Monthly Archive for April, 2011

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L.A. 100, N.O. 86: Game 3 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening road contest at New Orleans the Lakers looking to reclaim home-court advantage in their First Round series, 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, Gasol and Bynum
Hornets: Paul, Belinelli, Ariza, Landry and Okafor

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 It was a sea of yellow in the Crescent City, with t-shirts of that color worn by nearly all of the sellout crowd, and “Beat L.A.” signs omnipresent. Among the words in the N.O. video intro were: “They say it can’t be done … Who cares what they say!” Yet this was a Lakers team that had won three consecutive Game 3′s in playoff road games after opening with splits against Houston and Denver (2009) and Boston (2010), and won at least won game in eight consecutive series. Should be a fun one…

3:48 At least for the first eight minutes, the Lakers played like the veteran road team that they are, rotating well on defense and pursuing the ball to cause four turnovers, while getting 10 points at the other end from Kobe Bryant — including a huge dunk that made him look like the old No. 8 — to take a 21-14 lead. Also key was Ron Artest, playing well for the third straight game with seven early points and his usual defensive activity.

1:50 The starters were terrific for Phil Jackson, opening a 9-point lead at 25-16 on a Bynum dunk with 2:10 to play. In came the bench, the Killah B’s alongside Gasol and Odom, as Chris Paul hit jumpers on three straight possessions to cut the margin to four with only Gasol managing to score (a baseline J he seemed relieved to see fall). The momentum thus going back to N.O., Odom’s and-1 in the paint with four seconds left was a key hoop, making it 30-23 at the quarter break.

SECOND QUARTER
11:33 L.A. was certainly pleased to see Matt Barnes look like his pre-injury self while running up and down in transition in Game 2, making all four of his field goals. He started this one by flying in for a tip-in dunk of Bynum’s miss in traffic, putting L.A. back up nine. Barnes told me yesterday that his knee is feeling much better in the last week than it had since he came back, and he was showing as much on the court.

8:09 The second unit built L.A.’s lead to 11 with a terrific play from Bynum, who grabbed his third offensive board (seventh total) and stuck home a pretty lefty hook to join Bryant with 10 points. N.O. had no answer for ‘Drew, helping establish paint dominance at both ends.

1:48 The Hornets were almost entirely dependent upon Paul to create offense with L.A. rotating so well on D, and he nailed his seventh jumper in nine attempts to reach 15 points, getting N.O. within five. But Bryant was right there at the other end with a fading banker to reach 15 himself. On the next two possessions, Fisher got Gasol a layup, and Gasol created a baseline dunk for Shannon Brown that made it a 49-38 Lakers lead.

THIRD QUARTER
11:01 Back-to-back Kobe threes were certainly a good way for L.A. to start the half on offense, though N.O. did get consecutive buckets from Okafor at the other end to keep the deficit at 11. Moments later, L.A. avoided yet another near scare as Bynum went down holding his right knee after stepping on Landry’s foot, but a collective sigh of relief was almost audible as he got up and ran back on defense.

5:25 An odd start to the third featured several strange calls, enough to get Jackson out of his seat and walking out to midcourt for an explanation after a T on Fisher, but despite four more turnovers, L.A. maintained its cushion behind two straight Gasol hoops, giving the Spaniard eight points into a time out with a 66-58 score line.

1:24 The Hornets, as they’d done in Los Angeles, continued to scrap and claw, cutting L.A.’s lead to six with a 5-0 run. But L.A. continued to respond, getting four straight to push it back to 10. Odom, however, picked up his fourth personal and had to sit, resulting in yet another 5-0 run this time cutting L.A.’s lead to five at 73-68.
Continue reading ‘L.A. 100, N.O. 86: Game 3 Running Diary’

Kobe, Michael & Lots of Playoff Points

Through three quarters of L.A.’s Game 2 win against New Orleans, Kobe Bryant had taken only seven shots, making two, for five of L.A.’s 63 points, content instead to facilitate the offense while getting his team’s bigs involved and focusing defensively on Chris Paul.

