Monthly Archive for December, 2012

Page 5 of 6

MWP Joins Rare Group

With a 3-point basket at the 2:34 mark in the fourth quarter at New Orleans, Metta World Peace became the sixth player in NBA history to record 12,000+ points, 4,000+ rebounds, 1,000 3-point field goals made and 1,500 steals. Teammate Kobe Bryant is on that list, along with Reggie Miller, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce.

During the Lakers home game against Orlando on Sunday, World Peace nailed his 1,000 career triple, becoming the 68th player to reach that milestone, and at Houston, he grabbed his 4,000th career board. The St. John’s product came into the New Orleans contest at 28th all-time in career steals, and fifth among active players, with 1,572.

Lakers – Rockets Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 107-105 loss to the Rockets:

Fourth quarter points scored by the Rockets (34) and and Magic (40) in the past two losses. Mike D’Antoni blamed defensive breakdowns on weakside rotations after Dwight Howard rightly tried to stop the ball, while the increased points are also due in part to increased possessions with the Hack-a-Howard strategy that both opponents utilized.

Houston bench points, led by 22 from Toney Douglas – who played in crunch time over Jeremy Lin – and perhaps more importantly an unexpected career-high 21 from Greg Smith … not to mention Carlos Delfino’s 15. Douglas hit a corner three to give the Rockets their first lead, which didn’t come until 2:38 remained, while Smith scored eight points in the final 3:19 minutes.

In a stat that really plagued the Lakers, the number of offensive rebounds for Houston, nearly half of their 50 total boards on the night. That led to 29 second-chance points for the home team, and hurt the Lakers especially in the fourth quarter, even in the final minute, when James Harden snuck along the baseline to grab a Douglas miss to earn Greg Smith two free throws (both makes) at the 15.7 mark to put Houston up four.

Turnovers for the Lakers, who lead the NBA in that category, posting nearly 17 per game. Mike D’Antoni said turnovers were certainly a problem on this occasion, primarily because many were unforced. It’s something that’s hurt the Lakers, as they continue to tinker with line ups through injuries and new players.

Points for Antawn Jamison in his first start as a Laker, replacing Pau Gasol, who sat with knee tendinitis. Jamison added nine rebounds and hit three triples with three blocks, but much of his production came in the first half.

More points Kobe Bryant needs to reach 30,000 for his career, thanks to 39 against the Rockets on 14 of 31 shooting. He will join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to reach that illustrious mark.

Win in the eight games Bryant has scored at least 30 points this season. They’re 7-3 when he doesn’t hit that mark, and 5-1 when he posts at least six assists. One conclusion to be drawn is that the Lakers absolutely need him to be a playmaker while top two point guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake continue to be out with injuries, but that it’s Bryant’s instinct to score. He shouldn’t be blamed for that, as it’s what’s made him who he is, but it does appear to be the case that the current healthy roster needs him to facilitate.

D’Antoni Postgame Quotes & a Note

In the postgame presser after L.A.’s narrow loss to Houston — in which they led by double digits until early in the fourth quarter — Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni addressed the issues of late defensive breakdowns, explained why he won’t sit Dwight Howard when opponents intentionally foul him late and more.

We’ll get to that in a moment, but first a thought after speaking with several players in the postgame locker room: the collective feeling is that the primary issue, the No. 1 thing that’s made winning games more difficult for a talented roster, is that the players haven’t played together enough to develop full trust. That has reared its ugly head on both ends of the floor, especially late in games.

Think about the crunch time five on the floor to close against Houston: Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace from last season’s roster … then newcomers Dwight Howard and Chris Duhon from Orlando, and Antawn Jamison from Cleveland. The kind of trust needed for defensive rotations and ball movement has yet to be developed. Early this season, Bryant had been running late screen/rolls to positive results with Pau Gasol, but he was out with knee tendinitis, so Kobe ended up primarily trying to do things himself in the final moments, resulting in one missed pull-up J, a made three and a missed three. And he was among the wings/guards missing rotations when Howard came over to help.

Meanwhile, perhaps the best guy in the NBA at fostering such an environment of trust on the floor for his teammates, Steve Nash, has been watching in street clothes.

