Monthly Archive for April, 2012

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Kobe Out vs. New Orleans

Kobe Bryant, who snapped his streak of 138 straight regular season games played on Saturday at Phoenix, will miss a second consecutive contest on Monday at New Orleans due to tenosynovitis of the shin.

Tenosynovitis is brought on when a tendon sheath becomes inflamed, which causes pain whenever the tendon slides in or out of the sheath.

Bryant first hurt the shin against the Hornets last Saturday (3/31), but played through the injury for three more games until finally shutting it down after limping through the team’s Friday night loss to Houston (4/6).

“It’s very painful,” said Lakers head athletic trainer Gary Vitti. “(Kobe)’s been playing with this and it’s not getting any better. The only way to stop it is to shut him down. That’s why we put him in a boot.”

The bright side to Bryant’s injury is that it’s not considered a long-term problem, and he finally gets some much-needed general rest to a body that has played 38.5 minutes per game in season, among the NBA leaders all year.

Having not played since Friday, Bryant would get a minimum of four days off were he to play on Wednesday at San Antonio, or six days should he be out at the Spurs and return for Friday’s home game vs. Denver.

The Lakers are a half game up on the Clippers for the third seed in the Western Conference with the two road games at New Orleans and San Antonio on the horizon, while Chris Paul and Co.’s next two games are at Memphis and Oklahoma City.

Devin Ebanks is expected to get his second straight start in Kobe’s absence so that Mike Brown can keep his bench rotation as is. Ebanks scored a season-high 12 points against Phoenix.

LAL 105, PHO 125: April 7 Running Diary

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

Lakers: Sessions, Ebanks*, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Suns: S. Nash, S. Brown, J. Dudley, C. Frye, M. Gortat
*Here’s the big news of the night: Kobe Bryant would not play due to tenosynovitis of the shin, which he originally hurt against the Hornets on Saturday night. Bryant played through the bruised shin on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, emerging from a win over the Clippers in a walking boot as the shin had not improved. Nonetheless, Bryant played in last night’s loss to Houston, though he was noticeably bothered by it, and since it still did not improve, head athletic trainer Gary Vitti shut him down for this game.

6:00 With Kobe in the locker room watching, L.A. got a balanced, all-around effort from the guys on the floor to open an early lead, with Ebanks impressing with two offensive boards for put-back layups plus a pretty Euro step layup in transition, the Lakers up 18-12.

1:00 Bynum had already taken 13 shots (!) with a minute left in the first, and while he’d made only three, his dunk put the Lakers up 28-20. He was leading all with eight boards

5:00 Phoenix came out firing in the second Q from a bench that really hasn’t been very good this season, getting five triples (three from Redd and two from Telfair) to erase what had been an eight-point Lakers lead early on. A turnaround jumper continued the Redd trend, the former Bucks All-Star suddenly totaling 17 bench points, which combined with 10 from Telfair and nine from Morris had the Suns up six points.

2:03 An extremely pretty reverse layup from Sessions, bursting down the court in transition, capped a quick 5-0 Lakers run that cut the Phoenix lead to three at 58-55. Sessions had seven points, while Gasol (16), Bynum (10) and Ebanks (10) were already in double figures.

0:00 Bynum’s bucket looked to have cut the Suns lead back down to two going into halftime, but instead, L.A. let Telfair sail all the way in for a buzzer-beating layup, plus the foul, to close it out with Phoenix up 62-57.

6:00 The Lakers continued to score with relative ease, getting consecutive Bynum dunks (19 points) to compliment Gasol’s 20 points, but the defense was collapsing on Nash penetration into the paint instead of forcing the All-Star to shoot over LAL’s trees inside, and he was punishing those decisions with 10 assists with the Suns opening a 10-point lead. Shannon Brown was doing damage, scoring 12 of his 16 in the period.

0:00 Brown continued the streak of ridiculous perimeter shooting from Phoenix, rising over Lakers contests to nail two more threes, giving Phoenix 10 in the game (matching Houston’s killer output from the game before) to reach 20 points himself in the quarter and put the Suns up 99-83.

7:30 Gasol was on fire from the perimeter, swishing three lofted jumpers to get to 26 points on 12 of 20 field goals, but Phoenix maintained a 14-point lead by continued to score themselves on the other end, a Robin Lopez and-1 (missed FT) giving the Suns 107 points to L.A.’s 91.

2:46 Despite Gasol staying hot to quite hot, hitting two more J’s to reach a season-high 30 points, L.A. found itself down 13 when Frye hit a 3-pointer – the 11th for Phoenix. And that just about did it. Not a bad game for the Lakers overall without Kobe, as they dominated the Suns inside, but Phoenix barely missed a perimeter shot, as it seemed, all evening, with Brown (24), Redd (17), Morris (13) and Telfair (13) all scoring well above their averages.

