Monthly Archive for February, 2012

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Lakers 85, OKC 100: Feb. 23 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday evening road contest at Oklahoma City, the Lakers coming a tough road win at Dallas on Wednesday, 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, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Thunder: R. Westbrook, D. Cook, K. Durant, S.Ibaka, K. Perkins

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 Hi folks, and welcome to OKC. There was some question about whether or not key sixth man James Harden would play for the Thunder after tweaking his wrist last night, but he was set to play, leaving Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison – both good role players – as the only outs for the home team. L.A. was fully healthy, but had some tired legs after a tough win in Dallas the night before. They weren’t able to bring it against the Knicks after a tough win at Boston early this month, but we’ll see what we get tonight.

3:59 After eight minutes, the results were pretty good. L.A. was largely able to control tempo, and used a 6-0 run capped by a fast break dunk from Bynum (you’d expect that more from Durant or Westbrook, right?) that gave L.A. a 13-11 lead and forced Scott Brooks into a time out. In came subs Harden, N. Mohammad for OKC, and Murphy/Barnes/Blake for L.A.

0:00 A really strong defensive first quarter helped the Lakers claim a 23-19 lead, the Thunder shooting just 37 percent (7-for-19) and Kobe hitting three straight shots after starting 1-for-6 to reach 10 points, one more than Durant. Another key: the Lakers held OKC without a single fast break point, showing that they controlled tempo.

SECOND QUARTER
8:47 With OKC backup PG Eric Maynor out for the season with a torn ACL and Harden not in to run pick and roll with Harden, the Thunder second unit wasn’t as formidable, L.A. keeping its four-point lead behind two Blake jumpers.

5:33 Not hard to see why the Thunder were able to erase a six-point Lakers lead to take a 34-33 lead: seven fast break points in the first six minutes of the second quarter after zero in the first quarter. Harden’s dunk off his run out from Kobe’s missed three is your example.

0:00 OKC found some momentum through the middle of the quarter, but an off-balance three from World Peace (his first triple was perfectly balanced, as LAL’s coaches have been stressing) sank through, and Fisher followed with a fast break runner to put L.A. up a point. Their lead was two with one second left, looking like 43-41 heading into halftime, but instead OKC managed to score five points in the final second, getting a Westbrook three, then a steal and jumper from Durant in 0.8 seconds to make it 46-43. A terrible ending to an otherwise solid half for the Lakers.
Continue reading ‘Lakers 85, OKC 100: Feb. 23 Running Diary’

Lakers – Thunder: 10 Need to Knows

To earn the rest that will come with the All-Star break – for everyone but Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, that is – the Lakers must first complete perhaps its toughest road back-to-back of the season, with Thursday evening’s contest at Western-leading Oklahoma City (26-7) on the docket following a tough 96-91 win at Dallas.

Here are 10 things you need to know heading into the game at the Thunder’s gym:

1) HISTORY: The Lakers won last season’s series with OKC 2-1 after claiming the 2009-10 series 3-1. As such, the Lakers have now taken the last six consecutive season series from Oklahoma City, sweeping 2008-09 (3-0) and 2007-08 (4-0) and taking 2006-07 (3-1) and 2005-06 (2-1). Meeting two years ago in the First Round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers advanced past the Thunder in six games (4-2) and improved to 6-2 in postseason series against the franchise.

2) STREAKS: The Lakers are 15-3 in their last 18 games against the Thunder in the regular season. This includes an 8-2 mark on the road in the last 10.

3) KOBE’S RECORD … in SEATTLE: In 2006-07, Bryant established a franchise series record with 46 points at KeyArena only to surpass it nine days later with 50 points 4/15/07 at home against the then Sonics. In those games, he surpassed the Jerry West’s 45-point mark established in 1970.

