Monthly Archive for January, 2013

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Howard To Start vs. Cleveland

After missing three games because of a torn labrum in his shoulder, Dwight Howard will start vs. Cleveland.

Howard originally suffered the injury in L.A.’s loss at the Clippers on Jan. 4, but re-injured the shoulder against Denver.

In those three games – all losses – Laker opponents have averaged 116.3 points, while shooting 51.6 percent from the floor.

Saturday Practice Report

The 3-point shot has been a staple for coach Mike D’Antoni’s teams.

From 2004-05 to 2007-08, his Phoenix squads led the league in that category, never shooting below 39 percent.

The Lakers, under D’Antoni, ranked as high as sixth before the team’s contest at Golden State on Dec. 22, converting at a 37.2 clip. But in the team’s last six games – all losses – the Lakers are shooting just 28.8 percent from deep, falling to 15th in the league.

Longer missed shots can lead to longer rebounds, allowing teams to get out in transition; four of L.A.’s six losses have come against opponents ranked in the top five in transition points.

In the Lakers’ most recent loss against Oklahoma City, the Thunder recorded 22 fastbreak points, while also shooting nearly 51 percent from the floor toward 116 points.

“We gave them a lot of easy opportunities,” Kobe Bryant acknowledged after Friday’s loss. “We had a lot of defensive lapses which gave them some easy ‘cracks’ at the basket, and they took advantage of it.”

During L.A.’s six-game skid, opponents are averaging almost 112 points per game, while also converting at a 49 percent clip from the floor and 39.6 percent from the 3-point line. Not having all three big men – Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill – has played a role in the team’s defensive issues, but largely, Steve Nash is encouraged by the players filling in.

“I like the energy, but like I said, we’re a bit undersized,” Steve Nash said. “The energy is there and guys are trying. Guys are trying to be in the right spots. It’s going to be tough. We have to play so hard with this unit to be good defensively because we’re undersized. But guys are doing it.”

D’Antoni has used rookie Robert Sacre at center, while rotating Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison in the frontcourt in the last three games. At times, there are glimpses of what the team is able to do defensively, especially in the second half when the Thunder shot just 42 percent from the floor. At other times, like during the Thunder’s 39-point second quarter, the issues still largely remain the same.

“We’re not playing well, we’re not defending well and we’re not moving the ball well,” D’Antoni said. “Things that at some point, have to get better.”

The Lakers stand five games back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but are trying to remain optimistic despite their most recent struggles on and off the floor.

“We live in the moment,” D’Antoni said. “Take one game at a time and play that game. Don’t look ahead and don’t look who it is. Play that game and play hard. Let’s go try to do something with most people counting us out. We think we can do it, but we know the road is not easy. If we can solve our problems, we’ll be good.”

Lakers – Thunder Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 116-101 loss against OKC:

Percent shooting for OKC towards 116 points. The Thunder improved to 25-1 when breaking the century mark and 13-0 when converting at a 50 percent clip or better.

Points for Kevin Durant, a season high, on 16 of 25 from the floor, to go along with eight rebounds and five assists. Durant recorded 16 in the second quarter alone when OKC scored 39 as a team to take a 16-point lead into halftime after the teams played an even first quarter (25-25). This performance gives the three-time scoring champ at least 35 points in each of his last three games against the Lakers dating back to last season.

Second-quarter points for OKC on 16 of 23 from the floor (69.6 percent). In the team’s last matchup in Oklahoma City, the Thunder notched 41 in the second quarter, en route to winning 114-108.

Second-chance points for the Thunder, although the Lakers grabbed more offensive rebounds (15-12), even without their three top big men – Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill – for the third straight game.

Three-pointers for the Lakers out of 28 attempts (21.4 percent). In the last six home games, L.A. is shooting just 26 percent from deep (41 for 157). MWP and Kobe Bryant combined to shoot just 3 for 17 from behind the arc. It is also the number of games the Lakers have dropped consecutively, their longest losing skid since the 2006-07 season.