Not that he was paying any attention, but Bryant was in danger of snapping his playoff double-figure scoring streak of 150 games, second only to Michael Jordan’s 179. But with six fourth quarter points, Bryant kept his streak alive despite his lowest scoring output of the 151 contests, which began back in Game 6 of the 2000 NBA Finals against Indiana.

In other Bryant and Jordan news: Kobe’s 34 points in Game 1 against the Hornets was his 79th career playoff game with 30+ points, which also ranks second all time to Jordan’s 109 games.

During last season’s run to a second straight championship, Bryant scored at least 30 points 14 times, allowing him to surpass Jerry West (74) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (75) for second on the chart. He’d previously surpassed Elgin Baylor (60) and Shaquille O’Neal (55).

Career Playoff Scoring Stats
Kobe Bryant: 200 games, 180 starts, 5,097 points, 25.5 ppg
Michael Jordan: 179 games, 179 starts, 5,987 points, 33.4 ppg

Lakers – Hornets Game 2 Postgame Numbers

We compiled some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s 87-78 bounce-back win in Game 2 of their first round series against the New Orleans Hornets.

5 Combined field goals hit by Kobe Bryant (3-for-10) and Pau Gasol (2-for-10). Gasol struggled to find a rhythm for the second straight game, while Bryant was focused on facilitating for other players. Phil Jackson said after the game that “there’s never been a defense or a style I’ve seen stop Kobe.”

9 More fastbreak points for the Lakers (14) than the Hornets (5), thanks in large part for Matt Barnes, who filled lanes in transition and made all four of his field goal attempts in 11:45 of playing time.

12 Lamar Odom’s game-best plus/minus rating, meaning the Lakers outscored the Hornets by 12 points when he was on the floor. It was at +19 before a few late buckets from New Orleans. “L.O. showed why he was Sixth Man of the Year,” said Chris Paul after the game.

14 More points for L.A.’s bench (27-13), thanks in large part to Odom’s 16 on 8-of-12 field goals.

16 Turnovers for the Hornets a game after they committed only three, which matched an NBA record. Ron Artest and Barnes had two steals apiece, Artest adding 15 points and six boards in his second straight solid all-around game.

17 Points for Andrew Bynum to lead the Lakers on an efficient 8-for-11 field goals. He added 11 boards, the only player in the game in double digits in that category.

29 Field goal percentage for the Hornets’ bench players, a game after they shot a historically great 72.7 percent.

29 Combined points (20) and assists (9) for Chris Paul after he dropped 33 and 14 in Game 1. In fact, 10 of his points came on buzzer-beating three’s and free throws after drawing fouls on three pointers, as L.A. did a much better job with him in the pick and roll (Bryant in particular).

44 Lakers rebounds, plus eight over the 36 of the Hornets, 13 of which came on the offensive end. All five of Gasol’s boards, in fact, came on the offensive end, including a critical one with one minute left that ultimately led to a dagger three from Artest.

50 Points in the paint for the Lakers, to just 32 from New Orleans, a reversal from Game 1 (52-34 N.O.).

Lakers 87, Hornets 78: Game 2 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening home playoff contest against New Orleans, the Lakers looking to even the first round series at one, 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, Gasol and Bynum
New Orleans: C. Paul, M. Belinelli, T. Ariza, C. Landry, E. Okafor

FIRST QUARTER
5:50 We expected Pau Gasol to come out really strong to avenge what was likely his worst playoff game as a Laker, but he hadn’t yet found his range in the early goings, missing all but one of his first four attempts from the field. Newly-crowned Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom, who was honored with a pregame celebration, would check in moments later.

