Monthly Archive for December, 2012

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Lakers 94, Cavs 100: Dec. 11 Running Diary

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

Lakers: Duhon, Bryant, World Peace, Hill and Howard
Cavs: K. Irving, D. Gibson, A. Gee, T. Thompson, A. Varejao

12:00 We had some tweaks to the line up, once again, with Jordan Hill getting the nod and Antawn Jamison coming off the bench for the road team. Pau Gasol was to miss his fifth consecutive game, and Steve Nash his 19th, the Lakers 1-3 since the Spaniard went out. Hill’s weakside D, energy and work on the glass were cited by Mike D’Antoni as reasons to start him. And while L.A. loses some of the floor spacing created by Jamison when out there with Howard, heading back to the bench allows Jamison to continue his role of aggressively looking for his shot right away, which was harder with the starters.

5:51 It was all square at 14 after the first six minutes, but immediately following a time out, Cleveland scored five straight points (Anderson Varejao dunk, Kyrie Irving three) to put the home team up five. L.A. is always going to get everybody’s best shot, and matching early energy has been a problem all year. They were OK in this one, but were easing into the game just a bit.

0:00 L.A. was probably fortunate to be down by only six points after committing eight turnovers to Cleveland’s one in the first quarter. Irving was a menace in pick and roll situations, but Kobe’s 5 of 6 shooting helped the Lakers hang around despite the sloppy play.

8:48 Turnovers were one familiar problem for the Lakers, as were missed free throws. Howard could have tied the game, but missed both to make the visitors just 6 for 14 on the early evening. The defense had improved though – and Cleveland’s second unit had very little offensive firepower – so a Meeks jumper put the Lakers up 31-30 moments later, a 7-1 run to start the quarter.

4:01 The early-season of the struggles continued, with 10 missed free throws, 10 turnovers and a lack of offensive rhythm combining with Irving and Varejao’s strong play to put the Lakers in a 44-33 hole. Mike D’Antoni could only call a 20-second time out.

0:00 Perhaps the low point of the season so far from a body language point for the Lakers came as the half closed and Cleveland took a 54-39 lead into the locker room. The Lakers committed 13 turnovers in a disjointed offensive half (four from Bryant, three on Howard) and saw Cleveland score 17 points off the miscues, missed 10 of the 18 free throws they took and shot 42.4 percent, only 12 points coming in the paint. Heads were down as the players and coaches came off the floor.

7:25 Finding themselves down by as many as 16, L.A. scored four straight to cut the margin to 57-45. But the frontcourt starters had combined to go just 5 of 20 at that point, Jordan Hill missing all five of his shots, mostly while being left alone from the perimeter. World Peace had a put-back layup for his third field goal, but Howard was just 2 for six, plus 7 of 14 from the charity stripe.

0:00 An excellent close to the quarter, spurred by Kobe, had L.A. suddenly within only three points … yet with all that momentum built, Cleveland barely hitting a shot in the period, the Lakers allowed Irving to pull-up for a three-pointer that beat the buzzer and kept the Cavs up 68-62. Cleveland had scored only 11 points until that triple.

8:36 Kobe was still cooking, trying to will the Lakers as his 13th field goal in 21 attempts gave the league’s leading scorer 31 points, and kept Cleveland’s lead at four. But L.A. had still yet to get over the hump. Case in point: the lead was cut to two when Howard hit two free throws (10 of 18 in the game), but Irving answered with an and-1 as the shot clock expired, L.A. trying not to show its frustration.

3:44 Howard hit 1 of 2 free throws to cut the lead to four, and Irving and World Peace exchanged three pointers … but the Cavs then scored yet again on screen/roll, this time Varejao getting a dunk off Irving’s feed to make it a 91-85 deficit for L.A. with three minutes to play. L.A., 9-12 coming in, was staring four games under .500 in the face.