That’s the reason why the locker room remain optimistic, if frustrated, moving forward. It’s not to excuse a loss that the Lakers feel definitely “should” have been a win without late breakdowns, but it is a palatable explanation. It’s not like the Rockets have been together long – again a reason not to excuse the loss – but teams like OKC, San Antonio and Memphis certainly have. Nonetheless, once that trust has been built and developed, L.A. thinks it will be just fine. D’Antoni offered more thoughts on the topic amidst his postgame Q&A session, so let’s get to that:

Q: On late defensive breakdowns, and why he’s optimistic things will ultimately be different:
D’Antoni: Weird stuff was happening, and we didn’t tighten up our defense to where we had guys that didn’t switch, should have switched, didn’t do this, didn’t do that, and you lose. (We had) way too many turnovers and unforced errors, but we have some stuff to do. We’re close. I really believe we’re closer than most people would say, but we have some tightening up to do and we’ll see if we can get it done in New Orleans.

Q: On whether why he didn’t and won’t sit Howard, who hit 5 of the 10 free throws he was awarded when Houston intentionally fouled him every trip up the floor starting at the 3:18 mark and lasting through 2:09.
D’Antoni: You don’t do that to a guy, and he made his foul shots. He’s not the reason that our defense breaks down, he’s not the reason that stuff happens. He’s gotta work through this. You take him out now, and what are you going to do, take him out all the time? You have a player that’s going to be your franchise player and you don’t do that to him. It’s not him that’s causing the problem. It’s not a good thing, a knee-jerk kind of reaction … he’s fine. That’s not a problem. He made the last 4 out 6, and you have to go up and knock them down, and he will. We shouldn’t even be talking about that, because it shouldn’t come down to that. We shouldn’t have had 19 turnovers, and we shouldn’t lose our guys on a switch or on the perimeter. That’s not him; he’s doing a hell of a job, and he will continue to do that, and we’ll work through this.

Q: On Kobe Bryant’s game (39 points on 14 of 31 FG’s, 9 of 12 FT’s, with two assists and three turnovers):
D’Antoni: Up and down. We’re a team, and defensively we had some breakdowns that were not good, we had forced shots and turnovers – not good.

Q: On if L.A. can become a good road team:
D’Antoni: Oh yeah. First of all we have to be a good home team, and we’re not there either. It doesn’t matter where we’re playing the game right now. We’re doing things that are going to get us there. I’m very confident we’re going to have some breakout games, the ball will move and we’ll do a better job.

Q: On the last four minutes:
D’Antoni: It was a little bit like against Orlando, we had some breakdowns defensively, and we can’t do that. We took some plays off, and it’s a little bit of, ‘Oh our record is what it is and we can’t make a mistake,’ so we have to get over the hump, get some wins under our belt and things will go a lot smoother. I feel that we’re getting closer and are going to be really good. A lot of this stuff is going to go away pretty soon and we’ll get some wins.

Q: On Chris Duhon’s floor game in his first start:
D’Antoni: I thought he was great, I thought he played well. We need that. He’ll even do better as it goes on, get his legs and everything. But like I said, we’re close. We just need to get some wins, get settled, make sure we don’t blame the right things.

Lakers 105, Rockets 107: Dec. 4 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening contest against Houston 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
Rockets: J. Lin, J. Harden, C. Parsons, P. Patterson, O. Asik
*Two Lakers were making their first starts, with Chris Duhon replacing Darius Morris and Antawn Jamison in for Pau Gasol, who would be out at least this game and the next

8:09 Antawn Jamison had five of his team’s early 10 points in a 10-2 edge, with the Rockets managing just 1 of 7 field goals against an active Lakers D. Mike D’Antoni always wants to play fast, and he had his guys out running in this one.

3:20 After making just one of his first four, Kobe Bryant hit four of his next five shots to lead all scorers with 12, allowing L.A. to double Houston’s 13 points. Mike D’Antoni continued to tweak the rotation, putting Earl Clark in at the four for Jamison, likely saving Jordan Hill to play backup 5 for Howard.

