Monthly Archive for March, 2013

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Lakers 76, Suns 99: March 18 Running Diary

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix SunsBelow is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday evening contest at Phoenix, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Suns: G. Dragic, W. Johnson, P. Tucker, M. Morris, J. O’Neal

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns4:00 Despite missing a series of shots at the rim, Dwight Howard was dominating the Suns physically, allowing an early 7-point lead behind his 11 points and six boards in the first period, continuing his excellent play of late.

0:00 The quarter didn’t close quite as well, but a finger roll with three seconds left from Steve Blake put the Lakers up 25-21 after 12 minutes. Steve Nash did some damage against his former team, making 4 of 7 shots for 10 points.

6:45 Playing with supreme confidence, Blake hit consecutive shots to reach eight points with his game-high four assists, but his teammates were looking collectively ragged on this 14th back-to-back of the season. L.A. had yet to win both games in a B2B all season, going 0-4 on such home/road B2B’s, and would need to play better to turn that around.

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns0:00 A poor second quarter concluded with the Suns claiming a 47-44 lead into halftime, outscoring L.A. 26-19 in the period, as the visitors managed only 1 of 11 three-pointers to allow the Suns to crash in on Howard, who converted just 4 of 14 attempts. The energy wasn’t terrible on this back to back, but it wasn’t great, and the second half promised to be more difficult.

3:20 The Lakers were in trouble, down 69-58 after a 7-0 Suns run eventually snapped by two Nash (16 points) free throws, only to counter with a wide-open J from Jared Dudley, going right back up 11. Most of the Lakers were struggling, particularly Earl Clark (1 for 4 FG’s, two turnovers, plenty of missed rotations on defense) and Antawn Jamison, who’d yet to score in 15 minutes. He took only two shots, not able to get himself involved, after averaging 22 points on nearly 60 percent shooting in his last two games.

0:00 On cue, Jamison drained his first shot of the game, a corner three that piggy-backed Blake’s triple, capping a quick 6-0 run that trimmed what had grown to an 11-point lead to 71-66 after three quarters. Despite some sluggish play, the Lakers were within striking distance heading into the final 12 minutes.

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns8:57 Phoenix used a quick 4-0 run to push its lead right back to 10, though a previously-struggling Clark managed to hit a long two immediately out of a time out, L.A. hoping to steal this game as the Suns did on January 30, coming from 13 down in the fourth to beat the Lakers at the start of the Grammy trip.

3:30 The final dagger came on a pull-up three to beat the shot clock from Scola on a busted play. The Argentinean exploded for all 14 of his points in the fourth quarter, mostly by dragging Howard out to 18 feet and shooting jumpers. Meanwhile, he played Howard extremely physically on the other end, mostly fronting him and using the can’t-call-a-foul-on-every-play tactic, as Phoenix continued to build a big lead. The Lakers scored only 10 points in the period for a season-low of 76 in the game, while the Suns went off for 28. Playing six games in nine nights caught up to a Lakers team missing both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, though the reward is having just one game in the next six nights, vs. Washington on Friday. We’ll see you there.

Lakers Round Up

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles LakersHere’s a look at a bevy of topics surrounding a team that’s now won 19 of 26 games and 11 of 14 out of the All-Star break in advance of Monday’s tail end of a back to back in Phoenix:

- Marcin Gortat (sprained foot) is out. Channing Frye (enlarged heart) is out. This means Jermaine O’Neal is starting at center. He’s found the fountain of youth with averages of 12.8 points and 8.1 boards per game since the All-Star break. The minutes of Luis Scola have fluctuated as well (17 minutes or less in 5 games), and he’s way undersized for Howard, so coach Lindsay Hunter likely need foul machine Hamed Haddadi to play backup minutes.
- The Suns are allowing 111.6 points per game on 49.2 percent field goals and 49.2 percent 3-pt field goals in their last five contests, four of them losses.
- Phoenix acquired Marcus Morris on Feb. 21 to join twin brother Markieff, the second pair of twins to be teammates in NBA history. The Kansas products have been together in the starting line up since March 8, along with Wes Johnson (9.8 ppg post All-Star break), Dragic and O’Neal.
- Michael Beasley has gotten inconsistent minutes post All-Star break (15 minutes or less in 5 games), but killed the Lakers in the 13-point fourth quarter comeback on Jan. 30. Former Laker Shannon Brown is no longer in the rotation, appearing in one game since All-Star break as the Suns try to see what they have in the young guys.
- Dragic has averaged 9.1 assists since All-Star break, and is the only starter from the last time these two teams played.

