Monthly Archive for April, 2012

2012 Playoff Podcast No. 1: Kevin Ding

Now that the playoffs have started, there are ever so more many interesting topics to delve into here in Los Angeles, and few platforms provide for easier access to in depth analysis than the podcast.

And so, we’ll be posting regular pods featuring various guests that have a level of expertise on either the Lakers or L.A.’s opponents, beginning with longtime Orange County Register beat writer and columnist Kevin Ding, who also previewed the series with us on LakersTV.

After an impressive 15-point Game 1 victory over Denver featuring Andrew Bynum’s triple-double with 10 blocks (tying an NBA record), we discussed what the performance might mean moving forward into the playoffs, what makes Bynum tick and how his teammates respond to his personality, in addition to a breakdown of all things Kobe Bryant (Ding has been covering Bryant since 1999).

You can listen by clicking below:

Jordan Hill Statement

Lakers forward Jordan Hill issued a statement through the team’s staff on Monday afternoon:

“I’m saddened to learn of the accusations that were filed against me today. At this time I cannot comment further other than to say that my attorneys are working to gather all the facts and evidence and I plan to cooperate completely with the authorities.

“I’d like to apologize to the Lakers organization and to all of their fans for the untimeliness of these accusations. I promise to keep my focus and attention on the playoffs during this time and to helping my team with another championship.”

LAL – DEN: Game 1 Postgame #’s

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 103-88 Game 1 victory over Denver to kick off the 2011 playoff campaign:

Times the Nuggets led in a wire-to-wire Lakers victory. L.A. led by as many as 21 points.

Three-pointers drilled by Steve Blake in the first quarter, which Mike Brown said was huge for L.A. … since Denver does so much trapping and doubling, it’s important to punish them by hitting open threes. L.A. would add three more in the game, making 6 of 17 total to Denver’s 4 of 14.

Combined rebounds (2) and assists (2) Pau Gasol needed to join Andrew Bynum with a triple-double (more on his 10, 13 and 10 later). The Spaniard went for 13 points, eight assists and eight rebounds with two blocks in a solid all-around performance. Also the number of steals for Matt Barnes, playing through a sore ankle, which was more than Denver had through three quarters.

Blocked shots for Andrew Bynum, who completely dominated the game defensively, pleasing his coach greatly: “The difference in the game was Andrew Bynum,” said Mike Brown. “He can literally control the game without shooting a shot. That’s how good he is. He had 10 blocks, but I’d be curious to know how many shots he changed. That’s what Denver is very good at, finishing at the rim, getting a lot of lay ups … he was phenomenal tonight. If he continues to be the type of monster he was tonight patrolling that paint, we’ll be playing a long time.” The 10 swats matched an all-time NBA high (Hakeem Olajuwon, Mark Eaton) and surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s franchise record of nine.

Total blocks for the Lakers, led of course by Bynum’s 10, plus two apiece from Gasol and Jordan Hill and one from Barnes. “Our guys came out and played a 48-minute game,” said Brown. “They played the game the right way on the defensive end of the floor. We had very few breakdowns in our game plan.”

Free throw attempts for Denver, who constantly drove into the paint, most often meeting Bynum. The Lakers took only 15 attempts from the stripe, 11 coming from Kobe. Surprisingly, neither Bynum nor Gasol took a free throw, which almost never happens.

31 Points scored by Kobe Bryant to lead all scorers, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter, along with five boards and four assists. Brown was pleased with how Kobe empowered his teammates throughout the night to step up in various areas.

Denver’s shooting percentage on 32 of 90 field goals, including rough shooting nights from Ty Lawson (3 for 11) and Arron Afflalo (ditto) in addition to Andre Miller (5 for 13), finishes at the rim very hard to come by with Bynum and Gasol lurking. “They took a good punch at us, played a very good game, did many things better than we did,” summarized Nuggets coach George Karl, who noted that L.A. seemed to prioritize dealing with Lawson in pick and rolls, giving L.A.’s coaching staff credit.

The last time a Laker had a triple-double in a playoff game, when Magic Johnson did it against Chicago in Game 1 of the NBA Finals (19 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) before Bynum’s 10-point, 13-board, 10-block performance. Pretty impressive for the 24-year-old center, needless to say. Brown compared Bynum’s Game 1 to a great offensive lineman like Willy Roaf or Anthony Munoz, Hall of Famers who never got headlines after a big NFL win. “Andrew is so skilled that teams would be crazy to cover him with one guy, because he can go get 30 very easily,” he said. “If teams are going to double him as hard as Denver is, (he can) still impact the game (in other ways).”

