Monthly Archive for March, 2012

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LAL 103, POR 96: March 23 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home contest against Portland, the Lakers looking to bounce back from a rare home loss at Utah on Sunday and build on Friday’s win at Dallas, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Blazers: R. Felton, W. Matthews, N. Batum, L. Aldridge, J. Pryzbilla

FIRST QUARTER
3:38 In his first start as a Laker, Ramon Sessions impressed much as he did in L.A.’s big win at Dallas on Friday, scoring seven early points on 3-of-4 shooting and clearing plenty of space for open shots around him, helping the home team make six of seven shots to start. He went to the bench with L.A. holding a six-point lead, Portland only so close since LaMarcus Aldridge had connected on three long-range jumpers.

0:00 Another benefit of having Sessions run the show is how much pressure it takes off Kobe to create offense; we had a good example here as Bryant had to do little work towards the five shots he took, and he made five for a game-high 11 points in the first. L.A. claimed a 30-19 lead, shooting 62 percent from the field despite two wide open layup misses in the final minute.

SECOND QUARTER
6:58 The bench kept a good effort going, as a Barnes put-back layup made it a 42-30 margin, while Bynum continued to score inside while notching his sixth field goal at the rim.

6:00 We got a pretty good idea of the rotation Mike Brown’s looking to use now that Sessions is in the starting line up. He re-entered near the six minute mark, with Bryant, Gasol and Troy Murphy joining him. Blake went to the bench having played 10 minutes primarily with McRoberts, Barnes, Bynum and World Peace, with Andrew Goudelock staying on the bench. Brown said before the game that he wants to figure out his playoff rotation, so it’s going to be seven regulars (Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol, Bynum, Barnes and Blake) with McRoberts and Murphy splitting time as back up bigs.

0:40.2 Despite all L.A.’s strong early play at the offensive end, Aldridge caught fire from really all over the court, hitting 10-of-12 shots to reach 21 points, and pull the Blazers as close to a point away. World Peace, however, drained a three to piggy-back an earlier hammer dunk through traffic, and Gasol hit consecutive jumpers to push the lead back to five.
Continue reading ‘LAL 103, POR 96: March 23 Running Diary’

Sessions to Start

Mike Brown told reporters attending Friday’s shootaround that Ramon Sessions would move into the starting line up for L.A.’s Friday night matchup with Portland.

Sessions, who has excelled in his four games coming off the bench, impressed Brown with his ability to pick up the team’s offensive and defensive concepts very quickly. On the court, his speed and athleticism have been major factors, while his ability in the pick and roll poses a major problem for opponents, so much so that Brown wants him on the court for extended minutes.

Sessions will likely see time with the second unit as well, with Steve Blake sliding over to the two guard spot, to take advantage of his pick and rolling and take some pressure off Andrew Bynum.

Sessions Impressing

One week into his tenure in Los Angeles, Ramon Sessions has been impressive enough to turn more than the heads of opposing defenders trying to cut off his penetration.

Just ask Kobe Bryant.

“I’ve been extremely impressed,” he said. “(Sessions) takes a lot of pressure off me. I can be a legitimate two-guard now. He can play make for others; before, I had to score and play make for others as well. I don’t have to do that, I can be on the receiving end of those plays.”

Indeed, Sessions’ ability to attack the paint both off regular sets and in transition has produced a bevy of wide open shots for Kobe and the rest of the Lakers (just ask Matt Barnes, who’s average has bumped up five points). Sessions has picked up L.A.’s early offense quickly, complementing his ability to play as he always has in the pick and roll, where he’s excellent at taking what the defense gives him.

“His savvy is really the most impressive thing,” Bryant continued. “A lot of players have speed, but he understands how to change directions and sees the floor extremely well. That’s the thing that makes his speed extremely valuable, is that he can change gears.”

The box score spoke pretty loudly for Sessions in his fourth game in Purple and Gold, a decisive 109-93 victory at Dallas in which he scored 17 points on 7-of-8 field goals (3-of-4 3′s), plus nine assists, five rebounds, one block and three turnovers in 29 minutes.

“The kid, Sessions, made the game easy for everybody,” said his new coach, Mike Brown. “You can see how his speed can help us, and his ability to play pick and roll and turn the corner and get in the teeth of the defense, and set guys up for easy what I call HORSE shots.

“That’s where they’ve got their feet set and its like when you’re in seventh grade and you’re playing HORSE with somebody and nobody shoots shots off the dribble, they just stood there and waited until they got the ball in their hands and you shoot it in a comfortable environment.”