The Lakers have not won both games of a back-to-back all season, with age and injuries – and generally poor play early in the season – a factor. The good news for L.A.: they have only 3 of their 16 back-to-backs left, and they’re all against struggling teams. After beating Sacramento on Sunday, L.A.’s in position for a sweep if they can beat Phoenix. Here are the remaining B2B’s: Mar. 17/18: SAC/@PHO; Mar. 27/28:@MIN/@MIL; Apr. 9/10: NOH/@POR.

Check his stats in the last 2: 22.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 58.3% FG’s, 60% 3-PT FG’s. So he’s back in rhythm after a streak of four straight games without hitting double figures in early March, and back in form to a streak of eight consecutive games with at least 10 points from Feb. 12 to March 3.

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles LakersBLAKE LOVING D’ANTONI BALL:
In his first two years with the Lakers, Steve Blake was reduced to the role of backup PG in low-post heavy offenses, which primarily required inside passing, dump offs and the occasional spot up shot. That didn’t exactly suit his style, as we’ve seen in his development under Mike D’Antoni. The coach who loves spreading the court and moving the ball around told reporters before the season that he thought Blake was perfect for his system, and we’ve seen why. With Kobe Bryant out, the last two games have particularly allowed Blake some more freedom. At Indiana, the Maryland product went off for 18 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals, hitting 5 triples. He backed that up with 16 points, eight assists and five boards against the Kings, including 4 more 3-pointers. Since Blake returned, the Lakers are 17-7 overall (.708), including 9-1 at home and 8-6 on the road. He’s now hit 11 of 18 3’s in the last 3 games (61.1%), but perhaps more importantly – if you ask D’Antoni – his pressure D on the perimeter has made a big impact in the team defense.

Thanks to “significant pain and swelling” in his ankle, Kobe Bryant is “doubtful” to play at Phoenix, after missing his first game of the season in L.A.’s win over Sacramento on Sunday. Bryant’s ankle was bad enough to keep him out of one game, so it’s unlikely that one additional day was going to get him ready enough to play, particularly when the Lakers have three full off days prior to Friday’s home game against Washington. Bryant did make the trip to Phoenix with the team, primarily so he can work with team physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto.

I walked out of the locker room with Gasol after the team’s Sunday night win, and he said he wasn’t really discouraged by having pain in his foot after playing 2-on-2 on Saturday, because having some pain is expected with his plantar fascia tear. It’ll be two weeks tomorrow, the front end of the estimated time he’d be out by two weeks. His plan is to get an ultrasound exam on Tuesday when the team returns from Arizona, and then see what he can do on Wednesday and Thursday. If everything goes well, there’s a chance he could return for Friday’s game, but Gasol did not want to put an expectation on it, as he simply doesn’t know how it will feel throughout the week.

In the last five games, LAL are holding their opponents to 93.8 points per game on 41.0% FG’s, with three of the last five opponents hitting less than 40% from the field. Dwight Howard has been the key, as vs. Sacramento when he grabbed 17 boards and swatted 5 shots. Since the All-Star break, he’s averaging 15.0 rebounds per game, and in his last 5 games, he’s averaging 19.4 points, 16.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game, clearly getting healthier and healthier. In fact, with 17 window cleans on Sunday, Howard matched the best rebounding streak of his career by grabbing at least 12 for the 14th straight game, in this case each game out of the All Star break, of which LAL have of course won 11.

EAZY EARL CLARK COMES BACK TO EARTH: The surprise story of January, Earl Clark, has struggled since the All-Star break as opposing teams put him on the scouting report.