LAL 103, DEN 88: Game 1 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon home opening playoff contest against Denver, the Lakers knowing the importance of Game 1 since they’re 33-1 when winning the first one, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, Ebanks, Gasol and Bynum
Denver: T. Lawson, A. Afflalo, D. Gallinari, K. Faried, K. Koufos

12:00 We tried to cover about everything you need to know about the matchup through my A to Z Preview, the scouting report video featuring assistant coach Chuck Person’s knowledge and a more in depth look at Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum with the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding. But after all that, we now get to watch some basketball and see for ourselves. Here we go, folks…

6:00 A sluggish, sloppy start from both teams had only 14 total points scored (8-6 Lakers) at the first time out, Denver making 3 of 12 shots and the Lakers 3 of 7. The Lakers turned the ball over four times in the opening stanza, including a miscommunication between Sessions and starting SF Devin Ebanks, who replaced the suspended Metta World Peace. Denver was only able to turn those TO’s into two points, however.

3:10 Kobe ranks third all-time in playoff scoring with 5,280 points coming into this campaign, trailing only guys named Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, OK players both. He started going to work halfway through the first, scoring five straight to put L.A. up 15-9.

12:00 A very strong defensive first quarter from LAL had the Nuggets scoring only 14 points on 25 percent shooting (6 for 20), with no fast break points and no three-pointers. Steve Blake was the offensive story, nailing three triples to push L.A.’s lead to 27-14 after one. However, after Ebanks was blocked at the rim, Denver leaked out for its first fast break points, from Corey Brewer, not a trend L.A. wanted to see get started.

8:00 Remember all that positive LAL stuff from the previous quarter? Well, a 13-4 Nuggets run to start the 2nd was just the opposite, including leak outs for fast break points and two three-pointers, Brewer’s including a foul, cutting L.A.’s lead to four. But since it’s the playoffs, Kobe returned at the 8-minute mark, the rotation of course shortening, and the Lakers scored the next four points.

2:55 Maybe the best sign the Lakers had in the first half was to see how engaged Bynum was on defense. The best example was when he got switched out on to Ty Lawson – one of the league’s fastest players – in a pick and roll, moved his feet well and swatted Lawson easily when the PG thought he was past the 7-footer. It was the fourth block for Bynum in his 15 minutes, plus a game-high eight boards. He’d taken only two shots, a two-handed dunk from Sessions and a tip in of Bryant’s miss, and those hoops plus the fifth Ebanks field goal (he led all scorers with 12) put the home team back up 43-34.

6:34 The defense remained excellent to start the third, L.A. getting two more blocks from Bynum, and then a corner three from the Spaniard — from the same spot he drained two in OT against Dallas — that helped the Lakers push their lead up to 17 points at 64-47.

4:20 Moments later, the lead was pushed to 19 when Kobe scored at the rim, thanks in part to Bynum’s seventh block, which matched his career playoff high last accomplished in Game 2 of the 2010 Finals against Boston. Can’t stress enough how important Bynum’s rim protection and general D is to LAL’s playoff chances. Moments later, he threw down an alley-oop dunk off Gasol’s seventh assist.

0:00 L.A.’s lead was 13 after three, adding three points onto the halftime margin even as Denver trimmed what ballooned to as many as 19 points. Bynum added his eighth block, two short of the NBA playoff record of 10 (Hakeem Olajuwon, Mark Eaton), alongside 10 points and 12 boards, approaching an ever-so-rare playoff triple-double with swats. Kobe was up to 17 points and Sessions 14 in an effective backcourt, while Nuggs starting PG Lawson had only one point, one assist and one board, to backup Andre Miller’s eight, six and five.

8:24 Leading the way in the fourth was Gasol, who scored four early points with two boards to push L.A.’s lead to 85-68. Mike Brown was running Sessions/Gasol pick and roll to good effect, with Matt Barnes (four steals) creating some havoc on defense.

3:36Mike Brown’s been a better-safe-than-sorry coach in terms of keeping starters on the floor when L.A. has big leads (even though they haven’t had a ton this season, opting for close/entertaining games), and Gasol/Bynum/Kobe were still out there with L.A. leading by 15. That said, none had played major minutes, Kobe at 36, Bynum 35 and Gasol 33 to that point. Kobe hit two free throws shortly thereafter to reach 29 points, 12 coming in the fourth quarter, putting the game on ice.

3:02 Meanwhile, Bynum went ahead and made Lakers playoff history, swatting Mozgov in the paint for his 10th of the game, surpassing the nine by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He also tied Hakeem and Eaton for the NBA playoff high, and thanks to his 10 points and 13 boards, had the first postseason triple-double for the Lakers since Magic Johnson in the 1991 NBA Finals.

