Archive for the 'In-Game' Category

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Lakers 96, Bulls 87: Running Diary

59156637CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE LAKERS’ GAMEDAY PAGE
We took a look at the Lakers – Bulls contest in the Windy City while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter looked to start a new winning streak.

Inactives
Lakers: Luke Walton (14th straight game)
Bulls: Jerome James

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Bulls: Derrick Rose, John Salmons, Luol Deng, Brad Miller, Joakim Noah

Phil Jackson Pregame
Always a hit with the Chicago media (I think he won a few titles here?), Jackson has now actually coached more games in L.A. than he did in Chi-town, as Lakers sideline reporter John Ireland pointed out. Jackson said he still enjoys coming back, but it’s of course much different from how it used to be. He also explained that Kobe Bryant’s finger seems better to him than it was on Saturday in Utah, certainly, and that his co-captain’s stomach ailment is no longer an issue. One other note: the Lakers have beaten the Bulls five straight time, including sweeps in the last two seasons.

First Quarter
9:52 For the NBA’s 28th rated offense, the Bulls sure started out nicely, hitting their first four field goals to take an 8-2 lead. Meanwhile, Bryant clanked his first two jumpers, but then…

591557242:24 … He got ridiculously, ridiculously hot (like in “Zoolander”) from the perimeter. Bryant made eight straight perimeter J’s as if he were still taking unguarded pregame shots*. His first make came after drawing the second foul on John Salmons, who had to be relieved by Kirk Hinrich, who promptly allowed seven straight makes up close and personal. The last got Kobe to 20 points and kept L.A. in a ball game that saw Chicago open at 10-for-15 (66.7 percent).
*Wait a second. Kobe has a broken finger?

0:19.5 Jordan Farmar’s been as consistently productive off the bench of late as “Jersey Shore” is consistently (unintentionally) hilarious (OK maybe not that much), and he continued the trend by nailing a corner three to even the score at 31 heading into the second. The Bulls played a very good quarter, but received quite a blow when Rose left with 5:50 to play due to a strained left rib (questionable return).

Second Quarter
9:44 Shannon Brown checked in and quickly converted a pretty left-handed layup in front of many of his family members and friends. After all, he’s from Maywood, Ill., which is a stone’s throw away from the United Center. Even better, Brown forgot to bring a belt, instead using a piece of lace/string from the team hotel. Farmar and Adam Morrison couldn’t have been happier to see it.

5:35 Kobe’s first second quarter look after a good rest? Swish. The next two Lakers possession continued a trend of extra passes that saw Lamar Odom get two easy layup thanks to Gasol’s pretty looks, putting L.A. up 49-42 to match the visiting team’s biggest lead. Odom had seven points, two assists, two boards, a block and a steal at that point.

0:47.1 Gasol had one of his worst offensive halfs of the season by making just 1-of-4 with the energetic Joakim Noah chasing him all over the place, and he appeared to take it out on Chicago with a nasty move along the baseline that culminated in a reverse dunk. That basket put L.A. up 54-48 at the half, on strength of a 23-17 second quarter.

Third Quarter
10:21 Del Negro decided to take Joakim Noah – who may have been Chicago’s most effective player with 10 points, 11 boards and five blocks – out 59156332for rookie Taj Gibson to match up with Gasol? Meanwhile, Bryant, up-faked Salmons into his fourth foul very early in the period, bringing Hinrich (a better overall player) back into the game.

5:01 The Bulls continued to hang in after Rose got to the baseline for a pull-up jumper that cut L.A.’s lead to three at 64-61. In other news, Chicago’s mascot sat on the lap of the wife of a guy wearing a Lakers warm up jersey, sitting courtside. He was about as amused as Kobe gets after a missed call.

0:02.9 Rose missed a pull-up jumper to end a good quarter for Chicago which saw a six-point half time lead turn into a one-point deficit heading into the forth. The Lakers were only 4-for-19 in the quarter (21 percent).

Fourth Quarter
11:00 Have you been to LetShannonDunk.com? It’s fun. Check it out. Also, feel free to watch him fly as he did here, for a nasty baseline hammer that followed his three-pointer in a personal 5-0 run to start the quarter. His field goal a minute later gave him nine points on 4-of-4 shooting.

6:35 Kobe’s turnaround jumper capped a 14-4 Lakers that turned control of the game the purple and gold’s way with a 86-77 margin. Bryant had 38 points at that stage on 13-of-23 FGs, 11-of-15 FTs as L.A. tried to put the game on ice.

