisher scored four straight, though Artest let Pierce, back in for the final possession, slip behind him for a reverse layup to put the C’s up 53-45 at the half.

THIRD QUARTER9:00 The Lakers were terrific to open the half, reeling off a 10-0 run to turn an 8-point deficit into a 2-point lead, with Bryant’s five straight points leading his team. Boston finally found some traction with a Pierce layup and Perkins and-1 (missed free throw), followed by a technical foul on Bryant for arguing after he was called for a travel instead of getting a foul call.

6:00 After the counter from Boston, it was Bryant and the Lakers coming back in turn, with Kobe drawing Allen’s fourth foul and promptly draining a jumper over Ray’s replacement, Von Wafer. Next came a two-handed dunk from Bynum courtesy of Gasol’s extra pass, producing a 61-60 lead halfway through the period. Their biggest lead would come moments later on a Bryant and-1, which gave the Finals MVP from last time L.A. was in the building 10 points in the quarter.

0:51.0 Odom, who made just 1-of-5 shots in the first half, tipped in Gasol’s miss, but then accidentally head-butted the Spaniard at high velocity, producing a big gash in Odom’s head as both came up a bit woozy. Perkins managed 1-of-2 free throws when the Lakers had to foul with both Odom and Gasol grabbing their heads in the backcourt, but L.A. still took a four-point lead (72-68) into the fourth quarter after a 27-15 edge in the third.

10:35 Apparently Odom didn’t mind getting a huge bandage placed on his head, because he promptly nailed a three-pointer after checking in to start the fourth. Brown then atoned for a turnover by tipping in a miss to give the Lakers their biggest lead at 77-68.

5:04 As Phil Jackson left Bryant and Gasol on the bench to rest longer than he sometimes might in games so close, his bench held onto a lead, though Boston had trimmed it down to three, with the ball, as Bynum looked tired and missed a bunny near the rim that might have made it a five-point game, instead the C’s staying within three.

3:11 At least until Kobe checked back in and scored three straight times with those fresh legs to push L.A.’s lead to 88-79. I received a text prior to Kobe and Gasol’s insertion questioning why it was taking Jackson so long and responded, “Let’s wait and see how fresh their respective legs work.” From that point on, the Lakers just held on, ultimately sealing the deal when Odom grabbed a tough offensive rebound from Garnett and Bryant got a second look at a jumper, which he drained. Your final: Lakers 92, Celtics 86.

2,561 Made three pointers in Ray Allen’s career, surpassing Reggie Miller, who happened to be calling the game on TNT. As Phil Jackson had requested prior to the game, Allen made the two he needed in the first quarter.

36 Combined points for bigs Andrew Bynum (16) and Pau Gasol (20), who were particularly effective in the first half when going for 12 points apiece. They were the collective key towards L.A.’s big 50-32 edge in paint points.

30.2 Boston’s field goal percentage in the second half, after the league’s leading shooting team had made 50.3 percent in the first half. L.A.’s defense has been outstanding late in games for all three games on their current trip.

15 Times Kobe Bryant has scored at least 20 points in a half, surpassing Dwyane Wade, who’d been tied with Bryant at 20. Eight of Bryant’s 20 second half points came in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter after he’d scored just three points on 1-of-3 field goals in a first half in which L.A. fed the ball inside to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

11 More rebounds grabbed by the Lakers than the Celtics in a stat category that defined last year’s NBA Finals. Lamar Odom led the way with 12, six of which came in that fourth quarter.