Monthly Archive for January, 2013

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Quote Round Up: Monday Practice

Here’s a transcription of interviews from coach *Mike D’Antoni, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant from Monday’s Lakers practice.

*Click on each name to watch the full video.

MIKE D’ANTONI

Q: On if the season has officially bottomed out:
D’Antoni: Obviously, it got a little bit more difficult, but this is an opportunity for guys to step up. We have guys on the bench that want to show what they can do, and they’ll have that opportunity.

Q: On if it becomes much more difficult to turn this season around:
D’Antoni: Yeah, a little bit. But the NBA is unforgiving and nobody is feeling sorry for us. There are 29 other teams that are happy and we have to do the best we can do. It’s kind of weird you come to work thinking you have three centers and all of them are hurt on the same day without knowing last night. We are where we are, but we should put a lot of effort on the floor tomorrow night.

Q: On how he’ll manage his playing rotation:
D’Antoni: We’ll go small a lot and we just have to spread the floor and get things going. Like I said, some guys are going to step up and put some superhuman effort into it. We’ll have little guys guarding big guys and we’ll have to be quick and take advantage of the situation.

Q: On the how the timing of this all comes during a stretch where they face Houston and San Antonio back-to-back, and then Oklahoma City at home on Friday:
D’Antoni: It wasn’t good, but again, you can’t worry about the problems you can’t take care of. We got a team to put on the floor and play as well as we can.

Q: On if Dwight Howard will be out more than one week:
D’Antoni: I don’t know that. That’s I guess whatever the update was. I hope not, but we’ll take care of it. We don’t know, but hopefully (he) won’t.

Q: On if he addressed the team regarding the injuries:
D’Antoni: We already talked about it and what we have to do. Guys have to step up. I made sure guys knew because I want to make sure everybody is in the right frame of mind tomorrow.

Q: On if it’s a challenge for the guys with all three big men out:
D’Antoni: We’re ready to roll. Again, we’ll be undersized but we should have a lot of fight.

STEVE NASH

Q: On losing all three big men:
Nash: It’s obviously upsetting when someone gets hurt, especially now when our backs are against the wall. To lose bodies in force like we have, it’s tough. I keep saying no one is going to feel sorry for us. We have to take the challenge and embrace it. No matter how many lumps we take, we can’t give up. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to keep battling. If we keep battling, we give ourselves a chance for good things to happen, but if you feel sorry for yourself, if you complain or make excuses, that’s where you delay the turnaround or prohibit a turnaround.

Q: On if he thinks the season has bottomed out:
Nash: I feel optimistic. We’re down, we’re wounded, we’re struggling. In many ways, we should be in the second week of the season considering we got healthy bodies, a new coach, a new offense. I understand why expectations are high. At the same time, if you look at what has actually transpired with the change of coaches, very little practice time, no major learning time as far as training camp, we’ve been trying to pick it up on the fly on both ends of the floor. We’ve struggled and we’ve had injuries. Not to make excuses, but we have to stay realistic. We’re still in a process and we can’t (make excuses) because we’re in a funk, because we’re losing games, having balls bounce the wrong way and we’re having breakdowns. We can’t get down, we can’t quit, we can’t point fingers. We have to keep fighting, stay with it and realize if we do that, we have a chance. We have a chance to come back, get in the playoffs and be a really good team.

Q: On nearing 10,000 assists:
Nash: It’s hard to really even think about what it means right now because I feel so under water trying to figure out any way to get this team a win, but obviously, to have one scholarship offer, to play in the NBA as long as I have and be on the list with people like Magic Johnson is beyond my wildest dreams. I grew up watching Magic on TV and idolizing him, so to be right there with him on that list is incredibly special, humbling and a tribute to the opportunity to play with a lot of great players in my career.

DWIGHT HOWARD

Q: On his torn labrum:
Howard: It shouldn’t keep me out for awhile. But (I need to) make sure I’m cautious and make sure I get healthy. That’s the most important thing.

Q: On if this injury requires more than a week of rest:
Howard: Depends how fast I heal up.

Q: On how he injured his shoulder:
Howard: It happened in the Clippers game. I was going up and (Caron Butler) was going down, and that’s typically how an injury like that on your shoulder (happens).