4) THIS SEASON’S SCORING LIST: With an average of 28.5 points per game, Kobe holds a slight lead over Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant, who has recently surpassed LeBron James to average 27.7 per contest. Durant has been the more efficient player from the field, shooting an impressive 51.2 percent to Bryant’s 43.9 percent, even if Durant gets more easy baskets thanks in part to his young legs in transition.

5) WORLD PEACE ONE STEAL SHY OF 1,500: Metta, who will see a lot of Durant, needs just one steal to reach an impressive 1,500 for his stellar defensive career. Currently fifth on the active players list (Kobe is second to Jason Kidd), World Peace has finished among the top-five in the NBA in steals per game five times in his career and has led his team in steals in 10 of his 12 NBA seasons. A member of the NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2004 and 2006 and the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2003 and 2009, the 2004 Defensive P.O.Y. 37th on the NBA’s All-Time steals list.

6) THUNDER STARS FROM LOS ANGELES: All-Star Russell Westbrook played at UCLA and in high school at Leuzinger (Lawndale, CA), and his teammate and L.A. native James Harden played locally at Artesia High School. Thunder head coach Scott Brooks also played locally prior to his NBA career at UC-Irvine.

7) WESTERN STANDINGS: If the Lakers win, they’ll improve to 21-13 to tie Dallas for fourth in the Western Conference, though L.A. has a leg up on the tiebreaker with the Mavs thanks to going 2-0 against them this season. The Thunder would then be 26-8, five games up in the loss column on L.A. and three games up on San Antonio (23-10). If the Thunder win, L.A. will settle for fifth place at 20-14 into the break.

8) INJURY UPDATE: The Thunder will be without backup PG Eric Maynor, who tore his ACL early in the season, and Thabo Sefolosha, out with right foot soreness. Reserve Lazar Haywood is also out with an orbital floor fracture, while Nick Collison is the only question mark. He missed OKC’s win over Boston last night, but is a game time decision with a left quad contusion. The Lakers are relatively healthy, and will have their full squad available — credit the team’s terrific training staff.

9) THUNDER TERRIFIC AT HOME: OKC has lost only one game all season at Chesapeake Energy Arena, winning 11 consecutive games, losing only to Portland on Jan. 3. They’re 14-1 overall at home, slightly better than L.A.’s 14-2. The Lakers surely regret blowing leads in the final minutes against both Chicago and Indiana, their only two home losses.

10) SWATTING SHOTS: Led by Serge Ibaka, somehow a Spanish National Team cohort of Pau Gasol’s, OKC leads the NBA in blocks with an average of 8.0 per game. Ibaka set a franchise record with 11 swats against the Nuggets on Sunday night and averages 3.3 blocks per game to lead the league.

Lakers 96, Mavs 91: Feb. 22 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening road contest at Dallas, the Lakers returning to Dallas for the first time since last season’s playoff loss in the Western Semi’s, 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, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Mavs: J. Kidd, V. Carter, S. Marion, D. Nowitzki, B. Haywood

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 First, folks: Lamar Odom is not here. Odom had a family issue that needed attending in Los Angeles, so he hopped a flight home. This thins the Mavs bench, likely meaning more minutes for Brandan Wright or Brian Cardinal. On the court, it was all LAL’s bigs early, as Gasol scored on a pretty baseline fadeaway over Dirk, then twice lobbed the ball to Bynum for alley-oop dunks.

8:13 Gasol continued an excellent individual start by making three more shots (4-of-5), opening a 12-3 Lakers edge, taking advantage of Mavs traps on Kobe. Some very pretty offensive basketball had Rick Carlisle calling his second time out of the game.

0:00 In what was overall a very strong first quarter, L.A. conceded a corner three from Vince Carter that had Bryant a bit peeved heading to the bench. Nonetheless, the Spaniard’s 12-point, 3-board, 2-assist performance stood out in a big way, suggesting that all of the trade conversations and worries from the past few weeks were out of his mind. L.A.’s lead was 25-21.

