Monthly Archive for April, 2011

Page 5 of 5

Lakers 85, Jazz 86: April 5 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home contest agianst the Utah Jazz, the Lakers looking to bounce back from just their second loss since the All-Star break, 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
Jazz: E. Watson, C.J. Miles, P. Millsap, D. Favors, A. Jefferson

5:00 Our early eyes were on the respective knees of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, both of whom had to leave Sunday’s loss in the fourth quarter (Gasol returned and finished the game). Bynum practiced fully on Monday and said he was fine, while Gasol’s MRI revealed a bone bruise but nothing structurally wrong, meaning he was fine to start the game. As it were, both players looked like absolutely nothing was wrong: Gasol scored 10 points with two assists and a block, outscoring Utah (eight points) himself; Bynum grabbed five boards and ran up and down just fine, and L.A. led 20-10 thanks largely to an earlier 10-0 spurt.

2:52 Gasol checked out with a game-high 12 points on 4-of-5 from both the field and the line, his bone bruise apparently helping him play better?

0:00 Leading by as many as 10 at 20-10, L.A. allowed Utah to get back in it with a 10-4 run to close the quarter. L.A.’s bench has not been consistently good of late, something that Phil Jackson and Lamar Odom talked about at Monday’s practice. Their basic contention was it’s been about a lack of execution, not effort.

7:43 L.A.’s second unit just hasn’t gotten anything going offensively of late, a trend that continued against the Jazz, who rallied from 10 down to tie the game at 24. Shannon Brown typified the unit’s struggles, missing all three of his shots. Brown, in fact, had not scored in double figures in eight games.

6:15 Brown’s amazing dunk on an alley-oop from Blake (who’d also tossed one to Barnes), distracted from the bench struggles to create good shots in the triangle. Nonetheless, it put L.A. back up by six.

0:00 Behind eight offensive boards and seven second chance points in the half, Utah managed to stay close at 40-34 despite being held to 33 percent shooting. An area where L.A. hasn’t been terrific this season is on the defensive glass, and this despite being ranked seventh in the NBA in that area. That’s a theory one could poke holes in, however, as L.A.’s paint defense is so good that teams have to settle for a variety of long-range jumpers, which produce better chances at grabbing offensive boards.

8:44 L.A.’s starters failed to score in the first three minutes of the second half, until two Gasol free throws, a Fisher jumper and back-to-back Bryant hoops — the first a result of a fantastic defensive play from Artest on Millsap — opened a 48-42 margin.

4:45 You know how Bynum’s focused on rebounding and defense since the break? Well, he reminded us by grabbing his 19th rebound, a career high, while blocking two shots and discouraging or changing many more. Apparently he didn’t have the same focus on offense, however, as he’d made only 2-of-10 shots, with L.A. up 50-46 despite shooting 37 percent.

0:00 That percentage dropped down further to 35.7 percent, including 0-for-12 from three-point land, allowing Utah to head into the fourth quarter tied at 57. Bryant was just 2-for-8, Artest 2-for-6, Brown 1-for-4, Odom 3-for-8 and Bynum 3-for-11. The 57 points through three were the lowest L.A. had scored all season.

9:40 Such were LAL’s offensive struggles that Odom’s shot was so off, it actually went in off glass from three-point range. He, being Odom, just smiled, and clapped towards L.A.’s bench. Fisher was with him, standing to clap along, though he looked serious.

8:20 One thing the Lakers were doing really well: swatting shots. The total was 13, with Bynum and Artest blocking four apiece, to establish a new team season high. The last time L.A. blocked 15 shots? Dec. 3, 2002 vs. Memphis. In unrelated news, Utah took a 63-62 lead on two Millsap (22 points) free throws.

4:00 Though L.A.’s energy was finally matching that of Utah, the Jazz had entered the “We believe” portion of the program, continuing to convert despite increased Lakers pressure. But offense had returned to the champs, with Bynum, Gasol and Artest (a three) all scoring to give L.A. a 76-75 lead.

0:06.0 Three three-pointers left the fingers of Kobe Bryant in the final two minutes and change, and two swished home, tying the game at 85 with 16 seconds left. Gordon Hayward drew a foul while driving to the hoop at the other end, and after missing the first free throw, sank the second for a one-point lead, setting up an improbable play…

0:00 For how many game-winning shots Bryant has made (including seven last season alone) it was pretty shocking for everyone, including him, to see the ball go off his hands out of bounds as time expired. Bryant had up-faked Hayward and was trying to step through, but lost it going up, L.A. losing for the second straight time at home in the process.

