Monthly Archive for November, 2012

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Lakers 98, Grizzlies 106: Nov. 23 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening road contest at Memphis, the Lakers searching for their first road win of the season, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Morris, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Grizzlies: M. Conley, T. Allen, R. Gay, Z. Randolph, M. Gasol

6:25 A strong Lakers start produced early leads of 6-0 and 8-2, until a 9-0 Grizzlies response had L.A. down by as many as five in the early goings. Two Rudy Gay triples were the difference, typifying what’s been much improved 3-point shooting this season, enough to have them ranked 8th in the NBA (they’ve been in the bottom 1/3 in the past three seasons).

0:00 That good start was very much a thing of the past by quarter’s end, the Grizz starting to run away from it early by nailing 8 of 9 shots late in the second half of the period to open a 34-18 lead, even with back-to-back hoops inside from Antawn Jamison off L.A.’s bench. Pau Gasol really struggled, hitting only one of his six shots, mostly on jumpers.

6:00 As poor as the Lakers were in the first, they were just as good to start the second, reeling off a 17-4 run as the second unit had – by far – its best stretch of the regular season. The key change: Jamison was in at the 4 alongside Howard at the 5. Previously, Jordan Hill had been playing with Howard, a group that struggled to generate looks, but Jamison’s ability to spread the floor helped the Lakers get three triples amidst that run. His nine points led the Lakers.

2:42 That rhythm established by the second unit? It disappeared with the starters back on the floor, Memphis methodically taking advantage to push a lead that had been cut to three right back to 12. Rudy Gay’s third triple plus alley-oop dunk in transition after L.A.’s 11th turnover keyed the spurt, with L.A. looking disorganized on offense. Darius Morris – who was effective early with six points at the rim – struggled to get L.A. into good sets, doing a lot of dribbling with shots late in the clock coming off.

0:00 A halftime deficit of seven at 56-49 wasn’t all that bad for a team that trailed by as many as 16, but the starters would need to play much better to provide a chance to win in the second half…

5:46 … And L.A.’s starting five certainly did not deliver in the third, allowing Memphis to build its lead right back to 16 at 71-55. Jamison and Chris Duhon returned for Morris and Howard, D’Antoni searching for something effective, having just watched the 14th turnover lead to a Grizz hoop in transition.

1:40 With Metta World Peace rolling on offense, scoring four straight to reach 16 points (to match Bryant’s team lead), L.A. continued to struggle on D. Jamison fouled Bayless while the Grizz sub took a three as the shot clock expired, then Quincey Pondexter got all the way to the rim to draw Gasol’s shooting foul. Two free throws kept the lead at 14.

5:00 Just as he did in Sacramento, Kobe pulled up and dropped a few ridiculous triples, hitting back-to-back from deep without the benefit of a dribble. That trimmed the Grizz lead to only five. Meanwhile, Jamison continued to have success, reaching 16 points with seven boards with a tip in of MWP’s miss.

2:20 Trying to make a final push, a few defensive stops allowed L.A. to keep the deficit at six when Bryant hit two free throws, but Marc Gasol answered with two free throws earned off a nice slip screen to make it 100-92. Meanwhile, his older brother continued to sit, as even with Jamison fouling out, D’Antoni went with Darius Morris, pushing MWP to the four.

0:00 Bryant kept getting to the foul line in the final minutes, but the Grizz kept answering at the other end, thus a 106-98 margin with 24.4 left to essentially end the game. Mike Conley hit two big jumpers in the final moments, and the hole L.A. dug itself in the first quarter ultimately proved too big a hole from which to climb out. Kobe’s 30 points were helped by 16 apiece from Jamison and World Peace, but Gasol and Howard combined for only 13 points and four boards apiece one game after totaling 15 points at Sacramento. L.A. would simply need much more from its two bigs, double teams coming or not, to get the team’s first road win at Dallas the following night. We’ll see you there.

Memphis Grizzlies Notes

The Lakers tip off at Memphis in just a few hours on Friday afternoon (5 p.m. PST), as they look for their first road victory of the young season in a place where W’s are quite hard to come by.

L.A. will again start Darius Morris at point guard, as Steve Nash is out for at least two more games with his non-displaced fracture in his left leg, and Steve Blake is not yet ready to return from an abdominal strain.

Get to know the Grizzlies a bit with our five notes on the opponent:

1) The Grizzlies won eight straight games after dropping their season opener at the Clippers, enough to hold the NBA’s best record for the first time in team history. That streak tied the best in franchise history, which occurred back when Pau Gasol was the team’s best player in January of 2004. Gasol is the Grizzlies’ all-time leader in 12 statistical categories, including points (8,966), rebounds (4,096) and blocks (877), and was the first-ever All-Star (2006).