SECOND QUARTER
8:04 Bynum’s third alley-oop dunk of the game was his most impressive, this one coming from Barnes, to put L.A. up 32-28. Also notable: Dirk had yet to score, despite coming in on a hot streak. But that was sure to change eventually…

5:37 A really strong effort from the Lakers bench suddenly had L.A. up 42-28, thanks to back-to-back threes from rookie Andrew Goudelock and a fast break dunk from Gasol off Blake’s steal and assist. Dallas, however, got a quick answer with back-to-back triples from Carter (already with 16 points to lead all scorers) and Terry in transition to cut the lead back to eight. The Terry three was tough for Matt Barnes to swallow, as he thought he got hit hard on a drive to the hoop before the Mavs ran out to Terry’s shot on the no call.

0:00 And then it all went bad for the Lakers, who conceded a 20-6 run to close the half, 10-1 in the final few minutes, to find themselves all tied at 48 at the break. Bryant typified their struggle, making only 1-of-6 shots in the half and finishing with four turnovers through aggressive Mavs traps.

THIRD QUARTER
12:00 In speaking with assistant coach Quin Snyder to prep for our KCAL/9 sideline hit out of halftime, we learned that L.A. was displeased about conceding 11 offensive boards in the first half, which really was the key in keeping Dallas in the mix (14-2 on second chance points). Snyder also wanted to limit the turnovers (eight) and re-post when the Mavs collapse on D, as Bynum/Gasol were a combined 11-for-17 for 25 points and the rest of the team just 8-for-24 for 23.

5:51 A tweet copy: If Kobe’s struggling (1-for-7), Fisher is not. His 3 has him at 4-for-6 for 9 points, keeping LAL up 4 at 63-59. As you can see, we go ahead and use numbers instead of spelling ‘em out to save characters. Trying to be as efficient as Fisher in the game.

0:00 As far as establishing a lead goes, the third quarter didn’t do much for either team, as a 24-all period tied us at 72 heading into the fourth quarter. L.A. continued to get hurt on the offensive glass, conceding 16 boards as the jump-shooting Mavs crashed for long rebounds, but continued to get scoring inside from Gasol and Bynum, who had a combined 35 points and 14 boards.

FOURTH QUARTER
8:10 We’ve mentioned Gasol’s strong and efficient offensive night, 9-for-14 for 20 points plus four assists, but his D on Dirk (6-for-17) should also be mentioned. Bryant’s 1-of-2 FT’s off a Dirk miss made it 76-75 Dallas, who’d never led by more than two all night … until two Dirk FT’s moments later, on the fifth LAL team foul already in the quarter. L.A.’s players didn’t seem to agree with the decisions, Gasol complaining up and down the court as he felt he got hit inside on the previous play.

4:12 The biggest shot of the game thus far came from – hold your surprise – Derek Fisher. Just when it seems like maybe Steve Blake will play more crunch time minutes (as Mike Brown hinted at the other day), Fish comes back with a big, clutch game. Here, he nailed a tripe, then hit a tough running floater to put L.A. up 89-84.

1:00 Two critical alley-oop lobs from Kobe in crunch time, first to Gasol and then to Bynum, worked to perfection in getting the Lakers a seemingly comfortable seven-point cushion. Dallas overplayed Bryant, and he made the right decisions to find his big men at the rim. That said, some craziness in the final minute at the free throw line, folks, as the Lakers missed six consecutive free throws. Literally. First Barnes, then Kobe, then Gasol. Yet Barnes grabbed the second Gasol miss, and finally converted two to push the lead back to four points with 18 seconds left, and that proved enough of a margin. Big road win for the Lakers was the result, but no time to rest as the Thunder are waiting at home for a Thursday contest. We’ll see you there.

LAL – DAL Preview Pod: Mavs TV’s Mark Followill

To look further into Wednesday evening’s matchup between the Lakers and Mavericks in Dallas, we enlisted Mavericks TV play-by-play announcer Mark Followill to get the inside scoop on Dirk Nowitzki’s squad.

