Monthly Archive for March, 2012

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Bosh Out Against Lakers

Heat power forward Chris Bosh will miss Sunday morning’s Lakers – Heat matchup at Staples Center due to the death of his grandmother, as reported by the Palm Beach Post’s Ethan Skolnick.

Bosh, who averages 18.4 points and 8.3 boards per game, is missing his third straight game, leaving Miami a bit shorthanded in the front court against the Lakers.

Heat coach Eric Spoelstra declined to reveal whom he’ll start on Pau Gasol, as Joel Anthony will remain at the five to guard Bynum. However, Shane Battier is expected to start, likely guarding Kobe Bryant, which would mean LeBron James would have to slide up to power forward to contend with Gasol.

Miami could also use Udonis Haslem more than usual to play up front, but either way, the Lakers will keep the same game plan of pounding the ball inside and trying to limit Miami’s opportunities to get out in transition.

Lakers 115, Kings 107: March 2 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home contest against Sacramento, the Lakers looking for an eighth win in 12 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, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Kings: I. Thomas, T. Evans, M. Thornton, J. Thompson, D. Cousins

FIRST QUARTER
8:29 Remember how excellent L.A.’s energy was to start the game against Minnesota, pushed on by Kobe’s playing hurt? Well, that wasn’t so much the case against Sacramento, as the Masked Mamba’s pull-up J off glass out of a Mike Brown time out still had L.A. down 10-7 thanks to the 6-0 run drawing Mike Brown’s ire.

4:47 The next four minutes were much better, with Bryant enjoying his mask yet again to score nine of L.A.’s first 11 points, and Bynum (very) impressively throwing down a reverse alley-oop off a lofted pass from Gasol (three assists). Talk about great pairs of hands for two seven footers.

0:00 Before the game in his regular media session, Brown pointed out that L.A. ranks 10th in the NBA in field goal percentage, far more important to him than total points scored, which is dependent upon pace (and L.A. likes to slow it down to utilize its size). The first quarter showcased as much, L.A. hitting 57 percent of its shots to take a 31-26 lead. Kobe had 13, taking advantage of his matchup against 6-4 Marcus Thornton, who for some reason was asked to guard Bryant 1-on-1.

SECOND QUARTER
10:45 Andrew Goudelock had a rare poor shooting night against Minnesota, making only 1-of-8 field goals and feeling quite badly about not helping his team after the game. Well, he bounced back nicely here, connecting on his first three shots, including a three and a tough runner, for seven quick points to put L.A. up 39-30.

6:21 Boosted by energy from Matt Barnes (seven points, two boards), L.A. held a 45-38 edge when Bryant and Gasol returned halfway through the period. In their past five home games, the Lakers had outscored opponents by an average of 16.6 points, and this was looking like another blow out despite Sacramento hanging around (48 percent FG’s).

0:00 Andrew Bynum’s making his free throws, folks. In his last five games, he’s now 20-for-23 after making 3-of-4 in this one, also known as 87 percent, bringing his low 50′s percentage from a week or two ago to 62.5 percent. His converting at that rate gives L.A. a boost not to be underestimated. And oh, in this game, Kobe was getting to the line quite a bit himself, converting 8-of-9 to put L.A. up 10 points. Francisco Garcia, however, did hit a three just before the buzzer to get the Kings within seven points at 65-58.

THIRD QUARTER
8:13 First, a question: nobody says “Ball does lie” when technical free throws go down after bad calls for undeserved points, right? The Kings got a free one when Fisher was hit with a technical for arguing after he was called for a PF when appearing to be the one that got elbowed. Alas, Gasol and Bynum connected on back-to-back hoops to put L.A. up 75-63.

4:35 Some pretty extra passing from L.A. got World Peace a layup, courtesy first of Bynum, then Fisher (six assists), and produced an 81-68 lead for the home team. Meanwhile, Bynum continued to move extremely well on the knee for which he received treatment on the Friday of All-Star weekend, troubling DeMarcus Cousins to 5-of-16 FG’s with his length and quick jumps (three blocks).