PRE BREAK: 8.1 ppg on 47.1% FG’s and 40.5% 3’s; 6.3 rpg
POST BREAK: 7.9 ppg on 41.7% FG’s and 25.0% 3’s; 5.7 rpg

Expect Clark’s minutes to go down once Pau Gasol returns. Gasol will likely start, and it could be Jamison who replaces him as the first big off the bench.

Remember the much-publicized big team meeting in Memphis, which came before the Lakers dropped 8 games below .500 and had many questioning whether it would be just the third time since Dr. Buss bought the team in 1979 that the Lakers would miss the playoffs? Since then, the Lakers have gone 19-7.

By winning 19 of 26 games and 11 of 14 out of the All-Star break, the Lakers have moved past Utah into the 8 slot, closing in on Houston and Golden State.

No. 9 UTAH (34-32) 1.0 game down. The Jazz have won only three of their last 11 games, and host New York before going on a trip to Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. The Lakers do not play Utah again, and the Jazz hold the tiebreaker.
No. 7 HOUSTON (36-31): .5 games up. The Lakers play Houston one more time, on the final day of the season at STAPLES Center, and if they win, are in good position to win the second tiebreaker since they’d have a better Western Conference record (right now 19-21 to Houston’s 17-23).
No. 6 GSW (38-30): 2.0 games up. The Warriors went only 4-3 on a 7-game home stand, and have two straight road games at New Orleans and San Antonio. They’ve played two more road game than the Lakers, and play L.A. twice more, with a big one next Monday in Golden State.

Lakers – Kings Postgame Numbers

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles LakersWe broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 113-102 win against Sacramento:

Field-goal percentage for the Lakers towards 113 points, as six players finished in double figures. In the second half, L.A. made 19 of 30 shots (63.3 percent). “We don’t have to be one player dominant,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “That ball needs to move and if it does, then we are really good.”

Bench points coming from two players – Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake. Jamison recorded a game-high 27 points, to go along with nine boards, while Blake finished with 16 points, eight assists and five boards. The two also combined to hit nine of the team’s 12 three-pointers on the evening. At Indiana, Jamison posted 17 points and seven rebounds, and Blake had 17 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals.

Rebounds for Dwight Howard, his 14th straight game with at least 12 boards, tying the longest streak of his career. Howard also recorded at least 15 rebounds for the 22nd time this season, most in the NBA. He finished with 12 points and five blocked shots, anchoring a Lakers defense that limited Sacramento to just 39.6 percent field goals in the second half. In the last five games, the big man is averaging 19.4 points, 16.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks. “For me it starts on defense,” he said postgame. “I have to control the paint, make sure I come out with a lot of energy and just protect the basket for these guys.”

Assists for Steve Nash, one short of his season-high set back on Jan. 6. It was his first double-digit assist game since the beginning of the month and just the third in the last month-and-a-half. Overall, the Lakers finished with 28 dimes on 41 made field goals, and postgame, D’Antoni expressed he was pleased with the ball movement.

Straight field goal makes for Metta World Peace, before finishing 10 of 13 for 22 points. In the last three games, World Peace is averaging 20.3 points on 56.8 percent field goals.

Lakers 113, Kings 102: March 17 Running Diary

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

Lakers: Nash, Meeks, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Kings: I. Thomas, T. Evans, J. Salmons, P. Patterson, J. Thompson

12:00 Injuries were the story coming into the game, as we learned that Kobe Bryant would miss his first full game of the season with his severely sprained ankle after lasting only one quarter against Indiana on Friday. Pau Gasol remained out, having had some pain in his foot after a 2-on-2 session with teammates on Saturday, and for the Kings, center DeMarcus Cousins would miss a second straight game with a sore thigh.

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers4:40 With no Kobe, Jodie Meeks was at the two guard spot, and a two-handed dunk through traffic highlighted an 18-14 start for the home team, an early segment capped by a wing three from Antawn Jamison, huge with 17 points off the pine in the win at Indiana.