Followill discussed how different this team is from the championship version that relied upon departed players Tyson Chandler and (if to a lesser degree) J.J. Barea, explained why the Dallas D has been so strong of late, detailed what accounts for both the slow start and recent hot streak, looked at the legacy of Jason Kidd, Dirk and Kobe Bryant, talked about the difference in bench production for both teams and told us what to look out for in Wednesday’s game.

To listen, click play below:

Lakers – Mavs Pregame Numbers

We took a look at some of the more outstanding numbers leading into the first Lakers trip to Dallas since last postseason’s sweep at the hands of Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavericks:

PREGAME NUMBERS
4.7 Seconds left on the clock when Derek Fisher’s game-winning three-pointer left his hands in L.A.’s Jan. 16 victory over Dallas.

11 Games out of the last 14 in the regular season won by the Lakers over the Mavs, including the last three straight.

23.8 Dirk’s average in February, after he posted just 15.1 points per game in January. The big German is back playing his game, also averaging 11 boards in his last three games. His return to form has helped Dallas win seven of eight games.

42.3 Points averaged by the Mavs bench, third in the NBA, compared to L.A.’s 21.5 points per game. But don’t be misled, because…

61.9 Points per game averaged by Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum alone, which is nearly 10 points more than the five Dallas starters average combined (52.5). In other words, Dallas is geared towards getting bench scoring, relying upon Jason Terry, Lamar Odom and Vince Carter (before Delonte West’s injury), while the Lakers still run their offense through Gasol or Bynum when subs like Steve Blake and Matt Barnes check in. The Mavs also lead the NBA in bench minutes, while L.A. ranks just 23rd.

2,515 Career steals for Jason Kidd after he surpassed Michael Jordan in the Feb. 20 Mavs win over Boston. He trails only John Stockton for the all-time lead, while Kobe Bryant ranks 17th all time and 2nd among active players in swipes.

Lakers 103, Blazers 92: Feb. 20 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday evening home contest against Portland, the Lakers returning home after Sunday’s loss at Phoenix, 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, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Blazers: R. Felton, N. Batum, G. Wallace, L. Aldridge, M. Camby

FIRST QUARTER
6:50 If you like extra passes, you’d have enjoyed the opening six minutes from the Lakers, who played hot potato with a purpose during a 10-0 run in which Bynum and Gasol scored all 10 points, mostly right at the rim. Bryant was a willing facilitator. On the other end, Portland missed six straight shots (helping Bynum/Gasol get six of their nine boards) after an opening three from Felton. Underscoring all of this was all of the chatter about trade rumors sparked by comments made by Bryant and Gasol (synthesis of it being Bryant asking management to either trade Gasol or tell him they wouldn’t trade him, while suggesting he certainly wanted to keep Pau in Purple and Gold), to which GM Mitch Kupchak offered this response: CLICK HERE.

0:00 Give Kobe some credit, because whatever he said seemed to have the effect of really rallying the Lakers around the flag … helping produce a big time blowout score of 29-7 (yes, 7) after the first quarter. Portland managed just 3-of-17 field goals, were out-rebounded 22-5, and watched Bynum and Gasol (12 points, 15 rebounds) out-board them on their own just on the offensive end. Bryant chipped in eight points with a few assists, and the ball continued to fly around in a terrific team effort. Portland was essentially demoralized, though three quarters remained.

SECOND QUARTER
8:32 There appeared no signs of slowing down as Steve Blake opened the second with back-to-back triples, then got a floating layup to go that made it 39-10. In fact, a Blazers and-1 from Batum moments prior was the first Portland hoop since the 4:32 mark of the first quarter.

3:00 Portland finally found some rhythm on offense (no NBA game is ever going to be a blow out from start to finish, whether it’s due to energy shifts, human nature taking the foot off the pedal or no calls going to the team who’s up [like in Mario Kart when the 8th place car gets the stars and lightning bolts]), but Blake’s fourth three of the quarter gave him 14 points and L.A. a 47-22 lead.