0:00 You know how Kobe likes challenges? Well, with a second straight 31-point game with his broken nose protected by a mask, he reminded us why. He was 11-for-18 from the field, plus seven boards and three dimes, to help L.A. blow the game open at 92-74. Bynum and Gasol added 15 points apiece, and 18 total boards.

FOURTH QUARTER
8:53 Not exactly what Mike Brown was hoping to see out of his bench to start the fourth, as Sacramento reeled off a 9-0 run that saw Gasol check back in after a time out. The lead was still 11, but Brown wanted to stop the bleeding immediately.

5:00 All of a sudden and quick like, Sacramento’s five bench players had somehow cut L.A.’s lead down to just five, capped by back-to-back three-pointers that forced another L.A. time out. World Peace, however, hit a big momentum shot from the corner, his second three of the game, to change the tide.

2:40 Moments later it was Kobe with a three of his own, this one the dagger, and end-of-shot clock pull-up that re-opened a double-digit lead at 108-97. Bryant would finish with 37, a game high by a lot (Garcia led Sacramento with 18). Your final score was 115-107, for L.A.’s seventh straight home win, improving the team to 22-14 overall. By the way: that’s 69 total points for Kobe in two games wearing the mask.

Lakers Figuring Things Out

Here’s what was happening when the Lakers lost the season’s second game (Dec. 26) at Sacramento, this Friday night’s opponent:

- Andrew Bynum was serving the second of his 4-game suspension to start the season.
- L.A. had just blown a 6-point lead in the final minute or so against Chicago on the night before and was playing in the opening game at SAC, a city that had feared its team was lost the season before.
- Devin Ebanks started at small forward.
- Josh McRoberts started and totaled four rebounds and three assists in the first quarter.
- Metta World Peace scored 19 points off the bench, mostly by muscling his way to low post position.
- L.A. was sluggish, falling behind by 14 points entering the fourth quarter, and despite a furious 12-2 run late in the contest, the deficit was too big and L.A. was 0-2.
- And, the team had barely any offense installed after a two-week training camp with an entirely new system, and the defense was coming together on the fly, at best, without anchor Bynum.

“It was going to be challenging no matter what, having a new coach and a new system, it was going to be tough in the beginning,” explained Steve Blake after Thursday’s practice. “But now we’re getting into a little bit of a rhythm and a groove.”

Fast forward to March 1. The Lakers have won 7-of-10 games (3-3 on the road) to improve to 21-14 on the season, fourth in the West, rank third in field goal defense and have been dominant of late at home, winning their last five at Staples Center by an average of 16.6 points.

“It’s just having more time to be together as a unit, more time to watch film, more time to practice,” said Mike Brown, who is of course responsible for putting everything in at both ends of the court. “There’s a fine line of how much time you spend in the gym based on your scheduling, but the longer we’re together as a unit, the more comfortable (we’ll be).”

We asked Brown just how different his team looks today than it did on Dec. 26.

“There’s a lot that has changed,” Brown responded, noting first the sheer amount of time the team spent trying to cram everything in to a small period of time. “It’s dramatically different … every aspect of our team is better now than it was at Sacramento.”

Two things obvious from the game film are L.A.’s improved movement and communication on D, and better spacing and ball movement on offense.

“As the days go by you realize where certain guys want the ball, depending on who is trailing and running the floor and who’s in the game,” said Blake. “Then you start to understand what plays to run for those guys in certain situations, so being more comfortable and knowing the sets has (made it) better.

“A huge part of the NBA game is spacing, so even if you don’t run a play, when a guy gets the ball somewhere, everyone needs to know where to be, so that’s how you get better, as you start to understand each other as teammates and start to space better.”

Brown was careful to acknowledge that the Kings have also gotten better, and in no way does L.A. playing better basketball guarantee a result. But the bottom line is that the Lakers are steadily figuring things out, and already playing a style of basketball that’s proven to work in the playoffs.

Bynum’s Knee Feeling “Really, Really Good”
After a 13-point, 13-rebound, 3-block performance against Minnesota in which Bynum looked explosive off his right knee at both ends of the floor (highlighted by a quick spin move for a dunk that brought Kobe Bryant off the bench), he had this to say:

“My knee feels really, really good right now. The injection really helped, there’s no swelling … I’m playing pain free. That’s always a good thing.”