Monthly Archive for March, 2012

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Lakers – Celtics Preview Podcast

Click for the video scouting report on LAL – BOS with assistant coach Chuck Person.

With the Celtics coming into Los Angeles for the only time this season to kick off their eight-game road trip, we called up NESN anchor and reporter Randy Scott to discuss the matchup. Sunday afternoon’s early start (12:30 p.m.) will wrap the two-game season series that began with L.A.’s 88-87 overtime victory on Feb. 9 sealed by a Pau Gasol block.

Scott details how the locals in Boston are feeling about an aging Celtics squad that looks great at times and struggles at others, discussed who’s been playing well of late (Paul Pierce) and who’s struggled (injured Jermaine O’Neal), talked about L.A.’s inside advantage thanks to Gasol and Bynum and offered his take on the best and worst Celtics to interview.

To listen, click below:

Kobe Surpasses 29,000 Points

With 34 points at Minnesota on Friday, Kobe Bryant shot his way past the 29,000 point mark for his career, and now has 29,022 thanks to 7-of-12 shooting in the second half after a 4-for-14 first half.

The youngest player in league history to score 23,000 – 28,000 and now 29,000 points, Bryant is 33 years and 199 days old. He posted 34 points against the Wolves to lead L.A. to its 18th consecutive victory over Minnesota.

Wilt Chamberlain reached the milestone on March 7, 1971, when he was 34 years, 198 days of age. Michael Jordan (35 years, 45 days), Karl Malone (35 years, 105 days) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (35 years, 298 days) complete the four Hall of Famers to score 29,000. Bryant (1,142 games played through 3/7/12) also became the 5th fastest in terms of games. Chamberlain was the fastest to reach 29,000, doing so in 874 games, followed by Jordan (922), Abdul-Jabbar (1,056) and Malone (1,113).

Lakers 105, Wolves 102: March 9 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening road contest at Minnesota the Lakers looking to bounce back from back-to-back road defeats, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Wolves: R. Rubio, L. Ridnour, W. Johnson, D. Williams, N. Pekovic

12:00 Among Mike Brown’s pregame comments: let’s share the ball (he was talking to his players through the media). It’s a simple point, that when the Lakers move the ball, they win games, and when they don’t, the opportunity to win is more difficult. That was to Brown what went wrong in Washington and Detroit, though he did hedge his statement a bit by saying the ball movement was a bit better than he initially thought when he checked out the tape.

3:00 The Lakers couldn’t have started the game much worse, committing seven turnovers in the first seven minutes, and just generally looking listless as the Wolves were the much more active team. L.A. thus got only 12 shots up, to Minnesota’s 21 plus nine free throws, resulting in a 26-16 Wolves lead even after two straight Wolves buckets.

0:00 Minnesota took a 33-21 lead out of the break, thanks to those Lakers turnovers and subpar energy, plus 12 points from Derrick Williams in Kevin Love’s absence (he was a late scratch with back spasms). This was the Lakers team of the second halves against Detroit and Washington, not the first.

5:00 Leading L.A.’s bench was McRoberts, who posted five boards with his two assists and four points in 10 minutes, which along with some positive minutes from Matt Barnes (on his 31st birthday) had the Lakers bench outplaying its starters, for once.

3:36 Another strong move from Bynum (we say another as it was his sixth field goal in seven attempts cut Minnesota’s lead down to six, L.A.’s starters starting to show some of the same energy that the bench provided. World Peace was also key, grabbing consecutive offensive rebounds to total four of his nine points, and seven straight since he added a three.

9:30 An 8-0 run for the Lakers started things right in the second half, with Fisher and Bryant nailing back-to-back threes, and Kobe getting a steal and a dunk on the other end to get L.A. within one. The Lakers missed an opportunity by turning the ball over and allowing back-to-back Wolves threes, but Fisher hit again to make it 64-59.

5:00 Bryant’s pull-up J in the paint gave him 19 points on 7-of-18 field goals, his third straight rough shooting game on the road, Stu Lantz wondering on KCAL 9 if his legs are a bit tired from all the effort he’s putting out since breaking his nose and suffering a concussion over All-Star weekend. Nonetheless, L.A. had pulled within two points with a strong push out of halftime.