3:42 The biggest Hornets lead of the quarter came as Aaron Gray, in early for Emeka Okafor due to two early personal fouls, hit a leaner in the lane to make it 20-11. New Orleans was playing with house money, having already earned its desired split on the road, and the Lakers a bit tight while missing several easy looks around the rim.

0:15.0 From then on, it was much better for L.A., as shown by a 12-3 run to close the quarter tied at 23 all. Lamar Odom’s six points on 3-of-4 shooting was key, while the defensive effort from subs Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Shannon Brown helped cool down a Hornets team that started hot.

SECOND QUARTER
7:54 The good D continued from the second unit, forcing four turnovers in the first four minutes (seven total) on a Hornets team that committed only three to match a playoff record in Game 1. Meanwhile, Barnes was also doing it on offense, converting an alley-oop layup for his third make in as many attempts, putting L.A. up 31-29.

5:43 Without question, this was the best we’d seen L.A.’s second unit look in recent weeks. Odom had eight points, Barnes six with two steals, Blake five assists and two boards and Brown two boards with two dimes, the second of which getting Bynum an and-1 (he missed the FT) that put the Lakers up 35-31. The lead would grow to 10 at 43-33 moments later thanks to an 8-0 run sparked by defensive intensity.

0:00 L.A. opened a 12-point lead on Bryant’s first field goal, but then conceded back-to-back threes in the final minute from Ariza and Paul (at the buzzer) that made it a 47-41 margin at the half. If it were soccer, the announcers would have said the final minute was “against the run of play,” as the Lakers dominated the period to an extent that didn’t show on the scoreboard. Nonetheless, N.O. had L.A.’s attention, the team from the second quarter looking like the one that went 17-1 out of the break.

THIRD QUARTER
6:18 What happened to L.A.’s offense? Since a Bynum put-back layup of Kobe’s missed drive with 10:37 left, Gasol badly missed on a fadeaway after getting pushed out of the lane by Landry (which had been happening all night), Bynum missed a 9-foot jumper and then committed an offensive foul trying to free Kobe for a shot, Fisher was blocked, and Artest and Bryant missed back-to-back three-pointers. They still led by five, however, as N.O. wasn’t doing much scoring either.

3:04 Then, the bucket started going in, mostly from the paint, with Odom capping a run by nailing back-to-back running shots that created a 12-point lead. Odom had been terrific in his 15 minutes, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

0:00 But for the second straight quarter, Paul would nail a buzzer-beating three to again make things look better for the Hornets than they were, trimming L.A.’s lead down to seven at 63-56. Meanwhile, can you remember the last time both Bryant (2-for-7) and Gasol (2-for-10) struggled at the same time? Me either, but a testament to the games from Odom, Artest (12 points, six boards) and Bynum (15 points, eight boards).

FOURTH QUARTER
9:18 Two real positive signs for LAL on this night came from offseason signings Barnes and Blake, who started the fourth as well as they played in the first half. Barnes, moving like he was before knee surgery in January, streaked up the floor in transition to finish his fourth field in four attempts. Then, the third “Killah B,” Shanon Brown, nailed an open three created by Bynum to put the Lakers up 72-59.

6:09 More Odom, this time scoring on a leaner to open a 76-61, getting himself to a game-best +19. For those not familiar with the +/- stat, that meant L.A. outscored N.O. by 19 points when Odom was on the floor. Bryant was just a +4, and Gasol a +5.

2:19 For any fans of Street Fighter 2, the way Chris Paul went down after barely touching feet with Ron Artest exactly resembled the way Ken might go down after a Ryu leg sweep. The Lakers had control of the game, but the Hornets were still buzzing around, drawing fouls on three-pointers (Paul, again, plus a tech on Kobe for arguing that Paul simply kicked his leg out) and such.