Q: On playing against Denver with the injury:
Howard: Yeah, I was in pain. My biggest thing right now is to make sure I’m 100 percent. I don’t want to play with my shoulder weak. That causes me a chance for more injuries, so I have to let it heal up.

Q: On the process of the team gelling and coming together being difficult, but not expecting it to be this tough considering all the injuries now:
Howard: Anytime you want to do something special or great as a team or individually, you have to (be patient) at times. That’s kind of understandable. I didn’t think we’d come together and it’d be all peaches and cream from the beginning. It’s a process.

Q: On the difficulty of suffering an injury like this and recovering from back surgery considering how healthy he had been in the past:
Howard: It hasn’t been difficult. I understand where I am as far as my health and I’ll do whatever I can on the court to help my team. If people don’t understand that, it’s them. Where I was a couple months ago till now, I’m happy with my progress. I’m blessed to be able to play basketball. There’s going to be ups and downs, but we have to stick with it.

Q: On if it’s possible he can get back to 100 percent with an injury like this:
Howard: It is. I want to make sure I’m strong enough to compete where it won’t happen again. That’s the biggest thing.

Q: On if the injury will require any surgery:
Howard: No surgery. It’s just something that takes a little time to heal.

Q: On the advice he’d give to Robert Sacre now that he might start:
Howard: Have fun and play basketball. He knows how to play. We saw him play today in the weight room. He looked good. He got dunked on a couple times, but he played great defense. On offense, he hit his shots in the paint. That’s all you can for from a guy like (Sacre). He works hard and he’s getting an opportunity. I think he’ll make the best of it.

KOBE BRYANT

Q: On how he feels about the whole season, now after hearing the news of all the injuries hitting the team:
Bryant: When it rains, it pours. It’s like the old Mr. Magoo thing. You just try to get through it.

Q: On if he feel the team has hit rock bottom:
Bryant: At some point, you hit rock bottom and then the only place you can go is up.

Q: On how he feels regarding the challenge the team faces:
Bryant: There’s nothing much we can do. But we do have guys that have been practicing hard that have been preparing for their moment, and now they have a moment where they can step in, contribute and do a fine job.

Q: On his thought process on how the team moves forward and Steve Nash’s earlier sentiments about not making excuses:
Bryant: We’re cut from the same cloth in that perspective. We pull our boots up and get to work. Tighten the belt. You don’t worry about making excuses or complaining. You go out there and do your job.

Q: On how he imparts that thinking upon his teammates:
Bryant: You mentally beat it in them (laughs). I think we have that, but it’s been a tough year for everybody – changing coaching staffs, playing and not playing. It’s been a tough year for guys, but I think when you go through a lot of adversity, it really challenges you and then it becomes on you whether you choose to fight or run away from it, and I believe we’ll choose to fight it.

Q: On his demeanor this year considering all that’s happened this season and what has changed on how he would react compared to previous years:
Bryant: I think the patience is a little bit different and the understanding is a little bit different. Just trying to keep things in perspective. You don’t just completely lose your s—, then all of a sudden everybody is scattering around and wondering what we’ll do next.

Q: On the season being in January already and the thought process of just making the playoffs:
Bryant: You want to be playing well, though. That’s something that we’re focused on. You want to be playing better and you want to be playing with a little bit of momentum going into the postseason.

Q: On playing small ball now:
Bryant: We just have to do it the best way we possibly can and try to figure out a way to win with whatever style we’re playing.

Q: On how he tries to keep everybody on the same page now:
Bryant: I try to keep calm. You have to try to keep everybody on pace and keep the eye on the big target. That’s what I try to do.

Top 3 Lakers Bigs Out in Texas

As if a three-game losing streak and 15-18 record in advance of a tough trip to face Houston and San Antonio back to back weren’t looming enough with a healthy roster, the Lakers learned they’d be without their top three big men at least for the trip to Texas.

Dwight Howard (shoulder), Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (hip) were all declared out for at least those two games, and Howard will certainly be out of Friday and Sunday games against Oklahoma City and Cleveland as well.