0:00 Kobe’s best push of the game helped L.A. tie for the first time since it was 4-all, at 78, cutting all nine points off Minnesota’s halftime lead. He was up to 26 points, all of a sudden, 12 in the period, despite 9-for-23 shooting. Fisher was the other key to the quarter, hitting three triples to get L.A. to 6-of-12 on the evening.

9:00 Four straight points from Bynum got him up to 22 with nine boards, and the Lakers their biggest lead of the game at a modest three points, 86-83. Brown started the fourth with both Bynum and Gasol in the game, a rarity, and that helped L.A. control the paint at both ends (as one might expect).

2:41 A strong bench effort from McRoberts concluded with 1-of-2 free throws off his offensive board, his seventh of the evening, and two terrific plays from Bynum (a swat of Rubio and resulting alley-oop hammer dunk on the other end) gave L.A. its biggest lead at 99-95.

0:00 Minnesota responded with a 5-0 run, capped by Ridnour’s three, to take a 1-point lead, but Bynum got a goaltending call to put L.A. back in front moments later. Then in the final minute, it was Kobe Bryant nailing all four of his free throws, and Gasol coming up with the key block to seal the victory for L.A. It was the opposite of the previous two losses at Detroit and Washington, as the Lakers played well in the second half after a poor first half. With the win, L.A. improves to 24-16 on the season heading into Sunday’s matchup with Boston. We’ll see you there.

Lakers Look for 18th Straight vs. Wolves

After tough back-to-back losses at Detroit and Washington snapped the momentum L.A. had built up with eight wins in 10 games, the Lakers will aim to bounce back at Minnesota on Friday evening.

Here are 10 things about the matchup you should – or at least could – know:

1) The Lakers have won 17 straight games against Minnesota, the longest active winning streak for any team over any other in the NBA, but the Wolves have been playing good basketball of late, enough to put them into the eighth spot in an ultra-competitive Western Conference.

2) Kobe Bryant is just 12 points away from 29,000 for his career. Only four players, of course, have scored 29,000 in the history of the game (Wilt, MJ, Malone and Kareem), and Kobe will be the youngest to get there.

3) Injury notes: JJ Barea is listed as doubtful for the game after spraining his left ankle against Portland. Nikola Pekovic is questionable, as he’s missed last two games due to a sore right foot, but he has hinted at returning on Friday. If not, Darko Milicic will start at center.

4) Minnesota has won five straight home games and a season-high tying three straight overall; the home streak is the team’s longest since Dec. 26, 2006 – Jan. 7, 2007, when Kevin Garnett was still running the show. You have to go back to 2004 for a 6-game winning streak at home. To put that in perspective, however, the Lakers are currently on an 8–game home winning streak.

5) Kevin Love missed LAL’s 104-85 beat down in Los Angeles as a last second scratch due to the flu. He’s one of two players that has more double-doubles than Bynum, and also bests Bynum, just a bit, on the glass, ranking 2nd to Dwight Howard with 13.8. Bynum is 3rd with 12.7.

6 and 7) Yet Bynum and Gasol dominate Love in two other key big man categories: blocks and field goal percentage. Bynum ranks 5th in the NBA in blocks (2.17), and Gasol 19th (1.36). Love has blocked only 17 shots all season (0.46 per game), and is not a defensive deterrent for opponents going to the rim. Meanwhile, Bynum ranks 3rd in the NBA in field goal percentage at 56.1 percent, and Gasol’s at 50.6 percent, while Love isn’t close, making only 44.8 percent (outside of top 50) as he shoots many more perimeter jump shots. Love does shoot pretty well from three-point range at 36.8 percent.

8) The Lakers managed only three bench points in the second half of Wednesday’s game at Washington, after an 18-point first half, and seven total points at Detroit.

9) No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams is playing much better for Minnesota of late, averaging 13.6 points and 6.9 boards while shooting 50% over the last seven games.