8:36 The Lakers held onto a 36-30 lead despite using a second unit (Morris-Meeks-MWP-Jamison-Hill) that had yet to play with one another this season. World Peace hit two tough jumpers to held the Lakers withstand an opponent starting to get hot from three, draining consecutive triples after making only 2 of 10 in the first quarter. Meanwhile, MWP grabbed a board to reach 4,000 for his career, just a game after hitting his 1,000th three. And if he scores 18 points, he’ll become just the sixth player in NBA history to total 12,000+ points, 4,000+ rebounds, 1,500+ steals and 1,000+ threes in a career. The others: Reggie Miller, Kobe, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce.

3:25 The bench continued to play very well, pushing L.A.’s lead to 13 while Bryant got extra rest, then saw Kobe immediately score five straight upon checking in to make it 51-35. That gave him 17 points, in a game he needed 52 to reach 30,000 for his career. At the break, L.A. held a 58-45 edge, the Rockets managing to shoot only 32 percent from the field, only staying close thanks to 15 offensive boards towards 14 second chance points.

5:54 Pulling up for a deep, deep triple as the shot clock ran down was World Peace – his third tough shot from 20+ feet out in the game – to push L.A.’s lead back to 14 at 73-59, when they had seen the Rockets cut the lead to as few as seven moments earlier. Houston was getting some real poor shooting from its young star, James Harden, who was only 2 for 13.

3:52 But less than two minutes later, the Rockets cut the lead back to seven with a quick 7-0 run, capped by back-to-back transition layups from Chandler Parsons. Mike D’Antoni certainly wasn’t pleased with the second, since it came after Bryant was whacked in the eye/nose – staying on the floor holding his face – but no call was made. The run was snapped moments later when Jodie Meeks hit two free throws, Houston having already been in the bonus, and Kobe followed with an and-1 to push it right back to a 12-point game at 80-68.

0:00 A baseline fadeaway J went through for Kobe near the buzzer, allowing a 10-point lead after three despite Houston’s outplaying L.A. in the period, trimming the lead from 15 to 83-73. The test for L.A. in this one would be how a second unit sans Bryant and Howard, with Nash/Gasol watching in street clothes, create shots. Duhon was out there to facilitate, at least, as he’d done well throughout the game, with Morris on the pine. Meeks, MWP, Jamison and Hill joined him.

10:00 Hitting a pair of tough shots were Hill and then Meeks, and Duhon then got Hill an and-1 at the rim, the lead getting back to 13 for a moment. That’s precisely what the Lakers needed out of that unit, with Houston pushing hard to try and get back into it before the starters returned. Duhon was really playing well, organizing the second group and creating shots, and was a team-high +20 on the evening.

6:06 The second unit had the lead at 92-81 after Hill’s dunk, his nine boards in 14 minutes also standing out, but they quickly gave up a 7-0 run that had the lead down to just four. The good news for the Lakers was that Howard and Kobe were able to rest until the 6-minute mark, which should afford them fresh legs down the stretch.

2:00 For a good two minute stretch, the Rockets did nothing but hack Howard away from the ball. He missed the first two, split the next six, then hit two straight for a total of 5 of 10. The Lakers, however, couldn’t find a way to get stops when they needed them, with Houston repeatedly getting to the foul line themselves, and finding offense from a player most Lakers fans haven’t heard of in Greg Smith, whose two free throws with 15.7 seconds left suddenly had Houston with a 4-point lead, when they hadn’t led all game until the 2:38 mark on a Toney Douglas three. Bryant drained an immediate three on the other end, and Douglas missed his first free throw of the season to leave the deficit at only two.

With 3.9 seconds left, another Bryant three rimmed out, but World Peace grabbed the board. He had a lane to the rim, but instead faded away, missing badly, and Jamison’s attempt at a tip was deflected. After leading by eight after the first, 15 at the half and 10 after three quarters, the Lakers lost the game, falling to 8-10 on the season. Up next is a back-to-back with New Orleans, after what will surely be a frustrating flight for the Lakers players and coaches. We’ll see you there.

Gasol Out with Knee Tendinitis

Pau Gasol, who’s been hampered by tendinitis in both knees this season, will miss the team’s Tuesday night contest at Houston.

The Lakers play on Wednesday night at New Orleans and Friday at Oklahoma City on the current 3-game road trip; Gasol is listed as “day-to-day,” so his status for those games has yet to be determined.