3:00 Odom, who was very effective early and not as effective in the middle of the game, broke Chicago’s back with a fadeaway jumper from the baseline as the shot clock expired, putting the Lakers back up eight as the Bulls tried a final rally. Who else but Bryant would seal the game with a running left-handed floater from 15-feet? It got him to 40 points, put L.A. up eight and buried the Bulls.

The Lakers will take their shot at Milwaukee tomorrow night, but until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
6 Blocks from Chicago’s Joakim Noah, who recently called out LeBron James for extra celebration. Noah was a problem for L.A. all night, grabbing 20 rebounds (14 offensive) and scoring 11 points (even if it took him 16 FGA’s).

10 Combined missed threes in the game from Kobe Bryant (1-for-5) and Ron Artest (1-for-7).

11 Free throws made by Bryant, as well as Chicago’s entire team.

20 Points scored by Bryant in a fantastic first quarter, en route to a game-high 42 on 15-of-26 field goals and 11-of-15 from the charity stripe. What hurt finger?

100 Shannon Brown’s shooting percentage on four attempts, including a three and a nasty dunk early in the fourth that turned the game’s momentum. Brown, a native of Maywood, Illinois (a few blocks from United Center), did the deed in front of many of his family members and friends. Special night for the second-year Laker.

Lakers 94, Jazz 102: Running Diary

Ron Artest - UtahCLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE LAKERS’ GAMEDAY PAGE

We took a look at the Lakers – Jazz contest while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as L.A. went for its 12th consecutive victory.

Inactives
Lakers: Luke Walton (though he’s active in the broadcast booth)
Jazz: Andrei Kirilenko, Matt Harpring

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Jazz: Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Ronnie Brewer, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur

Bryant Suffering from Finger, Stomach Ailments
Phil Jackson spent part of his pregame session with the media calling Kobe Bryant the best he’s ever seen at playing through injuries and ailments, and as if to prove him right, Bryant showed up late for the game due to a case of gastroenteritis. Bryant also suffered an avulsion fracture to the index finger on his shooting hand (right) during L.A.’s 104-92 win over Minnesota last night, but neither condition will keep him off the floor.

Mehmet OkurFirst Quarter
7:12 Pau Gasol hit his second field goal of the game on a pull-up jumper that doubled as the seventh Lakers make in eight attempts. Bynum had converted an alley-oop, Fisher two jump shots and Artest two layups to get L.A., wearing gold jerseys with the Jazz again sporting throwback green kits, went up 14-9.

5:03 Bryant, trying to figure out his shot, missed for the third straight time. His first attempt was an open three, which went long; his second, a pull-up jumper from the left block that he took with his left hand that went well short, and his third a baseline jumper that rimmed out. The Lakers can live with a few early Bryant misses as he feels out how the splint affects his J, as they may well need him to hit some late in the game when it counts.

1:08 Lamar Odom’s baseline jumper capped an impressive 9-0 Lakers run that opened a 25-20 lead, as Bryant looked to have figured out his jumper with consecutive makes. In other Odom news: a reporter was making fun of another reporter for having a father in law that owned a yacht, so someone asked Odom if he liked boats. He responded that he had nothing against boats, but since he couldn’t swim, they made him pretty queasy. He also doesn’t do roller coasters, meaning his youth trips to Coney Island were just to play hoops or walk on the beach.

Second Quarter
8:56 Two free throws from Andrew Bynum and a big swat at the other end halted a strong opening to the second from Utah, which saw the Jazz take a seven-point lead. Luke Walton said on the radio that he thinks Bynum’s timing for blocks has improved considerably of late.

2:44 With L.A. trailing 51-45 into a timeout, I braced behind my computer/media table as the Jazz rolled out a t-shirt gun that looks like it belongs in a war, or at least protecting Fort Knox. Yikes. Anyway … Lakers are doing a good job of sticking in the game despite Utah’s energy and knack for getting to loose balls.

2:16 Derek Fisher continued an excellent first half by notching a steal and drawing a foul on D-Will at the other end before sticking two free throws. Moments later, Fish would hit a tough pull-up J over Williams to get to 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, already tying his season high in points, to get L.A. within six at the half (59-53). Phil Jackson also talked about how key Fisher’s contributions are in recognizing the sets of his former coach, Jerry Sloan.

Carlos BoozerThird Quarter
8:26 A Ronnie Brewer layup capped a strong opening to the third quarter for Utah by putting the Jazz up by 12, their biggest lead of the game.