0:00 L.A. impressed on offense throughout the first period, hitting 13 of 22 shots (4 of 9 threes) for a hefty 59.1 percent, getting 11 bench points as Antawn Jamison scored eight (two triples) and Steve Blake had three assists, the two playing so well after keying L.A.’s best win of the season at Indiana on Friday. As such, the Lakers took a 33-27 lead out of the quarter.

4:41 Sacramento reeled off a quick 7-0 run to trim L.A.’s lead to one, but the Lakers responded on the other end, a World Peace bucket allowing a 49-41 lead amidst an already big Dwight Howard double-double. He had 12 points and 11 boards in just 14 minutes.

0:00 But right back came the Kings, using another 7-0 burst this time gave the road team a momentary lead, though Nash hit a jumper on the other end with four seconds left to tie the game at 56. The Canadian had seven points with his six assists, the latter stat matching Steve Blake as the team posted 16 dimes on 22 field goals, but the Kings had 16 helpers of their own on 23 field goals. They took six more shots, committing only two turnovers to the six from the Lakers.

4:13 With both Nash and Blake on the floor, the assists continued to mount, Nash notching his 11th and 12th and Blake his 7th during a 6-0 run that made it a 79-72 Lakers lead. This after two Isiah Thomas 2′s were changed to 3′s with official review during the previous time out. On 31 field goals, L.A. had 24 assists already, for a team averaging 22 on the season.

0:00 A terrific close to the period for the Lakers was capped by Blake’s third triple, which allowed an 86-76 lead thanks to a 30-20 quarter. MWP hit 4 of 5 field goals in the quarter (8 of 9 in the game) for nine points, while Blake and Jamison had eight apiece, with Nash tossing six of his game-high 12 assists (one short of his season high).

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles LakersFOURTH QUARTER
9:01 The lead grew to as many as 12, but Sacramento immediately responded with an 8-0 run to force D’Antoni’s time out, his lead at just four with plenty of time on the clock. His squad was scoring with ease, shooting 55.7 percent, but the Kings hit four of their first six shots of the fourth, including an and-1 and triple from Marcus Thornton (13 bench points) to cause some angst in the building.

6:23 But coming right back were the Steves, as Blake and Nash drained back-to-back triples, then watched Jamison hit his 5th to cap an 11-0 run that blew the game back open, L.A. up 101-88. Blake was up to 16 points with his seven assists and five boards, and Nash 17 points with his 12 assists, while Jamison had a game-high 26 points after hitting four straight free throws moments later.

3:43 Yet another fourth quarter J, this one from MWP, pushed the lead to 107-92, L.A. pretty safe into a time out despite ensuing Kings buckets on the next two possessions.

0:00 The final margin was 113-102, L.A. finishing an excellent team effort by shooting 56.9 percent from the field, paced by a 10 of 13 night from Metta World Peace (22 points), 7 of 12 from Nash (19 points with 12 assists), 8 of 14 from Jamison (game-high 27 points) and 6 of 11 from Blake (16 points plus eight assists). L.A. out-boarded SAC 43-33, and got 17 rebounds and five blocks from Howard, who continues to look more explosive by the game. Up next is the tail end of a back-to-back at Phoenix tomorrow night. We’ll see you there.

Injury Update: Pau Gasol

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles LakersLakers Injury Report sponsored by UCLA Health SystemPau Gasol, who tore his right plantar fascia nearly five-and-a-half weeks ago, has been ruled out of tonight’s game against Sacramento as well as Monday’s game at Phoenix.

“He’ll have three days in between games and then hopefully, he’ll be able to come out (on Friday),” coach Mike D’Antoni explained pregame.

The 7-foot Spaniard did extensive on-court work during the Lakers most recent road trip. The original prognosis was a six to eight week timetable that Gasol was expected to miss. He originally suffered the injury back on Feb. 5 at Brooklyn.

“Until he starts to play and get up and down, you never know,” D’Antoni said. “Whether it’s Friday or not, you just can’t tell. Hopefully Friday, he’ll be cleared.”

Gasol, meanwhile, did not have a timetable and did not target a specific game for his return.