Since joining the Lakers in 2008, Gasol has almost always been on the court. He missed only one game in both the 2008-09 and 2011-12 seasons, and played all 82 in 2010-11. Hamstring strains kept him out of 16 games in the 2009-10 season, meaning he started in all but 17 contests in his first four full seasons in purple and gold.

Furthermore, Gasol never missed a playoff game, starting in a total of 89 since the 2007-08 season. And after the 2009-10 (23 playoff games) and 2011-12 campaigns (12), Gasol was the focal point of his Spanish National teams first in the 2010 World Championships and this past summer the 2012 Olympics.

His knees began to bother him in training camp, when he sat out only one game for rest, and have gotten to the point where the Lakers thought it best to give him some rest. Gasol did not play in the final moments of L.A.’s Sunday loss to Orlando primarily because he was not moving well.

“Pau is struggling a little bit physically,” said coach Mike D’Antoni after the game. “His knees are bothering him and I just didn’t see him moving real good. Again, a lot of our offense is spreading the floor and I like Antawn (Jamison) where he is. But I’m not going to go away from Pau. He’ll get better physically, and as soon as he gets over this and that, he’ll be better.”

Averaging a career-low 12.6 points, the most telling statistic was Gasol’s 42 percent shooting, unheard of for a guy who’s never been below 50 percent in his 12-year career. His ability to get up and down the floor was clearly affected, as was his lack of explosion around the rim that saw shots he always hit clank off the front rim. In short, he was not himself on the court, regardless of the system of offense being run.

Jamison is expected to start in Gasol’s place, with Jordan Hill likely coming off the bench. Earl Clark could also see some reserve minutes, depending on the flow of the game.

Meanwhile, Chris Duhon will replace Darius Morris in the starting line up at the point guard slot, potentially taking away some of the ballhandling demands that have been put on Kobe Bryant in the absence of Steve Nash and Steve Blake.

Kobe Bryant Takes Questions

We put together Kobe Bryant’s quotes from last night’s locker room session and Monday’s practice session, with some editorial notes in select places:

Q: On if he feels for Dwight Howard’s free-throw struggles:
Kobe: He should look at it as an opportunity because once he conquers the ability to make free throws, the sky is the absolute limit for him. So he should really approach it as an opportunity.

Q: On pushing Howard for more:
Kobe: Honestly, there’s really not much for him to do. The thing about his intensity is, if he’s upset, it affects the team. So everybody’s mood changes and everybody becomes a little bit more serious. Truthfully, his biggest thing is conquering the free throws a little bit. If he makes those free throws, the guy would be averaging 30 points a night. That’s the thing people try to attack with him, and once he gets that down, there’s going to be no stopping him.

Q: On if it’s better for Dwight to be angry during games:
Kobe: It’s really not for him. He can play loose and do the things that he does. It’s just at certain times, it impacts some of the other guys. When you see him a little feisty and a little chippy, all the guys kind of get a little feisty. His biggest thing is mastering the free-throw line. He does that, there’s no stopping him.

Q: On the level of concern regarding the team’s lack of consistent play:
Kobe: The pressure is on me and Dwight (Howard) to really perform well. We’ll pick up for everybody’s else’s mistakes – whatever that may be – and he and I have to perform at a really, really high level night in and night out.

Q: On where he feels the team is at right now:
Kobe: We’re up and down. Some games we come out and we shoot the ball extremely, extremely well. On those nights, obviously the game is a lot easier for myself, it’s easier for Dwight (Howard), it’s easier for everybody because the floor can stay spaced because everybody is knocking down shots. Then there are nights where we don’t hit and it becomes a little harder, but like I said, we just have to make the easy ones.

Q: On how he feels emotionally:
Kobe: It’s frustrating, but at the same time, it’s an opportunity. Pau (Gasol) has to make some adjustments, obviously, to his game. He might not be posting up as much as he’d like. But he just has to adjust. The reality is I’ve adjusted. I’ve never run this many screen and rolls in my entire life, but I’ve worked on it. I’ve worked on handling the ball, worked on coming off the screens and making plays. I’m used to being in the post much, much more, but you have to adjust. You have to master what it is that we’re trying to do here. Pau is talented enough and good enough to be able to do that.
Editor’s Note: This is maybe the 1,000th time in the past few seasons that Bryant has made a comment about holding either himself or his teammates accountable to making adjustments or changing their games or improving effort, etc. It’s necessary from his leadership position. He wasn’t calling Gasol out, simply sharing his opinion. Bryant is also aware that the tendinitis in Gasol’s knees has become an issue that has limited the Spaniard’s explosiveness and ability to move with the type of quickness he has at full health. That doesn’t excuse adjustments or simply playing better, but is an explanation for his career low field goal percentage. But 42 percent for a guy that has never shot below 50 percent does suggest such an injury affecting his performance.