8:18 Back-to-back hoops from Artest got him to a career landmark: 10,000 points. He has 12 in the game, trailing Fisher and Bynum’s 13 apiece. Fisher, however, got whistled for his fourth foul on a moving screen, sending him to the bench. The Lakers had been victim of 17 foul calls to that point, to just eight on the Jazz.

0.01.0 Farmar scored on a beautiful 360 layup with a decent amount of contact to bring L.A. within nine going into the final quarter as EnergySolutions Arena’s faithful grew louder by the minute.

Fourth Quarter
7:30 Starting to get a bit interesting? L.A., with Kobe and Pau back in, rolled off six straight points to take Utah’s lead down to 11, taking advantage of two straight Jazz turnovers on offensive fouls.

6:29 Often times, Kobe’s able to battle through sickness and pain as if it weren’t there, but it wasn’t so in the second half as he missed for the sixth straight time. The Jazz were scoring even when they shouldn’t have, with a end-of-shot-clock desperation jumper from Brewer swishing through before a Millsap layup that made it 94-77 with 5:02 to play.

1:11 The Lakers refused to go easily, as Gasol scored four points in a manner of seconds to cut Utah’s lead to 10, but it was too little, too late as Utah held on to win 102-94, sending L.A. to their first loss since the return of Gasol. Bryant was entirely exhausted afterwards, heading to the locker room a few seconds early surely to get back on the IV.

The Lakers will travel home immediately after the game, and leave for a four-game trip through Chicago, Milwaukee, New Jersey and Memphis on Monday morning. Until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
4 Second half assists for the Lakers, for a total of 15. The Jazz moved the ball with more success, nearly doubling L.A. with 29 dimes.

11 Game winning streak snapped with L.A.’s loss, its longest stretch since March and April of 2004.

13 First half points for Derek Fisher, matching his season high, though he scored just two second half points in part due to foul trouble.

16 Point total reached by three Lakers – Ron Artest, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, a new season low to lead the team.

51.9 Utah’s field goal percentage for the game, compared to 46.3 percent for L.A.

Lakers 104, Wolves 92: Running Diary

59129587CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE LAKERS’ GAMEDAY PAGE
We took a look at the Lakers – Timberwolves contest while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as L.A. went for its 11th consecutive victory.

Inactives
Lakers: Luke Walton (though he’s active in the broadcast booth)
Wolves: Brian Cardinal, Jason Hart

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Wolves: Johnny Flynn, Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes, Kevin Love, Al Jefferson

Phil Jackson Pregame
Jackson’s regular pregame media session was in this case a tutorial on the triangle offense, due in large part to the fact that Kurt Rambis has his Timberwolves running a variation of Phil and Tex Winter’s system. Rambis had earlier shared that the Wolves are running a similar set, the primary difference being that they use one guard (Flynn) instead of two out of the offense’s base. The Lakers, in fact, used a similar set for Jordan Farmar

59129998First Quarter
2:25 We have not one but two broadcaster switches tonight, with Hot Rod Hundley sitting in for Stu Lantz and the injured Walton subbing for Mychal Thompson. Hot Rod spoke to us before the game, while Walton immediately added some nuggets that only a teammate would know, detailing (for example) the amount of time Jordan Farmar’s spent at the gym with his personal trainer at night.

5:15 Remember when the STAPLES Center floor appeared to be fully covered in purple and gold as the Lakers swarmed the Jazz, allowing just six points in the fourth quarter? You know, on Wednesday? We didn’t see it in the opening minutes, as the Wolves managed a 14-14 tie heading into the first time out, but as Pau Gasol said, it’s literally impossible to play with that kind of intensity for a whole game. Of course, L.A. responded with a 12-2 run out of TO, keyed by … high-pressure defense.

0:01.3 According to assistant coach Brian Shaw, a major theme of L.A.’s game plan tonight was to pound the ball inside to Bynum and Gasol, taking advantage of the smaller Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, both of whom are 6-10. That’s sure what we saw in the first, as Gasol went 5-of-6 from the field for 10 points, and Bynum made 4-of-4 shots for eight of his own, including a buzzer-beating follow to close the quarter with L.A. up 33-24.

Second Quarter
7:17Shannon Brown attempted to board the Lakers’ flight to Utah a few hours early, rising as high as only he can to throw down a Bryant alley-oop. Nasty. In not-so-fun news, Bryant sprained the index finger on his shooting hand, and after returning briefly went to the locker room with about four minutes left in the half.