10) Last time the Lakers were in Minny, Kobe (35), Gasol (28 on 11-of-15 FG’s) and Bynum (21) combined for 84 of L.A.’s 106 points. LAL held the Wolves to 38.5 percent from the field and won despite being out-boarded 52-41 (in part due to the field goal discrepancy) and having 12 turnovers to Minnesota’s four.

West vs. East: Schedule Disparity

Take a look at the difference in records between the non-playoff teams in the East and in the West as the current standings show:

Milwaukee (15-24); Cleveland (14-23); Toronto (13-26); Detroit (13-26); New Jersey (13-27); Washington (9-29); Charlotte (5-32)

Houston (21-19); Utah (19-19); Portland (19-20); Phoenix (17-21); Golden State (15-21); Sacramento (13-26); New Orleans (9-30)

The fact is, the West have won 31 more games than the East, showing a legit disparity in how good the respective teams are. Not one team mentioned has a winning record against its own conference, suggesting that the bulk of the difference in wins has come against the opposing conference. Utah, for example, is 8-3 against the East, while Milwaukee is 4-9 against the West. Houston is 8-4, while Detroit is 4-8.

Due to the compressed 66-game season, Western and Eastern teams play squads within their own conference at a higher percentage (.727) than in a regular 82-game season* (.634), and that should reflect how we look at things like defensive efficiency.
*The Lakers play only 18 of their 66 games against Eastern teams, and have only two left, both at home (Boston, 3/11, and New Jersey, 4.3).

When calculating strength of schedule and defensive efficiency*, you have to take L.A.’s far more difficult schedule, than, for example, New York’s. The two teams are currently tied for 9th in efficiency on defense according to ESPN’s metrics, but L.A. has played the NBA’s 10th toughest schedule (it was 4th before back-to-back games at Detroit and Washington), while the Knicks have had the league’s easiest.
*Defined as the number of points a team allows per 100 possessions.

The strength of schedule metrics reveal that Atlanta, Milwaukee and New Jersey are the only three Eastern teams that rank in the top 15. Even that should shift as those teams play out more of their Eastern-heavy schedules in the final two regular season months.

Perhaps a better way to measure the defensive efficiency (or really any metric) in this particular season is where teams rank within their own conferences. Doing it that way, the Lakers (98.1) move from 10th in the NBA to 3rd in the West, behind only Dallas (96.3, 4th overall) and Memphis (97.8, 8th).

In a more traditional stat, field goal percentage defense, the Lakers rank second in the NBA at 41.8 percent, just behind Philadelphia’s 41.4 percent. Dallas (41.9 percent, 3rd) and Oklahoma City (42.5 percent, 7th) are the only other Western teams in the top 11.

But if the Clippers (12th) and Trail Blazers (17th) played the basement dwellers of the East three or four times instead of once, would they be the ones in the top 10?

The only way this conference disparity can really affect teams in terms of playoff seeding, however, is that squads like the Lakers play the Heat, Celtics and Knicks — as opposed to Charlotte, Detroit and Washington — twice as part of the national TV schedule, upping strength of schedule points. But the West still competes with the West in the playoffs, so you won’t likely find many coaches worrying about strength of schedule affecting things like defensive efficiency statistics.

That’s what the media is for.

Lakers 101, Wizards 106: March 7 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening road contest at Washington, the Lakers looking to bounce back from an overtime loss at Detroit, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Wizards: J. Wall, J. Crawford, C. Singleton, T. Booker, J. McGee

6:00 L.A. used its size to draw plenty of early Wizards fouls (four in the first three minutes) and open a 16-13 lead with Gasol’s pretty baseline hook, with the left. It was his second bucket with his left hand in the early goings, routine for the league’s most skilled big man.

4:20 It was a slow shooting start for L.A., however, the road team managing only 1/3 of its first 12 shots before Gasol pulled up for a long two, his third field goal of the game, keeping L.A. up three points.

0:00 Let’s stick with the Spanish theme of the first period, as Gasol capped a strong finish with a transition dunk to make it 29-21 at the break. He added five boards, and helped the Lakers hold Washington to 37.5 percent from the field.