2) Their 15-game home winning streak that was snapped on November 19 by Denver had dated back to March 16, 2012, when Memphis fell to Toronto. The Lakers won their last matchup in Tennessee in thrilling fashion, holding on for a double OT conquest on March 13, 2012. The Grizz went up by as many as 17 points in the 3rd Q despite missing Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph due to injury, but L.A. rallied to take a 2-point lead in the final minute. Kobe Bryant, Gasol and Andrew Bynum all had huge games.

3) The Grizz are hitting the three this season, ranking 8th in the NBA at 36.2% after regularly finishing in the bottom 1/3 of the league in the previous five seasons. Mike Conley’s at 39.5% (37.7% last season led the Grizz) and Rudy Gay 33.3%, but a key has been the bench. Jerryd Bayless (in Toronto last year) is shooting 44%, Wayne Ellington 38.7% and Quincey Pondexter 36.7%. LAL aren’t too far behind as a team, however, hitting 35.2%, which ranks 13th. Kobe leads the way at 41.8%. Darius Morris is at 42.9% and Chris Duhon 44.4%, with Metta World Peace at 36%.

4) Memphis is 6-0 when scoring 100 points this season. They play well at a faster pace, last season leading the league in steals and turnovers forced. The backcourt duo of Conley (2.0 ranks 7th) and Tony Allen sparks that action.

5) Zach Randolph is leading the NBA in rebounding at 13.8 per game and is second in offensive boarding (5.2) to Denver’s Kenneth Faried (5.5). He’s double-doubled every night this season, and became just the third player in league history to go for at least 15 points and 10 boards in his first nine games of the season, joining Karl Malone (1988-89), David Robinson (1994-95) and Kevin Garnett (2004-05). Meanwhile, his frontcourt partner Marc Gasol ranks 3rd in the entire NBA in assist to turnover ratio (4.60). He has 46 assists and only 10 turnovers.

Lakers – Kings Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 113-97 loss at Sacramento on Wednesday night:

Minutes played by Dwight Howard in back to back evenings, his fatigue really showing throughout the second game in the state capitol. Howard managed only seven points and nine boards, attempting four field goals and four free throws, and struggled to showcase his usual presence on D. In fairness, Howard has played only 14 games now, including the preseason, since back surgery ended his previous season, and is not yet close to being in full game shape. That will come. That he took four shots is not a team issue – he often passed the ball out immediately after post touches (helping him to four assists) and was not active rolling in the pick and roll game.

Shooting percentage for the Kings despite a 15-point first quarter in which they struggled (6 of 19), L.A. seeming to tire on defensive rotations as Sacramento ended up with a season-high 113 points (if aided by L.A. fouling in the final two minutes when the game was well out of reach).

Points in the paint for the Kings, compared to just 22 for the Lakers (+28 differential). Howard had just two buckets inside, both off set ups from his teammates, while Gasol spent little time inside and hit only 3 of his 10 attempts.Coming into the contest, Sacramento averaged 47 paint points, tied for second in the league.

Turnovers for the Lakers, who had averaged 11.3 in their last three games since Mike D’Antoni took over.

More missed free throws by the Lakers after a putrid performance on Tuesday against Brooklyn (Howard went 7 for 19, the team ending up at 51 percent thanks to late Kobe makes), but Howard was actually 3 for 4. The culprits this time were Gasol and Jordan Hill, who each went 1 for 4.

Fast break points for the Lakers, who conceded 13 to the Kings.

Lakers 97, Kings 113: Nov. 21 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening road contest against Sacramento, 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
Kings: A. Brooks, T. Evans, J. Salmons, J. Thompson, D. Cousins

6:00 L.A. started hot, taking 6-0 and 8-3 leads with rhythm shots and good D, but stalled in the next few minutes to allow the Kings an 11-10 edge. John Salmons had the first nine points after totaling only nine in the early November Kings loss at Staples Center, and Kobe Bryant picked up two early fouls for the second straight game.

0:00 The first period in Sacramento was very similar to the second half against Brooklyn, as the Lakers mitigated their poor free throw shooting (5 of 10) by keeping their opponent off the line, all the while playing solid half court D. The Kings took only two foul shots and made just 6 of 19 shots, the Lakers thus taking a 21-15 lead into the second.