Lakers 101, Thunder 116: Jan. 11 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening contest against 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: Nash, Bryant, Clark, World Peace, Sacre
Thunder: R. Westbrook, T. Sefolosha, K. Durant, S. Ibaka, K. Perkins

5:35 The Lakers and Thunder took turns scoring early, with all 10 players on the court notching at least two points in the first six minutes, though it was OKC taking a 16-12 lead into the first time out after Thabo Sefolosha hit the first three of the game. Out of a time out, the Thunder pushed its lead to nine with five straight Kevin Durant points, before Antawn Jamison’s layup cut the margin to 21-14.

0:00 Things went wrong for the Lakers throughout the middle period of the quarter, OKC extending the lead further to 11, but the final three minutes belonged to the home team. With Earl Clark serving as a catalyst in his first start after that terrific road game at San Antonio (22 points, 13 boards), L.A. scored the final 11 points of the period to tie it at 25 after one. It didn’t hurt L.A. that Durant sat for the final three minutes, and it would be him who’d break the run upon starting the second quarter with a driving layup.

9:19 Chris Duhon hit 1 of 2 free throws to put the Lakers up 31-30, but the Thunder turned it up from there, going on a burst that four minutes later had produced a 47-37 lead at the 5:16 mark. Westbrook and Kevin Martin were doing the damage, Martin hitting two triples amidst the move that had L.A. reeling…

… Meanwhile, the Lakers got some bad news: further tests on the hip of Jordan Hill revealed that he’d need season-ending surgery. Hill had been playing very well off the bench before going down against the Nuggets on Sunday. For those looking for a positive: the play of Clark since Hill went out. But tough news for both Hill and his team, nonetheless.

0:00 L.A. cut the lead to five on a few occasions, but it was all Durant in the final minutes, as he reached a +27 in the half by draining a buzzer-beating three with Clark and Bryant failing to communicate on a rotation. The margin was 64-48, thanks in no part to L.A.’s 0 for 11 from three-point range. Those missed threes had been absolutely killing the Lakers at home, as in the last five at Staples, they’d managed to hit only 25 percent from deep. If you’re searching for answers, one could be that guys are pressing, trying so hard to break out of the slump, because the shots have been open.

7:47 There would be no Lakers burst out of the halftime gates to get back into it; instead, the Thunder used a 9-6 push, Durant adding two more triples (34 points on 12 of 17 field goals) in a 76-54 game. Steve Nash pulled up for a triple on the other end, but Durant then drilled yet another long jumper.

0:00 0:46.1 As always, Bryant kept playing, converting two free throws (he’d hit 10 of 11 after missing his first two) and then a pull-up three-pointer to reach 26 points. Durant, however, was up to 40 points, Westbrook 17 with 10 assists, as the Thunder led 93-73 after three quarters. Generally, NBA teams try to cut the lead to 10 with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter to have a chance; doing so would be beyond difficult, of course.

7:31 Bryant returned, the Lakers not conceding victory just yet as they trimmed the lead to 16 … but OKC responded with a quick 6-0 run, restoring a 22-point margin, into a Lakers time out. The crowd was not amused, as a most difficult of seasons wore on.

0:00 Bryant, Nash and MWP left around the 4:20 mark, garbage time eventually ending with a 116-101 OKC victory. Durant finished with 42 points, eight boards and five assists, Westbrook 27 points, 10 dimes and seven boards for the visitors. Bryant managed to score 28 (you can never fault his effort), and Earl Clark had a second straight double-double with 10 points, 10 boards, three assists and three dimes. As a team, the Lakers were horrendous from three, hitting only 6 of 28 (21.4 percent), in a stat that’s been killing them of late at home (25 percent in their last six at Staples).

It was the sixth consecutive loss for the Lakers, with Cleveland coming up on Sunday, L.A.’s chance to snap what would match the worst losing streak since 2006-07 if they can’t turn it around. We’ll see you there.

Injury Update: Gasol, Hill and Howard

The Lakers went through a tough Texas two-step without their top three big men, as Dwight Howard (shoulder), Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (hip) could only watch losses to Houston and San Antonio.

When will they respectively return?