5:50 The Wolves charged all the way back from 11 down to tie the score at 42 as the Lakers took a collective nap on the basketball floor (not literally). It was Minnesota’s unheralded bench featuring Ramon Sessions, Sasha Pavlovic and Ryan Hollins that combined to make up the deficit with 15 combined points.

0:40.0 A good sign for L.A. – Sasha Vujacic came off the bench in Kobe’s absence and nailed all three of his jumpers, including a three-pointer, all three of which came in rhythm with the offense. His back-to-back jumpers in the final two minutes put L.A. up 56-52, though the Wolves got a bucket back to trail by just two at halftime.

59129597Third Quarter
9:15 Just after we learned that Bryant suffered an avulsion fracture to his index finger, No. 24 dropped a three pointer from the top of the key. Is there a tougher player in the NBA? Walton doesn’t think so, as he stated on the radio.

6:22 L.A., steadily building its lead, got a pretty reverse layup from Kobe off Gasol’s feed, and then saw Bryant hit a 22-foot jumper to make it a 10-point game once again. The man apparently does not feel pain despite the splint on his finger.

0:35.6 The Lakers got a nice lift from their two Queens, NY products Odom and Artest, who played AAU together at the tender age of 12, and keyed a dominant 12-0 run to take firm control of the game. Artest and Odom combined for nine of those points, and joined Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown and Pau Gasol with a smothering stretch of defense to make it 86-68 heading into the fourth.

Fourth Quarter
9:52 Farmar continues to excel off the bench, nailing another perimeter jumper to get to eight points off the bench. With that hoop, he’d hit the eight-point mark in seven consecutive games.

4:44 Ron Artest continues to sink threes, making his second of the night to get to 16 points. Odom followed with a silky left-handed layup as he glided through the air to put L.A. up 99-83, producing this line from Walton: “Not many prettier things in basketball than that right there.”

1:15 The game was long over, but Gasol drove the nail in quite deeply with a put back of Fisher’s miss to put L.A. up by 15. He then grabbed three more boards for a season-high 20 glass cleans, not to mention 17 points and seven assists. In related news, the Lakers have not lost since getting Gasol back into the lineup.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
3 Left-handed shots made by Kobe Bryant, hurting a bit after an avulsion fracture of his right index finger. Bryant finished with 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting, plus five boards and five assists.

11 Straight wins for the Lakers, the most they’ve won since March and April of 2004.

13 Points from Lamar Odom, his highest scoring output since Nov. 13 in Denver when he scored 14.

17 Minnesota turnovers forced by L.A., due in part to nine Lakers steals, including three from Ron Artest and two each from Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom.

20 Rebounds from Pau Gasol, a season high both for him and for his teammates. Eight of his windex cleans came on the offensive end, matching Kevin Love’s output for his Timberwolves squad. Love finished just short of Gasol, with 19 total rebounds.

48 Points in the paint for L.A., including 22 in the first quarter when Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined to make 9-of-10 shots from the field.

Lakers 130, Warriors 97: Running Diary

59027578CLICK HERE FOR THE LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE
We took a look at the Lakers handling of the Warriors while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter. Here’s the running diary:

Inactives
Lakers: Luke Walton
Warriors: Andris Biedrins, Raja Bell

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Warriors: Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Corey Maggette, Vladimir Radmanovic and Mikki Moore

Phil Jackson Pregame
The all-time leader in coaching win percentage talked about the importance of getting out on Golden State’s shooters, containing their fast break opportunities and getting the ball inside to his big men (a solid general recipe for NBA success). Jackson explained that the Warriors can make it tough on defenses with four or sometimes five players that can all start a fastbreak.

First Quarter
9:02 So far, so good for L.A.’s game plan: Gasol’s one-handed dunk followed two short hooks he converted easily over the much smaller Vlad-Rad, sandwiched around Bynum’s quick turnaround over Mikki Moore. That gave L.A. a 14-7 edge on 6-of-8 shooting, including Fisher’s corner two and Artest’s wide-open three. L.A. is reminding me of how I used to play when I worked at a daycare center for elementary school kids in high school.

590275925:21 Bryant went to the bench with two personals (plus his fifth tech of the season), bringing both Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom into the contest. With Golden State hanging around but L.A. in control, I wonder which Laker would have the best chance of swimming off Alcatraz. Hmmm. I’m going with Gasol (long, slender body, perfect technique) but am open to other ideas*.
*One twitter responder suggested that Shannon Brown couuld simply jump to the other side. Fair point.