0:00 Your final: 125-105, the Suns continuing to launch threes in the final two minutes, hitting three more for a season-high against the Lakers of 14. They also turned the ball over only three times, a season low for an opponent, in a tough loss for a Lakers’ team that had won six of seven on the road. Up next is a Monday tilt against New Orleans; we’ll see you there, and we’ll see if Kobe can play.

Kobe Bryant (shin) Out at Phoenix

Just prior to tip off of L.A.’s Saturday evening contest at Phoenix, we learned that Kobe Bryant would not play due to tenosynovitis of the shin.

Bryant originally hurt the shin against the Hornets last Saturday night, getting kicked in the area, but played through it on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. After Wednesday’s game, a tough road win over the Clippers, Bryant emerged from the locker room in a walking boot as the shin had not improved.

Nonetheless, Bryant played in Friday night’s loss to Houston, even as he limped noticeably. However, since the injury has still not improved, head athletic trainer Gary Vitti shut him down for game at Phoenix.

It’s the first game Bryant has missed since the season finale of the 2009-10 season, a streak of 138 straight contests including all 82 games last season.

There’s no timetable regarding a possible return.

LAL’s Recent Road Success

The Lakers road struggles early in the season — as the team tried to figure out a new system without the benefit of training camp — were well pronounced, but in recent weeks, Mike Brown’s team seems to have figured something out.

In fact, L.A. has won six of its last seven games away from STAPLES Center:

4/4 @LAC: 113-108 W
4/1 @GSW: 104-101 W
3/21 @DAL: 109-93 W
3/20 @HOU: 107-104 L

3/14 @N.O.: 107-101 OT W
3/13 @MEM: 116-111 2OT W
3/9 @MIN: 105-102 W

The loss came at Houston when L.A. blew a 12-point lead with six minutes to play after playing a solid 3.5 quarters. Prior to the win at Minnesota, the Lakers also blew double-digit leads at Detroit and Washington, but controlled those games for the majority as well. Yet in general, the team’s play has been strong away from home, and has improved markedly on offense since the addition of Ramon Sessions.

All of this has brought the road record up to 12-15, still below what the team would like, but not too bad considering the 1-7 road start to the season, or the 6-14 mark before the recent string of success.

On the other hand, the team that for a while boasted NBA’s best home record, peaking at 19-2 thanks to a 10-game winning streak from Jan. 25 to March 18, has since played only .500 hoops at home, splitting eight games after a Friday loss to Houston.

Saturday evening’s game comes at Phoenix (28-27), the site of perhaps L.A.’s worst road performance of the season, a low-energy 102-90 loss on Feb. 19. The Suns lost Grant Hill, their best 1-on-1 defensive player, to injury and also come into the game off a loss, having fallen at Denver on Friday night.

Tip is at 7 p.m.; we’ll see you there.

LAL 107, HOU 112: April 6 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home contest against Houston, the Lakers looking for a fifth straight victory, 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, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Rockets: G. Dragic, C. Lee, C. Parsons, L. Scola, M. Camby

4:00 A rather sluggish start from L.A. produced a 22-20 deficit after Dalembert scored easily inside,the Lakers shooting well from the field (6 for 11) but turning the ball over five times and allowing two Chandler Parsons triples.

1:00 Off to a terrific shooting start in April (62 percent in three games), Kobe started this one a bit slowly, making 3 of 8 shots as the Lakers fell behind by five points at 29-24 after the first quarter. The key stat was turnovers, LAL coughing it up seven times, compared to Houston’s three, and the home team conceding five offensive boards to double the trouble. The Lakers did do some work at the foul line, making eight of nine attempts.

8:40 A strong push from LAL’s second unit, led by World Peace (in instead of Sessions, who’d been starting with that group alongside Steve Blake in the backcourt), who got his scoring on in a serious way with a game-high 15 points. MWP was killing the much slighter Courtney Lee in the paint, repeatedly sealing him off under the rim before turning for layups. He also added a triple and four free throws, helping L.A. take a 39-35 lead with a 15-6 push in the period.

1:55 Sessions missed his second and third free throws in four attempts that might have kept L.A. up five, though Bynum’s dunk on the next possession kept it at three after a Dalembert (back from Houston’s locker room) scored his fifth field goal off Houston’s bench. L.A.’s energy was much better than the first quarter, however, thanks in no small part to McRoberts and Barnes (12 total boards off the bench, eight from Barnes).