0:00 It just wasn’t working for the Lakers, who had cut it to five and gotten a stop before MWP’s open three rimmed out. Varejao hit a jumper on the other end with 48 seconds left, then hit two free throws after Bryant’s three made it a three-point game. The final: Cavs 100, Lakers 94. The Lakers are indeed 9-13, as hard as it might be to believe even without Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. Since Gasol went out with knee tendinitis, they’d won only once in five games, and were nine games behind the Western leaders in the loss column.

Gasol to Miss 5th Straight

Lakers power forward/center Pau Gasol will miss his fifth consecutive game on Tuesday night at Cleveland.

The Spaniard said he’s feeling better compared to where he was before missing his first game last Tuesday at Houston, but knows it would not be prudent to return too early.

His knees first became problematic in the preseason, but he sat out only one game at the time and tried to push through the pain. However, the effect on his game was obvious, as the career 50+ percent shooter was at a career-low 42 percent from the field. Coach Mike D’Antoni noted that he wasn’t “moving real good,” and was “struggling a little bit physically.”

Gasol missed only one game in both the 2008-09 and 2011-12 seasons, and played all 82 in 2010-11, in addition to playing in all 89 playoff games in purple and gold.

Antawn Jamison started all four games Gasol missed, while Jordan Hill started the second half against Utah in Sunday’s loss. The Lakers will see how Gasol feels in advance of the team’s Thursday game at New York.

L.A. is 1-3 in Gasol’s absence.

Lakers – Jazz Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 117-110 loss against Utah:

Field-goal percentage for the Jazz, who broke the game open with a 35-point second quarter that featured a bevy of fast break layups. Much of the work was done by a Utah bench featuring Enes Kanter, who made six of his eight shots in the game, Gordon Hayward (14 points, five free throws) and DeMarre Carroll, who had 10 points and six assists plus all kinds of defensive energy.

Paint points for Utah, compared to just 34 for the Lakers, a +20 differential. Kanter did all of his scoring at the rim, taking advantage of the time Dwight Howard sat and Pau Gasol watched in street clothes.

Minutes for Jordan Hill, who started the second half in place of Antawn Jamison. Hill notched 17 points, nine boards and four blocks, and was L.A.’s most energetic and active player in a game where getting such consistent effort was a problem.

Jazz points off 14 Lakers turnovers, compared to just nine Lakers points off 10 Jazz turnovers. Mike D’Antoni summarized: “They just outran us.” Seemingly every LAL mistake – and 14 isn’t a bad number for a game – was turned into points on the other end.

Three-pointers the Lakers converted out of 27 attempts. Kobe and Chris Duhon both nailed four, while Jodie Meeks had three off the bench. Duhon now leads the Lakers with a 48.6 conversion rate from deep, while Meeks is at 41.7 percent and Bryant 39.8 percent. As a team, the Lakers are now shooting 38.8 percent from downtown, good for 5th in the NBA, after ranking only 26th at 32.2 percent last season.

Assists for Chris Duhon, his second game with double digit dimes since being inserted into the starting lineup. He turned the ball over only twice in his 31 minutes, after a 10-assist, 0-turnover game at New Orleans.

Lakers 110, Jazz 117: Dec. 9 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening home contest against Utah before a four-game road trip, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Duhon, Bryant, World Peace, Jamison and Howard
Jazz: M. Williams, R. Foye, M. Williams, P. Millsap, A. Jefferson

9:19 Well, the Lakers couldn’t have started much worse. The early deficit was 8-0, with Utah making 4 of 6 field goals and LAL missing all four of their shots, alongside three turnovers. Mike D’Antoni was none too pleased at the apparent lack of urgency, but his anger may have been mitigated a tiny bit as Bryant got L.A. on the board with a three-pointer.

4:32 Sparked by some bench energy from Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks, LAL pulled to within one when Chris Duhon hit a triple. He’s been L.A.’s best three point shooter on the season, hitting about 44 percent, and followed his make by feeding Hill for a layup that made it a 19-18 L.A. lead. Speaking of the Duke product, again holding the fort down while Steve Nash and Steve Blake remain out with injuries, he’d already totaled four boards and four assists at that point.