10:01 L.A.’s second unit has really struggled to find a rhythm on O, and with misses or turnovers on that end, the Kings took advantage by getting good looks on the other, using a 9-0 burst to take a 24-21 lead. Marcus Thornton was doing damage, reaching seven pine points. Displeased as the run grew to 11-0, D’Antoni went back to his starters right away, Hill the only remaining sub (Duhon, Meeks, Jamison sitting). And they responded: Kobe nailed back-to-back triples immediately, Morris converted a driving layup, and Bryant capped an 11-2 push with an and-1 to put L.A. up 32-28.

2:55 Under D’Antoni in the last three games (two of which he spent in the locker room), the Lakers averaged only 11.3 turnovers per game, having come in around 17 or 18 under Mike Brown. Yet on this back to back, L.A. was playing fatigued, and had already totaled 10 turnovers with three minutes to play in the half. The Kings took advantage to stay tight, yet a corner three from Gasol and Bryant’s sixth field goal allowed a 39-38 lead. Looking especially tired was Howard, who had taken only one shot (a miss) in 17 minutes.

0:00 The turnovers continued to build, Bryant’s entry pass sailing over Howard’s head, the 12th TO of the half. On the positive side, Gasol lofted a pretty alley-oop to get Howard his first field goal. However, the Spaniard missed two free throws – L.A. hitting only 6 of 15, Gasol 1 of 4 – and then missed an open layup with 20 seconds left in the half. On the other end, Jason Thompson converted a buzzer beater to allow SAC a 42-41 lead heading into the locker rooms.

4:41 Two Bryant free throws snapped a 6-0 Kings run, but the deficit was still six at 64-58 with the Lakers continuing to show fatigue, failing to find their energy at the half. Gasol’s long night continued with just 2 of 9 field goal and 1 of 4 free throw attempts, while Howard had only four points on 2 of 3 attempts.

1:00 Black Mamba alert. Continuing to try and will the Lakers almost single-handedly, Bryant drained three consecutive three-pointers in under two minutes, trimming what had been built to an 11-point lead to only four. That gave him 31 points in 30 minutes, on 9 of 15 field goals and eight of nine free throws.

8:40 Sacramento pushed its lead to 10 at 88-78 when Marcus Thornton reached 18 points with a three-pointer, but Jodie Meeks stayed red hot by nailing his third triple, and second of the fourth, as he had all 12 of his team’s points in the period. He was rewarded by staying on the floor with the rest of the starters. However, he was called for a touch foul on the other end, and with the Kings already in the bonus, Thomas hit two free throws to make it 90-81.

3:05 After Kobe and Meeks missed respective triples, Bryant got a tough and-1 to go off a slick spin move to reach 38 points and get the Lakers back within three. But when needing stops, L.A. continued to struggle to convert on defense, this time Thornton nailing a potential dagger three to restore a seven-point lead (99-92) with 2:46 on the clock. Of note: Gasol/Howard had combined for 12 points on 4 of 12 field goals.

0:00 If that Thornton triple didn’t end it, a flagrant foul on Howard after he missed a layup did. The Kings went on to outscore the Lakers 14-5 down the stretch towards a 113-97 victory, their third straight home win over Los Angeles. This one had L.A. fall back to .500 at 6-6 on the season. The lack of production inside, fatigue setting in or not, killed the Lakers in this one against an aggressive (now) 3-8 Kings team that always seems to save its best effort for the Lakers. Up next is another back-to-back at Memphis and Dallas after Turkey Day. We’ll see you there.

Lakers – Nets Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 95-90 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in Mike D’Antoni’s first game on the sidelines:

Paint points for the Nets, an excellent job by the Lakers to keep the visitors out of the paint, keyed by Howard’s presence alongside four blocks. In the past two games, L.A. conceded 56 and 64 points to the run-and-gun Rockets and Suns, but Brooklyn had nothing going inside.

Missed free throws by the Lakers, who shot 51.4 as a team only because Kobe Bryant evened out the percentage with 6-for-6 shooting in the final minute. Due largely to Dwight Howard’s 7 for 19 struggle at the stripe, L.A. was in the 30′s for much of the night. The Nets fouled him intentionally in the fourth quarter, though he did make 2 of 4 in those situations.

Second half points for the Deron Williams-Brook Lopez combo that totaled 33 points in the first half on 12 of 19 field goals. “I thought that we battled,” Williams said. “They came out and tried to hit us early … and we responded. I had control of the game at one point, missed some shots down the stretch and they got to the free-throw line for whatever reason and won the game.”