Gasol saw Dr. Vern Williams on Thursday, and while the Spaniard showed improvement, he is still not cleared to play basketball. Gasol will be examined once again on Friday morning, in advance of the team’s Friday evening home game against Oklahoma City.

Howard told reporters before Tuesday’s game in Houston that he’s hoping to return soon, and will not need surgery, for his shoulder injury. However, the team does not want him to rush back and risk further injury.

“(The doctor) doesn’t want me to continue to aggravate it every night, because that could cause problems later on in the season,” Howard said. “Or it could come to the point where somebody fouled me hard enough and it could (further injure the shoulder), so (we don’t) want that to happen.”

Howard will be re-evaluated next week, but he’s definitely out for Friday’s game against the Thunder.

Jordan Hill will also be re-evaluated early next week after an MRI earlier this week revealed a small tear to the labrum of his left hip. He’ll be treated conservatively, according to the team.

In the meantime, we’ll see more Robert Sacre and Earl Clark, who both offered bright spots on the two-game trip in relief duty. Clark, with his career-high 22 points and 13 rebounds, may have just played his way into the rotation even when all three bigs return.

Lakers – Spurs Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 108-105 loss at San Antonio:

Paint points for the Lakers, despite missing their three top big men – Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill – for the second straight game. By holding the Spurs to only 40 paint points despite the presence of 7-footers Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, the Lakers held a plus-8 advantage inside. Robert Sacre, Earl Clark (more on him shortly) and Antawn Jamison did a good job of pushing Duncan and Splitter away from the rim before the catch.

Points for Clark, a career-high, in 27 minutes off the bench. The 6-foot-10 forward also set a career-high with 13 boards, good for the second double-double he’s ever posted. Clark showed a bit of everything in this one, displaying a nice handle in transition, hitting a three, scoring with post moves and playing strong D. After the game, I asked Clark if he grew up playing guard, and he relayed that he did in fact play in the backcourt until a big growth spurt after eighth grade and through high school took him from 5-10 to 6-10. So he played up front in Louisville, but kept the handle and guard skills he learned growing up.

“Earl Clark was phenomenal,” said Mike D’Antoni. “Hopefully we found something there. If we play with that effort and with that team sense of chemistry then we’re going to win a lot of games.”

Three-pointers made for the Spurs, nine coming in the second half and five of them in the fourth quarter, opening at most a 17-point lead. They seemed to have a three-point answer to every Lakers push. Stephen Jackson drained three triples in a span of less than three minutes in the fourth (9:49, 7:32 and 7:07), and drained five in the game, before being ejected amidst a furious Lakers comeback moments later.

Steals for Metta World Peace, his energy and activity consistent throughout the game. In the two-game Texas trip, World Peace totaled 47 points, 14 rebounds and 11 steals, while shooting 52.8 percent from the floor. He’s also hitting 50 percent of his threes in the past three games, after a four-game slump in which he made just 2 of 18. Getting back to regular minutes in the starting rotation has made a big difference, he acknowledged, in getting his rhythm back.

Missed 3-point attempts in the final 1:40 of the game for the Lakers, one from World Peace, one from Antawn Jamison, two by Kobe Bryant, and one from Clark at the buzzer, all of which would have tied the game. L.A. had trimmed a 16-point fourth quarter lead all the way down to three with 2:56 to go when Antawn Jamison converted a layup from Nash with 2:56 left. Neither team could hit a shot until 43 seconds remained, when Manu Ginobili hit a three, though Clark answered 12 seconds later. Tony Parker turned it over on the next Spurs trip, setting up two final three-point attempts from L.A. that would have tied it up.

Lakers 105, Spurs 108: Jan. 9 Running Diary

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

Lakers: Nash, Morris, Bryant, World Peace, Sacre
Spurs: T. Parker, D. Green, K. Leonard, T. Duncan, T. Splitter

4:39 Despite two missed free throws in four attempts from Kobe Bryant, L.A. was within one at 12-11, competing hard in a tough back-to-back … but the Spurs promptly went on a 7-0 run, with a three and dunk from Stephen Jackson, creating a 19-11 margin. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan had combined for the other 14 points, with Metta World Peace scoring seven.