8:40 Just a few minutes into the second quarter, Utah reserve big Enes Kanter already had four field goals, all right at the rim, against Hill and Jamison. He’d hurt the Lakers in three preseason matchups, proving that not to be a fluke, giving Utah a four-point lead in this one. Jamison and Meeks had a three-pointer each on the other end to keep things close.

3:08 If the 8-0 run to start the game was bad, the 11-0 burst in the middle of the second was brutal, Utah shooting 59 percent while building a 12-point lead. Only Duhon’s second triple momentarily stopped the bleeding, but the eighth Lakers turnover moments later (15 Jazz points off) pushed the margin right back to 12 at 55-43. The offense continued to be out of sorts, relying mostly on made or missed jump shots, and even with seven three-pointers in 13 attempts, it wasn’t near enough with all the turnovers.

0:00 You could probably sum up the first half by saying Utah simply had better energy than the Lakers, on both ends, and that resulted in a 60-51 lead at the half. Hill was the one counter example, his 13 points and five boards off the bench helping keep the home team in striking distance.

9:00 So active was Hill in that first half that D’Antoni rewarded him by starting him in the third quarter, and his fifth offensive board resulted in Bryant’s 3-pointer, capping an 8-0 (five other points from World Peace) to cut Utah’s lead to just two.

3:42 L.A. kept making shots, getting the third Bryant triple and a bank shot moments later to give him 20 points, and Howard’s dunk off a Jamison lob trimmed the lead to just one … but needing a stop, the Lakers instead gave up a Randy Foye three-pointer, then 1 of 2 free throws from Mo Williams out of a fast break to keep the lead at 83-78. That also gave the Jazz a 15-2 edge in fast break points.

10:34 L.A. were staying alive almost exclusively from the 3-point line, as Bryant and Meeks hit the 13th and 14th triples in 22 attempts, good for 64 percent … yet every time L.A. made a push, the Jazz had an answer, and it was Hayward this time with a triple to push the lead back to six, then a turnover and two Jazz free throws to follow. Instead of a 3-point game, it was a 99-91 Utah lead. D’Antoni could only shake his head from the bench.

5:06 As studio analyst Kurt Rambis summarized on Time Warner Cable SportsNet’s broadcast of the game, the Jazz had simply been playing harder, and thus led 109-98 even after a Meeks’ and-1 amidst Utah’s trees. The Jazz were shooting a red-hot 58.1 percent from the field, and had made seven more free throws, as the Lakers were staring yet another early-season home loss in the face.

1:10 Trying to make one final push, the Lakers started getting stops, then converted on the other end behind 3 of 4 Bryant free throws that suddenly cut Utah’s lead to just five with 1:10 to play. The Jazz, who were at 58 percent from the field, missed eight of nine shots. And so, when Kobe rose for a triple attempt (he’d already hit four), a make would have trimmed it to two and left L.A. not needing to foul. Instead, it rimmed out, and the Lakers for some reason let 19 seconds run off the clock before Meeks mistakenly fouled Williams with 15.4 on the game clock.

The final: 117-110, Jazz, sending the Lakers to a 9-12 record, and their sixth home loss despite a relatively easy schedule. They were a full eight games back in the loss column to the West’s best records, including SAS at 17-4 and OKC at 16-4, digging a huge hole out of which they’ll be fighting for the rest of the season. Up next is a 4-game road trip (at CLE, NYK, WAS and PHI), starting on Tuesday night. We’ll see you there.

Nash Nearing Return?

The Lakers are starting to see some light at the end of the Steve Nash Injury Tunnel, leading Mike D’Antoni to say there’s a chance his point guard returns to the court at some point during the team’s coming four-game road trip.

“I think it’s possible,” said the coach. “I wouldn’t put my reputation on it, but, it’s possible*.”
*At that night’s game against Utah, D’Antoni changed his tune a bit, saying he was mostly thinking wishfully, and that Nash would not likely play on the road trip.

Nash, who suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left leg on Oct. 31 at Portland, won’t play in Sunday’s game against Utah at Staples Center.

