Monthly Archive for March, 2012

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Sessions Strong in Lakers Debut

Despite arriving in Los Angeles on Friday morning without the benefit of a single practice, Ramon Sessions kicked off his Lakers debut in style.

In the 10-minute stretch surrounding the first quarter break, Sessions scored six points on 3-of-5 field goals — including two blow-by layups that had Staples Center buzzing — with two assists to Matt Barnes for three-pointers, plus two rebounds. Over that period, the Lakers outscored the Wolves by 14 points, opening a 42-27 lead when starter Steve Blake checked back in.

“When you have talent like we have in this locker room it makes (getting comfortable) easier for me,” said Sessions. “I did send out an email last night to get some plays … just in case I did play so I was able to know a few of them and it kind of worked out for me.”

Sessions finished with seven points on 3-of-6 shooting with five assists, four boards and three turnovers in 19 minutes.

“They told me to be aggressive and just attack on the pick and roll, so that’s what I did,” said Sessions.

Kobe Bryant was pleased.

“He’s extremely fast and extremely crafty,” said Bryant. “The conversations I had with him out on the floor about execution and things like that, he seems to have a really high basketball IQ.

“He can score. He can obviously get into the paint as you saw tonight. He’s going to be a feature for our team that opponents are going to have to prepare for, they’re going to have to talk about it and they’re going to have to do something to try and slow him down.”

Bryant acknowledged that Sessions’ ability to get into the paint and create offense takes pressure off him, as No. 24 had been L.A.’s only penetrator from the perimeter before the acquisition of the team’s new point guard.

“Absolutely, you saw that tonight,” Bryant said. “You saw glimpses of it tonight where he handled the ball and got a lot of pick and roll situations, got into the paint and got guys a lot of easy opportunities and broke down the defense.”

Returning to the bench after his opening session, Sessions sat next to assistant coach Quin Snyder to go over play sets, all new to him, on a clipboard. He’d to the same for the first seven minutes of the third quarter, before checking in with 3:30 left as Blake went to the pine with an effective six assists without a turnover.

His first two passes in the period resulted in Kobe Bryant three-pointers, his fourth and fifth of the night to match a season high, getting the Lakers to a 74-58 lead.

Sessions held up fine on defense, spending some time guarding both point and shooting guards, which his solid 6-3 frame allows; his new coach felt like he showed what he could do in a few areas.

“You can see his quickness,” said Mike Brown. “He has a second, third and even fourth gear where he beat everyone down the floor. We put him in the pick and roll, and he was able to get into the teeth of the defense. It was good to see.”

Sessions found an instant connection with Matt Barnes, whose basket cut Sessions rewarded with a pretty pass for a layup that had Barnes to 12 points on 5-of-7 field goals. Barnes would finish with 17 points, matching a season high, and the bench totaled 31 overall.

“I thought Sessions did a nice job in the 19 minutes he played to get the ball to different people,” said Brown. “He got Matt a couple of wide-open looks with dribble drives and (kick out passes).”

He’d be replaced for good by Blake at the 6:15 mark of the fourth quarter, his career record with the Lakers at 1-0.

Saturday’s practice was for Sessions a continued crash course of the team’s plays and play calls on offense, and he stayed afterwards first to go through sets with four teammates and assistant coach John Kuester, then further pick and roll work with Snyder and coach Ettore Messina.

Up next for Sessions and the Lakers is a Sunday evening contest against Utah at Staples Center.

LAL 97, MIN 92: March 16 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home contest at Staples Center, the Lakers looking for a fifth 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: Blake*, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Wolves: L. Ridnour, M. Webster, W. Johnson, K. Love, N. Pekovic
*With Derek Fisher being traded on deadline day, Steve Blake got the starting nod, though we were also sure to see newly-acquired point guard Ramon Sessions.

FIRST QUARTER
8:15 A slow start to the contest due to a bunch of fouling picked up with a pretty baseline spin move through traffic from Bryant, continuing as Gasol’s pretty hook shot in the lane gave him six of L.A.’s nine points in a 9-4 early edge. The big story pregame, of course, was L.A. trading for Ramon Sessions in particular as well as Jordan Hill.