0:26.6 Just over a minute later, and L.A. was suddenly up 11, thanks to a quick burst that included a Kobe three, MWP layup (17 points) from Sessions (four dimes), and three Kobe free throws (18 points). The Rockets did manage a bucket in the final seconds, and when a full court football pass from Barnes just came off the rim as McRoberts skied hi to try and throw in a reverse layup, the lead was 59-50 heading into halftime. An impressive quarter saw the Lakers make 12 of 22 field goals, plus nine of 11 free throws towards 35 points, while Houston scored only 21.
Continue reading ‘LAL 107, HOU 112: April 6 Running Diary’

LAL 113, LAC 108: April 4 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening road contest against the Clippers, the Lakers looking to win a fourth straight game and third straight on the road, 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, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Clippers: C. Paul, R. Foye, C. Butler, B. Griffin, D. Jordan

12:00 Let’s first take a look at what’s on the line today: the Lakers come in with a 1.5 game lead over the Clippers in the Pacific Division, and since the L.A. squads split their first two, the winner will hold a tiebreaker that would only come into play if they have the same record at the end of the season. For more on that, click here. And … here we go.

8:30 A wide open three from Sessions gave L.A. a 10-4 early lead, with the first seven points coming from Bynum, playing through an ankle injury, converting three field goals and an and-1 free throw. Three minutes later, Griffin’s dunk off a screen roll from Paul tied the game at 14, but Bryant answered with an and-1 at the rim off a pretty pass from Sessions, his third assist.

0:00 Kobe got hot to close the first, nailing four straight shots to reach 16 points on 7 of 10 overall, and Bynum’s 11 helped push LAL’s total to 34, good for a five point margin over LAC’s 29. Neither team turned the ball over, and while Chris Paul had seven dimes mostly out of pick and roll sets, Kobe’s scoring was the early difference.

10:35 A great start to the second was capped by a Steve Blake three, capping a 7-0 burst that included layups from Barnes and Sessions, starting with the second unit to give L.A. better options offensively. The run was stopped with a Nick Young jumper, though Gasol countered with one of his own to make it 43-31.

4:26 The lead was eight when Bynum’s first field goal since returning went down, Kobe also getting a solid six minutes of rest as the second unit played well. Blake had five points, Barnes and McRoberts a bucket each plus eight total boards from the latter two Lakers.

1:38 Kobe started the game 0 for 3 … but after a long two that kept the Lakers up seven, he was 8 for 11, of course meaning he’d made eight straight shots. Not bad. Meanwhile, a World Peace wing three was LAL’s fourth from long distance, but the Clippers connected on their fourth moments later, Butler sinking his third.

6:40 Bynum’s 15-foot jumper stopped a 6-0 LAC run that started with a huge Griffin dunk over Gasol, plus a foul, though LAL were upset as Griffin clearly led with his front arm, clearing Gasol out with contact to the Spaniard’s head. Nonetheless, with Bynum up to 19 points, the road team was up 75-67.

3:30 A rather dramatic third quarter continued as Griffin pushed Gasol in the back when Pau had a clean lane for a dunk thanks to a back pass from Bynum, causing Bynum to go over and get in Griffin’s face. Then a double foul on Gasol/Griffin followed Bryant’s deep 3, which preceded a defensive three seconds tech from Kobe, and 1 of 2 Bynum free throws that capped a 8-0 run to push LAL to its biggest lead at 86-73.

1:00 The Lakers again pushed the lead to 15 when Bynum converted his 6th and 7th free throws in eight attempts to add to 10 field goals and match Kobe’s 27 points, then answered a CP3 three with a 15-foot jumper that made it 92-78. Fantastic effort from Bynum, playing with the sprained ankle, showing his teammates something.
Continue reading ‘LAL 113, LAC 108: April 4 Running Diary’

LAL – LAC: Schedule Breakdown

The Lakers and Clippers play an important tie-breaking game on Wednesday night at STAPLES Center — the court in Clippers home red and blue — that will decide home court advantage should the teams finish the regular season with the same record.

Heading into the action, LAL (34-20) hold a 1.5 game lead over LAC (32-21) in the Pacific Division, good enough for the third overall seed in the Western Conference. We took a look at what the respective schedules look like for both Los Angeles squads in the final few weeks of the season.

Lakers: Five home (HOU, DEN, DAL, SAS, OKC), six away (PHX, NOH, SAS, GSW, SAS, SAC)
Clippers: Four home (SAC, GSW, OKC, NOH) eight away (SAC, MEM, OKC, MIN, DEN, PHX, ATL, NYK)

Lakers: 54.9 percent
Clippers: 50 percent

Lakers: Three
Clippers: Six

Thanks to a quirk in the schedule, the Lakers have three of their final 11 games against San Antonio (37-14), accounting for their more difficult overall schedule just in terms of opponent’s winning percentage. However, the Clippers have eight road games to LAL’s five, and six come against teams with winning records. Furthermore, four of the final five games for the Clips come away from Los Angeles, with a two-game Eastern trip to Atlanta and New York – battling for playoff position themselves – concluding the schedule.