“It shouldn’t keep me out for awhile,” said Howard, emphasizing that he does not need surgery. “But (I need to) make sure I’m cautious and make sure I get healthy. That’s the most important thing.”

Gasol will undergo daily concussion testing as put in place by the NBA to determine when he can return, while Hill will be examined by team doctor Steve Lombardo later this afternoon. The three bigs combined for 37 points, 36 rebounds, six blocks and three assists in Sunday’s loss to Denver.

“Obviously, it got a little bit more difficult, but this is an opportunity for guys to step up,” said Mike D’Antoni, opting for optimism. “We have guys on the bench that want to show what they can do, and they’ll have that opportunity.”

Robert Sacre will get the call up from the D-League’s D-Fenders and immediately start at center, while we could see Antawn Jamison, Earl Clark or Devin Ebanks at power forward. Metta World Peace may also see some time at the 4, D’Antoni said, where he started for a few games when Gasol was out with knee tendinitis.

“We’ll go small a lot and we just have to spread the floor and get things going,” D’Antoni explained. “Like I said, some guys are going to step up and put some superhuman effort into it. We’ll have little guys guarding big guys and we’ll have to be quick and take advantage of the situation.”

As Kobe Bryant explained, the searching-for-wins Lakers have no time to complain.

“When it rains, it pours,” he acknowledged, a night after he played at least 40 minutes for the 14th time in 15 games. “You just try to get through it … we pull our boots up and get to work. Tighten the belt. You don’t worry about making excuses or complaining. You go out there and do your job.”

Steve Nash agreed, and offered some further perspective regarding the season as a whole, his explanation so thorough that block quotes are necessary:

We’re down, we’re wounded, we’re struggling. In many ways, we should be in the second week of the season considering we got healthy bodies, a new coach, a new offense. I understand why expectations are high. At the same time, if you look at what has actually transpired with the change of coaches, very little practice time, no major learning time as far as training camp, we’ve been trying to pick it up on the fly on both ends of the floor. We’ve struggled and we’ve had injuries. Not to make excuses, but we have to stay realistic. We’re still in a process and we can’t (make excuses) because we’re in a funk, because we’re losing games, having balls bounce the wrong way and we’re having breakdowns. We can’t get down, we can’t quit, we can’t point fingers. We have to keep fighting, stay with and realize if we do that, we have a chance. We have a chance to come back, get in the playoffs and be a really good team.

And so, starting on Tuesday in Houston, Nash and Bryant will try to lead the way … with the help of whomever D’Antoni calls upon in the frontcourt.

Mamba vs. D12! (Not)

This is how Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard handled reports of a locker room incident between the two of them that never actually occurred:

Using the @KobeBryant Twitter handle he started on Friday (already up to 587,000+ followers), Bryant sent the picture out moments before dismissing any notion of an altercation to assembled media members.

@DwightHoward retweeted the photo from his own Twitter handle moments later, agreeing with teammate Steve Nash that the supposed tiff between him and Bryant was merely something at which to laugh. Howard, however, will miss at least one week due to an injury to the right shoulder that he’s icing in the photo before being re-evaluated.

Lakers 105, Nuggets 112: Jan. 6 Running Diary

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

Starters
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Nuggets: T. Lawson, A. Iguodala, D. Gallinari, K. Faried, K. Koufos

FIRST QUARTER
5:00 With L.A.’s cohesiveness and energy being questioned of late, the first seven minutes were very positive from the starting line up. They were even over-passing at times on offense but playing very well on D, as the Nuggets missed their first nine shots of the game. Howard had six boards and a block while controlling the defensive paint, while Bryant was serving as facilitator (two assists, two hockey assists). Meanwhile, Metta World Peace hit consecutive three-pointers, a welcome sign as he’d hit only 2 of his previous 19 attempts, but five turnovers (*over-passing*) allowed Denver to stay tight at 15-12.

1:12 After missing everything early, Denver started to find the bottom of the net with ease, as Corey Brewer scored six quick points off the bench, Andre Miller snuck to the rim for a lay up and Danilo Gallinari got an and-1 to go in transition off JaVale McGee’s block. In the final 1:36 of the quarter, the Nuggets somehow scored 11 points, capped by an Iguodala three off a missed free throw from McGee, that suddenly put the Lakers in a 34-28 hole. They’d have to fight uphill once again.