0:10.6 Artest sank a 14-foot turnaround to give L.A. its biggest lead, 36-22, to end the quarter. Ron Ron was impressive with seven points, three assists and two boards, while Odom came off the bench to finish the quarter +11 behind five points and two boards. Shannon Brown added five points (including 3-of-4 free throws) to give L.A. the bench boost it had been asking for. Then Kobe returned to start the second, which isn’t always the best news for opposing teams.

Second Quarter
9:31 Brown got loose again! Oops. After receiving a pretty outlet pass from Odom, Go Go Gadget Calf Muscles went up for his (now patented) one-hand sky dunk, nearly violating Oakland air traffic control rules.

5:44 Growing up in North Carolina, Anthony Morrow of course idolized Michael Jordan … but Jordan was on the tail end of his career, and Morrow became a huge Kobe fan. Fast forward to today, and Morrow’s guarding Kobe. The league’s leading three-point shooter as an undrafted free agent rookie last year, Morrow’s at it again (54.4 percent), and dropped in a transition three over Kobe to make it 47-35 L.A. Of course, Kobe took him down to the post immediately, spun and converted plus the harm.

0:03.5 Maggette hit 1-of-2 free throws to cap a 5-0 Warriors run, all from the charity stripe, that got Golden State within 10 points at 60-50.

Third Quarter
7:06 Four straight points from Fisher and his dish to Artest for a transition layup put L.A. up 78-62. Fisher got to 11 points on the buckets, meaning the only Laker not in double figures at that point was Kobe Bryant, who had nine points on 3-of-10 shooting. That doesn’t happen often, but the scoring balance was something L.A.’s coaches had to enjoy.

590273823:13 Offensive efficiency hasn’t always been a Ron Artest staple (career 42 percent shooter), but he’s starting to heat up this season, particularly tonight. After his second three-pointer swished through, Artest scored in transition to get to 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and put L.A. up 89-68.

0:24.0 Odom stuck his second three to put L.A. up 23 heading into the fourth quarter, a lead on the strong side of commanding. Meanwhile, speaking of efficiency, how about Gasol? He’d made 9-of-10 field goals and 4-of-5 free throws to reach 22 points, plus 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. He was doing about as well through three quarters as “Twilight: New Moon” did on opening weekend.

Fourth Quarter
5:04 If Brown didn’t violate air space on his first huge dunk, he definitely put the Air Force on alert with his “Maybe-I’ll-put-it-on-my-hip-then-windmill-it” jam. Yikes. Lakers 113, Warriors 83.

4:07 Sasha Vujacic, in his first appearance of the game, swished a three thanks to Farmar’s drive and dish. Even in garbage time, the tape is always rolling and coaches always watching as guys like Vujacic try to argue their case for more playing time. Lakers by Scottie Pippen’s jersey number.

0:04.5 For good measure, Brown swished a 28-foot three to put the Lakers up 33 points for a final score of 130-97. Very impressive all-around effort from L.A., who had seven players in double-figures and never trailed throughout the contest.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
0 Times Golden State led. L.A.’s biggest lead was 34.

5 Straight double-digit wins for the Lakers.

7 Lakers in double figures, led by Pau Gasol (22), Kobe Bryant (20), Ron Artest (19), Andrew Bynum (12), Derek Fisher (13), Shannon Brown (17) and Jordan Farmar (10).

75 Combined number of steals for Monta Ellis and Bryant entering Saturday’s game, Ellis second and Bryant third in the NBA on average. Bryant notched five thefts in this one, while Ellis managed just one.

109.3 Warriors scoring average heading into the contest. They finished about 12 points below that average, shooting only 39.1 percent.

Gasol Stars Against Bulls In Return

58965453Kobe Bryant had a quick response for reporters when asked what L.A. missed most about Pau Gasol early in the 2009-10 season: “He’s one of the top players in the world.”

Top 15, yup. Top 10, maybe? Either way, he’s really good at basketball.

In an impressive 2008-09 campaign, Gasol earned third-team All-NBA honors, was the second-best player on the NBA champs and finally the MVP of the European Championships (definitely Top something).

But it’s not like the Lakers were bad with the Spaniard sidelined since October 13, missing the team’s first 11 regular season games while healing fully from a hamstring strain. L.A. occasionally looked terrific (e.g. vs. Phoenix) and sometimes the opposite of good (e.g. at Denver), but generally just found different ways to win eight times in 11 chances despite the proverbial target on the purple and gold jersey.