6:20 The Lakers kept trying to hang tough despite constant fruitful pick and rolls with Tiago Splitter (12 points) using his length over Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison with L.A. so shorthanded up front. No Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol or Jordan Hill, with Gasol the only one with a chance to play on Friday against OKC.

0:00 L.A. had cut the lead to as few as three with a nice run sparked by Earl Clark (nine points, four boards in the half), but a poor finish allowed the Spurs to push the lead right back to nine at the half. They capped a run with Ginobili’s dunk, Bryant missing an assignment that he acknowledged by patting his chest. L.A. did force 10 Spurs turnovers, and battled in the paint to allow just a 28-22 edge in points inside despite the SAS size advantage.

8:53 Sacre had plenty of good looks, set up by Nash of course, but had been struggling to convert before calmly waiting for a smaller defender to go by him and dunking the ball. It was his second make in seven attempts, L.A. getting within eight. However, the Spurs capitalized on a poor play from Morris in transition with a corner three on the other end, though they missed the technical free throw resulting from Morris complaining about a no-call. The deficit was 11 at 63-52.

1:52 An angry Kobe was putting in some ridiculous shots, getting Jordan Hill to tweet from back in Los Angeles “The Bean!” after back-to-back deep threes. Nonetheless, the Spurs continued to drain threes (7 for 14) in building at most a 17-point lead. L.A. did respond with a nice run, Clark and World Peace joining the effort from Bryant to cut it down to as few as eight, before two late Ginobili free throws. Speaking of those FT’s … LAL were incensed with the calls, as Chris Duhon became the third Laker in the quarter alone to draw a technical foul from ref Bill Kennedy. D’Antoni wasn’t exactly pleased, either. As such, San Antonio took a 10-point lead heading into the final quarter.

9:49 The Spurs continued to have an answer for each mini run the Lakers mustered, as the eighth three from the home team (Jackson’s second) pushed the lead back to 13 at 92-79 after Clark had set his career high in points with 15, alongside 10 rebounds for his second career double-double. A bit deflating for L.A., victims of classic San Antonio execution that created a corner three.

2:56 Well … we suddenly had a ball game, folks. A huge Lakers run was capped by Antawn Jamison’s backdoor layup, plus some hits from Kobe, the run swelling to 17-4 when the visitors had been down by as many as 17 points in the second half. Clark continued his ridiculous stretch, and despite consecutive misses from three that would have tied the game from Bryant and Jamison, countered Ginobili’s three (the first Spurs make in seemingly ages) with a triple of his own to keep the deficit at three. Tony Parker then committed a rare turnover with 10 seconds left to give L.A. one more chance to tie…

0:00 But Bryant, isolated on Leonard, couldn’t get a three to fall with four seconds left and the score 108-105. Clark managed to corral the long rebound and hucked up a desperation attempt that seemed destined to go down (he had a remarkable 22 points and 13 boards in 27 minutes) … but that too missed. An impressive comeback made the loss perhaps even more deflating, particularly as it was the fifth in a row for a Lakers team falling to 15-20 on the season. No rest for the weary, however, with Oklahoma City coming to town on Friday. We’ll see you there.

Lakers – Rockets Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 125-112 loss at Houston:

Career assists for Steve Nash, No. 10,000 coming on a pretty bounce pass that found Antawn Jamison for a layup before halftime. He became the fifth player in NBA history to accomplish that feat, joining John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson in the exclusive club.

Points per game the Lakers are allowing during their four-game skid. Opponents are also shooting nearly 49 percent from the floor and 40 percent from the 3-point line.

Paint points for Houston, their guards consistently getting to the hoop and finishing at the rim, particularly in the second half, in the absence of L.A.’s top three big men – Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill – who all missed the game with respective injuries.

Shooting percentage for the Rockets in the second half towards 66 points, including a 38-point third quarter that erased a three-point Lakers halftime lead. Houston’s backcourt duo of Jeremy Lin and James Harden combined for half the Rockets points (33) in the final 24 minutes.

Three-pointers for Rockets guard Carlos Delfino, who scored 19 points off the bench, 13 of those coming in the first half. In his last five games, Delfino is 19 for 31 from deep (61.3 percent).