“I don’t want to put any date so there are no surprises or disappointments,” he said.

Kobe Bryant, who severely sprained his ankle at Atlanta, is also battling an illness
and will be out of action tonight as well. It will be the first game missed this year for the 16-year veteran.

Jodie Meeks will start in Bryant’s place.

Lakers – Pacers Postgame Numbers

Los Angeles Lakers v Indiana PacersWe broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 99-93 win at Indiana:

Field-goal percentage for Indiana, the third Lakers opponent in the last four games to shoot under 40 percent. After trailing 19-8 early, L.A. went on a 31-9 run, holding the Pacers to 4 of 25 in that span to take their biggest lead at 39-28. In their 10 wins since the All-Star break, the Lakers have posted a defensive efficiency of 98.8, which would rank fourth in the NBA. “We played hard and we played very well defensively,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I thought Steve Blake and Metta (World Peace) on the defensive end were unbelievable.”

Plus rating for Blake, a team-high. The Lakers backup point guard scored a season-high 18 points, all coming off 3-pointers (five) and free throws (three). He also recorded seven assists, six boards, four steals and two blocks. Another Laker off the bench to step up: Antawn Jamison, who scored 17 points and grabbed seven boards off the bench in 33 minutes.

Points for World Peace, including 11 during the third quarter to help carry L.A. on offense. More than his offensive contributions, he spent most of the night guarding David West, who scored just eight points on 4 of 13 field goals. West had come into the game averaging nearly 19 points and nine boards on 55 percent from the floor in six March games.

Triples for the Lakers, out of 26 attempts. Blake and Jamison combined to make nine of the 13 off the pine, two of them coming in the fourth quarter at key moments down the stretch.

Minutes played for Kobe Bryant, who sat out the remaining three quarters because his severely sprained ankle was “really stiff” and “continued to swell.” Less than 48 hours after injuring that ankle, Bryant was in the starting lineup, the only Laker to have appeared in all 67 games this year. Despite missing all four field-goal attempts and finishing scoreless, his decision to give it a go was inspiring, according to his teammates, leading to a total team effort in the win.

Lakers 99, Pacers 93: March 15 Running Diary

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

Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Pacers: G. Hill, L. Stephenson, P. George, D. West, R. Hibbert

1:30 L.A. was really, really struggling on offense, making only 3 of its first 18 field goals, before back-to-back triples from Metta World Peace cut what had grown to an 11-point Indy lead to five at 19-14. The big story of the day was, of course, the fact that Kobe Bryant was playing through a severely sprained ankle

0:00 The run concluded at 8-0 as Steve Blake drew a three-point shooting foul on D.J. Augustin with under a second left on the game clock, hitting 2 of the 3 foul shots to cut Indy’s lead to 19-16 after one.

Los Angeles Lakers v Indiana Pacers9:51 The strong LAL play continued, a 12-0 run capped by two Howard free throws that gave the Lakers their first lead at 21-20, Indy having missed 11 straight shots. Howard was busy getting both Indy bigs in foul trouble, as Roy Hibbert and backup Ian Mahinmi picked up their respective third fouls and would have to sit for the rest of the quarter. In came deep reserve Jeff Pendergraph, who immediately picked up a foul trying to deal with Howard.

0:00 A bizarre end of the half featured two errors by the Indiana shot clock operator, who started the clock too early and thus negated a buzzer-beating jumper from Nash at the free throw line. The refs decided to put 1.5 seconds back on the clock, calling the Pacers back out from the locker room, but the Lakers missed two shots, and thus took a 46-41 – not 48-41 – lead in to the second half. It had been 46-36 with 49.3 seconds left when Robert Sacre – in for Howard, who picked up his third foul halfway through the third and had to sit after dominating the first six minutes – hit a baseline jumper. Indy responded with a George Hill three and two Paul George free throws, cutting the margin in half. More news:
- Kobe Bryant did not play in the second, the ankle simply not allowing him to move well enough to play, and was out for the game.
- Antawn Jamison went off in the second, hitting three triples towards 11 points with five rebounds.
- Steve Blake was there with him, hitting two triples himself and throwing four assists.