SECOND QUARTER
9:04 Who killed the Lakers in Denver on Dec. 26? Corey Brewer, who matched his career high with 27 points in that one behind 6 of 7 shooting from three, made five of his first seven shots, all twos, for 10 points off the Nuggets’ bench to help keep the lead at 40-36 despite four dimes from Chris Duhon off LAL’s bench. Duhon’s fourth dish was finished by Howard’s one-handed slam; L.A.’s center had good bounce in this one … as he showed a moment later by throwing down Nash’s lofted alley-oop.

0:00 The Lakers closed the second quarter very well, at one point taking a two-point lead before settling into a 60-all tie going into halftime, L.A. erasing what was once a nine-point Nuggets’ lead. Howard was the key, with 13 rebounds and some strong D to compliment 10 points, while Gasol had 11 points of his own and World Peace 12 thanks to three triples. Kobe was content to play facilitator, finishing with five assists in a half L.A. amassed 19 helpers, equaling their total against the Clippers in the entire game.

THIRD QUARTER
9:00 The threes were falling tonight, with MWP’s fourth and Kobe’s first making the team 8 of 17 (47 percent), this time turning a three-point deficit into a 70-66 lead. Nash was up to nine assists, meanwhile, orchestrating things for the home team.

3:09 Yet Denver kept battling back, getting their sixth three and then a run out layup to reach 19 fast break points to L.A.’s seven, turning a four-point LAL lead into an 83-80 edge of their own. L.A. was still above 50 percent in the game at 31 of 61 from the field, but missed three of their previous four shots, all open, to allow the Nuggets’ run.

FOURTH QUARTER
11:45 Things like contested threes from role players like Brewer seem to just keep happening to the Lakers, and one went down to start the fourth, capping a 14-3 run that turned L.A.’s 4-point lead late in the third into a sudden 92-83 lead early in the final period. Yet again, the Lakers had a lot of work to do.

5:28 A Bryant hoop and two Jordan Hill free throws cut what had grown to a 10-point lead on Ty Lawson’s pull-up three, L.A. again trying to stay close enough to steal the game. Howard, meanwhile, was up to 21 rebounds, and Nash 11 assists with 10 points, but it was defense needed most. It certainly wasn’t there when Lawson got all the way to the rim for a layup after Nash missed a pull-up jumper.

0:13.8 In some ways summing up L.A.’s luck so far this season, Howard’s swat of Miller’s shot at the rim went directly to Gallinari, who drained a three as the shot clock expired to put Denver right back up six points after Bryant’s triple had cut the deficit to three on the previous possession. Had L.A. come up with a stop, they’d have had a chance to tie. Moments earlier, Howard had swatted Lawson at the rim and cleared the rebound with L.A. down four and two minutes to play, but turned the ball over trying to get the ball to a guard. Miller took the extra opportunity to not only hit a jumper, but trim 20 more seconds off the clock. Bryant followed by missing a jumper, and Lawson took the ball all the way to the rim on the other end to make it 105-97 with 1:18 to play.

Two absurd three-pointers from Bryant kept things interesting in the final seconds, but Denver ultimately held on for a 112-105 victory, L.A.’s 18th loss of the season, and the third in a row heading into a tough back-to-back at Houston and San Antonio. This one hurt, as L.A. played with solid energy throughout, but just couldn’t make it happen for a multitude of reasons like turnovers (18 to 10) and transition D (25 Nuggets fastbreak points). Bryant had 18 in the fourth quarter towards 27 total, Howard finished with 26 boards and Nash had 13 assists, in a losing effort. We’ll see you in Texas on Tuesday night.

Saturday Practice Report

A recurring theme as of late has been the Lakers finding themselves falling behind early, and trying to make a comeback in the second half.

“We just have to get better starts,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Whatever we’re doing isn’t working right now.”

They overcame a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit at Golden State, crawled back from a 9-point third quarter deficit against New York and even erased an 18-point third-quarter deficit against Charlotte.

But against the Sixers on New Years, the comeback fell just short after trailing by as many as 11 in the first quarter. On Friday at the Clippers, twice the Lakers found themselves in a position to take the lead after crawling back from 18-plus point deficits.