Turnovers averaged by the Lakers in three games under D’Antoni’s new system, a surprise to some that assumed TO’s would climb with a faster tempo. But as the new coach explained: “(They) should be (down),” D’Antoni said. “We tell them to make easy plays. The first good shot we take, we don’t over pass, and we spread the floor where passes should be easy. Not turning it over should be a by-product.”

Points for the Nets in the final 5:12 of the fourth quarter. They managed only 17 in the fourth and 33 in the second half, while shooting only 32.6 percent. Mike D’Antoni was pleased with his team’s defense: “I’m really happy about getting a win obviously. Defensively they shot 31 percent in the second half. We held them to 33 points. It’s a good offensive team. The players made some adjustments … good spots. Especially a win against a team that’s hot.”

Three-pointers drilled by Metta World Peace in nine attempts, which didn’t surprise his coach, who wants him to be aggressive as defenses shift to Bryant, Howard and Gasol: “He should be wide open every time. He was 4/9 for threes. I told him he needs to make 4 of 10 every game. And he can do that. That’s 40 percent and that’s pretty good so he’ll do that. I think he’ll do that every game. He’s going to be up there with 17-20 points.”

Lakers 95, Nets 90: Nov. 20 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening contest against the Brooklyn Nets, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Morris, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Nets: D. Williams, J. Johnson, G. Wallace, K. Humphries, B. Lopez

8:15 L.A. couldn’t have started Mike D’Antoni’s first game on the sideline any better, as aggressive defense from positions 1-5 helped spark a 10-0 run capped by a corner three from Metta World Peace. It was fitting, as MWP collected two steals to spark the D. However, out of a Nets time out, L.A. turned the ball over on consecutive trips to help spark an 8-0 run from the visitors.

0:00 Kobe Bryant really wanted to deliver a victory in his the first game for his new coach on the sideline, not just being aggressive on offense (hitting his first five shots) but by staying on his teammates. When Pau Gasol didn’t roll to the hoop out of a pick and roll to Bryant’s liking, Kobe lit him up, the Spaniard nodding and going over to pat Bryant on the butt. The lead after one was 29-23, L.A. shooting 60 percent from the field, holding Brooklyn to 45 percent, though four turnovers helped the Nets stay close.

11:00 Back-to-back 3′s from the top of the key from CJ Watson allowed the Nets to tie it at 29 a minute into the 2nd. Brooklyn continued to control the play for the opening half of the second, until the second MWP tied the score at 42 when the starters returned. His 11 points at that point matched Bryant’s, while Howard’s dunk on the next trip down gave him eight.

0:00 The third World Peace three of the half allowed L.A. to go into halftime trailing by only a point, MWP’s 14 points trailing only Howard’s 15, highlighted by three dunks after he up-faked Nets defenders. Brooklyn managed to break the first quarter rhythm the Lakers developed in part due to frequent trips to the line, 16 attempts besting L.A. by five, and this a Lakers’ team that leads the NBA in free throw attempts at nearly 30 per evening.

2:28 L.A. retook the lead on a few occasions, as with Antawn Jamison’s layup off a nice drive and dish from Chris Duhon, but the Nets were just stingy enough in screen/roll coverage and hitting just enough shots on the other end to keep things tight. Jerry Stackhouse, still in the NBA, drained a jumper on the other end as an answer to his fellow Tar Heel’s hoop for the ninth lead change of the night.

0:00 Back-to-back buckets from Lakers mainstays Bryant and Gasol allowed a 76-73 lead heading into the fourth quarter, a strong defensive finish to the third keeping Brooklyn in check. Howard was huge inside, totaling 18 points and 13 boards with three swats, while Gasol and Bryant had five assists apiece.

5:15 A Kris Humphries free throw followed a Deron Williams jumper (Howard called for an off-ball push), their biggest lead of the game at 84-78. L.A. continued to kill itself at the line, hitting only around 30 percent as a team until some late Bryant makes pushed the percentage to 51.4 percent (19 of 37). Howard made only 7 of 19, accounting for the lion’s share, but did at least make 2 of 4 down the stretch when the Nets played Hack-a-Howard. That also helped the Lakers get in the bonus, of which they took advantage when Brook Lopez went over Gasol’s back at the 2:37 mark. Gasol hit 1 of 2, capping a 9-2 run that gave L.A. an 87-86 lead.