In four games since his acquisition from Cleveland on trade deadline day, Sessions is averaging (surely-to-go-up) 25.0 minutes per game towards 12.0 points, 6.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds on 56.7 percent from the field, including 3-of-7 three-pointers.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe, in the 100 total minutes Sessions has been on the court, L.A. is scoring 114 points per 100 possessions, which (per to NBA.com’s stats tool) would easily lead the NBA.

Lowe points out that L.A.’s three-point shooting has improved markedly with Sessions on the floor, showing that the Lakers have attempted 20 triples per 48 minutes with Sessions in, hitting 48 percent, but connecting on only 25 percent when he sits. That passes the eye test, since his ability to penetrate and dish with a precise pass gives shooters the extra second to set up for an attempt (a HORSE shot, to Brown).

In addition to Barnes picking up his play to average 12 points off the bench since Sessions arrived, Pau Gasol has found himself with many wide open looks of late. The Spaniard drained 13-of-16 attempts at Dallas, including all seven attempts from about 15 feet and out on the top of the floor in the pick and pop area. Gasol connected on 10-of-14 field goals against Houston on the previous evening.

Sessions is quick to acknowledge that one of the reasons he’s had so much space in which to operate is how much attention Bryant, Gasol and Andrew Bynum in particular demand. Teams really have to make some tough choices when Sessions turns the corner on a pick and roll, because, well, whom should they leave?

Brown hinted that he’s going to have to consider putting Sessions into the starting line up and returning Steve Blake to the second unit, where Blake has played well of late, but said he’d first like to go over the tape from the Mavericks game.

Whether Sessions starts on Friday against Portland or continues to play increasingly more minutes off the bench, his impact on the court is thus far unquestioned.

LAL 109, DAL 93: March 21 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening back-to-back contest at Dallas, the Lakers looking to bounce back from a tough loss at Houston on Tuesday in which they blew a 12-point lead halfway through the fourth quarter, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Blake, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Mavericks: J. Kidd, R. Beaubois, S. Marion, D. Nowitzki, I. Mahinmi*
*Mahinmi has been starting for the injured Brendan Haywood (knee).

FIRST QUARTER
5:38 The teams traded hoops for the first three minutes, but Dallas answered with an 8-0 run capped by four straight free throws, taking advantage of Lakers turnovers (three) and fouls, Bynum getting Terry at the rim even though he’d argue he went straight up. Mike Brown really wanted L.A. to get its defensive focus back, protecting the rim and making multiple efforts, but that wasn’t easy with turnovers creating fast break opportunities.

1:30 A very strong first stanza from Sessions pulled LAL within two points; he hit both of his long jumpers as the Mavs went under screens, and dished three straight assists, including two straight to Gasol on pick and pops, to fill the stat sheet.

0:00 Add one more assist from Sessions to Kobe and the newest Laker had five points and four dimes in five minutes, an impressive session, if you will, while Bryant reached a game high 10 points on 4-of-7 FG’s. Dallas, however, was hot from the perimeter, enough to take a 29-27 lead into the second quarter.

SECOND QUARTER
8:25 More Sessions for you, folks. Two more assists and a layup through traffic at the rim had L.A. erase a 5-point lead and open a 36-34 lead. Then capping an 11-1 push from L.A. was Bynum, with a pretty baseline turnaround jumper.

3:00 I know we’re getting redundant, but Sessions continued his impressive performance by nailing his second three, this one from Kobe, and screaming “That’s right!” in Kobe’s direction with a head nod. The triple put the Lakers up 13, and Gasol snapped a quick 4-0 Mavs run with a jumper to reach 10 points of his own.

0:00 A tip in dunk from Gasol off Kobe’s miss closed a terrific second quarter for L.A., which opened a 57-44 edge thanks to the 30-15 second quarter. Dallas was shooting only 39.5% to LAL’s 58.6%, and the Lakers controlled the glass 27-15, much to Mike Brown’s pleasure.

THIRD QUARTER
9:30 As L.A. may have expected, Dallas came out much stronger in the third, with Dirk nailing two threes to cut the lead to seven. Bynum was the culprit on the second, failing to close out on a transition three, and also giving limited effort on a second chance opportunity on the previous trip. But on the next trip, Bynum did come over with effort, and blocked a drive. In short: his individual D makes a huge difference.