“We competed,” D’Antoni noted when asked if there were any positives to take away from the loss. “We came back from (18- and 19-point deficits) and we had a shot at the end to win. So there are spots where we’re really good and there are spots that we seem to dissolve a little bit as a team. We have to find guys that can make shots and we have to get back to that.”

In the last two games, the team is shooting at a 42.4 clip, including just 9 for 46 from the 3-point line. Jodie Meeks (7 for 27) and Metta World Peace (5 for 24) in particular, have struggled as of late, the two combining to shoot 12 for 51 from deep.

“That’s a little bit of a problem,” D’Antoni acknowledged. “You don’t put any pressure on the other team. When they don’t have pressure to make shots, it’s a lot easier to shoot the ball. We’re always shooting under pressure, down eight or 10, and the ball has to go in. Then you’re down 15 or 17, and it’s ‘Oh (man).’ We’re struggling with that a little bit.”

With a matchup against Denver on Sunday, a team the Lakers had stumbled on the road against less than two weeks ago, the coaching staff allowed there is a correlation with the offense struggling and defense not being up to par.

“Defensively, we need to work harder and we lose our energy on defense sometimes because the offense sputters,” D’Antoni said.

In the first meeting of the year between the two teams on Nov. 30, the offense didn’t sputter, as Antawn Jamison scored a season-high 33 points and Jodie Meeks drained seven 3’s – out of nine attempts – for 21 points off the bench. Dwight Howard also recorded his only 20-20 game of the year, with 28 points, 20 boards and three blocks, too.

But during the most recent contest at Denver, the Nuggets scored 126 points, the most scored by a Lakers opponent this year, along with nailing 12 for 22 on 3-pointers and grabbing 20 offensive boards that led to 25 second-chance points. The main concern, he said, for Sunday’s game are threefold.

“Visions of Kenneth Faried on the boards, (Ty) Lawson barreling down on our guards with the bigs not back yet and lobs from Andre Miller,” D’Antoni allowed. “So those three things we need to pay attention to.”

Even more so, though, the coaching staff is hoping for a more consistent effort for the full 48 minutes.

“That’s where we have to get better,” D’Antoni said. “But because sometimes our perceived ball not flowing or whatever, we lose energy on the defensive end. The only way we’re going to get out of it is work harder.”

Howard, Hill Probable for Denver

Lakers big men Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill suffered respective minor injuries in Friday night’s loss to the Clippers, but both are listed as “probable” to play in Sunday’s home contest against Denver.

Clippers wing Caron Butler stripped Howard of the ball in the fourth quarter, causing a minor right shoulder strain that had Howard in an ice pack after the game and sitting out of Saturday’s practice.

“I didn’t want it to bother me as much, so I just tried to do as much during the game to loosen it up,” said Howard on Saturday. “I don’t know if that did anything, but I was in a lot of pain. I was in a lot of pain this morning. It was tough to put my clothes on. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”

Hill rolled his ankle in that same fourth quarter, but told reporters after the game that he was OK, and would be able to play against the Nuggets. Hill did not return to the game for the final several minutes, but was available to should Mike D’Antoni have called his number.

Kobe’s Postgame Quotes

Below is a transcription of Kobe Bryant’s postgame quotes after one of the better individual performances of the season – 36 points on 15 of 25 shooting with five steals while primarily guarding Chris Paul (11 for 25 shooting) – came up just short, the Lakers trimming a 19-point fourth quarter lead to two before ultimately losing by six.

KOBE BRYANT
Q: On the loss and assessing where the team is at in terms of needing time to gel and yet not having time because of their standing:
Bryant: You got to just lock in and keep pushing forward. We played extremely well, we played well in the fourth quarter defensively and we just kind of got to rely on that a little bit.

Q: On what the team can take away from their fourth-quarter play on the defensive end:
Bryant: We have to watch the film and try to understand the adjustments that we made from the first three quarters. A lot of it was really in transition. They’re extremely athletic and they did a good job running, getting out, getting momentum points and getting some easy baskets.

Q: On his performance and trying to pull the team together with his play:
Bryant: I was just playing my game and just doing my job. Just trying to be patient and trying to make big shots when we needed them, and make the right plays defensively.