3 Games back in the loss column to San Antonio, 19 to 22, all but locking the Lakers into the second seed at best out West despite their huge streak out of the All-Star break (17-1) and a six-game losing streak from San Antonio, who led by nine games just before the break.

13 Blocks for the Lakers, a season high. Andrew Bynum had four, as did Ron Artest.

18 Straight wins for the Lakers over Utah at STAPLES … until this one, minus Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams.

19 Turnovers for the Lakers a game after they committed 20 in a Sunday loss to Denver.

23 Rebounds for Bynum, one of the few bright spots for the Lakers in a poor all-around game.

32 Minutes for Pau Gasol a game after he tweaked his right knee, causing an MRI that revealed a bone bruise. He moved well throughout, finishing with 19 points, five boards and four assists.

37.8 L.A.’s shooting percentage in the game, with Kobe Bryant going only 6-for-18, Bynum 5-for-13, Artest 3-for-8, Lamar Odom 5-for-12, Shannon Brown 2-for-6, Derek Fisher 0-for-2, Luke Walton 0-for-4. Gasol (5-for-10) and Matt Barnes (2-for-4) were the only Lakers to make at least half their shots.

Lakers Tough in Back-to-Backs

Back to backs aren’t always kind to veteran NBA teams like the Lakers, but for whatever reason, that absolutely hasn’t been the case in 2010-11.

L.A. has gone 9-4 in the first game and 11-2 in the second of back-to-backs, as well as an unbeaten 12-0 in the kind of home/road back-to-back they enter on Tuesday/Wednesday against Utah/Golden State.

There’s one remaining back-to-back on the schedule, also of the home/road variety, against San Antonio and Sacramento to close the regular season.

Last season, the Lakers went 6-6 in home/road back-to-backs, 3-1 in road/home and 16-8 in road/road contests.

Pau Gasol MRI Update

From the Lakers PR Staff:

Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who suffered an injury to his right knee in yesterday’s game against the Denver Nuggets, was examined today by team physician Dr. Steve Lombardo. Results of an MRI revealed that Gasol has a bone bruise. His status is day-to-day.

Lakers – Nuggets Postgame Numbers

We compiled some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s 95-90 loss to the Denver Nuggets, the Lakers losing for the first time in 10 games, and just the second time since the All-Star break (17-2):

44 Paint points for both teams, the Lakers unable to take advantage of their length edge down low as Kenyon Martin and Nene battled L.A.’s bigs all night.

23 Lead changes in a back-and-forth contest. L.A.’s biggest lead was seven, at the half, and Denver’s eight.

20 Turnovers for the Lakers, certainly the stat of the game after they’d committed a total of just 26 in their previous three wins. The whole game plan against Denver was to take care of the ball and get it inside to avoid run outs from Nuggets athletes, which ended up happening at the worst time when back-to-back turnovers resulted in easy buckets in the final minutes. When asked after the game to explain the loss, Kobe Bryant said: “Turnovers.”

16 Rebounds in 30 minutes for Andrew Bynum, who added eight points, two blocks and two steals.

5 Assists off the bench for Lamar Odom, who added 17 points, seven boards and a block in a solid all-around effort. Odom made a critical three-pointer in the final minute to give the Lakers a chance to steal a win, but couldn’t hold Kenyon Martin off in what proved to be the game-clinching tip in off a missed free throw.

4 Turnovers for Pau Gasol, more than twice his average of 1.8. Gasol scored 16 points with 12 rebounds, though he did have a scare when landing awkwardly on his right knee. He returned to the game, but will go through a precautionary MRI on Monday morning.

Lakers 90, Nuggets 95: April 3 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon home contest against Denver, the Lakers looking to build on a season-high nine-game winning streak, 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
Nuggets: T. Lawson, W. Chandler, D. Gallinari, K. Martin, Nene

7:20 The early West Coast starts usually seem to bring some sluggish play in the opening minutes, and Sunday’s game was no exception as L.A. opened 2-for-9 and Denver 2-for-6 in the first four minutes. Kobe Bryant missed his first four shots, but than converted his next two, including a transition alley-oop dunk from Derek Fisher that put L.A. up 8-4.