Injury Update: Jordan Hill

After being examined by team physician Dr. Lombardo and undergoing an MRI, the Lakers learned on Monday evening that Jordan Hill has a small tear of the labrum in his left hip.

Hill will be treated conservatively, and re-evaluated in one week.

L.A.’s first big man off the bench of late had been very effective, averaging 10.6 points and 7.4 rebounds in about 18 minutes per contest in L.A.’s last five games.

Lakers 112, Rockets 125: Jan. 8 Running Diary

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

Lakers: Nash, Morris, Bryant, World Peace and Sacre
Rockets: J. Lin, J. Harden, C. Parsons, M. Morris, O. Asik

12:00 What you’ll notice from the starting line up change is the absence of not only Dwight Howard (shoulder), but also Pau Gasol (concussion). Oh, and not to mention Jordan Hill (hip), who like Gasol is not even on the trip to Texas. Get ready for small ball, folks.

8:45 L.A. played as hard as it needed to without the three bigs, opening with a great deal of energy that produced an 18-4 early lead when World Peace drained back-to-back three-pointers, Nash hit an illegal D technical free throw and Darius Morris added a triple. The Lakers used their lack of size to their advantage early, flying all over the place on defense to force Houston into some tough shots of which they mostly missed.

0:50.0 Houston made a few mini runs to get back into it, closing the quarter well as Carlos Delfino came off the bench to hit back-to-back three-pointers, and James Harden book-ended the triples with buckets at the rim (3 of 8 field goals in the quarter) to trim what had been a 13-point lead to 34-28 after the first period. Nonetheless, a good effort from L.A.

4:21 Houston made another run, this time 12-4, capped by yet another three from Delfino as L.A. again failed to pick him up. However, World Peace answered with a three, and Kobe a hoop at the rim, to put L.A. up 51-49. The pace was extremely fast even for a Lakers team that’s played faster this season, and it was a bit troubling that as hard as L.A. had played the Rockets had found a way to keep it close.

1:00 Nash took over on the offensive end in the final moments, reaching 12 points with a series of pretty moves and shots (5 of 6 field goals), and with back-to-back pretty bounce passes, got his 10,000th assist when Antawn Jamison finished off a screen/roll play. Only Magic Johnson, Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd and John Stockton have ever done it, truly a remarkable accomplishment for a player that received only one scholarship offer to play college basketball.

3:49 Bryant had been letting the game come to him, not being ultra aggressive in taking eight shots, but he drained back-to-back jumpers as the third rolled on to keep L.A. up five, reaching 10 points. It was Nash running the show, with 16 points and eight assists. However, another quick Rockets run, this time 6-0, put the home team back on top at 78-77. Harden continued to do damage drawing to the rim, either by finishing (9 of 17 FG’s) or at the line (5 of 5 FT’s), without LAL subs like Meeks and Earl Clark picking up fouls.

1:18 Suddenly, Houston’s run climbed all the way to 18-2, L.A. struggling to hit anything on one end and the Rockets missing nothing on the other, allowing an 11-point lead at 91-80. It happened so quickly that the Lakers seemed shell shocked, even as two Bryant free throws and a Duhon three in the final minute trimmed the lead back to nine. The deficit would be eight heading into the final quarter, with the Lakers unable to sustain a lead they’d held for the first 30 odd minutes of the game.

8:07 The margin continued to go the wrong way for the Lakers, with Houston getting the fifth three-pointer from Delfino (19 points off the bench) to hold a 105-96 lead early in the final period. L.A. was, again, in trouble.

0:00 The visitors kept trying, but they simply couldn’t protect the rim, with Harden and Lin combining for 50 points and 14 assists, repeatedly getting behind their perimeter defenders in the second half. Bryant had 20 points, World Peace 24 and Nash 16 points with 10 assists in a losing effort, but the veterans couldn’t get the help they needed on the interior as Gasol and Hill watched from home, and Howard from the bench. It doesn’t get easier as L.A. takes its 4-game losing streak to San Antonio for a back-to-back tomorrow night. We’ll see you there.