Q: On his frustration level right now:
Bryant: It’s pretty frustrating. We just have to get really intense, serious and really focused.

Q: On Chris Paul’s performance down the stretch:
Bryant: He’s very smart and he’s crafty. To his credit, he made some pretty tough shots – the shot at the (end of) the half and then the shot that he made that made it a six-point game – but superstar players will do that.

Q: On his assessment of the team’s offensive/defensive performance:
Bryant: It wasn’t good enough. Whatever grade I give, the bottom line is it wasn’t good enough, so we have to do better.

Q: On using Pau Gasol at the high post:
Bryant: I don’t know. I’m not really sure. But we have to figure that out and we need to go through him a lot, a lot more – a lot, a lot more. He needs more touches on that elbow, more touches on the post. He’s not a scorer type of a person, and he’ll be the first to admit that, but he can make plays for others from down there, he can control the game from down there and we have to figure out a way to get him more active.

Q: On how that can change:
Bryant: A lot of it is tough because you have him and Dwight (Howard) in the game at the same time. Where are you going to put Dwight? So, you have to figure out that spacing, but he needs to have the ball, for sure.

Bryant: Pau (Gasol) just has to continue to be patient. Obviously, he’s frustrated and he has every right to be, and I’m frustrated for him. But that’s something we’re going to have to solve because we won’t get to where we want to go with him not playing at maximum potential or not using his maximum potential.

Q: On the difference with the spacing on offense, Gasol playing with Bynum and Howard:
Bryant: It’s pretty different. They do different things. Andrew (Bynum) you can move to the elbow to shoot the ball and things like that. The dynamics are a little different, although it was tough for Pau (Gasol) and Andrew to play together as well.

Q: On the dunk in the first quarter over CP3:
Bryant: I honestly was running, I jumped, the explosiveness was there and it shocked the s— out of me, and I just decided to dunk it.

Q: On starting games slow:
Bryant: I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s something that I will have to figure out, but I don’t know. Maybe it’s getting loose. Teams come out a little fresher, come out a little more energized, you see them run the court and get a lot of dunks in transition, and it takes us a while to get our motor going to creep back in games. Maybe that’s it. I don’t know.

Q: On running pick and rolls late in games:
Bryant: Our pick and roll situation is fine. Steve (Nash) is incredible at it and puts guys in situations to be successful. Whether they make the shot or not, that’s on them. But he makes all the right decisions and I’m very comfortable being on the back side of that, and making guys pick and choose.

Q: On Chris Paul being clutch:
Bryant: We all make some and miss some, but the most important thing is guys who aren’t afraid of that moment. That’s what the most important thing is you have that and you’re not going to be afraid of that moment. You kind of ride or die with that success, and he’s not afraid of that.

Q: On what is lacking in games where he has to carry the load:
Bryant: We did a pretty good job tonight. We gave them some free throws down the stretch, which helped them preserve their lead, but we made the right plays. Guys had shots that didn’t go in for them. That’s the nature of the beast. All we can do – and all I can do, and all Steve (Nash) can do – is just be responsible and make the right play.

Lakers – Clippers Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 107-102 loss at LAC:

61
Free throws combined from the two teams, the Lakers shooting 36 and the Clippers with 25. A total of 53 personal fouls were called, two Lakers fouling out – Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace – while the Clippers had four players with at least four.

56
Points Chris Paul had a part in, the floor general finishing with a team-high 30 points and game-high 13 assists, to go along with six boards and two steals. Paul had 11 in the fourth quarter – and the final eight for the Clippers – six coming by way of free throws. Two critical free throw makes came off Howard’s sixth foul to put the Clippers up four with 1:07 remaining. “He’s smart and he’s very crafty,” Bryant said, even while defending Paul for most of the game and allowing 11 makes in 25 field goal attempts. “To his credit, he made some pretty tough shots … superstar players will do that.”

38
Points from Kobe Bryant – 24 in the second half – on an efficient 15 for 25 from the floor (60 percent), to go along with five steals. Bryant played the entire second half, logging 44 total minutes, drawing the toughest defensive assignment against CP3. Postgame, coach Mike D’Antoni praised Bryant’s play on offense along with his effort on defense. “I’ve seen a lot of games and I don’t know on both ends anybody playing better than that,” D’Antoni said. “He got us back in the game, no doubt.”