6:53 The Black Mamba came out for a completely ridiculous reverse layup that he tossed in over his head despite getting pushed with two hands by Kidd, producing a free throw out of a time out that put L.A. up 69-55. Gasol also continued his excellence, making his eighth shot in 10 attempts for a second straight impressive game in this arena.

1:42 Dallas was hitting threes, and L.A. free throws in the second half of the third, with Terry’s wing triple the sixth Mavs make of the period, and four straight foul shots from Kobe (7-of-7) kept L.A. up 10 points, which Dallas would trim slightly more to make it 80-72 with a quarter to play.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:22 The start to the fourth was good for L.A., with Sessions nailing his third three as the Mavs continued to go under screens on high pick and rolls, and Bynum added a baseline jumper to again put L.A. up 13, but Terry nailed the seventh Mavs three of the second half – his third – to keep Dallas around.

6:00 L.A. found itself in the exact same position as it was in against Houston last night, up 12 with six minutes left, but Brown took a smart time out to quell a 4-0 Mavs run. Out of that break, Kobe hit his 10th field goal in 17 attempts to make it a 14-point edge.

0:00 There would be no repeat of the Rockets game this time, as Bryant, Gasol and Barnes made sure of. Bryant nailed two tough jumpers from the perimeter to reach 30 points, Gasol dropped his 13th shot in 16 attempts, more impressive as many came on jumpers over Dirk, while Barnes nailed the dagger three (his third) to take any last wind out of the Mavs’ sails. The 109-93 victory was the third straight this season for L.A. over Dallas, and came in no small part due to terrific play from new point guard Ramon Sessions, who finished with 17 points, nine assists and five boards off the bench. L.A. heads home to face Portland on Friday; see you then.

LAL – Dallas Preview Podcast

With the Lakers in Dallas to push for a third consecutive win this season and 13th in 16 games against the Mavericks in the regular season, we dialed up Mavs TV play-by-play man Mark Followill to look deeper into Mark Cuban’s team.

The Mavs are hot, having won four straight games and five straight overall at home, riding Dirk Nowitzki’s 28.5 points per game over the last four and much-improved all-around game since the German started the season rather slowly. Followill updated us on the Mavs’ injury report*, discussed how to slow Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol with Brendan Hayward banged up and Tyson Chandler in New York, weighed in on Ramon Sessions and more:
*Brendan Haywood (sprained right knee) and Delonte West (fractured finger) are both out, while Shawn Marion (sore knee) is questionable but likely to try and play.

The Lakers are looking to rebound from a tough loss at Houston in which L.A. couldn’t hold onto a 12-point lead with six minutes to play.

To listen, click play below:

LAL 104, HOU 107: March 20 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening road contest at Houston, the Lakers looking for a fourth straight road 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: Blake, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Rockets: G. Dragic*, C. Lee, C. Parsons, L. Scola, S. Dalembert
*Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee made up the starting backcourt for Houston, with leading scorers Kyle Lowry (bacterial infection) and Kevin Martin (shoulder) out.

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 Before the game, I asked Courtney Lee what it was like defending Kobe Bryant. In short, his answer was that you can’t really plan in any specific way, because Kobe has counter moves for everything you try and do. You can’t try to force him in any one direction, or play too close, or too far, it really takes a 100 percent effort on each possession, and you just hope he misses shots. Lee said he still considers Bryant the NBA’s best player, the matchup he most relishes to test himself.

9:00 L.A. held Houston without a bucket in the first three minutes, taking a 6-0 lead behind Bynum and Gasol buckets at the rim, and it was the Western Player of the Week who then added two more field goals coming off his 12-of-14 game against Utah.

1:20 Ramon Sessions entered the game and helped kick off an explosive scoring run to close the first, a corner three from Barnes making it a 40-25 game, L.A. scoring inside and out at will to reach their season high in points for a quarter. The last time they hit 40 in a quarter? Jan. 11, 2011 at Golden State (46 in the 4th). Gasol’s 12 ld the way, while Bynum added eight, Bryant nine and Barnes six.

SECOND QUARTER
3:00 The Rockets had been scoring the basketball much better in the second quarter than the first, trimming what was once a 17-point lead down to seven on a Dalembert dunk, capping a quick 6-2 Rockets run into a time out. Bryant rediscovered his touch after the 3-for-20 game at Utah, making 5-of-11 field goals towards a game-high 13 points.

2:00 World Peace came into the game with a sore hip (technically hip bursitis), but looked no worse for the wear after being held out in the second half against Utah, at least not while streaking down the floor for a transition dunk.