2:51 Just a few seconds after checking in for his debut, Sessions scored on a runner in the paint, playing pick and roll with Troy Murphy, and releasing the ball when Minnesota’s defense didn’t converge. Mike Brown said before the game that L.A. would immediately run pick and rolls for Sessions, as it’s his strong point, to see what he could do.

0:00 Two triples from Bryant were the late difference in a 23-19 edge for the Lakers, while Sessions missed a 15-footer in his second FGA as a Laker. Both teams shot poorly in the first, L.A. hitting only 38 percent with usually efficient Bynum missing all four of his attempts.

SECOND QUARTER
5:55 The early results for Sessions’ debut were pretty enticing for the Lakers: six points on 3-of-5 field goals, including two blow-by layups (one in transition, something they simply didn’t have before his acquisition), two assists for wing threes from Matt Barnes, two turnovers, a rebound and a +10 on the scoreboard.

0:00 Providing a strong bench boost, in addition to Sessions, was Josh McRoberts, who flew in for a two-handed put-back dunk one trip down after grabbing an offensive board (five total boards), and added a big one-handed alley-oop throw down from Barnes for which he hung in the air for about as longer than it took to write this sentence. Kobe added a fierce one-handed slam of his own, but L.A. let up defensively in the final minute to concede the final five points to Kevin Love. Nonetheless, they led 50-41 at the break.

THIRD QUARTER
9:00 Looking like Kobe for a minute, World Peace blew by Martell Webster for a left-handed layup, putting L.A. up 57-47, though the Lakers were struggling with brute center Nikola Pekovic on the other end, the Montenegran reaching 16 points with six boards by hitting 1-of-2 FT’s at the other end.

4:42 As Kobe’s two free throws went down, L.A.’s lead grew back to 14 at 66-52. Kevin Love was scoring for Minnesota, with 20 points plus 10 boards, but it wasn’t hurting the Lakers as most were perimeter jumpers and he wasn’t involving his teammates (no assists). Bryant had 16 and Gasol 13, while Blake had six assists.

0:00Back-to-back threes from Kobe allowed him to match a season high with five triples; he also hit five at Minnesota on Feb. 29, and on this night, used ‘em to keep L.A. up 14 and get to 22 points. Both came from Sessions, giving him four assists in his debut to that point. The Lakers took a 74-61 lead out of the quarter.

FOURTH QUARTER
4:46 L.A. largely controlled the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, though the Wolves managed to cut it to six momentarily before a free throw and then jumper fell for Kobe, giving him 25 points and L.A. an 85-76 lead. Sessions checked out for good with seven points, five assists, four boards and three turnovers in 19 minutes, a solid debut for the newest Laker.

1:59 Bynum made his seventh straight free throw, setting up what may have been a perfect FT game … until he missed the eighth. Nonetheless, his much improved FT shooting of late had him near 80 percent in March, helping him to 15 points with 14 boards in this one despite 4-of-12 field goals. Kobe had 28 points on 9-of-20 shooting, Gasol 13 with 11 boards and Barnes 15 points off the pine.

0:00 Your final: Lakers 97, Wolves 92. A quick look atop the Western Conference: the Spurs beat Oklahoma City (33-11) on the road, so with an eighth win in 10 games coming soon, the Lakers (28-16) get to within five games of the conference lead, and stay two games behind San Antonio (29-13) for second. With the Clippers having lost six of 10 to fall to 24-18, L.A. also had a full three-game lead in the Pacific Division. Up next, a Sunday contest against Utah. See you there.

LAL > MIN: League’s Longest W Streak

The Lakers have won 18 consecutive games against the Minnesota Timberwolves, dating back to March 6, 2007, which stands as the longest winning streak by one team over another in the NBA.

L.A. has already one three matchups with the Wolves this season, including two at Minnesota, most recently on March 9 (105-102). The Wolves’ excellent young point guard, Ricky Rubio, tore his left ACL with under a minute to play in that game, while Kevin Love was a last-minute scratch due to a sore back. Love also missed Minnesota’s 104-85 loss at Staples Center on Feb. 29 with flu-like symptoms, but is expected to play Friday night.