3:00 This isn’t breaking news or anything, but Phil Jackson’s pretty smart. Denver was having success with Kenyon Martin on Gasol, as Martin just pushes the Spaniard out of the paint, and if the refs are allowing contact affects Gasol’s offense. Pau missed his first three shots, so Jackson just put Lamar Odom in for Andrew Bynum, forcing Denver to shift center Nene over to Gasol. The result: two straight hoops for Gasol, making it a 13-12 Nuggets lead.

0:00 A poor first quarter (mercifully) ended with little-used backup center Timofey Mozgov (best known for getting hammer dunked on by Blake Griffin, or as the final piece to the Carmelo Anthony trade) putting back a Nuggets miss to give his new squad a 21-20 lead. L.A. shot just 36 percent and Denver 34.8 percent, the Nuggs out-rebounding L.A. 16-13.

6:50 Though Steve Blake had some nice individual moments, including two steals and a pull-up jumper, it wasn’t until Bryant and Fisher returned to score five straight points — Fisher hitting a three, Bryant a deuce — to tie the score at 29 that L.A.’s play got noticeably better. Bynum, meanwhile, grabbed his 10th board on the possession after Fisher’s triple.

5:34 Sometimes during extra long TV time outs, Kobe will start to juggle the basketball like it’s a soccer ball, much like he may have in Italy during childhood days. Here, he got two touches with the left and two right the right, then helped L.A. score on its next three possessions to tie the score at 35.

1:39 The first triple of the game from Ron Artest gave L.A. its biggest lead at 45-38, a Lakers run keyed by Bryant’s production from the free throw line. In his last five games, he’s attempted 11, 17, 8, 15 & 10 from the line, and nailed all seven first half attempts, showing how he’s picked up his aggression going to the rim. Meanwhile, Bryant nailed a tough running bank shot with 9.4 seconds left in the half to make it a 47-40 advantage for the home team, giving him game-high 19 points.

9:17 Few things can make the building quieter than an injury to one of L.A.’s stars, and in this case, it was Gasol who landed awkwardly on his right knee after a hard foul from Nene. Gasol appeared to be OK while walking to L.A.’s bench during a time out, but after shooting a free throw, left the game and headed to the training room with Athletic Trainer Gary Vitti.

5:00 A collective sigh went through STAPLES Center as Gasol ran back out of the tunnel, and checked into the game moments later. His jumper at the 3:30 mark put the Lakers up 62-61, answering Raymond Felton’s three, getting Pau to 14 points with nine boards.

0:00 Denver played well in the third to trim all seven points off L.A.’s halftime lead (69-all), but the Lakers were hurting themselves by committing 15 turnovers in the first three periods, six in the third alone. This after just 10 at Utah, seven vs. Dallas and nine vs. N.O. in their last three games.

10:49 After converting a pretty half-court alley-oop from Blake, Barnes scored again in the paint on the next possession to get L.A. a 73-69 lead early in the final period. It was Shannon Brown, however, whom Phil Jackson identified by name as the player he said L.A. needed to get things going off the pine when I asked following the win at Utah. Brown wast jut 1-for-3 for two points without a rebound or assist in eight minutes at that point.

8:05 But back came the Nuggets, reeling off a 6-0 run with a Raymond Felton three and Mozgov and-1 layup, putting Denver up three points. Felton had failed to score in the first half on 0-for-6 shooting, but hit 5-of-7 shots to get 13 points since. Bryant, Gasol and Fisher would be beckoned from the bench moments later.

3:23 The Lakers had stepped things up defensively, getting four straight stops and converting at the other end to take an 83-82 lead on Fisher’s pull-up jumper. But then came two straight turnovers from Gasol, with Denver swiping away at the ball, produced easy Nuggs hoops at the other end to create an 89-83 edge. Turning the ball over had killed the Lakers all game (20), and was directly against the game plan of how to play the Nuggets. Phil Jackson, not amused, called time out to discuss.

0:15.0 With the game all but over, Odom pulled up for a three-pointer to get the Lakers within two. L.A. then put Nene on the foul line, and he obliged by missing his second free throw, but Kenyon Martin — whether it was a foul or not, it was a smart play — pushed Odom under the rim, and tipped home the miss to seal the game at 95-90 for the Nuggets. Gone was L.A.’s 9-game winning streak, their margin in the loss column back at two. But the contest was lost with L.A. turning the ball over 20 times, not failing to box out once. Stay tuned for postgame numbers.