Nobody is more eager for the Canadian’s return than D’Antoni, who seemed to be trying not to get himself too excited, at least until his PG is actually on the floor.

Lakers – Thunder Postgame Notes

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 114-108 loss at OKC:

Combined points for Kevin Durant (36) and Russell Westbrook (33), the NBA’s top scoring duo. The Thunder totaled 114, including 41 in the second quarter, and improved to 9-1 when both score at least 20. Kobe Bryant’s 35 points paced the Lakers, including his 4 of 5 shooting from 3-point range; he added seven assists, three steals and his first two blocks of the season.

Second-half points the Lakers conceded to OKC, after giving up 67 on 54.3 percent from the floor in the first half. LA also limited the Thunder to 16 for 38 in the final two quarters (42.1 percent). In fact, the Lakers outscored the Thunder in the first and fourth quarters, and tied in the third.

Fastbreak points for OKC, who came into the contest averaging just 16. The Thunder scored 20 of those in the second quarter alone, erasing a 1-point deficit at the end of the first to take a 14-point lead into halftime, mostly at the hands of Westbrook.

Rebounds for Dwight Howard to go with his 23 points, including six on the offensive end.

Free throws made by Kevin Durant, five more than Bryant’s nine.

Number of threes hit by Russell Westbrook, a career 29.6 percent shooter from deep, in the first half alone for the Thunder. That led him to 27 of his 33 points. He didn’t score in the third quarter, missing all seven shots, but L.A. couldn’t fight out of the hole he built in a 41-26 second quarter.

Lakers 108, Thunder 114: Dec. 7 Running Diary

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

Lakers: Duhon, Bryant, World Peace, Jamison and Howard
Thunder: R. Westbrook, T. Sefolosha, K. Durant, S. Ibaka, K. Perkins

7:00 With his third field goal in the first five minutes, Antwan Jamison was off to a good start, and a corner three from Metta World Peace moments later allowed the Lakers their first lead of the game at 15-13. Jamison will be key in this one, as his outside shooting forces Serge Ibaka out of the paint more than he’d like, and thus unable to protect the rim as much as he’d like.

1:53 After a terrific second half against New Orleans when he shut down the paint, Howard was again strong early in this one, totaling eight points and 10 rebounds plus two assists, while drawing most of OKC’s five fouls (to LAL’s one). He hit 4 of his 5 free throws, to boot, the main reason the Lakers took a 27-26 lead out of the first even after Russell Westbrook got a leaning three-pointer to fall at the buzzer, his third of the quarter.

8:35 Jodie Meeks was holding it down for the second unit, hitting his second three-pointer as Kevin Martin failed to close out on him with a hand up, then duping Martin into a foul on the next trip down. He hit all three free throws to reach nine points in six minutes, and put the Lakers up 37-35.

0:00 L.A. was actually playing pretty good defense, even as Durant had early success against the second unit, but they could do nothing with Westbrook pulling up from 18+ feet and draining eight of his 11 makes from that range, including five three-pointers, for 27 points. That was certainly the main factor in OKC’s taking a 67-53 lead into halftime, despite a 12-point, 11-board double-double from Howard.

9:20 The first points of the game from Chris Duhon came on a three-pointer, Kobe’s fourth assist, after Bryant reached 17 points of his own on 5 of 10 field goals. The Duke product added another triple moments later to cut the lead to 12 points.

2:00 Even with Bryant’s ridiculous and-1 three-pointer over the NBA’s tallest player in 7-3 Hasheem Thabeet, LAL still trailed by 15, as the Thunder were getting a terrific floor game from Durant: 28 points on 9 of 14 FG’s, 8 of 8 FT’s plus six boards and four dimes.

10:35 Trying to make a final push, Bryant stayed on the floor to start the fourth, and hit two free throws before two more from Meeks to cut the lead to 11. L.A. continued to stay in the contest, looking to trim the lead to single digits and get some momentum before Howard returned.