5:41 After really struggling at Detroit, L.A.’s bench was terrific to start the second in D.C., with a rare appearance from Josh McRoberts (who played really well early in the season before spraining his toe) quickly netting an and-1 layup, making it 47-35. He was the fourth bench player to score, with three others hitting a three-pointer apiece (Barnes, Goudelock and Murphy) to surpass the nine bench points against the Pistons.

0:43.7 The bench ended up with 18 points, thanks to a huge hammer alley-oop dunk from McRoberts (Kobe dishing), and Kobe reached 20 points himself with a tough and-1 bucket through traffic, opening a 18-point lead late in the period. The Wizards did get a buzzer-beating 35-footer to fall from Trevor Booker, however, making it a 15-point margin at the break.
Continue reading ‘Lakers 101, Wizards 106: March 7 Running Diary’

Lakers 85, Pistons 88: March 6 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening road contest at Detroit, the Lakers looking for a ninth win in 11 games, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Pistons: B. Knight, R. Stuckey, T. Prince, J. Maxiell, G. Monroe

12:00 The big news around the Lakers locker room before the game had nothing to do with basketball, but that Bryant was wearing a black mask to protect his nose. Yup, a Black Mamba Mask, which he selected not just because it looks awesome, but because it’s smaller and ideally means less sweat covering his face than the clear mask he wore in the past three games produced.

5:00 It was all Lakers in the first seven minutes, the size of Bynum and Gasol dominating both ends near the rim, and Bryant hitting a deep three and then 1-of-2 free throws to reach 6 points and put L.A. up 16-6.

0:00 A strong first quarter produced a 24-17 lead for the road team, which was in pretty firm control throughout the period. With Greg Monroe and Jason Maxiell up front, L.A. was getting many good looks around the rim, and Bynum/Gasol were hitting the offensive glass on misses.

6:00 I know you’re going to be sad … but at least for now, the Black Mask was dead. Kobe came off the bench in the same mask he wore in scoring 34 points per game last week; we can speculate that it wasn’t as comfortable, or secure, or whatever, but he was 1-for-6 in the first, perhaps feeling some discomfort.

3:05 With Kobe struggling to find his range, the Pistons reeled off a big run on the other end, coming from 10 down to take a 42-41 lead on Stuckey’s (12 points) layup, as the crowd crept back into to game. Detroit’s run, in fact, was 17-4.

0:05.5 A really, really poor second quarter for L.A. turned what was a 37-25 lead into a 45-41 halftime deficit. In other words, L.A. scored only four points through considerable chunk of time, while conceding 20 on the other end.

5:29 L.A. held Detroit without a field goal for a full six minutes, finding the intensity with which they started the game, and going on a 10-0 spurt to reclaim the lead. Bynum and Gasol were both dominant, keeping Greg Monroe to two points on 1-of-10 FG’s, and being one Gasol rebound from sharing more double-doubles. Bynum had 17 and 11 with two blocks, Gasol 16 and nine with three swats.

0:00 L.A.’s lead was seven after an impressive third quarter in which Detroit managed only nine points against an aggressive Lakers defense, the Pistons dropping to 33 percent from the field against the NBA’s top field goal defense.
Continue reading ‘Lakers 85, Pistons 88: March 6 Running Diary’

PHOTO: Kobe’s Black Mask

Kobe Bryant will be wearing a black mask to protect his broken nose in Tuesday’s contest at Detroit, so yes, you can insert your “Black Masked Mamba” lines here.

Bryant actually had three new masks made in Detroit — by the maker of Richard Hamilton’s masks — that he tried on at the team’s shootaround on Tuesday morning, and the black one was simply the most comfortable of the five (including the two he already had), according to athletic trainer Gary Vitti.

Bryant will have access to the mask that he wore in the team’s last three games, which didn’t affect his scoring much as he averaged 34 points per game.

Before the game, Mike Brown said that he couldn’t think of any player, ever, that played through more injuries than Bryant.