The Lakers have won 11 consecutive games over Minnesota in Los Angeles, dating back to Dec. 2, 2005. The Wolves, however, have been breaking streaks all season. They snapped 16-game loss runs to both Portland and San Antonio, in addition to a 9-game home losing streak to Dallas.

Tip off is at 7:30, which you can watch on FS West and hear on 710 ESPN radio.

Trade Deadline Day Wrap Up

A flurry of activity on trade deadline day in the NBA brought a new look to the Lakers heading into the final 23 games of the season, with the acquisition of point guard Ramon Sessions from Cleveland and departure of Derek Fisher to Houston headlining two moves directed by general manager Mitch Kupchak.

Joining Sessions from the Cavs is forward Christian Eyenga, in exchange for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, a protected 2012 first round draft pick and other considerations. To get Fisher and the 2012 first pick L.A. received from Dallas in the Lamar Odom trade, the Rockets sent big man Jordan Hill to Los Angeles.

Financial considerations were certainly kept in mind, as Kupchak explained, given the increasing luxury tax penalties negotiated into the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the GM was very pleased to keep the team’s three stars – Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum – in tact while still addressing a primary need.

Sessions and Hill will take physicals on Friday morning, and are expected to be available to Mike Brown should he choose to use either against the Timberwolves on Friday night.

Sessions excelled as the backup to the leading Rookie of the Year candidate Kyrie Irving, averaging 10.5 points and 5.2 assists in just 24.5 minutes per game this season. The Nevada product was even more productive in four starts, averaging 17.8 points and 11.0 assists, and has career averages of 14.8 points, 7.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 89 starts.

“We think Ramon (will) make a more immediate impact (than Eyenga or Hill),” said Kupchak. “Despite Derek’s presence, we felt we needed more speed and quickness in the backcourt. There’s nobody we’d trust with an open shot (more) than Derek Fisher, but we felt from a defensive point of view and giving us some speed and quickness (the move fit).”

The 6-3 guard spent his first three seasons in Milwaukee and Minnesota before being traded to the Cavs prior to the 2010-11 season. A second round pick, Sessions didn’t appear in a game for Milwaukee in the first five months of his rookie year, but immediately showed his value while averaging 11.5 points and 11.3 assists in April of 2008, including a 20-point, 24-assist effort against Chicago.

Sessions gives the Lakers something they did not have on the roster, much coveted by Kupchak and executive VP, player personnel Jim Buss: a slashing point guard adept at penetrating and creating offense either for himself or for teammates. Sessions has also improved his three-point shooting markedly this season, hitting 41.9 percent from behind the arc to bump his career average up to 29.3 percent.

Kupchak thinks that the moves put the Lakers in a better position to make a run at another championship despite losing Fisher’s leadership and experience.

“If we can get over the emotional toll, which I believe we will, we have the potential to be a better team,” he said.

Since Sessions is a bigger point guard, Kupchak acknowledged that he can also be used at the two-guard spot if Mike Brown would like, as both he and Steve Blake can defend most NBA shooting guards. It will be up to Brown to decide who starts, though it’s presumed that Blake will do so on Friday.

Hill, a 6-10 forward/center in his third year out of Arizona, was originally selected by New York with the eighth overall pick in 2009. Acquired by Houston as part of a three-team, nine-player trade midway through his rookie season, Hill has averaged 5.4 points and 4.2 boards in 151 career NBA games (18 starts) in 14.7 minutes. He averaged 18.3 points and 11.0 boards in three college seasons, and in games this year in which he’s played at least 15 minutes, he’s produced 7.9 points and 7.5 boards.

Eyenga was nabbed with the 30th pick by Cleveland in the 2009 Draft, and has played in six games this season with an average of 13.8 minutes per contest towards 1.5 points and 2.0 rebounds. The 6-7 forward played in 44 games as a rookie with the Cavaliers, averaging 6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 21.5 minutes.

While the Lakers are excited about what Sessions in particular might add, the organization expressed how much it will miss Fisher, the team’s emotional leader that came up huge so many times throughout his 13 seasons wearing Purple and Gold.

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to Derek for everything he has meant to this organization over the years,” said Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. “Few who have worn the Lakers uniform have done so with as much class as Derek, both on the court and in the community. From his famous 0.4 shot in San Antonio to his clutch performances in the Finals against Orlando and Boston when it mattered most, Derek will always hold a special place not only in my heart, but in the heart of Lakers fans everywhere.”

