Monthly Archive for October, 2012

LAL 106, Blazers 116: 10/31 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Halloween contest at Portland’s Rose Garden, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Blazers: D. Lillard, W. Matthews, N. Batum, L. Aldridge, J.J. Hickson

6:00 The Lakers were humming on offense in the first six minutes, with Kobe Bryant throwing in a slam off Dwight Howard’s hand off, Pau Gasol working his way to eight points and Steve Nash running the show with three early dimes, helping produce a 17-15 lead. The D was a bit sketchy, but Howard showed off a signature play by flying in from the weak side to swat Damian Lillard at the rim after the Rookie of the Year candidate had worked his way around Nash.

0:00 The main culprit in L.A. trailing 30-26 after the first: eight turnovers. It’s been that simple throughout the preseason and into these first two games, the Lakers unable to take care of the ball and opponents taking advantage. The bright spot for L.A.: Gasol, who scored 10 points with three boards to keep it close.

9:18 The free throw line became a point of interest early in the second, with Howard nailing all four attempts to reach 9 of 12 in the game (75 percent, after 3 of 14 last night), and Ebanks fouling Nic Batum three times in about 10 seconds (literally) on the other end. Both teams would be spending time at the stripe to close the quarter.

6:40 L.A. found itself down by as many as nine in a hurry, but thanks to Howard’s continued resurgence at the line (11 of 14 makes) and back-to-back triples from Bryant and Metta World Peace, the lead was trimmed to one at 41-40 … at least for a minute, as Portland answered with the third Wes Matthews triple and a Batum fast break dunk off the 11th L.A. turnover. Like against Dallas in the second half last night, L.A. kept having to fight uphill.

0:00 All kinds of action to close the half, folks, as the teams traded three-pointers (Kobe hit three, MWP two) and Howard continued to impress by adding a dunk to all his FT’s. On the down side, Nash got tangled up with Lillard and had to head to the locker room. L.A. cut the lead to as few as one, but conceded yet another triple to Batum with seven seconds in the half, failing to get back in transition. That made it 62-57 Blazers at the break.

6:00 Nash started the second half with his left leg protected by a sleeve, but it was almost immediately obvious that he wasn’t going to be able to play. He was officially ruled out for the rest of the game with a “lower leg contusion.” L.A. reeled for a few minutes after Nash left, but his replacement, Steve Blake, nailed a corner three that preceded a pretty bucket from Howard (impressively up to 29 points on 8 of 12 field goals plus 13 of 16 free throws) to make it 79-76.

0:00 Then it all went badly wrong, quickly, for the Lakers, who were swarmed under a 13-0 run that allowed Portland a 92-76 lead after three. Sasha Pavlovic scored seven straight points, and Lillard was everywhere, reaching 16 points with nine assists, including a buzzer beating finish off glass in traffic. Nash was in the locker room, Howard had four fouls (along with 29 points, 10 boards and five assists) and L.A. was in big trouble towards an 0-2 start to the season.

8:04 Despite shooting nearly 50 percent and being up eight on the glass, the Lakers were down 18 points (103-85) after a technical foul on an unhappy Kobe, who’d expected a foul call. Bryant, who’d made 7 of his 13 shots, had seven of his team’s 22 turnovers, with World Peace adding six of his own. Portland had 28 points off those miscues.

5:00 L.A. was down by as many as 19, but not quite done, cutting the lead to 11 with more Kobe (26 points) and Howard (33). At least until a Batum triple, Portland’s ninth, made it 108-94 with 3:52 to go. Too big of a hole.

0:00 The final: Portland 116, Lakers 106. Howard finished with 33 points, 14 boards, five assists, a block and a steal; Bryant had 30 points and six boards; Gasol 16 points and nine boards, all three playing around 40 minutes on a back-to-back. Batum had 26, Lillard had 23 (added 11 dimes, too) and Matthews 22 for the Blazers. L.A. will fly home immediately after postgame interviews, and try to get ready for the Clippers on Friday. We’ll see you there.

Lakers – Mavs Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 99-91 loss to Dallas to open the 2012-13 regular season:

Kobe’s field goal percentage on 11 of 14 shooting, without attempting a single three or free throw. Released to focus mostly on scoring in his 35 minutes, Bryant had just one board and no assists. Coming with a sore foot on which he hadn’t practiced for eight days, Bryant said he played at about “80 to 85 percent.”

L.A.’s shooting percentage, which is solid on paper, but less impressive considering they got off only 77 shots. A second half charge on the glass led to second chance opportunities, but most resulted in fouls, and we’ve been over how that went.