Lakers 96, Jazz 85: April 1 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday evening road contest at Utah, the Lakers looking for their ninth 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
Jazz: E. Watson*, C.J. Miles, P. Millsap, A. Jefferson, K. Fesenko
*The depleted Jazz were missing starting point guard Devin Harris, acquired in the trade for Deron Williams, as well as Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur and Ronnie Price to injury.

5:22 A pumped up group of Jazz players came out in a prideful manner, knowing that one more loss officially eliminated them from playoff contention and with so many teammates on the shelf, building an 18-11 lead before Bynum missed two free throws. The Lakers, who arrived at about 2:30 a.m. the night before after beating up on Dallas at home, skipped shootaround in order to sleep and looked to be just trying to stem the early tide.

1:27 The Jazz started with energy, then brought some youthful exuberance off the bench with rookies Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, the No. 3 overall pick converting a jumper to put the Jazz up 28-18.

0:00 Yet Fisher had scored five straight points before Favors connected, and Gasol and Odom combined for four points to close the quarter on a 9-2 run, cutting Utah’s lead to six at 28-22. To use the tired boxing cliche (wait, why use it after making fun of it?), the Lakers had essentially taken the first punch and stood up just fine.

9:45 Or not. Instead of building on that momentum, L.A. regressed, allowing a 7-0 Jazz run to start the second, creating a 13-point hole. Hayward and Favors combined for five of those points, and the Lakers weren’t executing at all on offense, hitting only eight of their first 24 shots. Here’s a game where the extra energy boost Matt Barnes always provides could help, but he was of course suspended for “escalating” the fourth quarter, uh, situation with Dallas.

5:31 The lead was 15 halfway through the quarter, with several tweets coming into our @LakersReporter account wondering what was wrong (!!!!!). But being down in the first half of a game at Utah wasn’t a situation that was going to rattle the Lakers, who’d been around the block once or twice. Phil Jackson gave Bryant extra rest in the second despite the deficit, knowing he’d really need the legs in the second half. That said, getting zero collective points from subs Brown, Blake and Walton in 22 total minutes didn’t help.

2:05 With Utah somehow outscoring the Lakers 30-8 in the paint, the Lakers were at least getting to the foul line, with four straight from the line (12-of-17 total with four misses from Bynum) plus Fisher’s jumper getting L.A. to within 10. Then four more points, all from Bryant (13 points to lead all scorers), capped a 10-0 run. The Lakers showed what they can do when simply turning up the defensive intensity, holding the Jazz to just one field goal in the final four minutes and creating 10 straight misses.

11:40 Anyone know how to say “Big Tree” in Ukrainian? Fesenko wrapped up Bryant pretty good, forcing Kobe to walk it off for a good 10 seconds before taking two more free throws, returning to the place at which he’s spent a ton of time in recent games. L.A.’s past four wins, in fact, have seen Bryant go to the line an average of 12.75 times per game. He’d need six more attempts to surpass that mark.

9:01 Felled yet again by the Ukrainian tree, this time with a knee-on-knee collision to Bryant’s right knee … of course, Bryant just shook it off as the Lakers took a time out for him to walk around. Rumor has it he’s been able to play through pain once or twice in his career. L.A., meanwhile, would cut Utah’s lead in half with an Artest triple out of the break (54-51).

Wait … more Ukrainian Tree action?? Kobe, apparently loving going at the huge center, took more hard contact while attempting to jump over him at the rim; Fesenko got hit with the PF, plus a technical either for flipping the ball in Bryant’s direction after it came off the rim.

1:00 The Lakers of 16-1 since the All-Star break returned for the third quarter, shutting down Utah’s offense and moving the ball with ease at the other end, going up four points at 68-64 on Blake’s pretty alley-oop pass to a sprinting Spaniard. Since that four-minute mark of the second, L.A. had outscored Utah 36-16 to take control of the game.