31.3
Percent shooting in the fourth quarter for the Clippers (5 for 16), the Lakers shaving off all but two points off what was once a 19-point deficit at the beginning of the fourth. From the 10:36 mark to the 1:29 mark, LAL had gone on a 24-7 run, closing to within 99-97 after a Bryant jumper, but would get no closer the rest of the way. “We played extremely well and we played well defensively in the fourth quarter, so we’ve just got to kind of rely on that a little bit,” Bryant noted. “We’ve got to watch the film and just kind of understand some of the adjustments that we made from the first three quarters.”

24
Percent LAL converted from the 3-point line, shooting 6 for 24. In the last two games, they are just 9 for 46 (19.6 percent), their 3-point field-goal percentage as a team dropping from 6th in the league to 12th in two weeks. The Clippers made 6 of their 14 tries (42.9 percent), including one apiece from Blake Griffin and Lamar Odom, who came into the contest a combined 7 for 51 from deep.

10
The number of games the Lakers (15-17) trail the Clippers (26-8) in the standings after falling to their co-tenants for the second time this year.

Lakers 102, Clippers 107: Jan. 4 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening contest against the Clippers, a road game for the Lakers at Staples Center, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Clippers: C. Paul, W. Green, C. Butler, B. Griffin, D. Jordan

FIRST QUARTER
7:33 The Clippers had two early highlight alley-oops that helped create a 12-8 lead, but the good sign for the Lakers was excellent early activity from Dwight Howard, who hit three of his five shots, grabbed two boards and swatted Chris Paul after flying over from the weak side. Meanwhile, Metta World Peace was making his presence felt immediately upon returning to the starting line up, drawing the second foul on Blake Griffin at the 6:36 mark, moments after swatting him at the rim. It’s always good to have MWP on your side in a physical, chippy game, for which this battle for Los Angeles certainly qualified.

0:00 You could make an argument that the Lakers outplayed the Clippers in the first, but found themselves down 29-22 in part due to simply missing wide open shots (37.5 percent). They were 0 for 6 from three, Jodie Meeks missing all three of his attempts, and 4 of 8 at the free throw line (Howard 3 of 6), with four turnovers resulting in six Clipper points. CP3 had seven assists to three from Nash while playing the whole first quarter, and at the end of the period was on the floor with four former Lakers: Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Caron Butler and Ronny Turiaf.

SECOND QUARTER
7:39 LAC went on a 13-2 run to start the second quarter, L.A. continuing to miss wide open shots, and then play a bit deflated on the other end. Matt Barnes capped the run with a three-pointer, and even as Meeks snapped the run by finally getting a three to fall (L.A. 1 of 9), Eric Bledsoe answered with an and-1 on the other end to open an 18-point lead at 45-27. L.A. scored the next five points, but then allowed the second Barnes three.

2:28 Speaking of threes … the Lakers finally got a pair to fall, with Bryant and Nash draining back-to-back from distance to cut the lead to five, and then four, late in the quarter (a 16-3 run for the visitors trimmed what had been an 18-point lead). However, the Clippers had an answer, with both Jordan and Griffin scoring at the rim (Paul 11 assists), pushing the lead right back to double digits at 57-46.

0:00 Three straight Jordan Hill points gave him an impressive 12 points and five boards in only nine bench minutes, before Barnes and Bryant exchanged free throws that had L.A. within eight points. Paul, however, finished a great individual half with a pull-up jumper, towards 12 points, 11 assists and five boards, putting his team up 10.

THIRD QUARTER
8:30 L.A. started the quarter perfectly, going on a 7-0 push to cut the lead to just three points, forcing a Clippers time out. Yet out of the stoppage, the Clippers responded with a 9-0 run of its own, putting the visitors right back into a double-digit hole. Willie Green had the final five points, swishing two jumpers from the corner, this time forcing Mike D’Antoni’s time out. A deflating answer for LAL, indeed.