Kupchak addressed the difficulty of trading Fisher, with whom he hopes to speak on Friday after an attempt on Thursday morning got Fisher’s voicemail, and also took care to thank Walton for his years of service to the Lakers, highlighted by his contributions to the back-to-back championships and consistently positive presence in the locker room.

Kupchak said it’s up to the remaining players and Brown to fill the leadership position Fisher so adeptly held. He added that giving up the two draft picks was less of a concern since such a player was unlikely to be better than Sessions.

DRAFT PICK DETAILS

The pick L.A. sent to Cleveland is lottery protected for the 2012 draft; in other words, if the Lakers miss the playoffs this season, they’d keep their pick in 2012, and Cleveland would get L.A.’s 2014 pick. Furthermore, the Lakers agreed to swap a lottery protected first round pick in 2013 with Cleveland for either the Cavs’ pick, Miami’s 2013 pick or Sacramento’s 2013 pick, all owned by the Cavs, at Cleveland’s discretion. In short, if L.A.’s pick is better (lower) than that of any of those three teams, the Cavs can swap with the Lakers.

The first rounder the Lakers sent to Houston came from Dallas in the preseason Lamar Odom trade, and is protected through 20 picks for six years.

LAL 107, NOH 101: March 14 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening road contest at New Orleans, the Lakers looking for a third straight road win and fourth straight overall, 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
Hornets: J. Jack, M. Belinelli, T. Ariza, G. Ayon, C. Kaman

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 Mike Brown’s reaction to Kobe Bryant’s playing 52 minutes in L.A.’s double OT victory at Memphis on Tuesday night was, simply, “Wow.” Kobe, of course, scoffed at the mention that this would somehow affect him for the Hornets game, which we’re about to see here. Also playing big minutes were Bynum (49) and Gasol (46), so energy level against an athletic Hornets line up would certainly be key. We’ll keep an eye out.

5:34 The Hornets were taking jumpers, the Lakers scoring inside. This is L.A.’s typical game plan, though if the opponent happens to hit those J’s, things like a 16-12 deficit can happen despite eight points from Gasol in the opening minutes. L.A. figures that, as league history has always shown, over time it’s better to shoot closer to the rim than from the perimeter.

0:00 L.A. always seems to bring out the best in their opponents, and they did once again as the Hornets made 11-of-17 field goals to open a 27-20 lead heading into the second quarter. The Lakers got little from anyone but Gasol (eight points) and Kobe (10, two triples), and watched Jarrett Jack make all five of his shots.

SECOND QUARTER
7:20 Back-to-back hoops from Greivis Vasquez, a U of Maryland product like Steve Blake, gave the Hornets a 38-26 lead. Bynum looked to be showing his lack of energy after a monster game at Memphis, missing all but one of five shots and totaling three turnovers.

3:26The deficit was 10 after Bynum dropped in an easy hoop thanks to his rim running (which always makes Mike Brown happy), and followed a huge double-pump slam from Kobe through traffic that had Samuel L. Jackson buzzing in his courtside seat. New Orleans, however, continued to score efficiently, as Jack got to the rim for his sixth field goal. He and Vasquez, in fact, were a combined 10-of-10.

0:00 The halftime deficit was 14, New Orleans shooting a lofty 61.5 percent against a team that usually allows only around 41 percent from the field. The problem was energy, which can be understood to a degree after L.A.’s double OT win the night before, but the coaching staff (we spoke to Chuck Person at the half) was confident L.A. could flip the script in the second half.

THIRD QUARTER
6:30 Sure enough, the Lakers turned up their defensive intensity to open the third, and it was no surprise that the lead was thus cut all the way down to five after Gasol’s dunk from a nice Bynum lob. The 7-footers have really, really figured out how to get each other the rock at the rim.

3:50 Yet another alley-oop, this time from Kobe to Bynum, occurred as Bryant came off a screen and the defense felt compelled to help. L.A. had a chance to cut the lead to as few as two when World Peace had an open look at a corner three, but his miss turned into a Hornets layup at the other end, keeping the lead at seven. Hitting that open three has been a problem for L.A. all season, their ranking 29th in the NBA.