0:00 And yes, it was a sloppy final three minutes, Portland taking advantage to double L.A. up 10-5 (including a 7-0 run) to make it a 52-30 halftime margin. Bynum’s 12 and 12 led the way, while Blake’s 14 points matched his season high all in one quarter.

THIRD QUARTER
3:57 Yes, we’ve seen big leads given up countless times (you already got a Mario Kart reference), and with the energy waning a bit and the ball movement stopped from the first quarter, Portland went on an 11-0 run to cut L.A.’s lead to 17. In fact, it would get as low as 16 at 71-55 on a corner three from Batum, who had a sneaky 15 points to lead Portland.

0:00 L.A. got some traction back to close the quarter, getting still another Blake three (his 3-point percentage rose from 31 to 36 percent thanks to 5-of-5 bombing), a Kobe J, two Gasol free throws and a Barnes tip in to push the lead back to 20. Portland, however, was nearly as hot as Blake from 3, as Matthews and Batum hit the 10th and 11th triples of Portland’s night to get within 14, even as both Bynum (14 and 14) and Gasol (12 and 10) had double-doubles, yet again.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:21 Suddenly, a 30-point lead was down to just 12 as Wallace hit two free throws after what appeared a bad – or at least very late – call on Bynum. With all the pressure off the game, Portland just steadily managed to hit shots, mostly from the perimeter (paint points were 32-18 after 3), and L.A. was promptly hit with three more personal fouls in the next two minutes, all whistled by Joey Crawford, meaning the Blazers would be shooting bonus FT’s with the next whistle.

6:32 Mike Brown put the starters back in near the eight-minute mark when the lead had been sliced to 10, and Fisher and Bryant rewarded him in the short term with consecutive jumpers to make it 88-74. Portland continued to hang around as Kobe was hit with his seventh technical foul of the season thanks to some pointed arguing after a charge call with Wallace draped to his jersey.

0:00 L.A. would, however, hold on to win comfortably. The starters checked out with about two minutes left and an 18-point lead. A few garbage time hoops from Portland’s subs cut the lead to what turned into a 103-92 final. Bryant went for 28 points, Bynum finished with 14 points and 19 boards, Gasol 16 points, 12 boards and four assists and Blake 17 points off the pine. With the win, the Lakers (19-13) improved to 14-2 at home, and picked up a game in the standings on the Clippers (19-11), who lost at Golden State. Next up is a tricky back-to-back at Dallas and Oklahoma City on Wednesday and Thursday leading into the All-Star break. We’ll see you there.

Lakers 90, Suns 102: Feb. 19 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening road contest at Phoenix, the Lakers looking for a fourth consecutive victory and second straight over Phoenix, whom they beat on Friday night in L.A., 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, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: S. Nash, J. Dudley, G. Hill, C. Frye, M. Gortat

FIRST QUARTER
3:17 Phoenix used a 14-2 run, scoring in all ways, to open a 29-14 lead in putting the Lakers in a big hole early. It can be difficult to match a team’s energy a game after beating them badly, as L.A. did Phoenix on Friday at home, and this was certainly the case early on. Mike Brown was the opposite of happy, saying during the time out that the points were already far too many to concede.

0:44.4 Matt Barnes has been playing some excellent ball of LAL’s bench of late, crediting in part the return of Steve Blake to the rotation from his rib injury, and after a season-high 17 points on Friday, he cut to the hoop for a dunk and then drew a foul for L.A.’s first nice little stanza of the game. The Suns, however, still took a 35-19 lead into the second quarter.

SECOND QUARTER
12:00 We mentioned the big Suns lead, but we should note that Phoenix has really struggled after the first quarter, being outscored by an average of 12 points in the final three quarters in the last four games. Point being, L.A. couldn’t get too down after a poor first quarter effort.