0:00 As well as L.A. moved the ball and got it inside in the first quarter towards those 40 points, things got pretty stagnant as Bryant controlled the offense in the second, and the Lakers managed just 16 points to see their 15-point lead after one trimmed to just five at 56-51. It’s not like we haven’t seen this before so many times, but Mike Brown, Phil Jackson or whoever can’t really try to change Kobe, who sometimes simply going to be very aggressive offensively on his own. Perhaps more worrisome for L.A.: their defense simply hadn’t been all that strong, a problem Brown’s been pointing out for the last week and change.

THIRD QUARTER
11:40 The reason you get the ball to Gasol: another made field goal, this one a jumper just in front of the shot clock, giving him 14 points on 7-of-9 shots. The defense had yet to figure out Dragic, however, whose 11th assist got Houston within a point.

5:56 Houston took its first lead thanks to a series of Lakers turnovers, with a breakaway dunk from Lee creating a 63-62 edge, though Gasol’s eighth field goal in 10 attempts put L.A. momentarily back in front. Nonetheless, the early momentum created by the Lakers had evaporated, reminding of road losses at Detroit and Washington in which L.A. dominated out of the gates before slowing considerably.

1:37 L.A. started to get stops for the first time consistently since the first quarter, and converted on the other end with five straight points from Kobe, including three free throws on a drawn foul while taking a three (Parsons), producing a 77-71 lead. However, the game changed seconds later, when Bynum drew his second technical foul for arguing with the refs and was tossed. This was just the second ejection on the season for L.A., as Josh McRoberts was tossed once. With how well Bynum, the current Western POW, had been playing late in games, this was a blow.
Continue reading ‘LAL 104, HOU 107: March 20 Running Diary’

LAL – HOU: Preview Podcast

We spent some time picking the brain of Rockets.com’s Jason Friedman about the Rockets in advance of L.A.’s Tuesday evening game in Houston.

Friedman discussed: the injuries to Kevin Martin (shoulder) and Kyle Lowry (bacterial infection), Houston’s top two scorers who will both be out of the line up; the acquisition of Marcus Camby and his big man pairing with Samuel Dalembert; what he thinks of new Laker Jordan Hill and his game; how Houston has managed to play L.A. tough despite eight of ten wins for the Lakers and seven of 10 at Houston; and his favorite Rocket to interview.

The game tips off at 5 p.m. on KCAL 9 and can be heard on 710 ESPN radio.

To listen to the podcast, click play below:

L.A. at Houston: Pregame Tidbits

What do you need to know about the Lakers and Rockets heading into Tuesday evening’s game in Houston? This:

BYNUM GOING OFF: Andrew Bynum was so good last week that he received the Western Conference Player of the Week nod for the second time in his 7-year career (week of Jan. 26, 2009). Bynum led the Lakers to a 3-1 week, averaging 27.5 points on 65.5 percent shooting and leading the West in rebounding (14.8). He needs only 28 more POW selections to catch Kobe Bryant (30). Bynum actually had the first 20-point, 20-rebound game of his career against Houston in LAL’s home win on 1/3 (21 and 22), and is up to 2nd in the NBA in field goal percentage at .578 behind only Tyson Chandler, who has attempted only 245 shots to Bynum’s 512.

SESSIONS FITTING IN: Two games in, the reviews on Ramon Sessions from his teammates and coaches have been universally positive. His ability to penetrate the opposing paint is a big bonus for a team that didn’t much do so, aside from Kobe Bryant’s occasional forays, which puts a whole new kind of pressure on defenses and forces Sessions into the scouting report, taking away some focus from Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Sessions had six assists in 22 minutes against Utah and five in 19 against Minnesota; he ranks 11th in the NBA in assist per 48 minutes with 10.2.
To watch our “Get to Know” video with Sessions, in which he talks about his 6-month old puppy, “Sesh,” click here.

INJURY UPDATE: Injuries have been the biggest factor in Houston’s struggles, with Kyle Lowry out the past six games with a bacterial infection and Kevin Martin missing the last four with a strained right shoulder. Lowry will miss Tuesday’s game, and we’ll have to wait and see about Martin. Courtney Lee played really well at OKC and LAC in Martin’s place, scoring 21 and 25 points, though he struggled with his shooting vs. CHA and @ Phoenix (0-for-8 last game). Lowry almost went for a triple-double in Houston’s loss at L.A. in January with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists, though Goran Dragic has been very good behind him. Dragic is averaging 16 points, 9.2 assists and 1.8 steals in the games Lowry has missed.