Missed free throws for the Lakers, and it wasn’t just Dwight Howard’s 3 of 14. Jordan Hill hit only 1 of 6, Pau Gasol missed 2 of 8 and Metta World Peace 1 of 2, a total of 12 for 31 in a game L.A. lost by eight.

Boards for Howard towards his first double-double (19 points), but he blocked only one shot and was a step slow with his rotations. Clearly, Howard needs a few games to get back into form, having played in only two preseason games after rehabilitation from April back surgery. “Dwight’s reaction times was a little off,” said Mike Brown. “He’s half a count late. Defensively and rebounding wise his timing was off just a little bit.”

L.A.’s biggest lead, attained in the second quarter with a good burst from Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison, Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol (either Gasol or Dwight Howard will stay in with the four bench players). That evaporated by halftime, however, when L.A. went in trailing 48-46. The Lakers trailed by as many as 16 in the second half, which Dallas won 51-45.

Dallas players in double figures. Vince Carter and Rodrique Beaubois chipped in a combined 22 points off the bench to help four starters with at least 11 points, helping the Mavericks’ bench outscore the Lakers’ bench 37-17.

“It was going to be a collective effort against a front line like this,” Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “We were really persistent. Everyone had each other’s backs, and we played it out.”

Assists for Steve Nash, whose total was hurt due to all the fouls committed by Dallas inside off his dishes. The Lakers, of course, did not convert at the stripe. Nash made 3 of 9 shots and didn’t find a comfort zone offensively.

“Obviously it was a disappointment for us,” he said. “We have high expectations and tonight we didn’t play well, so regardless of what it was tonight, it wasn’t good enough. We started out well enough; we had a pretty good stretch there in the second quarter, too. And then after they got back, they jumped on us in the second half, so like we said in camp, we got a ways to go.”

LAL 99, Mavs 91: 10/30 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s regular season opener against Dallas on Tuesday night at Staples Center, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Dallas: D. Collison, O. Mayo, S. Marion, E. Brand, B. Wright

12:00 At long last, the baritone of Lawrence Tanter belted out the following starting line up: Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. No. 24 had been a question mark throughout the week after hurting his foot against Sacramento on Oct. 21, but there he was starting the action. Before two minutes had passed, we already had a triple from Nash and a hook from Howard to give L.A. an early lead.

6:00 L.A.’s offense was clicking pretty well early, 7 of 12 FG’s going down led by Bryant’s 3 of 4, with the Mavs unsure where to focus their attention. It’s going to take a while for everything to really hum, but the pieces fit so nicely. Other highlights to close the quarter for Gasol (playing with the second unit of Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison and Jordan Hill) spinning around Eddy Curry for a layup before draining a J, Meeks hitting his first three in purple and gold, and Jamison beautifully finding Hill for a transition dunk.

0:00 The purple and gold took a 29-25 lead out of the period, hitting 13 of 22 shots behind 10 assists and only two turnovers, allowing just two fast break points and generally playing well. Dallas hit some tough shots (O.J. Mayo was 3 of 4, Collison 3 of 5) and the Lakers missed some open ones, yet retained control.

7:18 With Howard missing his fourth and fifth free throws, Dallas found some momentum at the other end, getting five straight points from Roddy Beaubois (a three and a layup after stripping Nash in the backcourt) to cap a 12-2 run, allowing a 37-35 lead. Bryant and Gasol returned after a time out.

0:00 The free throw line continued to plague the Lakers, Gasol missing two of his six and MWP 1 of 2 (5 of 13 as a team), and the Mavs took advantage of six turnovers for eight points. As such, we had a 48-46 Mavs lead heading into the half, despite 55.9 percent shooting from L.A. and 43.5 percent from Dallas.

5:34 It wasn’t a pretty start to the second half for the home team, as the Mavs made 7 of 9 shots – mostly from the perimeter – to take a 7-point lead, before two Gasol free throws got the Spaniard to a game-high 16 points. That was until he found Bryant for field goal No. 9 on 10 attempts, Kobe with 18 on Gasol’s fourth dime … yet the problem was on D.

0:00 A 26-20 quarter win for Dallas produced an 8-point lead into the final quarter, L.A.’s defense continuing to struggle to stop the Mavs from getting good looks. The effort wasn’t terrific for an LAL squad looking a bit confused on that end, and in fairness, they’d barely all played together with a healthy group in the preseason. Nonetheless, they had 12 minutes to erase what had been a forgettable night…

11:21 And Jamison got them off on the right foot, converting a tough, driving and-1 (his free throw improving L.A. to 45.8 percent from the line) … but Dallas answered with a Shawn Marion and-1 at the other end to keep the margin at eight.