8:04 After consecutive buckets from Howard and Nash, L.A.’s Kobe-less offense fell apart, a mix of turnovers and missed open shots allowing Indy to take a 56-50 lead, up 15-4 in the quarter, keyed by a quick 13-0 burst that had Mike D’Antoni call time out. This, by the way, is the Pacers line up that has been an NBA-best +263 on the season when playing together, a fantastic mark, better than Miami, OKC and San Antonio’s best units.

Los Angeles Lakers v Indiana Pacers4:23 Coming right back for the Lakers, thanks to World Peace – seven straight points – and a freshly-returned Blake, who fed MWP for the last bucket, cutting Indy’s lead back to one. Howard was outplaying Hibbert, but Indy’s center drained an unexpected corner 3 to beat the shot clock on a busted play, just his second make in eight attempts. The Lakers continued to play well to close the quarter down just a point.

7:00 Immediately after returning from his regular rest, Nash pulled up for a jumper, and MWP followed with a put-back of Blake’s rare miss to make it a 79-76 Lakers lead, behind an 11-7 start to the final period. Blake had a season-high 14 points to go with his seven dimes and three steals, while MWP was up to 19 points to lead all scorers. Howard had also been strong, with 15 points, 12 boards, four assists and four blocks to that point despite early foul trouble.

1:30 Have we mentioned Blake enough? He continued to make huge plays, nailing his 5th triple and then collecting his fourth steal, the latter leading to an and-1 from Howard that put the Lakers up 90-87 with a minute and a half to play. Blake’s fourth triple had come moments earlier, putting L.A. up two with 2:55 left, before Hill answered with a jumper. An even bigger triple came from Jamison, his fourth, which gave him 17 points (Blake had 18) and put the Lakers up 93-87 in the final minute, the dagger triple the 13th in 26 attempts for the visitors. Hill answered with a big three, but L.A. executed a perfect fastbreak to get Howard a dunk with 30 seconds left, the final nail in the proverbial coffin.

0:00 The final, after free throws, was 99-93, easily the best Lakers win of the season. They played without Kobe for three quarters, Pau Gasol remained in street clothes – but is expected back next week – and got a bit of something from everybody. World Peace added great defense on West (4 of 13 shooting) to his 19 points, Howard totaled 20 points, 12 boards, four dimes and four blocks, Blake totaled 18 points, seven dimes, six boards and five steals, and Nash 15 points with nine assits. L.A. makes up for a blown game in Atlanta to improve to 2-1 on the trip and 35-32 overall, a game up on Utah for the 8th spot out West. Up next is Sacramento on Sunday; we’ll see you there.

Injury Update: Kobe’s Ankle

Lakers Injury Report sponsored by UCLA Health SystemWith two seconds left in L.A.’s 96-92 Wednesday night loss at Atlanta, Kobe Bryant rose for one of his patented shots, a fadeaway jumper from the baseline, attempting to tie a game he’d brought within reach with a turnaround three on the previous possession.

Bryant not only missed, but landed on the foot of Dahntay Jones and severely sprained his left ankle. Bryant was upset about the play, not just because no foul was called when Jones slid underneath him, but because of the way Jones defended him:

“It’s just a very, very dangerous play,” Bryant said. “Especially if I’m fading away, there’s no rhyme or reason why I should come down anywhere near somebody’s foot.”

Bryant said Jones “Jalen Rose’d” him, referring to the 2000 NBA Finals against Indiana, when Bryant landed on Rose’s foot and severely sprained his ankle, forcing him to miss a game. Kobe allowed that this is the worst he’s sprained an ankle since the Rose incident, which the ESPN analyst later admitted on his podcast was intentional.

On his @dahntay1 Twitter account, Jones argued otherwise: “Tape doesn’t lie. Ankle was turned on the floor after the leg kick out that knocked him off balance. I would never try to hurt the man.”

When Jones played for Denver, he had two incidents while defending Bryant in the 2009 Western finals, tripping Kobe on one play and pushing him in the back on another. He was hit with flagrant fouls for both. A reporter asked Bryant if Jones did it on purpose.