LAL 91, NJN 87: April 3 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home contest against New Jersey, the Lakers looking for a third straight 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: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, McRoberts and Gasol
Nets: D. Williams, M. Brooks, G. Wallace, K. Humphries and J. Petro

9:00 With one All-Star out favoring an ankle injury in Andrew Bynum, it’s nice to have two others, Bryant and Gasol both making their first two shots to put L.A. up 8-3. Four-time All Star Gasol, of course, was not selected to the All-Star game this season as he deferred to Bynum for the benefit of the team, but you won’t find any NBA coaches or GM’s that don’t consider Gasol an All-Star based on skill and production.

5:39 An impressive offensive start continued as Sessions worked a fast break to perfection in dropping a dime for a Gasol dunk, the Spaniard’s fourth make in as many attempts, while Bryant was 3 for 3 and the team 9 of 11 overall. The dish was the fourth for Sessions, again looking really strong at point guard.

0:00 The only folks laughing harder than McRoberts after he somehow drained a turnaround, fadeaway, buzzer-beating 20 footer to make it 32-23 after the first were his teammates, who got a huge kick out of it from the bench. McRoberts added three boards, and seven of the eight Lakers who saw court time scored at least two points.

7:12 Despite former Los Angeles D-Fender Gerald Green, who was going off for 13 points on 5 of 6 field goals, the Lakers led 42-30 thanks to solid floor balance, six Lakers scoring at least two points, and Gasol outdoing even Green with 14 points on 7 of 10 shooting.

4:14 Bryant’s fadeaway over Wallace was his fourth field goal in six attempts, continuing an extremely efficient first half that had L.A. at 68.8 percent from the field to that point. Sparking L.A. on the bench was Matt Barnes, who grabbed a game-high seven boards, while some extra playing time from Sessions allowed Mike Brown to rest Kobe more than he has been, which Brown said is a goal leading into the playoffs.

0:00 The halftime lead was 58-45, a margin that grew to as many as 17 at one point, behind 65.8 percent shooting and a 24-12 dominance of the glass, even with Bynum in street clothes, with Gasol’s 18 points leading the way and Sessions excelling with 12 points and eight assists in his 18 minutes.
Continue reading ‘LAL 91, NJN 87: April 3 Running Diary’

The Value of Gasol

When Andrew Bynum went down with a sprained ankle late in the first quarter of L.A.’s 120-112 victory over Golden State, Pau Gasol provided a quick reminder of how productive he can be when he’s featured more prominently: 26 points on 11-of-17 field goals, 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocks in 40 minutes.

“I had more looks and more rhythm in the post, where it’s not so opportunistic and random, so I felt comfortable,” said Gasol. “I’ve been away from (the post) this year as (Bynum) has stepped up and played a big role, and I’m just trying to play my role as good as I can and adjust to the needs of the team.”

Gasol has willingly deferred to Bynum all season, helping his fellow 7-footer earn his first All-Star nod by ceding space in the paint, facilitating L.A.’s offense to maximize Bynum’s paint touches even at the expense of higher percentage opportunities for himself. Such is Gasol’s skill set that he can operate at the high post — or free throw line extended — where he can pass, shoot or get to the rim with a dribble, an uncommon set of attributes for a seven-footer.

As Kobe Bryant explained after the win, it’s very rare to have guys of Gasol’s talent so willingly defer – for the benefit of the team and detriment to his stats.

“You have championship teams because of guys like Pau,” said Bryant. “Guys that are just insanely talented but are willing to take a step back and let other players step up to the forefront.”

Jamaal Wilkes Elected to Hall of Fame

Former Lakers star Jamaal Wilkes, who won three championships as a Laker, was among four men elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as announced on Monday morning.

A sweet-shooting forward, Wilkes won championships at Santa Barbara High School, UCLA and with Golden State as the 1975 Rookie of the Year prior to his three rings in Los Angeles, making him one of the most accomplished basketball players in history.

“Anyone who truly knows and loves the game of basketball surely recognizes what a special and gifted player Jamaal Wilkes was,” said Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss. “A rare combination of selflessness and grace, Jamaal made the game look effortless. It’s easy to forget that Jamaal averaged 20-plus points during our 1980 and 1982 championship seasons.

“Many also don’t recall that he scored 37 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the decisive Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals. He was overlooked by some because he put the team first, the individual second and let others shine. It is now time for Jamaal to shine, and we congratulate him on this long overdue and much deserved honor.”

Two college titles came alongside Bill Walton under legendary coach John Wooden at UCLA, while his 12 professional seasons carried a similar degree of success.

From 1975 to 1987, Wilkes averaged 17.7 points per game towards 14,664 in his career, plus an average of 6.2 boards, 5,117 for his career. A three-time All-Star (1976, 1981, 1983), Wilkes was also named to the NBA All-Defensive team on two occasions. He averaged 16.1 points per game in 113 playoff games, never shying from big moments.