0:00 And having just said that … Barnes nailed a corner three to tie the game. Terps Blake and Vasquez exchanged hoops in the final minute, bringing us to an even 70 points into the fourth. The 17-point deficit was dead, a new game for the fourth, the only question being how much energy the Lakers had to expend to chop that lead down.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:00 A 7-0 Hornets run to start the 4th wasn’t what L.A. had in mind, though a 4-0 response was more like it. Bynum was the key, feeding Gasol for a layup, blocking a shot and then hitting two free throws. Despite a slow start, Bynum was up to 14 points and 12 boards.

5:30 The Lakers starters continued to work hard, Fisher battling for a loose ball that eventually turned into a Bynum hammer from Gasol’s lob (heard that lately?). The lead was still three, however, as the Hornets were finding ways to score through Kaman inside and Jack on the perimeter.

0:00 For the third straight game, the Lakers erased a 5-point deficit in the final two minutes, the key play this time being Bryant drawing a 3-point shooting foul on Ayon, and hitting all three with about 20 seconds left to tie the game at 93. Three consecutive stops on D allowed it to happen.

OVERTIME
0:40.0 Metta World Peace, everybody! This time a huge play on defense as he stripped Jack leading to his transition layup at the other end. Fisher had put L.A. up one on the previous trip with a jumper, after a 4-0 Hornets run erased Kobe’s emphatic and-1 dunk that started the extra session.

0:22.1 A big stop for L.A. protected a three-point lead, with Bynum clearing a rebound after Ariza’s three came off the rim. Fisher, however, missed 1-of-2 FT’s, so the lead was four with 22.1 to play. Then came the second huge defensive play from World Peace, who swatted Kaman from behind and watched Bryant hit two free throws on the other end with 12.5 seconds left, pushing the lead to six.

0:00 And the final: 107-101 after Barnes added to the free throw total. A second straight road overtime victory for the Lakers would make for a nice plane ride home … even if some extra ice packs were required for tired knees. And, by the way, after the game we asked Kobe Bryant on KCAL about playing 100 minutes in two nights, with three overtime sessions: “I actually feel great.” He’s not a normal person. We’ll see you back in L.A. vs. Minnesota on Friday.

Lakers – Hornets: Preview Podcast

After a tough double-overtime victory at Memphis on Tuesday, the Lakers are in New Orleans to face the Hornets on Wednesday, so we dialed up Hornets.com’s Jim Eichenhofer to discuss the matchup.

Among the topics: how New Orleans has started 15 different starting line ups due to a bevy of injuries; why the Hornets have played better basketball against the league’s better teams; Chris Kaman’s strong play as a starter; Eric Gordon and Emeka Okafor injury updates and more.

To listen, click below:

LAL 116, MEM 111: March 13 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening road contest at Memphis, the Lakers looking to win a second straight road game and third straight overall, 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
Grizzlies: M. Conley, T. Allen, S. Young*, M. Speights and M. Gasol

FIRST QUARTER
8:37 After conceding the game’s first six points, the Lakers reeled off a quick 5-0 run to cut the lead to one, capped by Bryant’s alley-oop dunk from Gasol. Six of the first eight Grizz points came on long 2′s from Tony Allen, not known as a shooter, but as perhaps the league’s best perimeter defender that lacks touch on offense.

5:09 Two corner threes from Derek Fisher put him over 10,000 points for his career (he needed four points coming in), and kept L.A. in it early despite five turnovers leading to six Grizzlies points, the key in their 14-11 lead.

0:00 Two stats defined the first: L.A. committed seen turnovers to just one for Memphis, and the Grizz grabbed offensive rebounds to L.A.’s one. The Grizz just play real, real hard at home, more so than almost any NBA team, using young athletes that buy into a system, and it produced a 29-21 lead after one.

SECOND QUARTER
10:25 L.A.’s bench responded in kind, however, working its way to a quick 6-0 run capped by Blake’s alley-oop dunk to Bynum. Matt Barnes added a hammer slam of his own on a nice basket cut, with Blake throwing both passes.