0:40.1 But it was L.A.’s night, as Gasol tipped out a miss that eventually made its way into the hands of Artest, who nailed a dagger three that put L.A. up 84-74. After a Hornets three and some free throws, the Lakers wound up with an 87-78 victory, intent upon re-gaining home court in New Orleans on Sunday evening. Stay tuned for your numbers:

Hornets Historic in Game 1

Losing 109-100 in Game 1 of L.A.’s quest for a third consecutive title was not what the Lakers had in mind, but after a few hours of breaking down film, there was a simple explanation.

“Give the Hornets all the credit in the world,” said assistant coach Jim Cleamons in our LakersTV preview. “They wanted the game, they played harder and they should have won.”

With L.A. not fully invested for whatever reason, so good were the Hornets that you had to look at the entire history of the NBA postseason to match certain outputs:

- With just three turnovers in the game, the Hornets matched an all-time NBA Playoff record established first by Detroit against Orlando on May 13, 2008.
- With his 33-point, 14-assist, 7-rebound performance, point guard Chris Paul became the fourth player in 3,272 previous playoff games to reach such numbers, matching Oscar Robertson (twice), Walt Frazier and Magic Johnson, and becoming the first to do so on the road.
- New Orleans got a ridiculously efficient output from its bench, which went 16-for-22 from the field (72.7 percent), just the third time in league in the last 20 playoff seasons a team’s reserves have combined for that high of a field goal percentage with a minimum of 15 attempts (Milwaukee, 75% on 4/29/06 vs. DET and Phoenix, 74% on 5/6/06 vs. LAL).

Lamar Odom: Sixth Man of the Year

As long time Lakers analyst Stu Lantz introduced Lamar Odom as the 2010-11 Sixth Man of the Year, several of his teammates, led by Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, stood up to offer a standing ovation.

Odom, often content to just fit in and put the spotlight on others, was both flattered and embarrassed.

What you’ll doin’, man! … sit down, man … get outta here, man. I don’t even know what to say besides thank you to my family, my wife, my mother in law, my extended family, my teammates. It’s been a long time coming. I just kept at it. I’ve learned so much from the dudes in my locker room, Derek and Kobe, and at the end of the day I’m blessed to be around you guys. To play with so many great, talented players — Pau (Gasol), Shannon (Brown), Luke (Walton). You’re my boys, man. There’s a couple of people that I wish was here to see it, you know … but I just want to let you’ll know I’m thankful, man.

For more on Odom’s Sixth Man of the Year honor, including video of the event, head over to Lakers.com.

Laker Losses in Game 1 … and Game 2

That L.A. dropped Game 1 of their Round 1 series against New Orleans was likely the most surprising of eight terrific NBA games, particularly as the Lakers have so rarely lost that first postseason game since acquiring Pau Gasol in February of 2008.

L.A. had hosted 11 playoff series since then in three consecutive trips to the finals, winning Game 1 in 10 of those 11 matchups.

The only loss came in Game 1 of the 2009 Western Semi’s against Ron Artest and the Houston Rockets, a 100-92 defeat in a series that would ultimately go seven games.

On two other occasions, however, the Lakers dropped Game 2, thus giving up home-court advantage momentarily:

2009 Western Finals: Denver 106, Lakers 103
2010 NBA Finals: Boston 103, Lakers 94

That makes three of the 11 playoff series L.A. has hosted in which they dropped either Game 1 or Game 2 and went on to win the NBA championship nonetheless. In fact, the Lakers immediately regained home court in each circumstance, winning Game 3 on respective courts in Houston, Denver and Boston.

Of course, before the Lakers can try to apply that math to this season’s team, they first have to beat New Orleans in Wednesday night’s Game 2.

Lakers – Hornets: Game 1 Postgame Numbers

We compiled some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s Game 1 loss to the New Orleans Hornets, the Lakers trailing throughout most of the contest before ultimately falling 109-100.

Phil Jackson summed up the loss by saying that L.A. was simply “slow” all day, failing to match the intensity of the Hornets, who both came out and finished as the aggressor, as the numbers suggested:

3 Turnovers in the entire game from the Hornets, who maximized their possessions. L.A. committed 13 turnovers, five alone from Kobe Bryant.