9:42 However, the lead was right back to 15 moments later, when L.A. failed to box out Collison (working hard inside as ever) as the Kansas product tipped in Westbrook’s seventh miss of the second half (10 of 16 in the first), Martin hit two free throws and Hill blew an open layup on the other end. Two minutes later, the lead was back at 7:40, after Nick Collison drew two more offensive fouls on the Lakers, leading first to his two free throws (bonus already) and then to his dunk off Westbrook’s ninth assist.

3:29 Finally getting some stops, L.A. was getting more Kobe on the other end, his 32 points with six assists helping L.A. cut the lead to 10 when Meeks made a great play, drawing a foul after an offensive rebound through several OKC players.

0:20.7 The Lakers didn’t quit, as Jodie Meeks twice got to the hoop with impunity for layups (17 points with five boards) and Duhon hit his third triple of the second half, cutting the deficit to only five in the final minute. Two Westbrook free throws came as L.A. had to foul, giving him 32 points, two fewer than Durant’s total, but Kobe responded with a triple to cut the lead to four with 14 seconds left, giving him 35 points, but that would be all. The final: OKC 114, LAL 108.

In essence, the Thunder got fantastic individual games from both its two stars, while L.A. had two of its four stars watching in street clothes. Not a bad effort from the road team, who travel back for one home game against Utah before a five-game road trip across the east coast. We’ll see you on Sunday.

Podcast: Early Wrap Up, Look Ahead with Ding

With only 19 of the 82 games played, only 1.5 of which featured Steve Nash and nine under Mike D’Antoni, so much remains to be seen in the 2012-13 Lakers season.

But to start breaking down some of the more intriguing topics, the Orange County Register’s Lakers columnist and beat writer Kevin Ding joined us for a podcast.

We took a look at the developing relationship between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard that’s so critical for L.A.’s ultimate chances, discussed how things will be impacted when Nash returns, went over what has stood out most about D’Antoni since he arrived, discussed Pau Gasol’s tweets to my @LakersReporter account and more.

To listen, click below.

Lakers – Hornets Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 103-87 win at New Orleans:

Career points for Kobe Bryant, who became the fifth player in NBA history to break the 30,000 barrier on a lofted right-handed leaner over an outstretched Robin Lopez in the second quarter. He finished with 29 points on 10 for 17 from the floor, six boards and four dimes on the night, his first time in five games shooting at least 50 percent after he opened the season doing so in nine of the first 12 games ever.

Points the Hornets scored in the second half, including just 16 in the third quarter on a 5 for 18 clip (27.8 percent), when the Lakers erased a 1-point halftime deficit and took a 13-point lead into the fourth. “I felt like Dwight just turned into a monster out there in the second half and controlled the paint defensively,” said Bryant. Howard swatted away five shots on the night and changed many others, and his teammates did a much better job of recovering to his man and not allowing second chance points in the second half.

Assists in two starts for Chris Duhon, who notched a season high 10 versus zero turnovers against the Hornets, drawing praise from Mike D’Antoni after the game, who essentially said he loved Duhon’s floor game. Aren’t the Lakers glad Duhon was in the Howard trade now, particularly with Steve Nash and Steve Blake out? Knowing D’Antoni’s system from his days in New York is certainly big.

Three-pointers for the Lakers, out of 28 attempts (46.4 percent), with Metta World Peace, Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks all draining three from deep. Darius Morris got into the act as well despite struggling offensively in his previous several games, hitting one to close the third quarter that put the Lakers up 13 points, and another early in the fourth, allowing L.A.’s starters to rest for much of the final period.

Thirteen was also the number of consecutive points the Lakers scored to start the second half, turning a game they trailed by one at halftime on its head.

Turnovers for the Lakers, their lowest output of the season, after 18 miscues against Houston the previous night.

Other players in NBA history to record 12,000 points, 4,000 rebounds, 1,000 3-pointers and 1,500 steals, Metta World Peace becoming the sixth with a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that put him over the 12,000 point mark. Not a bad list to join: Kobe; Ray Allen; Paul Pierce; Jason Kidd and Reggie Miller.