8:44 It didn’t stop there, L.A. running out to a 12-1 burst to start the fourth, pushing its lead all the way to 18 points at 83-65. The group of Blake, Brown, Walton, Odom and Bynum was getting steals, creating open layups, blocking shots, nailing threes and whatever else. Odom actually nearly copied his three-point shooting feat from Dallas the night before, dropping long ones to close the third and open the fourth (he’d hit three around the quarters for a personal 9-0 run to help put the Mavs away).

6:00 The Jazz hadn’t given up, however, prompting Jackson to put his starters back in with six minutes to go, looking to push L.A. to its first 9-game winning streak of the season. Responding immediately were Artest and Bryant, with respective fadeaway and three-point jumpers to push the lead to 17.

0:00 Utah kept playing to the whistle, cutting L.A.’s lead down to 11 with a final hoop, but the damage had been done. That’s seventeen of 18 since the break, with the Spurs slumping in a big way in what should be a photo finish out West. Your numbers:

1.5 Games back of San Antonio after the Spurs lost a sixth straight game on Friday night, and the Lakers won a ninth straight. The Spurs looked to have things all but sewn up, but a look at their brutal schedule to close March (plus Tim Duncan’s ankle injury) left the door slightly ajar. Now, the door’s ready to be kicked down, with L.A. just one back in the loss column and an April 12th showdown looming.

9 Straight wins for the Lakers, their longest streak of the year. L.A. opened the season at 8-0 and won their first eight out of the All-Star break before falling to Miami, then starting the current streak two nights later in Dallas.

10 Straight Jazz misses forced by the Lakers to close the first half, allowing L.A. to go on a 10-0 run at the other end.

23 Margin between L.A. and Utah in a 39-16 run across the end of the second (10-0) and entire third quarter (29-16) that turned the game on its head. Then came an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter, the game then essentially over.

30 Points in the paint for the Jazz in the first half to just 10 from the Lakers, their aggressiveness going to the rim allowing for an early lead. That changed markedly in the second half, when L.A. closed up its own lane and made some music in that of the Jazz.

Not the Same Old Jazz

L.A. has had the upper hand against Utah in recent years. More specifically, the Lakers have won four consecutive season series against the Jazz, going a combined 10-4 across that span, 7-3 in the last 10 and 19-3 all-time at STAPLES Center during the regular season, and that’s not to mention three straight playoff eliminations of Utah.

Not that many of those wins were easy.

The Jazz teams were all coached by Jerry Sloan (retired), anchored by Deron Williams (traded to New Jersey before the deadline) on the perimeter and a combination of Carlos Boozer (signed by Chicago in the offseason) and Mehmet Okur (out for the season). Paul Millsap and Andrei Kirilenko remain, but Kirilenko, Raja Bell, Devin Harris and Ronnie Price will all miss Friday night’s game due to respective injuries, according to the Jazz Twitter account. That leaves a probable starting line up that looks very little like what L.A. has seen in Salt Lake City:

PG: Earl Watson; SG: C.J. Miles; SF: Millsap; PF: Al Jefferson; C: Kyrylo Fesenko*
*Side note: We’re very pleased to have spelled Kyrylo’s name correctly before looking it up.

This leaves a short bench of youngsters Derrick Favors and Jeremy Evans, Gordon Hayward and Francisco Elson for Jazz Coach Tyrone Corbin. It will be the first time in the careers of Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher that Jerry Sloan* won’t be standing on the sideline for Utah, a unique factoid in its own right.
*Side note two: Sloan moved up from Jazz assistant to head coach on Dec. 9, 1988, just eight days before then Bulls assistant coach Phil Jackson filled in for an ejected Doug Collins on Dec. 17, 1988. Sloan wouldn’t leave until earlier this season, while Jackson became the Bulls head coach the following season.

And while the Lakers have lost only once since the All-Star break, Utah has won only five times, going 5-13 to fall out of the playoff race in the West. It’s been worse of late, with six straight losses coming at the hands of Houston, Memphis and Oklahoma City on the road and New Orleans (OT), Dallas and Washington (OT) at home.

Not that L.A.’s coaches are paying any attention to that. Assistant coach Jim Cleamons said that regardless of who’s in the starting line up or what’s happened recently, the Lakers are treating Utah as seriously as ever.

At 7:30 Pacific, we’ll see if the Lakers can win a ninth straight game and put more pressure on the San Antonio Spurs, 2.5 games up on L.A. heading into a tough Friday night contest at surging Houston.