Lakers – Pistons: Pregame Numbers

With the Lakers heading east for a three-game road trip, we took a look at both the team’s progress in recent weeks and Tuesday night’s matchup with the Pistons through some numbers:

1 L.A.’s league-wide rank in field goal percentage defense, tying Philadelphia at 41.7%, spurred by some excellent defense through a five-wins-in-six-games stretch. The Lakers also lead the league in rebounding at 45.76 per game, paced by Andrew Bynum (12.8, 3rd in the NBA) and Pau Gasol (10.4, 9th).

2 Members of the 2004 title-winning Pistons currently on L.A.’s coaching staff. John Kuester was an assistant coach who went on to serve as head coach from 2009-11, while Darvin Ham was a reserve big man.

5 Consecutive wins over the Pistons for the Lakers, who have won three straight at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

7 L.A.’s rank in field goal percentage in the league, a number that has been steadily rising for weeks as Mike Brown has loosened the reigns on the offense, and the Lakers have figured out how they want to attack teams. “We’re a low-post team,” said Kobe Bryant after L.A.’s win over Miami. “We’re not a screen-roll team. We don’t do that. That’s not (our strength) … The real test for any championship team is to understand what your weaknesses are and cover those, and understand what your strengths are and play to those.”

9 Home wins for the Pistons (9-11), who have really struggled on the road (3-15) but played pretty well in their own building.

16.7 Points averaged by big man Greg Monroe to lead the Pistons. He’s been their best player all season, and also leads the team in rebounds (10.1), steals (1.29) and field goal percentage.

20.2 Points averaged in his last nine games for Rodney Stuckey despite tallying a goose egg at Toronto (Feb. 22). He’s been far better of late for the Pistons after an injury-hampered start. A score-first combo guard, Stuckey does lead Detroit in assists with an average of 3.8 per game.

30.0 The Pistons have a small line up, with Monroe slightly undersized at center and Jason Maxiell playing PF; in related news, Detroit ranks 30th in the NBA on the defensive glass, and this with Bynum and Gasol coming to town. They also don’t block any shots, ranking last there as well, while the Lakers come in having fewer of their shots blocked than any other team.

34 Points per game averaged by Kobe Bryant since breaking his nose and suffering a concussion at the All-Star game. He’s OK at scoring. #MaskedMamba

37.5 Miami’s field goal percentage against the Lakers, leading to only 83 points, their second lowest output of the season.

40.9 Rookie Brandon Knight’s shooting percentage. While he’s been generally impressive for head coach Lawrence Frank, Knight has been inefficient on offense, and with fellow starter Stuckey hitting only 41.7% of his shots, Detroit has had a problem getting a high return on shot attempts from the back court. Motown’s team ranks just 25th in the NBA in FG%, and only one team allows a higher FG% to opponents.

47.5 FG% for Metta World Peace in his last 10 games, including 44.4% from three. World Peace went for 17 points on 6-of-10 field goals against Miami, his highest scoring output since the season’s second game at Sacramento (19 points). His defense has also picked up as he’s gotten into shape, highlighted by a season high four steals against Miami while holding LeBron James (55% FG’s on the season) to 12-of-26 FG’s.

Lakers 93, Heat 83: March 4 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon contest against Miami, the Lakers looking for an eighth consecutive home win, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Heat: M. Chalmers, D. Wade, L. James, U. Haslem*, J. Anthony
*Chris Bosh was missing his third straight game due to the death of his grandmother.

7:02 OK, folks: this game without question felt like a playoff contest. Perhaps the first home game of the year with such a vibe, L.A. came out swinging, led by a 4-for-4 Kobe Bryant to produce a 14-9 lead. This was to be a game about style, L.A. trying to slow it down and use its bigs and Kobe on the post, and the Heat trying to run and use the elite athleticism of LeBron and Wade.

2:58 While Kobe continued to score (14 points), Bynum controlled the paint, blocking three Heat shots to help L.A. push to a 22-14 lead. Gasol pitched in with three of the team’s nine boards, plus two assists, matching World Peace (who offered a breakaway hammer dunk earlier in the period).

0:00 Despite a pull-up from LeBron with three seconds left, L.A. carried a 28-20 lead out of the period. Kobe was fantastic with 18 points on 8-of-10 FG’s with Shane Battier guarding him (he never bought into the theme that Battier could defend him 1-on-1), while L.A. as a team shot 60 percent and held the Heat below 40.