Q: On keeping players connected when playing time is limited:
Kobe: Put your big boy pants on*. Come on, just adjust, just adjust. You can’t whine about it, you can’t complain about it. Like I said, I’m 34 years old and I’m running screen and rolls out there because Steve (Nash) is out my ass is running up and down the court more than I ever have my entire career. But you have to adjust to it. I stay after practice, I work on my ball handling, work on my screen and rolls and stuff like that. When you have the talent to adjust to it, you have to adjust to it.
*Again, this is a phrase Kobe has said over and over again about many of his teammates. He wasn’t specifically singling out anybody.

Q: On Mike D’Antoni saying he doesn’t want to “lose” players like Jordan Hill who aren’t getting minutes, or Gasol who’s minutes were cut in the fourth quarter in part because of his lack of athletic movement on the court (i.e. tendinitis):
Kobe: We’re not going to lose (Gasol). That’s just not going to happen. I’ve been around him long enough. I know how to deal with him.

Q: On evaluating his patience level when the offense isn’t running well:
Kobe: To me, it’s night to night. I really just read the defense in front of me and take the shots that are available. I really don’t have to force anything. If I have mid-range jump shots, I take them. If they come off me, I make the pass. It’s pretty simple for me.

Q: On the level of concern about adjustments not occurring quickly as he’d like:
Kobe: They’re not happening fast, but they have to happen. Come hell or high water, it has to happen. There’s always a level of concern, but it has to happen. There are no excuses to be mad, there’s no whining or putting your head down. We persevere, we have the talent to make the adjustments and we have to make them.

Q: On if he’s taking it upon himself to get that message across to everybody:
Kobe: Yeah, I’ll kick everybody’s ass in this locker room if that doesn’t happen*. That’s just the attitude you have to have. Metta (World Peace) is the same way. Dwight (Howard) has that in him as well. He smiles a lot, but he still cares a lot about this thing. Like I said, come hell or high water, this has to get done.
Getting Steve Nash back certainly won’t hurt.

Q: On nearing 30,000 points:
Kobe: That’s a lot of points, that’s a lot of points. I’ve just been very fortunate to play for a very long time and be relatively healthy for the majority of my career. I’m proud of being able to play 17 years and still be able to perform. Just been very fortunate.

Q: On if he thinks the team is overcomplicating things at times:
Kobe: You just got to show up and do your job. It’s not rocket science. We’re not solving world hunger. Just got to go out there and do your job. It’s as simple as that.

Q: On the team being without Steve Blake:
Kobe: It’s a big concern for me. Steve and I always played extremely well together. He’s a clutch shooter and he’s a tough competitor. That’s one of the things I like about him. He’s going to be missed a lot. I’m not sure how long he’s going to be out, but I’m assuming it’s going to be awhile. Hopefully he’ll keep his head in it and be ready to go.

Q: On reaching 30,000 points and being in that type of company:
Kobe: It’s a huge honor, to say the least. Whenever you hear those kinds of names, you think about the amount of players that have played this game, and then to be in that kind of company, it’s always extremely, extremely special.

Q: On if he ever thought about reaching 30,000 points when he was younger:
Kobe: When I was a kid, the only thing I looked at was the ring count because that was the thing that was most important. I knew how many Magic (Johnson) had, I knew how many Larry (Bird) had, I knew how many Doc (Julius Erving) had. Those are the things I looked at the most – teams that won, teams were successful. I never really knew this person had this many thousand points, this person had this many thousand points. To be honest with you, I was always pretty bad at math and something I wasn’t excited to look at.

Q: On four of the five top scorers in the NBA playing for the Lakers:
Kobe: How unbelievable is that. That’s incredible.