“I don’t ever want to put that on somebody,” he responded. “I really don’t. I just think players need to be made conscious of it. I think officials need to protect shooters. Period.”

The NBA agreed with Bryant, stating on Thursday that the play should have been whistled a foul, since Jones moved in and did not allow Bryant space to land. A foul would have granted Kobe two foul shots, and a chance to tie the game at 94.

Bryant’s focus is on the literally constant rehabilitation he’s been doing with head athletic trainer Gary Vitti and his training staff (these are Vitti’s hands around Bryant’s very swollen ankle). Team physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto – who alongside Vitti has helped keep Bryant on the court throughout much of his career – is among those working on Kobe at the team’s hotel in Indianapolis.

Bryant also appears ready to move on from the incident, after acknowledging that he’s happy to share his opinion:

Bryant is officially listed as “out indefinitely,” and thus not necessarily out for any specific number of games, including Friday’s at Indiana. We’ll see where things stand after the team’s shootaround on Friday morning for the only Laker yet to miss a game this season.

Lakers – Hawks Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 96-92 loss at Atlanta:

Bench points for Atlanta, led by Kyle Korver’s 15. Ivan Johnson and rookie John Jenkins chipped in with 12 apiece, while Shelvin Mack tied a season-high with seven. With the Hawks missing two starters – Jeff Teague and Josh Smith – their bench stepped up at the end, scoring the last eight points for the home team to stave off the Lakers.

Three-pointers attempted for the Lakers, who made just eight (27.6 percent). In the last three games, L.A. is shooting just 27.5 percent from distance after converting at a 41.6 clip in nine games prior. What happens is (the Hawks) send (Al) Horford to double-team Kobe, but they never got off of Dwight’s body all night,” coach Mike D’Antoni explained. “That leaves guys wide open. I could tell them to not take shots, but you just have to knock it down when you¹re open.”

Percent field goals in the fourth quarter for the Lakers, who missed seven straight shots on two separate occasions. Despite their offensive struggles, they found themselves in a position to tie the game near the end. Atlanta wasn’t much better converting on 7 of 18 field goals, but got a putback layup and four free throws in the last 33 seconds to pull out the win.

Third-quarter points from Bryant on 8 of 16 field goals, almost single-handedly trimming Atlanta’s 12-point halftime lead to just two points entering the fourth. This was after he shot 1 of 8 towards three points in the first half. Overall, he finished with 31 points, but took 33 shots to get there. Most of those came up short, a sign of tired legs that Bryant acknowledged.

Rebounds for Dwight Howard, his second straight game with at least that many. It was his 12th consecutive contest with at least 12 boards, the second-longest streak of his career (the longest being 14 games). Despite finishing with another double-double, Howard battled foul trouble all night.

Sprained ankles – Earl Clark and Bryant – for the Lakers. Clark played just 14 minutes and did not play the entire fourth quarter, but postgame, said he’ll “be all right” for Friday’s game at Indiana. Bryant came down on his left ankle after missing the potential game-tying shot with Dahntay Jones in his face. The Lakers are calling it a “severe sprain” and he will be out “indefinitely.”

Lakers 92, Hawks 96: March 13 Running Diary

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

Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Hawks: D. Harris, D. Jones, A. Tolliver, A. Horford, J. Petro

12:00 Injuries have been such a major issue for the Lakers throughout the season, but on this night, it was their opponent really struggling on that front. Josh Smith (sprained knee), Jeff Teague (sprained ankle) and Zaza Pachulia (Achilles issues) were all out, meaning subs Devin Harris, Anthony Tolliver and Johan Petro joined Al Horford and Dahntay Jones (also not a usual starter) in the starting line up. While NBA teams can sometimes play better by rallying around the flag without regulars, it’s not often that three key players can be out and success follows. We’ll see if the Lakers can take advantage…

2:22 After a long offensive lull, Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison and Metta World Peace combined to hit five of six shots, MWP’s consecutive hoops to close the run making it 19-17 for the visitors. Dwight Howard was forced to sit after just under four minutes of actions when he picked up his second foul helping on Al Horford, who dribbled around World and got all the way to the rim. L.A.’s small line up has struggled defensively, naturally, with Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison trying to protect the rim, just another of many reasons why the team can’t wait for Pau Gasol to return.