TURNOVERS: Think this will be at the top of Mike Brown’s “Do Not Do!” list? Even without committing a single turnover in the fourth quarter against Utah, the Lakers still finished with 24 in the loss, second only to the 27 they committed against Memphis on Jan. 8. Both Brown and Kobe Bryant said many of the turnovers were unforced, which is more about focus than anything else, though Utah’s physicality did have an effect. Sometimes a tough loss helps reenforce that such mistakes don’t go unpunished in the NBA.

DEFENSE SLIPPING AS OFFENSE IMPROVES?: LAL’s coaches pride themselves on defense, so the fact that the Lakers have given up 100 points in three of the last four games, even while the offense has improved, does not sit well with Mike Brown. “That’s not who we are,” he said. “We have to get back to committing to the defensive end of the floor and not giving up baskets the way that we have been. To have Utah shoot over 47 percent and score 103 points is mind-boggling for us.”

SHOT SELECTION NOT AN ISSUE: One could look at Bynum’s super efficient 12-for-14 evening against Utah and Kobe Bryant’s very inefficient 3-for-20 and conclude that Bynum should have taken more shots, but it’s not really like that. In fact, Bynum got a ton of touches, but often had to pass out of double and triple teams, so getting 14 shots up was pretty good. Bryant generally takes more than 20 shots, and most were ones he usually makes. Brown doesn’t want Kobe passing up on really good scoring opportunities. The bottom line was that Bryant simply had a bad shooting night. It happens.

HOUSTON STRUGGLING TO HOLD LEADS: Six teams have come back from at least 10 down to defeat the Rockets this season.

Tip is at 5 p.m. Pacific in Houston; see you there.

Bynum Named Western Conference Player of the Week

The Los Angeles Lakers’ Andrew Bynum today has been named Western Conference Player of the Week for games played Monday, March 12, through Sunday, March 18.

Bynum led the Lakers to a 3-1 week, which included wins over the Grizzlies and Timberwolves. Bynum led the West in rebounding (14.8 rpg) and placed second in scoring (27.5) while shooting .665 from the field (fourth in the Conference). Bynum collected a point-rebound double-double in all four of the Lakers’ games, including a 37-point, 16-rebound in a 116-111 win over Memphis on March 13.

Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
March 13 @ Memphis: Scored 37 points and added 16 rebounds in a 116-111 win over the Grizzlies.
March 14 @ New Orleans: Tallied 25 points, 18 rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a 107-101 win over the Hornets.
March 18 vs. Utah: Tallied 33 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks during a 103-99 loss to the Jazz.

LAL 99, UTAH 103: March 18 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening road contest vs. Utah, the Lakers looking for a sixth 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
Jazz: D. Harris, J. Howard, C.J. Miles, P. Millsap, D. Favors

FIRST QUARTER
6:44 After nailing his fourth three-pointer of the season, Gasol flashed down the lane and took a pretty Blake pass up to throw down a one-handed dunk, giving him a game-high seven points. The Lakers were effectively pounding it inside, Bynum adding six to give the seven-footers all 13 points in a tie game, but the reason they were tied was not so pleasing to Mike Brown: seven turnovers, three on Bynum.

0:00 L.A.’s season high in turnovers in one game is 27 (vs. Memphis, 1/8), so having 10 in the first Q wasn’t all that strong. However, Utah managed only a 23-20 lead, with Gasol’s seven points leading the Lakers.

SECOND QUARTER
10:27 There’s been some discussion regarding whether Ramon Sessions should start or come off the bench, which Mike Brown answered early by saying Blake will stay with the starters for now, especially as Sessions learns the offense. However, an early benefit of having Sessions off the bench was shown in the second, as the PG repeatedly got into Utah’s paint (perhaps the most important asset he brings the Lakers) and created havoc. A few alley-oops, some free throws, and some transition offense spurred by Sessions had L.A.’s bench on a 12-4 run to start the second, opening a 32-27 lead.

4:21 After starting the game 0-for-6, Kobe hit two free throws and then his first field goal, a three that made it a 41-33 Lakers lead. Sessions was effective in pushing the lead out, but he too was cold from the field, missing all four of his shots (3-of-4 FT’s).

0:00 Having opened a 10-point lead and seemingly figured out their problems, L.A. subsequently went right back into the tank, committing more turnovers (17 total, including five from Bynum and four from Kobe) as the Jazz closed the half on a 12-1 run to lead 45-44 at the break.
Continue reading ‘LAL 99, UTAH 103: March 18 Running Diary’