Q: On how proud he is of knowing that:
Kobe: Beyond. This is franchise that, like I said in the past, guys whose jerseys hang in the rafters are some of the all time greats, not just greats for the franchise. I don’t know if there’s any organization that can say that.

Q: On keeping his composure during this time as a leader of the team:
Kobe: Yeah, it’s a balance, it’s a balance. You have to be able to find that and understand the personality of this team. It’s a figuring out process. Obviously everybody here is brand new. They’re brand new to playing with me. I’m brand new to playing with them. You just kind of have to figure out that balance.

Q: On if he thinks everything will be fine when Steve Nash returns:
Kobe: I think the flow will open up a little bit more. He’ll be able to direct guys and keep us spaced. That’s really the big thing. Steve (Nash) has been conducting this offense for awhile and when he gets out on the floor, he’ll be able to make sure guys are in the right places.

Q: On if it’s good for the team to go on the road and figure themselves out:
Kobe: It can be. Turnovers have killed us and free throws have killed us. You just got to cut that stuff out.

Q: On free-throw shooting advice:
Kobe: It’s just repetition, it’s just repetition. It’s muscle memory. That’s how you get to the point where you don’t think about things. You just overload your system. We come out here at practice, shoot a ton of them and then in he game, you don’t think about it because it’s muscle memory at that point.

Lakers – Magic Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 113-103 home loss at the hands of Orlando on Sunday evening:

Career 3-pointers hit by Metta World Peace. He became the 68th player in NBA history to reach the mark by hitting two third quarter three-pointers, adding another before the period had ended. He joins teammates Kobe Bryant (1,537) and Steve Nash (1,621) on that shooter’s list.

Points per game averaged by the Magic (28th in the NBA) coming into a game in which they managed 40 in the fourth quarter alone towards 113. The visitors – who approached the contest like a playoff game, particularly some of the veterans playing against Dwight Howard for the first time since he was traded – shot 54.8 percent against L.A. in the second half.

Pau Gasol’s shooting percentage through 17 games, for a career 51.9 percent shooter who’s never been below 50 percent in his career. The Spaniard has been battling knee tendinitis, and is also taking more long two-pointers and fewer shots at the rim than ever before. Bryant explained that his teammate simply needs to find a way to adjust:

Pau has to make some adjustments, obviously, to his game. He might not be posting up as much as he’d like. But he just has to adjust. The reality is I’ve adjusted. I’ve never run this many screen and rolls in my entire life, but I’ve worked on it. I’ve worked on handling the ball, worked on coming off the screens and making plays. I’m used to being in the post much, much more, but you have to adjust. You have to master what it is that we’re trying to do here. Pau is talented enough and good enough to be able to do that … Put your big boy pants on. Come on, just adjust, just adjust. You can’t whine about it, you can’t complain about it. Like I said, I’m 34 years old and I’m running screen and rolls out there because Steve (Nash) is out my ass is running up and down the court more than I ever have my entire career. But you have to adjust to it. I stay after practice, I work on my ballhandling, work on my screen and rolls and stuff like that. When you have the talent to adjust to it, you have to adjust to it.

Those comments should not be construed as Bryant calling out Gasol. Rather, he was asked what Gasol can do to be more productive, and he offered his opinion. Gasol did play well in the first half specifically, but seemed to struggle getting up and down the court and off the ground, suggesting his knees are bothering him at least to a degree.

Free throws attempted by Dwight Howard, as Magic coach Jacque Vaughn – the NBA’s youngest at 37 – opted for the Hack-a-Howard strategy late in the third quarter. Howard made only 9 of 21 from the charity stripe, bringing his season average down to 46.5 percent, a career low.

Assists for Jameer Nelson, who ate the Lakers up in the screen/roll game all evening, often feeding Arron Afflalo, who scored 30 points on 12 of 18 shooting and hit 4 of 8 three-pointers. L.A. struggled with Nelson in the pick and roll, with Howard mentioning a lack of helping the helper throughout the evening.

Turnovers for a Lakers’ team that came in leading the NBA in that category at 17.1 per game, one of the few bright spots on the evening.