6:16 Having led by two, the Lakers gave up two buckets to Pau’s brother, putting Memphis back in front by a deuce, but the bench effort was impressive for Mike Brown, most notably Bynum, who was up to 12 points on 5-of-7 field goals. The All-Star center bruised his knee last game and missed shootaround this morning, but was moving around quite well, mitigating concerns.

2:00 On KCAL 9, we showed two huge Lakers fans known as “NMLAKERSFAN” and “JIGGY”, which their gold Lakers jerseys tell us on the back. They have been to 12 LAL road games already this season, and it never ceases to amaze how many Lakers fans there are everywhere. Meanwhile, Bynum continued to do work, connecting on back-to-back buckets to reach 18 points on an impressive 7-of-9 field goals and 4-of-4 free throws, bringing L.A. again back to a tie after they’d trailed by eight.

THIRD QUARTER
10:20 Holding a one-point lead at the half, the Grizz came firing out of the tunnel on an 8-0 run, during which Bryant picked up his ninth technical foul of the season after the refs missed Tony Allen hitting Bryant’s elbow on a jump shot. The result was a 60-51 deficit, and in the time out, Mike Brown said: “We just gave them a free minute and a half … now let’s play how we play.”

3:35 Falling behind by as many as 15 points, with Marreese Speights going off for 19 points on 9-of-12 FG’s (many pick and pop jumpers), L.A. stayed afloat behind Bynum (21 points, nine boards) and Bryant (18 points), the two combining to shoot 14-for-20.

2:45 A big 5-point possession started with Barnes earning a clear path foul after getting tripped at mid court, and after his two free throws finished with Blake nailing a corner three from Barnes via Kobe on the hockey assist. The lead was thus cut to eight, as close as L.A. had been since early in the period. Bynum had a ferocious put-back slam in the final minute
Continue reading ‘LAL 116, MEM 111: March 13 Running Diary’

Focal Point for LAL at MEM: Turnovers

When the Lakers beat the Grizzlies 90-82 at Staples Center on Jan. 8, it came in spite of a usually debilitating statistic: 27 turnovers committed.

The Lakers turned it over 16 times alone in the second half, yet managed to win for the first time while giving the ball away so often since Nov. 3, 1995 against Denver. L.A.’s own defense ended up carrying the day, as Memphis managed to hit only 40.9 percent from the field, compared to 47.3 percent for the Lakers, masking all the giveaways.

Needless to say, it won’t be so easy for L.A. to win at Memphis – where the Grizz have won six straight games – if they can’t take care of the basketball. Memphis does happen to be the league’s best team at creating turnovers, however,
using 10.0 steals per game (1st in the NBA) towards 17.6 forced turnovers (1st). On top of that, Memphis turns those mistakes into points, leading the league in points off turnovers (20.2) and ranking third in fast break points (17.1).

A key cog in the Grizz turnover machine, Rudy Gay, will not play against the Lakers due to a concussion. Gay averaged 1.65 steals per game, but his teammates Mike Conley (2.53, 1st in NBA) and Tony Allen (1.76) still pose a strong challenge.

Bynum Gets the Ball

With 15.5 seconds left in L.A.’s Sunday contest against Boston, the Lakers held a one-point lead over their arch rivals, and looked not to Kobe Bryant nor Pau Gasol to seal the deal, but Andrew Bynum.

It was the team’s collective defense and then Kobe at the other end that put them in the position to get a win, which was in serious jeopardy after Ray Allen’s three-pointer put Boston up 94-89 with 2:41 to play. L.A. would go on to force six Celtics misses, holding Boston without a single point in the final two minutes and change, while doing this on offense:

1) Bryant fading jumper from 10 feet, 2:16 (91-94)
2) Bryant lob to Bynum for a tap in, 1:17 (93-94)
3) Bryant 14-foot pullup J, 41.7 (95-94)

After Brandon Bass missed a jumper, the Lakers had the ball, up one, with 32 seconds on the clock. During the time out, Bryant volunteered a play to Mike Brown, suggesting the Lakers get the ball to Bynum, who was being defended by Kevin Garnett. As Bryant explained after the game, Garnett remains a fantastic defender, but simply doesn’t have the mass to deal with Bynum.