2:52 The energy improved on the defensive end, as it certainly had to, but the Lakers still couldn’t get anything going – let alone cut the deficit – as Dallas led 95-82. After a 29-point first period, L.A. had scored 17, 20 and 16 points, while allowing the Mavs to approach 50 percent from the field despite a slowish first quarter (45 percent). It’s going to take some time for L.A. to gel, the starters literally playing only one game together in the preseason, but Dallas hadn’t had much time with their line up, either (Dirk and Kaman hurt). More than anything, Dallas played loose and the Lakers tight.

0:00 The final in a tough opener for the Lakers, who ultimately fell 99-91 after some late production from Gasol (23 points, 13 boards, six assists, three blocks). They have little time to stew, flying to Portland after the buzzer for the Blazers home opener on Halloween. We’ll see you there.

Kobe Bryant Will Start

In Kobe’s words, from his Facebook page:

Feeling good enough to play tonight! I’ll use my strong midsoles for added cushion on the foot for more protection.
Looking forward to this journey as I’m sure you are.
It’s Go Time.
Mamba out

Despite not practicing for more than a week, Lakers coach Mike Brown believes his co-captain will be ready for tonight’s season opener.

“He’s been doing this thing a long time,” explained Brown. “I think he’ll be fine, but it’s tough to predict what anybody will do at any time. I think he’ll be fine, though.”

According to Brown, there is no concern about Kobe further re-injuring his foot from playing tonight.

“From my understanding, there’s no risk,” he said. “Obviously, if it bothers him or something like that, we’ll pull him out. From my understanding, he’s good enough to go and there’s no risk with him going that he will damage it further.”

Preview Pod with Basketball Prospectus’ Pelton

Kevin Pelton

To get an insightful take on how the Lakers will be impacted by the additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, we called up Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus.

Alongside co-author Bradford Doolittle, Pelton wrote extensively on the Lakers – and every other team – for this season’s Pro Basketball Prospectus 2012-13 book, and we pulled out some topics for our discussion.

Click below to listen:

Bryant “85%” Likely To Face Dallas

Kobe Bryant, who went through on-court activities at Tuesday morning’s shootaround for the first time since injuring his right foot on Oct. 21, said he has an 85 percent chance of playing in Tuesday evening’s season opener.

This appears to be good news for the Lakers, but they won’t know No. 24′s status until seeing how Bryant’s foot reacts to a good deal of running and pressure at shootaround. We’ll likely get confirmation during coach Mike Brown’s pregame session with the media at around 6 p.m.

“It’s just a matter of how sore it gets from now until I get to Staples (Center),” explained Bryant. “I’m not going to play with an injury that will get progressively worse and limp through the season. I worked too hard for that.”

In other words, if his foot doesn’t respond positively to the morning session, he’s not going to push it by playing in back-to-back games to start the season. The Lakers leave for Portland immediately following tonight’s game against Dallas.

Bryant credited head athletic trainer Gary Vitti and head physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto for working hard throughout the last eight days to get him back as soon as possible without risking further damage to what was a painful injury. He initially collided the foot and ankle at an awkward angle on a Kings player in a preseason loss to the Kings.

“(It) just bruised like crazy,” Bryant described. “All the swelling trickled down to the tendon … it was painful to walk on.”

But after staying off the foot throughout the week and getting constant treatment, Bryant turned a corner on Monday night.

“Since last night, I’ve had substanitally less pain, and the strength has gotten better,” he said. “That’s very encouraging.”

Bryant’s trying to determine if it’s an injury that can improve while playing through it, or one that gets worse the more he’s on it. Before concluding his session with the media, Bryant was asked if there’s a silver lining in the injury, which allowed him to get some rest for legs that have been working through the offseason in part due to the 2012 Olympics.

“I look at it as a blessing in disguise to give me some rest, because when I’m out there I’m going I go 110 percent, I don’t know anything else,” he replied. “(That) probably takes a little bit from my legs, so it’s probably a blessing in disguise that I got (eight) days to relax.”

Bryant a Game-Time Decision for Opener

The prevailing question prior to training camp was if Dwight Howard would be ready on opening night after he had season-ending back surgery in late April.

“I don’t know when exactly I was going to be able to play,” said Howard. “Different doctors were saying different things. But the training staff here has done an excellent job making sure I get back to playing basketball as soon as I have.”