Offensive rebounds for the Hornets in the second half, after the Lakers allowed 10 in the first half and 21 against Houston on the previous night.

Lakers 103, Hornets 87: Dec. 5 Running Diary

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

Lakers: Duhon, Bryant, World Peace, Jamison and Howard
Hornets: G. Vasquez, R. Mason, A. Aminu, R. Anderson, R. Lopez

6:15 After Dwight Howard opened the game strong offensively, with five of the game’s first seven points, the Hornets pushed an early 12-7 lead by hitting a trio of perimeter jumpers. Howard was back it moments later, however, essentially forcing Robin Lopez out of his way before throwing down a hammer dunk.

1:03 Kobe Bryant and Howard appeared to get into it a bit into a time out with L.A. trailing 23-16, Howard perhaps displeased with lack of defensive rotations that have plagued the Lakers early in the season. Out of the time out, Bryant drew a foul to get two free throws, giving him six points, just seven away from 30,000 in his career. Much more on that on, folks. Bryant added a breakaway hammer dunk to cut the Hornets lead to three after one.

6:00 Lacking Howard, Bryant, or the injured Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, L.A.’s second unit turned to Metta World Peace and Antawn Jamison, who hit back-to-back triples to cut the Hornets’ lead to one. Bryant and Howard checked in moments later, the deficit back to four after a Lance Thomas and-1. The Lakers weren’t playing with much confidence on O, but a driving one-handed dunk from Bryant may have been a swagger boost … just three away from 30K after that one.

1:16 Kobe Bryant has scored 30,000 points in the NBA. The basket that got him there came on a drive, as he laid it home with his right hand over Robin Lopez. What an amazing accomplishment, one that only four other players in the history of the NBA have matched (four of the five wore Lakers purple and gold at one point). Meanwhile, N.O. led by as many as eight points, but late free throws from Bryant got him to 17 points (30,004) and the Lakers within one at the break.

6:52 The first Hornets bucket of the half came five minutes in. Related: L.A. went on a 13-0 run.

3:00 L.A. was terrific out of the halftime gate, and Howard was at the center of everything. His fifth block had the Hornets managing only 3 of 13 field goals in the period, and he even hit both free throws the first time Monty Williams became the third straight coach to intentionally foul him. With 18 and 8, he had the Lakers up 72-62 late in the period before getting a rest. Also key: with Howard contesting seemingly every shot, his teammates have to make sure to focus and recover to his man, which has been a problem early in the season. But they seemed to figure it out to a degree at least in the third, and N.O. was not only missing its initial shots with Howard in their face, but not getting the second chance opportunities they’d created with 10 offensive boards in the first half. Editor’s note: They’d finish with only two offensive boards in the second half.

0:00 A corner three from Darius Morris, who’d been struggling of late on offense despite strong play on D, allowed L.A. a 77-64 lead heading into the fourth. They outpaced New Orleans 30-16 in the quarter, and were helped by four assists from Bryant, who had none at the half.

8:59 Morris kept it up, draining another triple on a pull-up in transition to suddenly push the lead to 19 points early in the fourth. Meeks added his 3rd triple of the evening, and the Lakers were in complete control.

4:26 The bench played well enough to allow Bryant and Howard to rest for most of the fourth, though D’Antoni did put them back in briefly just to secure the decision. Bryant promptly hit two straight shots, including a three, with fresh legs to finish with 29 points on the evening he hit 30,000. Adding a milestone of his own was World Peace, who with a late three became just the sixth player in NBA history to reach 12,000+ points, 4,000+ rebounds, 1,500 steals and 1,000 three-pointers (Reggie Miller, Kobe, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce).

0:00 The final score of 103-87 was punctuated by a 56-39 margin in the second half, one dominated by Howard on D and good ball movement and three-point shooting on O. L.A. rebounded from a tough loss at Houston, in a game they led nearly throughout, to get their second road win of the season and improve to 9-10 in advance of a tough Friday night game at Oklahoma City. We’ll see you there.