0:00 L.A. came up with the key defensive stops down the stretch to hold onto a 95-90 win, the Nets scoring only 17 points in the fourth, just six of those since the Humphries free throw in the final 5:15. And Bryant hit all six of his free throws in the final minute to seal the deal. Howard’s 23-point, 15-board, 4-block performance came despite those 12 misses at the line; Bryant totaled 25 points and five assists; Gasol’s seven dimes led the way, and he added a 17-point, 11-board double-double, while World Peace totaled 17 points and eight boards, with four of the team’s six triples.

The Lakers have little time to rest, as they fly to Sacramento tonight for the second home-road back to back of the season. We’ll see you there.

D’Antoni to Debut vs. Brooklyn

Mike D’Antoni’s introductory press conference as head coach of the Lakers came last Thursday afternoon, but on Tuesday at Staples Center, he’ll actually be on the sideline.

“I’m too psyched up, I’m too ready to go, I’ll get through this – it’s not a big deal,” he said after Tuesday’s shootaround. “I (feel) better. It’s time to do it … I don’t want to miss too many games.”

L.A. has been scoring the ball at will for two games (116.5 per game) using elements of D’Antoni’s system as he watched from the locker room, still recovering from knee replacement surgery.

D’Antoni joked that he avoided head athletic trainer Gary Vitti, whom he praised for helping him through the recovery process, saying that even if his knee was still sore it was time for him to take the court.

Morris Seizing The Moment

Second-year point guard Darius Morris gathered a loose ball on the defensive end off a Dwight Howard block, took five dribbles and threw an over-the-shoulder hook pass to the trailing big man for a dunk.

“I just tried to reward him,” Morris said post game after the Lakers 119-108 win over the Rockets.

It was one of five assists on the night for the former Michigan product, who, over the last three contests has posted a total of 12 dimes to just four turnovers.

“Credit that to the game slowing down for me,” Morris said. “Getting that experience and comfort level out there has enabled me to see different things now.”

In those three games – all starts – the 6-foot-4 point guard has filled the void in the starting lineup left by Steve Nash, who suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left leg during the team’s second game at Portland, and Steve Blake, who is recovering from an abdominal strain.

“The fact that Nash has been out, the kid has an opportunity to play,” interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. “You don’t get experience through osmosis. He’s had an opportunity to play and I think that’s terrific for him and his confidence.”

With four point guards on the current roster to begin the season, Morris never envisioned he’d have such an opportunity like this – at least not this early in the year.

“Things happen for a reason, so you always have to remain positive,” he said. “To say I could call this? No, not at all.”

Yet even in the offseason, Morris prepared himself for such a situation. Despite limited playing time a year ago (19 games), he showed up at the team’s practice facility almost daily in the offseason, working on his jump shot, while also adding 10 pounds of muscle.

“I just work hard,” he said. “That’s one thing I never stop doing.”

The results are showing, too.

Morris posted a career-high 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting (2-of-3 from the 3-point line) against Houston, besting his previous high of 10 less than two weeks ago against Golden State.

“He is playing extremely well,” Kobe Bryant said. “He is playing with a great deal of maturity on both ends of the floor.”

Though Nash is out at least another week and Blake is considered “day-to-day,” the Los Angeles native understands his role. Even when those two return, newly hired head coach Mike D’Antoni envisions the 21-year-old fitting into the rotation.

“It means a lot for a coach to believe in me,” Morris said. “I just got to keep showing him that I deserve to be out there.”

Lakers – Rockets Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 119-108 victory over Houston:

Career points scored by Pau Gasol, a mark he reached in the third quarter on Kobe Bryant’s 10th assist, to make him one of only 10 foreign born players to ever reach that number. The others: Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria), Dominique Wilkins (France), Patrick Ewing (Jamaica), Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Tim Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands), Rolando Blackman (17,623 / Panama), Steve Nash (16,658 / South Africa), Kiki Vandeweghe (15,980 / Germany) and Detlef Schrempf (15,761 / West Germany). Quite a list for the Spaniard to join. “That’s a huge accomplishment,” said Bryant, a teammate of Gasol’s for six years. “He is one of the greatest international players to ever come to our game and it’s extremely well deserved.”

Points per game average of the Lakers in their last two victories, since they began to open things up under what Mike D’Antoni will continue to install as the season progresses. “Every day, there’s a little more,” Bickerstaff said. “What’s important is it’s best to do a few things well and get it down because all of those things have options out of it. We put a few things in; let’s work on the repetition, get it down and then expand.”