“If the ball’s in my hands I’m going to put myself in a position to not get double teamed,” Bryant added. “In that situation I was trying to throw the ball to Andrew and put him in that situation I am normally in where the defense has to make a decision.”

With Bryant at the top of the key, the ball was swung to World Peace on the wing directly in front of Boston’s bench, with Bynum flashing to the middle of the paint. Peace floated a pass into Bynum, who simply caught it, turned to his left and dropped a right-handed hook over Garnett and into the hoop with 15.5 seconds to go.

One final stop, keyed by Gasol’s flashing out to keep Ray Allen from attempting a game-tying three, and Bryant getting apiece of Paul Pierce’s subsequent attempt, and L.A. had ridden an 8-0 run to a 97-94 victory.

Here’s what some of the Lakers had to say about the stretch, focusing on Bynum’s clutch bucket and Kobe’s idea to make it happen:

Andrew Bynum: “It was crazy. Kobe came up with that play. He said they’re not going to know what to do, and sure enough, the way they designed it, Kevin Garnett started guarding me on the top side by the three-point line. So, it definitely worked.”

Kobe Bryant: “Andrew just did his thing. He’s a player you have to focus on*.”
*When asked if the play was his idea, Kobe said: “100 percent. What do you think it was made up?”

Derek Fisher: “Not just from that decision today, I just think that Kobe has always continued in that evolution in terms of doing different things to try to get us to the top and trying to get us to a championship level team. I think that today is just another example of him realizing what it takes for us to win and to trust Andrew in that setting was huge for us … I believe we have always been pretty dangerous down the stretch because it’s difficult to decide what to do. In the past it has been Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, myself, Kobe, Metta World Peace and it’s tough for teams to make a choice. Kobe has obviously always trusted his abilities but he has shown trust in his teammates at the most important time and so he did that again today.”

Pau Gasol: “It was a good sign of something positive. I think that we recognize and Kobe recognized that Andrew had an advantage and it was to hard stop and it was unexpected, probably and Boston probably didn’t expect it either because we are so used to Kobe taking that last shot no matter what. Andrew stepped up, he had a nice play, he had a very high percentage shot and scored.”

Mike Brown: “[Kobe] has suggested things where, because guys have been paying attention to him, that the ball go here or there. That to me is a mark of a great player.”

Lakers 97, Celtics 94: March 11 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon home contest against Boston, the Lakers looking to win a ninth straight home games, 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, Barnes, Gasol and Bynum
Celtics: R. Rondo, R. Allen, P. Pierce, B. Bass, K. Garnett

FIRST QUARTER
8:40 It was all purple and gold to start the game, a 7-0 lead resulting from Boston missing all five jumpers it took (not able to penetrate with L.A.’s length helping effectively) and Bynum and Gasol scoring inside, with World Peace adding a three. This was a small Boston line up, with Garnett playing center (Jermaine O’Neal out with a sprained left wrist) and Brandon Bass at the four, and L.A. took advantage early.

4:00 Word was that Tom Brady was sitting courtside opposite the Celtics bench. Too bad he couldn’t help L.A. with some QB-style throws down the court intended for Bynum, neither of which went through, and the first resulting in a Ray Allen elbow to his ribs.

0:00 It was a dominant defensive quarter for L.A. at Staples, once again, Boston managing only 25 percent shooting and getting out-rebounded 17-8, Gasol’s seven nearly as many as the whole Celtics team. The resulting lead was 24-14 for the home team.

SECOND QUARTER
7:35 As Andrew Goudelock’s three gave L.A. its biggest lead at 37-22, it was Bynum doing much of the damage inside, including a fierce hammer dunk over Garnett that pushed his early totals to 10 points and eight boards.

4:09 Furious at not getting a foul call, Kobe ripped off his mask and drew a technical from Joey Crawford, his ninth tech of the season, just four away from a suspension in the lockout-shortened season (usually it’s 16). Meanwhile, the Lakers continued to look sloppy on offense at times, turning the ball over 12 times to help Boston cut a double-digit lead to just four.

0:00 The concern for the Lakers in the second quarter was the same as it was at Washington and Detroit in the second half: they stopped going inside. It was jump shot time, paint points evening out from the 14-4 first quarter, and with Rondo’s three at the buzzer, the lead was just two at 44-42.

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