Your final from Game 1: Lakers

LAL 96, SAC 113: April 26 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday evening road contest at Sacramento the Lakers concluding their regular season having already clinched the No. 3 seed in the West, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Sessions, Blake*, Ebanks, McRoberts and Hill
Kings: I. Thomas, T. Evans, T. Outlaw, J. Thompson, D. Cousins
*So, yeah – almost the entire starting line up – with the exception of Sessions – was out for a meaningless season finale in terms of the standings, L.A. already knowing they’ll play Denver in Round 1. Kobe Bryant was out despite having a chance at the scoring title had he scored 38 points, while World Peace was suspended, and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum resting their bodies for the playoffs.

7:00 With the Lakers rolling out their new line up, Jordan Hill impressed early, scoring six points with three boards as L.A. and Sacramento traded baskets and little defense. We learned before the game that Hill impressed enough in the double OT win over OKC to earn the third spot in the big man rotation going into the playoffs, ahead of Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy, as Mike Brown especially liked his activity on pick and roll defense. That’ll be something to keep in mind moving forward.

2:20 Sacramento opened a 26-17 lead into the under two-minute time out, getting nine points from DeMarcus Cousins, plus eight boards as he took advantage of the absence of Bynum and Gasol in the middle. He was the main reason the Kings took a 35-24 lead out of the quarter.

7:00 Impressing off LAL’s bench was rookie Darius Morris, who scored at the rim for the second straight time to go with two assists (both on fellow rookie Andrew Goudelock three-pointers) and three boards. No player on the Lakers has transformed more physically than Morris, who packed on a lot of muscle as the season has gone on, using it on those two finishes at the rim.

3:20 L.A. started to drop off in the next several second quarter minutes, missing some good looks on offense, at least until a nasty alley-oop dunk from McRoberts off a terrific Blake assist. That kept L.A. within 11, McRoberts reaching a team-high seven points with his four boards and two assists.

0:00 Sacramento took a 56-43 lead into the half behind an 11-point, 14-board double-double from Cousins, while five Lakers had at least six points in a balanced effort. What they wanted to see out of the half, however, was more aggression from Sessions, who was quiet with four points and two boards in the first half.

10:04 Apparently, Sessions was listening, as he scored eight of the team’s first 11 points out of the gate, and assisted on the other three, a triple from Steve Blake. That’s precisely what the Lakers want to see from their starting PG heading into the playoffs.

0:30.8 We’ve been alluding to Cousins’ paint dominance, and it continued as he reached 19 points with his 17 rebounds, controlling the inside for the home team. Sessions was up to 14 points with four dimes, and Ebanks had 14 points of his own after beating the shot clock buzzer with a long two. Nonetheless, L.A. trailed by 17 at 91-74 heading into the fourth quarter.

7:13 We witnessed a few fun examples of Christian Eyenga’s ridiculous athleticism, as he exploded for a one-handed tomahawk dunk from the baseline on one end, and skied for a big shot block on the other. As a team, LAL weren’t faring quite so well, trailing 99-81 as the minutes ticked away.

4:08 If you like defenseless, end-to-end hoop, you’d have had some fun with the final few minutes, as dunks and wide-open shots were the rule of law. McRoberts also rattled home his second triple, which he promised he’d do on the way to the game on the bus. Well played, Josh.

0:00 Your final: Lakers 96, Kings 113. It was fun to see several Lakers that rarely get minutes get big minutes, players like McRoberts, Goudelock, Morris and Eyenga taking advantage. McRoberts led L.A. with 16 points, nine boards and four assists, while the rookies combined for 20 points off the pine. The Lakers finish the regular season at 41-25, good for the No.3 seed, and are set to host the No. 6 seeded Nuggets starting on Sunday. See you there.

First Round Playoff Schedule

The Lakers will open up their 2012 Playoff campaign against the Denver Nuggets at STAPLES Center on Sunday April 29th at 12:30pm PT (ABC). Game 2 will take place in Los Angeles Tuesday night before the series shifts to Denver for games 3 and 4 on Friday and Sunday respectively.

Game 1 – Sun April 29 Denver at L.A. Lakers 12:30PM ABC
Game 2 – Tue May 1 Denver at L.A. Lakers 7:30PM FS West/TNT

Game 3 – Fri May 4 L.A. Lakers at Denver 7:30PM KCAL/ESPN
Game 4 – Sun May 6 L.A. Lakers at Denver 6:30PM KCAL/TNT
Game 5 * Tue May 8 Denver at L.A. Lakers TBD FS West/TBD
Game 6 * Thu May 10 L.A. Lakers at Denver TBD KCAL/TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 12 Denver at L.A. Lakers TBD FS West/TNT

* – if necessary
(All Times Pacific)

Lakers Opting for Rest

In 65 NBA games, the Lakers managed to win 41 times, enough to secure the Pacific Division title and No. 3 seed in the Western Conference heading into Thursday evening’s regular season finale at Sacramento.