0:00 Per, the small line up of Nash/Kobe/MWP/Jamison/Clark has a defensive efficiency of 131.9 in 46 minutes together. That’s not good, and with Howard out, Atlanta pushed its lead to seven after one quarter, L.A. – and especially 0 for 6 Kobe) were looking sluggish.

3:51 The Lakers couldn’t have looked much worse, trailing 49-37 after a quick 6-0 Hawks run, after the second unit had trimmed the margin a bit early in the quarter. Atlanta had gotten 25 points off its own bench from players who generally get few minutes when the Hawks are healthy, and the starters picked it up. Meanwhile, Bryant was 0 for 7, and not involved on defense. Kobe acknowledged that his legs are tired, understandable with how much he’s exerted in his 17th NBA season, and needed some help from his friends.

0:00 A very poor first half for the Lakers ended with the Hawks up 55-43, their reserve players and usual subs stepping up to control the energy and flow of the game really since Howard picked up his second foul early on.

5:47 L.A. got four straight hoops from Kobe, finally finding a rhythm on offense, to cut the lead to seven. But they fell right back to earth, allowing a 5-0 Hawks run capped by Kyle Korver’s three when Bryant didn’t get a foul call falling down on the other end, and the deficit was thus right back to 12.

2:45 And then Kobe went nuts, scoring from everywhere as the thousands (literally) of Lakers and Kobe fans in the building high-fived and stood up, bringing the Lakers to within a single point at 69-68. He scored 11 straight points amid an LAL run, reaching 22 in the game after a 1 for 8 first half (three points).

10:00 L.A. kept the good energy from the third quarter going in the fourth, as Nash orchestrated an 80-76 lead behind a right-handed hook in the paint, a dish for a transition three from Blake and a technical foul shot after Larry Drew drew one while complaining about a no-call on Howard’s block of Ivan Johnson.

5:19 The Lakers looked to have taken control, but then allowed a big Hawks run, Harris doing most of the damage in scoring nine straight ATL points to make it an 88-83 lead for the home team. Howard had picked up his fifth foul, and Nash was struggling to find his legs, making only 4 of 13 shots, 1 of 7 in the second half.

0:51.5 The offensive struggle continued for L.A., who missed six straight shots down the stretch, the only points coming from two Kobe free throws as the Hawks maintained a 90-87 lead with less than a minute to play, and the ball. Bryant rimmed out on a put-back attempt of his own miss that looked like it was down at the 1:36 mark, and MWP followed suit by missing a layup with 55 seconds left. Stops were coming on D, the Hawks hitting only 1 of 8 shots, but the Lakers couldn’t clear a big defensive board after Horford missed on the baseline, Ivan Johnson gathering the loose ball and putting it in with 33.3 left to put the Hawks up five.

0:25.5 MWP tipped in Bryant’s miss, cutting the lead to three, but L.A. had to put John Jenkins at the line. He missed the first, made the second, putting the Hawks up four. So, Bryant had hit only 1 of 7 in the fourth quarter, clearly fatigued, but he found a way to drain a fading three with 18.2 seconds left, trimming the lead to one. Then Kyle Korver, who’d made 22 straight free throws, missed the first, and L.A. was down only two with the ball and 16.9 on the clock. Kobe got to one of his favorite spots on the baseline, and took a jumper he’s hit thousands of times, but missed. To compound it, he landed on the foot of Dahntay Jones, turning his left ankle. He eventually got up under his own power and limped to the locker room with 2.6 seconds left after Korver hit two free throws to finish the game.

So the Lakers lost, 96-92, to fall to 34-32 on the season. They paid for failing to bring early energy in this back-to-back against a short-handed Hawks team, certainly a disappointing loss. Up next is a tough game Friday at Indiana; we’ll see you there.