9:00 The Blake to Barnes combo worked again, this time on an alley-oop layup, though L.A. still trailed by 17 points as the Suns got solid bench production from rookie Markieff Morris (eight points). The Lakers started to cut into the lead a bit thanks to Bynum’s defense (his third block) and a gorgeous Gasol pass to get Bynum his fifth field goal, making it a 47-33 contest halfway through the period.

0:48.0 Not hard to guess what Brown was talking about in L.A.’s time out late in the second: defense, or in this case, a lack there of. Phoenix already had 60 points, boosted by nine offensive rebounds resulting in seven second chance points, compared with L.A.’s goose egg. The board edge overall was 27-21, and four threes to L.A.’s 0 also helped produce a 60-37 lead. Frye added a three, so Kobe’s long two made it a 63-40 Suns advantage at the half.

THIRD QUARTER
7:00 L.A.’s third quarter energy wasn’t all that much better than its first half effort, Phoenix taking advantage to push to a 71-48 lead despite a rare made jumper for World Peace (1-for-4). Bynum continued to look very strong inside, however, throwing home a Bryant alley-oop to reach 16 points with nine boards.

0:00 The Lakers did manage to cut eight points off the Suns’ halftime lead, getting within 15 on Gasol’s up-and-under move in the final minute to set them up for a fourth quarter comeback. Generally, teams like to be within 10 points with six minutes to go in the final quarter to have a good shot at a come back, and L.A. was getting closer. Bryant led the way by getting up to 21 points on 9-of-17 field goals, though he was just 1-for-5 from three. That make was L.A.’s only from distance, while Phoenix had 7-of-17 go down.

FOURTH QUARTER
9:00 The lead chopping continued as an aggressive trap of Bryant eventually led to a wide-open corner three from Troy Murphy, whose swish made it 82-70 Suns. It was just the second triple for L.A., while the Suns had converted 7-of-17. Lost amidst an otherwise solid game for Bryant, however, were the 10 turnovers he committed, including back-to-back cough ups as Phoenix went back up 16.

7:21 But back came Kobe, this time getting a tough and-1 bucket to fall, grabbing his own missed free throw and circling around with the dribble before finding Murphy for his second corner three of the fourth quarter.

3:49 Phoenix had enough of an answer, however, forcing Kobe’s 11th turnover, and getting a pull-up jumper from Dudley to go back up by 13. Not L.A.’s evening. Phoenix kept its lead in double digits before closing out a 102-90 victory. They certainly played with the backs-against-the-wall nature the Lakers often seem to bring out in opponents, particularly ones that have lost four straight, and been handled twice by L.A. this season.

With the loss, the Lakers fall to 18-13 on the season, failing to take advantage of losses by both the Clippers and Mavs, ahead of L.A. in the standings. Up next, a Monday evening back end of a back-to-back against Portland. We’ll see you there.

LAL vs PHO: Coaches Quote Corner

Before and after L.A.’s Friday evening victory over Phoenix, respective head coaches Mike Brown and Alvin Gentry made their usual pre and post game comments. Because the two teams play again on Sunday, this time in the Valley of the Sun, the comments shine a bit of light on what to look for.

We tried to help by bolding some highlights; here you go:

MIKE BROWN POSTGAME:
On the game in general:
Brown: We got a lot of production from a lot of guys. For the first time in a while we got some easy baskets. I thought we did a better job in the second half of defending. We did something defensively to get them to drop 7-8 percentage points by the end of the game. On top of that, 26 assists on 44 baskets is playing the right way, moving the ball, moving bodies, trying to get good looks for one another. That’s fun to watch. I thought Matt (Barnes) gave us a huge lift off the bench, also Steve (Blake) with his six assists, but Matt’s activity (was crucial). He had some big defensive plays that led to some easy baskets for us. I thought Derek Fisher was very solid for us. He was pretty efficient shooting the basketball. Kobe’s ability to score is something that can’t be coached. It was good to see him get different looks from different areas on the floor.