With that standing secure, the Lakers are opting to rest stars Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Bryant’s rest being the most intriguing since a 38-point scoring night would have given him the NBA’s scoring title over Kevin Durant.

Matt Barnes (ankle) did not make the trip, and Metta World Peace will serve the first of seven games in which he’ll be suspended, leaving a starting line up that could include Ramon Sessions, Steve Blake, Devin Ebanks, Josh McRoberts and Jordan Hill (or Troy Murphy).

Since the Lakers have not played since Sunday’s double OT win vs. Oklahoma City, and the first playoff game won’t be until Sunday, L.A.’s starting line up – minus perhaps Sessions – will have a full week off from games.

And whom will the Lakers play? We’ll know after Denver and Dallas finish off their respective games at Minnesota and Atlanta, both of which tip at 5:00 p.m. PST. Should Denver win or Dallas lose, Denver gets the No. 3 seed and the Lakers. Should Denver lose and Dallas win, it’s a rematch of the Western Semi’s from last season between L.A. and Dallas.

Injury Update: Matt Barnes

In the first half of LAL’s double overtime victory over Oklahoma City on Sunday, Matt Barnes sprained his right ankle, putting him out for the remainder of the half.

Barnes managed to play through the pain to start the third quarter, but was replaced by Devin Ebanks later and did not return.

The ankle was tender enough over the next few days that Barnes has not been able to practice, and will not travel with the team to Thursday’s season finale against Sacramento.

Barnes did state on his Twitter account that he’s planning on being ready for L.A.’s first playoff game, likely on Saturday or Sunday, and will continue to rehabilitate up to that point with the team’s training staff.

The Lakers are already short-handed after news broke Tuesday that Metta World Peace would be suspended for seven games due to an elbow to the head of OKC’s James Harden. Ebanks is expected to start against the Kings, while the rotation has yet to be determined for Round 1.

Barnes could get the starting nod, as could Ebanks, who started seven games across the past two weeks when Kobe Bryant missed action due to tenosynovitis in his left shin.

Stay tuned.

Lakers Get West’s No. 3 Seed

With the L.A. Clippers falling to Atlanta on the road on Tuesday evening, the Lakers clinched the Pacific Division title and No. 3 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.

The Purple and Gold had a magic number of one heading into the contest, needing either a Clippers loss or a victory at Sacramento on Thursday to seal the deal.

But who will the Lakers play in Round 1?

Well, a key matchup on Wednesday should provide a more clear answer, as current No. 6 seed Denver (36-28) plays a critical game at Oklahoma City. The Thunder have nothing to play for, having already locked up the No. 2 seed, though should they beat Denver, they’ll be more likely to face the Nuggets in the first round, giving Dallas an inside track to that No. 6 seed and a rematch of last season’s Western Semi’s against the Lakers.

Should the Nuggets beat OKC, they can then clinch the sixth position with either a season-ending win at Minnesota on Thursday, or a Dallas (36-29) loss to Atlanta. They could also get the No. 6 spot by going 1-1, in conjunction with a Dallas loss. On the contrary, the Mavericks can jump into the six slot if they beat the Hawks on Thursday, along with a Denver loss to either OKC or Minnesota. Denver needs to finish at least one-half game ahead of Dallas, since the Mavericks own the tiebreaker.

In short:

Lakers Play Denver If…
- The Nuggets defeat Oklahoma City AND Minnesota
- The Nuggets defeat Oklahoma City OR Minnesota AND Dallas loses to Atlanta

Lakers Play Dallas If…
- The Nuggets lose to Oklahoma City AND Minnesota
- The Nuggets lose to Oklahoma City OR Minnesota AND Dallas defeats Atlanta

If the playoffs ended today, here are your matchups:

#1 San Antonio vs. #8 Utah*
#2 Oklahoma City vs. #7 Dallas
#3 Lakers vs. #6 Denver
#4 LAC vs. #5 Memphis**
*Pending the result of Utah’s home matchup against Phoenix later tonight.
**Memphis could still earn the No. 4 seed if they defeat Orlando at home and the Clippers lose at New York.

Lakers coach Mike Brown may now choose to rest some of his stars against the Kings, or at least limit minutes, since the game is meaningless in terms of postseason standing, but he’d have been short at the small forward position regardless.