Assists in the final three quarters for Kobe Bryant after he managed three in the first quarter alone. He began to look for his shot more and more out of screen/roll action as the game continued, ultimately taking 27 shots, making 12. He scored a game-high 34 points to keep his league lead in scoring, but after the game relayed the at times difficult adjustment he’s had to make handling the ball so much in the absence of L.A.’s top two point guards. After the game, he discussed the simple importance of teammates hitting open shots:

“We’re up and down,” he explained. “Some games we come out and we shoot the ball extremely, extremely well. On those nights, obviously the game is a lot easier for myself, it’s easier for Dwight (Howard), it’s easier for everybody because the floor can stay spaced because everybody is knocking down shots. Then there are nights where we don’t hit and it becomes a little harder, but like I said, we just have to make the easy ones.”

Lakers 103, Magic 113: Dec. 2 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening contest against Dwight Howard’s old team 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
Magic: J. Nelson, A. Afflalo, M. Harkless, G. Davis, N. Vucevic

3:19 In L.A.’s blowout Friday win over Denver, Antawn Jamison was fantastic with 33 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. He was back at it early in this one, draining his first three-pointer (he was 5 of 10 vs. the Nuggets) to put L.A. up 18-17 early. The team’s energy wasn’t terrific, Orlando at times the more aggressive team, which isn’t a huge shock considering their interest in going at former teammate Dwight Howard (at least the guys who were on the Magic roster last season).

0:00 Back-to-back hoops near the rim from Kobe Bryant and Jamison produced a 27-23 lead for the home team, as five players had at least four points, led by six from Pau Gasol. Howard controlled the backboards, grabbing seven boards, while Bryant’s three assists showed his increased role as a playmaker in the absence of Steve Nash and Steve Blake.

6:36 With two Kobe free throws, the Lakers pushed their lead to nine at 42-33. Leading the way on offense was Gasol, who spent most of his time orchestrating the second unit offense from the low block, reaching 11 points with five rebounds and a pretty assist to Jamison in the process.

0:00 The Lakers buried 17 triples against Denver to match a franchise record for a regular season game, but on this night, they’d taken only seven and hit just two. Meanwhile, the defense relaxed far too much for Mike D’Antoni’s liking, allowing Orlando to tie the score at 52 with a buzzer-beating triple from Arron Afflalo. Kobe had 17 in the half, plus three assists and five boards, but the general letdown especially on D is the kind of thing that’s haunted the Lakers in games they shouldn’t lose … stay tuned.

6:29 A piece of history for you, folks: Metta World Peace drained his 999th and 1,000th three-point shot, becoming one of only 68 players to do so in NBA history. Joining him are teammates Kobe Bryant (1,537) & Steve Nash (1,621). However, L.A. found itself tied with the Magic at 64, despite the inferior talent, as the starters struggled to find rhythm.

1:22 Yet another MWP triple in the third got L.A. sparked, and a pretty Bryant alley-oop to a spinning-off-his-man Howard preceded Kobe’s technical free throw* to cap a quick run that put the Lakers up 76-69. The quarter would close with the home team up 77-73.
*Called on former Laker Josh McRoberts – incidentally one of my personal favorite dudes in the league – for elbowing Howard in the back.

6:13 After the second unit went on a 7-0 run to open a 6-point lead, the bottom dropped out once again, Orlando reeling off a 9-0 run of its own to reclaim the lead at 86-84 into a time out after a Nikola Vucevic (USC’s own) and-1 dunk through traffic. That trouble brewing at halftime was now extremely evident.

3:20 After Howard missed two free throws the third time Magic coach Jacque Vaughn opted for the Hack-a-Howard strategy, Jameer Nelson drained back-to-back three-pointers, adding on to the triple JJ Redick hit on the previous possession to suddenly put the Lakers in a 12-point hole. They played with fire by allowing Orlando to set the tone early, not taking advantage of several opportunities to build leads, and were facing a ninth loss directly in the face.

0:00 Orlando ended up with an unacceptable 40 fourth quarter points, enough to bury the Lakers 113-103, sending the home team below .500 at 8-9 on the season, including five home losses. Kobe managed 34 points, 10 coming late in the fourth, Howard a 21-point, 15-rebound double-double, but he made only 9 of 21 free throws and didn’t dominate on defense (Nikola Vucevic went for 17 points and 12 boards). It certainly won’t be a happy group of Lakers on the plane ride to Houston (then New Orleans, OKC to follow) tomorrow. We’ll see you there.