Percent of games won by the Lakers under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who acknowledged the small sample size by saying he’d be allowed to pick the flavor of the popsicle to which he was entitled. Bickerstaff deferred credit to the players and coaches, humbly saying he just got out of the way, but his direct leadership did have a positive impact on the court. “When you have success, your confidence goes up and you believe in certain things,” Bickerstaff said. “That’s what has happened, and we’re still missing a big item in Steve Nash.”

Fast break points scored by the Lakers, a category in which they don’t typically do so well, sparked by 10 steals (Bryant’s three and two apiece from Darius Morris and Chris Duhon leading the way). “It’s 73-69, we had a turnover and the next thing you know, the floodgates (opened),” Rockets acting head coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Here you can’t just turn the ball over, get this crowd going and get those guys some confidence.”

Career triple-doubles for Bryant, the latest coming in the 10th game of his 17th season. Bryant was terrific in all aspects of the game on Sunday, totaling 22 points (9 of 18 field goals), 11 assists, 11 rebounds plus three steals. Bryant ran the offense for L.A. throughout his 35 minutes on the floor, most often out of the high pick and roll sets that Steve Nash will operate once he returns.

Career high point total for Darius Morris, who added five assists and drew the post game praise of Bryant, who’s been proud of what the youngster’s offered in his three starts filling in for Steve Nash and Steve Blake.

Lakers 119, Rockets 108: 11/18 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening contest against Houston, new coach Mike D’Antoni watching from the locker room while continuing to recover from knee replacement surgery, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Morris, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Rockets: J. Lin, J. Harden, C. Parsons, P. Patterson, O. Asik

7:25 Just over four minutes into the game, and the Rockets had already attempted five triples, hitting their first three to take an 11-8 lead. Look for more of the same, as Houston has almost no interior scoring between Omer Asik and Patrick Patterson, while James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons all like gettin’ ‘em up from deep.

0:00 Remember how Mike D’Antoni figured this team should average between 110-115 points per game? Well, they dropped 114 against Phoenix on Friday, starting with 35 in the first quarter. And on this night, they were even better, exploding for 40 on 17 of 23 field goals (74 percent). Kobe was very much en route to a triple-double with 11 points, seven boards and five assists, his team leading by 11.

5:00 Houston started the second quarter well with L.A.’s bench failing to get back in transition, but a Darius Morris triple kept the lead in double digits (57-47) a few moments later. It was the fourth triple for the Lakers, one more than Houston despite a 3-for-3 start (0 for 6 after).

0:00 What a start to his 17th NBA season for Bryant, who came in leading the NBA in scoring and +/-, and went for 11 points, nine assists and seven boards in 20 first half minutes to help the Lakers to a 68-60 lead. His triple-double would come quickly, while his center helped out with 18 points (8 of 10 field goals) and seven boards of his own.

6:00 So many things were going right for the Lakers as the crowd awed and ooh’d, with Bryant’s 10th assist finding Gasol for his sixth bucket, which happened to get him to 15,000 points in his terrific career. Only nine other foreign born players hit that mark: Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946 / Nigeria), Dominique Wilkins (26,668 / France), Patrick Ewing (24,815 / Jamaica), Dirk Nowitzki (24,134 / Germany), Tim Duncan (22,722 / U.S. Virgin Islands), Rolando Blackman (17,623 / Panama), Steve Nash (16,658 / South Africa), Kiki Vandeweghe (15,980 / Germany) and Detlef Schrempf (15,761 / West Germany). And, by the way, the Lakers were up 86-72 after Bryant nailed an and-1 three.

0:00 L.A. pushed its lead to as many as 16, but the Rockets kept fighting, getting it back to single digits before consecutive Gasol hoops gave the Spaniard 17 points (7 of 12 shooting). Two Jordan Hill free throws then pushed the lead back to 14, but the Lakers fell asleep on the final defensive possession to allow the second Marcus Morris corner three of the quarter, and thus led 98-87 heading into the fourth.

5:45 Bryant’s 18th career triple-double was completed with an offensive rebound, and he’d add another board on the other end to get to 20 points, 10 dimes and 11 boards. Not bad. Meanwhile, L.A. remained comfortably up by double-digits, the shooting percentage at 56 percent.

0:00 An enjoyable night at Staples Center ended with a 119-108 victory, the Lakers again cruising to a boatload of points with Mike D’Antoni’s system starting to be installed, the key on this night Kobe Bryant running high screen and roll. His triple-double led the way, while Gasol’s 15,000 career points were a highlight and Howard added 28 points, 13 boards and three blocks. The Lakers improve to 5-5 on the season, winning four of five games at home. Up next are the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. See you there.