On the Lakers learning, growing and gaining confidence:
Brown: I truly believe our guys are getting it a little bit. They’re starting to get to spots and even when we’re kind of in a random offense, our guys understand spacing and the concepts that we’ve been trying to get to them since the beginning of the year. They’re trying to do a nice job of attacking in spots and trying to get into our sets. The reality of it is whether we run a play or not is they’re doing a nice job of moving the ball and moving bodies. The comfort level of starting to understand what we’re trying to accomplish offensively aids their comfort level in their ability to shoot the basketball.

On what needs to improve in advance of Sunday’s rematch:
Brown: We didn’t do a good job of playing the pick and roll. The 2nd half with (Marcin) Gortat rolling down the middle (got better). (Andrew) Bynum has to be up a little bit higher in pick and roll; we have to try and play at our pace. If we’re getting stops and getting out and running like we did tonight, so be it, but we have to keep doing those three things offensively but also understand how to get stops.

On Kobe being able to carry the offense as he did in the third quarter:
Brown: That’s who he is. When times get tough for us, he’s supposed to carry us. That’s his job, that’s what he gets paid to do. The supporting cast around him is pretty good, starting with Drew and Pau. But at the end of the day, you have a guy like Kobe that you can say ‘Hey, go get me a bucket.’

On if the early struggles could be a good thing for his team:
Brown: Yeah. 18-12 is ideal because we need to struggle, to see if we’re tough enough mentally to withstand all the noise that’s outside our locker room… whether from fans, media whatever. Our guys have to ignore the noise. I knew we were going to get socked on the chin because I didn’t have enough time to figure out what I had; to our guys’ credit, they were searching too*.
*Editor’s note: Brown essentially said that his team has not yet fully arrived, but is getting closer, and that he would bet on his team come playoff time. Kobe then backed up those comments, and Alvin Gentry’s (see below, last question) about no one wanting to play the Lakers in the playoffs, from his locker after the game. Bryant expanded on his thought to say that the Lakers would move up in the standings (they are currently fifth behind OKC, S.A., LAC and Dallas) and would be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.

MIKE BROWN AT PRACTICE (SATURDAY):
On the difficulty of beating a team twice in a row:
Brown: Those guys are pros and they have pride, so it’s hard to continue to beat a team time after time after time, especially when you’ve beaten them twice already and now you have to come back and play them a third time right away. They’ll be ready for us, the crowd will be ready, and hopefully we can withstand the factors that we’ll face.

ALVIN GENTRY PREGAME:
On Kobe holding a grudge against Phoenix for the playoff losses in 2005 and 2006:
Gentry: Still trying to figure out why. The only people left from (that time) are me and Steve (Nash), and we’re great guys. I know he doesn’t dislike me, and I know he doesn’t dislike Steve, so maybe it’s the purple? Maybe it’s the jersey’s? But not another coach, not another player, not the general manager, not a president … the owner and us are the only ones that are left.

On defending Kobe:
Gentry: You can’t judge him by looking at the stat sheet and saying, ‘Oh we held him to 15 (points),’ because it’s not going to happen. To me, the thing with Kobe is first of all you have to try and keep him off the (foul) line. If he’s making jump shots, he’s making jump shots and it doesn’t matter who is guarding him. You could have the defense lineman from the (New York) Giants guarding him and it’s not going to matter if he’s making his jump shot, so you try to make him work for his shot and then when it goes up, the most important thing is to let that be the end of the possession. Nobody ever controls him. If they did, he wouldn’t lead the league in scoring. He’s pretty consistent in what he does. The offense they run makes it really difficult to try and keep the ball out of his hands.

On if there’s another team with such a difficult low post combination as Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol:
Gentry: I don’t think so, because of the length of both of those guys. There are some teams that may be a little more physical, but as far as the length and then when you take Pau and you add in just the basketball savvy that he has, and that Bynum is still a really young player and has continued to improve, they become very difficult. It’s frightening. These are guys that have been in championship situations and have done extremely well when the ball has come their way.