1,000 Career 3-Pointers For MWP

With a 3-pointer at the 6:28 mark in the third quarter, Metta World Peace notched 1,000 triples for his career, becoming the 68th player in NBA history to accomplish the feat. He joins teammates Kobe Bryant (1,537) and Steve Nash (1,621) on that list.

Entering tonight’s game, World Peace had converted on 37.4 percent from deep for the season. In six games since Mike D’Antoni started coaching, the St. John’s product had nailed 19 for 39 (48.7 percent).

Lakers Bench Finding Rhythm

At his introductory press conference, Mike D’Antoni was asked how he could maximize the bench.

One of the Lakers’ offseason signings, 14-year veteran Antawn Jamison, was expected to largely bolster the second unit. However, while only seeing 16.5 minutes of court time, he had averaged just 4.3 points and 3.6 boards, while shooting 37.5 percent from the floor in the team’s first 10 games.

“It was difficult,” Jamison said of trying to find his role with the team in the beginning of the year. “I knew what I was dealing with when I was getting in. We all were trying to figure out the scenario that we could help out the team as much as possible.”

Fellow offseason acquisition Jodie Meeks was in a similar predicament. The former Kentucky product saw the court sporadically, sitting out two contests, while receiving five minutes or fewer in two others.

Signed primarily to space the floor and help a team that ranked 25th out of 30 teams in 3-point percentage a year ago, the career 37 percent 3-point shooter had converted on just 5 for 20 from deep.

Despite the second unit’s struggles in the early part of the season, D’Antoni maintained the bench would be fine.

Now, the results are showing.

In the team’s 122-103 win against Denver, Jamison scored a team-high 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting (5 for 10 from deep), to go along with 12 rebounds, and Meeks tied a personal record with seven 3-pointers. The two became the first pair of Laker teammates to score more than 20 points in over a decade since Kobe Bryant and Nick Van Exel had 25 and 20, respectively, against Utah in 1998.

Under coach Mike D’Antoni, both his subs’ numbers have gone up, especially for Meeks, who had his coach’s vote of confidence since Day 1.

“I told him the only time he needs to shoot is when he touches the ball,” D’Antoni said of Meeks during his introductory press conference. “That’s what he does. He’s not in the league because he can drive and dish – that’s not him.”

And that’s exactly what the fifth-year guard has done since the 61-year-old coach started roaming the sidelines. He’s averaged nearly nine points, while shooting almost 52 percent from the 3-point line (15 for 29), and 50 percent overall from the field (18 for 36) in six contests.

“(I’m) getting consistent minutes and I’m playing with more confidence,” Meeks said. “Coach D’Antoni gives not only myself but the whole team confidence to just shoot when you’re open.”

For Jamison, his numbers are up, too – to 12 points and six boards per game, while shooting at a 55 percent clip from the floor (29 for 53).

“D’Antoni’s done a great job of giving me confidence to go out there, compete and giving me some minutes to make something happen,” he said.

Along with Meeks, Jamison’s playing time in the last four contests – 27, 30, 23 and 33 – have coincided with three of his highest-scoring games of the season, including his performance against Denver and a 19-point, 15-rebound outing at Dallas.

“They’re guys that can spread the floor,” D’Antoni said of Jamison and Meeks. “They can shoot it extremely well. They could be two major parts that we need to keep developing, just give them space, let them go and play.”

Jamison has seen more time at small forward as of late as well, D’Antoni subbing the 6-foot-9 forward at the halfway point of the first quarter in the last three games, to play alongside Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard for stretches.

“Both (Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol) demand so much attention,” Jamison said. “They put so much pressure on the defense and now I’m starting to understand that with Pau I can do this, I can do that, and with Dwight what my role is as well – and we’re starting to get a rhythm.”

That rhythm has also been aided by the play of Chris Duhon, who has served as the backup point guard to starter Darius Morris since Steve Nash and Steve Blake have remained sidelined. The Duke product has posted 22 assists to just three turnovers in six games since D’Antoni took over, and notched a season-high eight assists against Denver.

“That’s what we need, especially guys coming off this bench,” Jamison said. “We need to set a tone and set an identity of what we’re going to do.”

It seems they’re headed in the right direction.