8 Points for Pau Gasol, who killed the Hornets in the regular season, including a season-high 34 points on Feb. 5th. Gasol simply struggled throughout, hitting only 2-for-9 shots, along with six boards and six assists.

10 First half assists for Chris Paul, one more than L.A.’s entire team as the Lakers struggled with N.O.’s pick and roll. Paul finished with 14 assists to just two turnovers.

11 Season-high rebounds for Ron Artest, who added 16 points, second to Bryant. With all his boards, Gasol managed only six and Lamar Odom just one off the bench.

15 Personal fouls committed by the Lakers in the second half, allowing a Hornets parade to the foul line. N.O. made 19-of-23 foul shots, many of the fouls drawn by Paul.

22 Second half points for Paul, who finished with 33. He took 10 free throws in the fourth quarter alone after the Lakers got in early foul trouble.

34 Points for Bryant on 13-of-26 shooting to lead the Lakers. He added five assists and four boards.

42 Minutes played by Bryant, who averaged just 34 in the regular season. That, of course, was all so that he could play big minutes in the postseason, as he stated after Saturday’s practice.

51.9 Hornets shooting percentage in the game.

52 Points in the paint for the Hornets, to just 34 for the Lakers.

L.A. 100, N.O. 109: Game 1 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon playoff contest against New Orleans, the Lakers looking ____, 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, Gasol and Bynum
Hornets: C. Paul, M. Belinelli, T. Ariza, C. Landry, E. Okafor

FIRST QUARTER
5:00 Among the biggest differences between the two squads showed itself seven minutes into the game, with L.A. up 14-12, as centers Emeka Okafor and Andrew Bynum both picked up their second personal fouls. In for L.A. came likely Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom, while New Orleans brought in Aaron Gray, who averaged 3.1 points and 4.2 boards. Still, the Hornets had mimicked Philadelphia, Indiana, Atlanta and Memphis as the lower seed came out more loose and aggressive, going up 12-4 before a 9-0 LAL run closed the gap.

1:00 When Trevor Ariza was a Laker, he spent many practices and pregame shooting sessions guarding Bryant, but that didn’t help Ariza stay in front of Bryant in the first quarter. Kobe repeatedly got into the paint, producing his own layup and a free layup for Gasol on back-to-back possessions. Bryant made 4-of-7 shots in an aggressive first quarter for nine points.

0:01.0 A beautifully-weighted pass from Gasol to a streaking Shannon Brown allowed L.A. a buzzer-beating layup, cutting N.O.’s lead to 26-24 after one. L.A.’s biggest problem was turning the ball over five times.

SECOND QUARTER
8:46 L.A.’s next biggest problem was some small ball from the Hornets, who used Chris Paul and backup PG Jarrett Jack to roll off a 7-0 run to start the quarter, opening a 33-24 lead. Phil Jackson’s second unit of Trey Johnson (called up from the D-League to be used in Steve Blake’s absence), Brown, Matt Barnes, Odom and Bynum wasn’t any better than it had been in the final month of the season.

4:29 Bryant’s energy was typically excellent, but the same couldn’t be said for Gasol and Odom, who seemed to be easing their way into the playoffs (though at times, Bryant’s over-aggressive mode can take Gasol and Odom out of their games). In 13 minutes, Odom had just 2 points, one assist and no rebounds after connecting on 1-of-2 FT’s to make it 41-36 New Orleans, while Gasol had two points, three assists and one board in 14 minutes. From one All-Star and one coulda-been All-Star, the Lakers would simply need much more.