On Shannon Brown falling out of the regular rotation at times behind Jared Dudley and Michael Redd:
Gentry: It has been (tricky to get him minutes). It becomes extremely tough to play three guys at one position. He’s been unbelievable as a professional about it, and I know he’s not happy about it. Who would be? I as a coach have to be a little bit understanding on his part. We like to try and get him in games, put him in a situation where he can help us with the scoring.

On how he still considers the Lakers a major threat:
Gentry: As long as they have No. 24 they will be thought of that way. Their record doesn’t really matter. They’ll have him, and they have Bynum and Gasol. They haven’t played as well as they have played (in the past), they’ve struggled on the road some, which is a little unusual for them because they’ve always been a really good road team, but at the end of the day, are you telling me that anyone would want to play them in the first round? I don’t think so. I don’t think anybody’s begging to play them in the playoffs in the first round.

Lakers 111, Suns 99: Feb. 17 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home contest against Phoenix, the Lakers looking for a third straight win, 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, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: S. Nash, J. Dudley, G. Hill, C. Frye, M. Gortat

FIRST QUARTER
9:45 L.A.’s offense went through Bynum early, the center making his first three shots in an early 6-6 tie, the third coming courtesy of a pretty Gasol lob for a dunk. Before the game, Suns coach Alvin Gentry called the Lakers’ two seven footers the league’s toughest front court combo with which to defend … so he’s on to something.

3:00 Despite a driving hoop from Gasol, L.A. still trailed 18-13 due to a largely flat first eight minutes. It’s nothing new that no matter how poorly a team had been playing before drawing the Lakers (Phoenix had lost three straight), they’d come in primed to face Kobe and Co., the Suns the latest example as their worked their way to a 12-6 board edge.

0:00 You could point to L.A.’s seven turnovers as a big reason for their sluggish first quarter, but the Suns had eight turnovers themselves. More telling was the 15-9 edge on the glass, and not a single offensive board for the Lakers, usually strong on that end. The Phoenix lead was 25-21.

SECOND QUARTER
6:49 In recent games, Matt Barnes has found a nice rhythm off the bench, as he showcased early in the second quarter by scoring nine of his 11 points on 4-of-4 FG’s, plus three boards. His bench mate Troy Murphy added a triple, a long two and an and-1 to put the home team up 42-35.

5:00 Mike Brown decided to reward the bench by keeping them in past the usual rotation, holding Gasol and Bryant out, and Blake’s immediate reward was a transition three to put L.A. up 10. Phoenix, however, got immediate buckets from newly-entered Nash and Gortat, prompting Bryant and Gasol’s return … but Nash then used basically the same play to get Gortat two more hoops, capping an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 45-43.

0:00 Inspired by Metta World Peace’s hands, L.A. answered that Phoenix burst with a 9-0 run to close the half, producing a 57-49 margin. Peace had three first half steals, the last leading to Fisher’s transition layup, while Kobe reached a game-high tying 14 points (Gortat) at the foul line to cap the scoring, having drawn Hill’s 3rd PF on a pretty crossover.
Continue reading ‘Lakers 111, Suns 99: Feb. 17 Running Diary’

Fisher Leaves Practice Early

We know that Derek Fisher hasn’t missed a regular season basketball game since April 15, 2005, so despite the fact that he left Thursday’s practice early do to sinusitis, none of his teammates expect to be without him for Friday’s game against Phoenix.

Coach Mike Brown also expects to have Fisher available for his regular minutes when Steve Nash and the Suns come to town.

“If (head athletic trainer) Gary Vitti says that (Fisher’s) minutes will be affected, then (they) will,” said Brown. “But I don’t think so. Nobody said anything to me to suggest (his minutes) will be affected.”

We’ll check and see how Fisher’s feeling after tomorrow’s shootaround.