L.A. will be without starting small forward Metta World Peace, suspended for seven games for an elbow of OKC guard James Harden, and MWP’s backup Matt Barnes will also miss the trip due to a sprained right ankle. This leaves Devin Ebanks – who played all 10 overtime minutes in Sunday’s win over OKC – as the lone small forward on the roster.

LAL – OKC: Postgame Numbers

Here’s a sampling of some of the more outstanding numbers from L.A.’s 114-106 double overtime win over Oklahoma City on Sunday:

Minutes of overtime played by Andrew Bynum, who said after the contest that he played very poorly (5 for 15 field goals, eight rebounds in 29 minutes), and that Jordan Hill deserved the extra minutes he got. To Mike Brown, the biggest reason was pick and roll defense: “I did not think that Drew and even Pau at times were up the floor in pick and roll coverage. (OKC) is a dangerous pick and roll team that comes off (screens) and can do a lot of things. Just Jordan Hill’s activity (there) was better than all our bigs. You have to be able to give support to the on-ball defender.”

Points per game Kobe Bryant trails Kevin Durant after Durant scored 35 to Bryant’s 26, leaving Durant percentage points above Bryant’s 27.9 per game.

Lakers magic number to clinch the Pacific Division and No. 3 seed in the playoffs over the Clippers in the Western Conference. What does that mean? Click here for a full explanation.

Lakers turnovers in the fourth quarter and two overtimes, which helped hold OKC to only two fast break points over the period in which L.A. erased a 16-point deficit to eventually win the game 114-106.

Key three pointers hit in the final 4:34 of the fourth quarter by the Lakers after they started the game 0 for 8 from distance before Steve Blake (4:34, 3:20) nailed two triples to get the Lakers within five points. Kobe Bryant dropped two bombs that put L.A. up one and then up two with 1:21 and 51.9 seconds to play, the first in dramatic one-footed/leaning style as the shot clock expired. Blake also hit a key triple in double overtime, beating the shot clock with Russell Westbrook flying at him. OKC still shot slightly better overall from distance at 33.3 percent (8 for 24) to LAL’s 31.3 percent (5 of 16).

Westbrook’s shooting percentage for the game on 3 for 22 attempts, including 0 for 4 from three-point range. Westbrook did make some key plays down the stretch, drawing three fouls to make six of his eight total free throws, but Bryant was largely able to force him taking contested jump shots and keep him out of transition. OKC’s PG had 14 points in 47 minutes with his 10 assists.

Game-high rebounds from sub Jordan Hill, who played 35 minutes, including the entire 10 minutes of overtime and most of the fourth quarter, despite having played a total of about 16 minutes in five previous appearances since the Lakers acquired him at the trade deadline in the Derek Fisher trade to Houston. Mike Brown had called Hill at 2 a.m. after the team arrived home from a blowout loss at San Antonio on Friday night and told him to be ready to play. Said Hill: “(Coach Brown) wanted somebody to come out there and get rebounds, wanted more athleticism, somebody that could run the floor and score a little bit. We talked and I said, ‘Hey, I’m here.’ He called me and I did what I had to do.”

Minutes played by Matt Barnes, who sprained his right ankle in the second quarter. The sprain was called “moderate” by the team, and Barnes is expected to be ready for the playoffs if not the final regular season game on Thursday at Sacramento.

Minutes played by Metta World Peace before his ejection due to an elbow during a dunk celebration that hit James Harden directly in the back of the head. World Peace apologized after the game for being too emotional about the dunk. He called it “unfortunate” and “unintentional,” apologized to Harden and the Thunder and said he hopes Harden is OK.

L.A.’s biggest deficit, which came with 26.6 seconds left in the third quarter when Thabo Sefolosha hit a three-pointer. L.A. got two Kobe free throws to close the quarter down 16 points with 12 minutes to play.

Lakers offensive rebounds, including six apiece from Pau Gasol and Hill, who alone had only two fewer than the Thunder as a team.

Fourth quarter points scored by the Lakers, who held the Thunder to just 14 points on 4 of 19 field goals. Bryant had nine, Gasol seven, Blake and Ebanks six apiece and Hill two.

Field goal attempts for Kevin Durant, who made only 11 to finish with 35 points. He hit 4 of 10 three-pointers and nine of 10 free throws and had a game-high five turnovers, being defended by Metta World Peace in the first half and Devin Ebanks in the second. Durant simply missed some wide open shots he normally hits, but Mike Brown was pleased with how close Ebanks stayed to OKC’s MVP candidate, particularly in double OT when Ebanks came up with consecutive steals in the final minute, helping the Lakers seal the win.