But with Howard set to start against Dallas, the injury question turns to Lakers co-captain Kobe Bryant, who has not participated in any basketball activity for a week now, and did not practice Monday. He is being called a “game-time decision,” according to coach Mike Brown.

Several of his teammates, though, have seen him play through various injuries in the past, and would not be surprised should he be available to play for the season opener.

“(Kobe’s) never been afraid to play hurt,” said Metta World Peace. “His mind is different from other people.”

Pau Gasol echoed similar sentiments.

“He’s a player that plays through anything and everything.”

Should Kobe be ruled out, Jodie Meeks would likely start in his place. The fifth-year guard out of Kentucky has impressed his teammates thus far and believe he will do a capable job in the starting lineup.

“Jodie (Meeks) is a great shooter,” said Howard. “He’s looking great in practice so hopefully he’ll do good tomorrow and the rest of the season. I like him a lot. I think he has the potential to be a very special player for our team.”

Jordan Hill (herniated disc) was also held out of practice for “precautionary reasons,” but is expected to play in the season opener. The coaching staff noted the backup power forward did not suffer any setbacks as he continues to work his way back from a back injury suffered early in the preseason.

“Not a setback,” said Brown. “But anytime you have a back injury, your back can tighten up. Just as a precautionary measure – at times – we may sit him out of contact stuff. It’s not anything where he re-injured this or re-injured that.”

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Kobe’s injury, the coaching staff believes this is an opportunity for the rest of the team to take advantage in his absence.

“Obviously, you want Kobe on the floor,” said Brown. “You want everybody on the floor the whole time. But at the end of the day, this is why it’s a team. Other guys have to step up and be ready to play if he can’t go.”

Through the Lens of World Peace

Forward Metta World Peace got creative before the team’s final preseason tuneup in San Diego. As MWP walked out to the court for his normal pregame routine he picked up team photographer Noah Graham’s camera and, after a quick lesson on focus, snapped off a couple pics of his teammates. Check them out below.

Metta catches rookie big man Robert Sacre as he warms up

Devin Ebanks and Darius Johnson-Odom warm up

Metta got going with the camera's motor drive to catch these six pics of Steve Blake waving to the camera

Kobe a Question Mark as Opener Nears

With only one day separating the Lakers from their season opener, the primary question at the team’s practice facility on Sunday was whether or not Kobe Bryant would play against the Dallas Mavericks.

L.A.’s co-captain is still recovering from a strained/bruised foot, and did not participate in practice again on Sunday, his sixth straight day of inactivity after initially hurting the foot last Sunday.

“I don’t know; I have my doubts,” said Pau Gasol, when asked if he thought Kobe would be ready on Tuesday. “He hasn’t been able to practice for six days. He’s been off that foot for six days. It’s no joke; I don’t remember the last time he took that many days off. It’s a little concerning.”

Coach Mike Brown maintained that Kobe is still “day-to-day,” but there is optimism that the 17-year veteran is recovering with the time off.

“He’s making progress,” said Brown. “He’s definitely making progress; he’s not going backwards at all.”

Despite numerous injuries — from Bryant’s foot to the backs of Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill – in the preseason, tinkering with various rotations and implementing a new offensive system, Brown believes the team is playing at a level he expected at this point in the year.

“We’re probably right where I thought we should be,” he explained. “Having said that, in the whole scheme of things, we’re a little behind from the standpoint it’s not to the point where it’s looking pretty yet. But it’s OK because I expected it; we’re throwing a lot at (the players). I like how they’ve picked up on the stuff so far. It’s been pretty good.”

Even though the team finished winless in the preseason, point guard Steve Nash believes the team has made strides.

“I think we made a lot of progress,” stated Nash. “Obviously, we didn’t produce wins in the preseason, but there was definitely progress even though it might not look like it from the outside. It’s been a challenge, but also a great learning experience.”

Injury Update: Kobe’s Foot

With Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill returning from respective back injuries, the only question mark heading into Tuesday’s regular season opener was Kobe Bryant’s right foot.

Bryant initially strained the foot in last Sunday’s preseason loss to Sacramento, and called it “painful” when addressing the media on Tuesday. He has not practiced all week, and again sat out Saturday’s session to get treatment from L.A.’s training staff.

That said, there was some optimism surrounding the team that Bryant will be able to play in the season opener against Dallas in three days.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he did play,” said coach Mike Brown. “But we’ll see.”

Head trainer Gary Vitti and Bryant himself will play a decisive role in whether or not No. 24 is ready, but nobody is going to count out the player NBA GM’s recently voted the league’s toughest.