9:00 There’s a reason second round pick Andrew Goudelock has earned himself some legit playing time this season: he’s not afraid of anything, trusts himself and knocks down shots. He showed it on the biggest stage thus far this season by nailing back-to-back threes to put the Lakers up 36-25.

5:43 L.A.’s bench did well to maintain its lead, giving up only a point as LeBron and Wade alternatively led Miami’s second unit, and Kobe got some extra rest. It was 39-29 when Bryant returned, along with Fisher (replacing Steve Blake and his three assists).

1:55 A personal 5-0 scoring run from World Peace, capped by an open corner three off Blake’s four assist, gave L.A. its biggest lead at 50-34. Miami would manage the final four points of the half, but Brown could remain pretty satisfied with a strong 24 minutes. L.A. held the Heat to only 37.5 percent from the field, while hitting 51.4 themselves, trying to build on what is now the league’s 7th best FG% offense (Lakers have been shooting up the ranks). The Heat, by the way, rank first in both points and field goal percentage.

7:42 The halftime adjustment from Miami was to go small, putting LeBron at power forward and Haslem on the bench, keeping Battier in to defend Bryant. A quick 7-0 run with that small group cut L.A.’s 14-point lead in half, and Gasol was growing frustrated as LeBron aggressively fronted him, feeling like he was being fouled. He did grab an offensive board over James and stuff it back, then drew a foul in transition from Battier to hit two free throws and make it a 58-49 lead.

3:38 The lead fell to as few as two on a put-back layup from James (outstanding with 23 points, six boards and five assists), though World Peace’s three stopped the run and got him to 12 points. The small ball had definitely affected L.A., struggling to figure out the matchups with Miami flying around defensively, but World Peace (13 points, three boards, three assists and three steals) was very effective.

0:00 With Miami back in a more traditional line up with Haslem on the floor, the Lakers closed the quarter with an aggressive effort on D, paying off at the other end with a 7-0 run. Bryant dropped a long J, Blake hit a corner three from Gasol’s nice pass, and Blake then found World Peace (15 points) in transition for an alley-oop layup that made it 71-62. We even had some fireworks after a final defensive stop from L.A., protecting the rim fiercely, and a frustrated LeBron (lightly) pushed Troy Murphy. This prompted Gasol to come over and push LeBron (which really fired up the crowd and L.A.’s bench), but aside from matching technicals for Pau and James, it was much ado about nothing.

10:23 After a great defensive play by World Peace (his season-high fourth steal) got Bynum an alley-oop dunk from Blake at the other end, pushing L.A.’s lead back to 11, the Heat got a four-point play as rookie Norris Cole hit a triple, and Barnes was called for an off-ball foul, giving Juwan Howard an extra free throw.

6:00 Crunch time having arrived, L.A. had worked its tail off to build a 11-point lead, and though four straight from the Heat cut it to 79-72, Wade (suddenly) fouled out by committing his fourth foul in the quarter, two coming on offense, the sixth trying to stop a Gasol alley-oop to Bynum. L.A.’s center had buried 24-of-27 free throws in the previous six games, but he somehow didn’t get FT’s here. No matter as Kobe buried a long jumper to reach 26 points, putting L.A. up nine.

2:28 Bryant picked a great time to heat back up for the Lakers, nailing three consecutive shots, capped by a 20-foot jumper from the wing, to reach 30 points (his third straight 30-plus-point effort since sporting the mask) to put the Lakers up 85-75. The crowd was loving it, in a terrific playoff-style atmosphere.

1:10 The Heat tried to make it interesting, getting a three from Chalmers to cut the lead to six, as L.A. essentially needed one more hoop to seal it. They’d get it from Kobe, who pulled up to make his fourth shot in five crunch time attempts (this one after James nearly got a key steal), and then an extra dagger from Fisher on a floater. A few free throws produced a 93-83 victory, L.A.’s eighth straight at home, pushing them to 23-14 on the season and pushing them past the Clippers (21-13) in the Pacific (3rd in the West). Up next is a Tuesday tilt in Detroit. We’ll see you there.