6:36 Howard got stripped in the paint, Butler getting a lot of the ball but apparently tweaking Howard’s shoulder in the process, forcing a 20-second time out. Howard did return to the court, however, L.A. trailing by 10 after Bryant reached 18 points with a jumper.

0:51.9 Paul, who’d barely sat out in this one, continued to kill the Lakers, this time with an and-1 around Darius Morris. He had 19 points, 12 dimes and five boards with two steals to push LAC’s lead to 18, matching the biggest margin of the game. Bryant drained a tough shot on the other end, but another Clips alley-oop made it an 87-71 lead after three.

FOURTH QUARTER
3:42 Behind some fantastic shot making from Bryant, who was up to 34 points on 13 of 21, the Lakers again trimmed what had been pushed to a 19-point lead on Odom’s three to as few as seven with 5:09 on the clock. They’d had to expend quite a bit of energy to make it that tight, particularly Benjamin Button (err, Bryant), who’d played in 41 of the 45 minutes. Staying on the bench in the fourth was Gasol, who really struggled physically in this one, making only 1 of 6 shots with four boards and just not moving well. He has plantar fasciitis and knee tendinitis, and looked like it on this Friday night.

1:29 Improbably, the Lakers had suddenly cut the lead to only two, with a 6-0 run capped by Bryant’s tough pull-up jumper after a nasty crossover on Barnes. They couldn’t possibly pull it off, could they? Howard hit two free throws when being intentionally fouled, and Meeks hit two himself after a terrible foul from Bledsoe 90 feet away from his rim.

0:00 But that would be as close as they’d get, as Paul drew Howard’s sixth foul with a body bump near the rim and hit both free throws, then hit two more after Bryant missed a tough fading triple on the other end. Your final: Clippers 107, Lakers 102. Bryant finished with 38 points and five steals on 15 of 25 field goals, but it was ultimately Paul’s night, behind 30 points, 13 dimes and six boards in 41 minutes (three fewer than Bryant). The Lakers continue to show flashes, but continue to struggle to put full games together, with Howard, Nash and Bryant all alternately effective in this one but Gasol, MWP and Meeks all really struggling on offense. The latter trio hit only 5 of 25 shots, in a game L.A. still managed to shoot 46 percent. The Clips were more efficient, converting 50 percent despite Paul’s 11 of 25 field goals, with most every other guy going over 50 percent.

Up next is Denver at home on Sunday; we’ll see you there.

Ham on Kobe and Jordan

Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham spent some time guarding Kobe Bryant after a recent practice, watching helplessly at times as Kobe scored on 15 of 20 possessions.

Bryant’s been scoring on everybody this season (30.3 points per game to lead the league on 47.9 percent shooting), and Ham doesn’t claim to be the fleetest of foot right now. But he’s as strong as a bull, and has NBA defensive principles down cold. That didn’t stop Bryant from swishing fadeaways, pull-ups and leaners or getting to the rim at will and finishing with either hand.

When Ham was an NBA player himself, starting in 1996 until finally retiring in 2005, he spent some time guarding the one player he said was as difficult as Bryant: Michael Jordan.

Here’s how Ham described the task of defending two of the greatest 1-on-1 players of all time:

Q: On the similarities and differences between KB and MJ:
Ham: I think Kobe is a far better pure shooter. I think they’re both equal in having initial moves, counter moves, and then if you stop the initial and counter, they have an escape move. They’re totally identical in that aspect. Mike was probably stronger, but Kobe is more fluid. Take nothing away from Mike (because) he had an amazing, amazing arsenal of moves, but Kobe is a lot more fluid. He’s never off balance and he can shoot with either hand, which just makes it really tough on the defender.

Q: On advice trying to slow Bryant down:
Ham: There is no way. You just hope he gets tired. Take a hard foul. You try to neutralize him in some kind of way, but there’s no stopping him. The only thing I can try to do is slow him down. Just switch my feet up when I guard him. When I see him about to crank into a move, I’ll move my feet, but that doesn’t often work either. Once he figures it out, he’ll time you. Once you’re in the process of switching your feet or ready to stand up, he’s gone. He’s quick with it. Pump fake, jab step, take off. You get low to take off, he’s raising up to shoot the ball. That’s Kobe.