0:00 A wild final few seconds included a moment of sheer fright in the building when Bryant stayed on the ground for a full minute holding his neck after nailing a tough fadeaway jumper. Taking advantage of the ensuing odd-man break was Paul, who hit an open three … but Artest countered with a 45-foot, buzzer-beating heave to make it 55-47 Hornets at the half. The biggest story line from the first half was L.A.’s inability to handle N.O.’s pick-and-roll, Paul going off for 10 assists himself, as the Lakers managed only nine as a team.

THIRD QUARTER
9:00 Whatever defensive adjustments Phil Jackson and his staff made at the half worked, as L.A. earned five straight stops, reeling off a 7-0 run at the other end to climb within a point. Capping the run were two Gasol free throws after a flagrant foul on Ariza, frustrated enough with not getting a call that he elbowed Gasol at midcourt.

5:40 New Orleans pushed its lead back to eight, but immediately upon checking in, Odom drove to the hoop and stuck home a bucket off glass, his first field goal of the game. His aggression surely had L.A.’s coaching staff nodding on the sideline, and pre-empted back-to-back tough buckets from Bryant, the second capping an 8-2 run to cut N.O.’s lead to two at 65-63.

1:50 One area in which the Lakers were dominating was the foul line. Bryant’s 2-for-2 had L.A. at 22-for-29, with the Hornets just 5-for-11. Bryant had a game-high 27 points, the Hornets still clinging to a one-point lead. That’s how the quarter would end, after two hoops from Brown matched CP3′s 12th and 13 assists.

FOURTH QUARTER
9:19 As we saw for much of the season, L.A.’s should-be-better second unit got outplayed, conceding a 9-4 run to start the fourth that had the Hornets up six points again. Barnes, still not over his sore knee, was struggling, committing consecutive fouls before being replaced by Bryant.

6:31 A deep three from Bryant pushed him to a game-high 34 points, six already in the fourth, and cut N.O.’s lead to three. L.A. was having trouble playing D without fouling, however, as six PF’s were called in the first five minutes, resulting in a parade of Hornets to the foul line that allowed N.O. to maintain its lead.

4:24 After playing the pick and roll pretty well all half, L.A. switched Gasol to Paul off high screens, Kobe following the screener, and Paul stepped back to drain consecutive jumpers that put the Hornets up 94-87. Paul had been getting good looks either for himself or teammates throughout the game, which would make the seven-point hurdle a difficult one for L.A. to climb, as stops would be so critical.

3:00 In tough situations for the past two seasons, Artest has found ways to step in, and he did so again by first nailing a corner three, then coming up with a loose ball, drawing a foul and hitting two free throws to cut N.O.’s lead to four at 96-92. Artest had a season-high 11 rebounds with his 16 points.

0:00 But while the Hornets kept going to the line, finishing with 20 FT’s in the quarter (10 from Paul), the Lakers kept missing, producing a 109-100 final. New Orleans turned the ball over only three times, and after losing all four to L.A. in the regular season in a series of mostly blowouts, came into STAPLES Center and beat L.A. in Game 1. Stay tuned for Postgame Numbers.

Final Hornets Prep for L.A. on Saturday

The Lakers have been prepping for the Hornets for three days now, and so have we.

With an early 12:30 p.m. tipoff on ABC’s Sunday showcase game, L.A. went through their final practice on Saturday morning, with every player except Steve Blake (chickenpox) participating.

Matt Barnes was the most limited of the three players with varying degrees of knee soreness, as he ran through some drills but sat out most of practice. Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest, on the other hand, practiced fully and will start Game 1.

That was good news for the Lakers, but that didn’t mean Phil Jackson was thrilled with Saturday’s session.

“I thought we had a little lack of focus today,” he said. “Just not quite as tuned in as we normally could be. I’d like to see a little more focus … we have a day to put it together.”

Jackson also explained why he’ll still monitor Derek Fisher’s but not Kobe Bryant’s minutes in the First Round, what New Orleans does well defensively and how L.A. plans on using their height advantage nonetheless.

You can watch video from Jackson, Barnes and Bryant over on Lakers.com.