It ended up taking just over five weeks – 36 days to be exact – before Gasol made his season debut, on Thursday at STAPLES Center against the Chicago Bulls.

It took about 36 seconds for Gasol to remind us what we were missing.

58965571In his opening six-minute run with the starters, Gasol sank 4-of-5 shots from the field and two free throws for 10 points, grabbed four rebounds and ran the floor with no discernible hesitation.

That was just the start.

Prior to the game, Phil Jackson said he would be very happy if Gasol lasted 25 minute, but the seven-footer looked so good, Jackson left him on the floor for 35 minutes*. Gasol rewarded his coach with 24 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and a block on a typically efficient 9-of-15 (60 percent) from the field and 6-of-6 from the line.
*Another reason – Andrew Bynum jammed his right ankle in the third quarter, but does not expect to miss any time. He will practice on Saturday and play against OKC on Sunday.

Bryant, who just missed a triple-double with 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, couldn’t have been happier to have his friend back in the fold.

“Having Pau back is huge,” said Kobe. “The game is so easy for him. It’s not like he’s in Memphis where he’s getting double- and triple-teamed. We spread the floor out for him extremely well and give him the ball in positions where he can be effective quickly, and with his talent, with this squad, it’s lights out for him.”

“He’s incredible,” added Lamar Odom, who went back to being arguably the league’s best bench player with Gasol’s return. “Incredible scorer, incredible touch, his size. The pressure he puts on the defense is incredible.”

Emphatic praise that at least the home crowd could agree with after gleefully cheering the return (standing ovation style) of so much basketball skill to the defending champs. Gasol, meanwhile, was simply glad to be out of his dress clothes.

“I’m just glad I could be out there,” he said. “I had a lot of fun playing again, playing with my teammates. We have such a great team that it’s a pleasure.”

Gasol explained that he wasn’t expecting to be as effective as he was, simply playing his game (it’s not that easy for everybody…). His conditioning, of course, wasn’t where he’d like it to be.

Pau Gasol“I was looking forward to the first time out and was glad it was a nationally televised game because the (time outs) were a little longer,” he conceded.

Yet Gasol scored on put-backs, lefty hooks, jumpers and fastbreak layups. He cleared defensive boards, filled the paint defensively and helped off his man as the Bulls struggled to get anything going inside, getting just 40 points in the paint for the game to 60 for L.A. In fairness, Gasol had a major matchup edge with 6-9 rookie Taj Gibson trying to guard him, but then again, Gasol almost always has an edge on opposing NBA power forwards.

“He’s really good,” said Jordan Farmar, glad to have yet another seven-foot option to feed. “Everybody knows it. He was kind of hesitant to do too much, but he did a great job. His touch is right there. He just has to get his wind back.”

Looking to help him out with that wind, Jackson said he’d hold practice on Saturday, one he’ll often cancel prior to another game on Sunday.

Nonetheless, how many players in the world could put up 24 and 13 just in the flow of their first game in a month and a half?

Ten, yup. Fifteen, maybe?

POSTGAME NUMBERS
0 Shots missed by Derek Fisher, who made all five of his attempts, including two three-pointers.

6 Lakers players in double figures on the night: Pau Gasol (24); Kobe Bryant (21); Ron Artest (15); Fisher (12); Andrew Bynum (11) and Lamar Odom (11).

7 Offensive rebounds for Gasol, half of L.A.’s 14. Joakim Noah, the league’s leading rebounder, grabbed five of Chicago’s 10 offensive window cleans.

8 Assists for Bryant to lead both teams. He added nine rebounds, second only to Gasol’s 13 on the Lakers and Noah’s 15 for Chicago.

24 L.A.’s biggest lead of the game, coming early in the fourth quarter on Jordan Farmar’s pull-up jumper.

60 Lakers points in the paint, a 20-point edge on the Bulls (40).

Third Time’s A Charm

58946119Since the acquisition of Pau Gasol on February 1, 2008, the Lakers had yet to lose three consecutive games.

They’d lost two-straight on eight different occasions, but never thrice.

That’s a fact talked about throughout the week by reporters around L.A.’s practice facility …but L.A. had actually already won the next game after dropping two without Gasol twice, first against Dallas and then Washington in March of 2008 when the Spaniard was out with a sprained ankle.

Thanks to the 100th 40-point performance of Kobe Bryant’s outstanding career on Tuesday at STAPLES Center against Detroit, you can make that three times.

Gasol still in dress clothes due to a hamstring strain (yet looking to return in L.A.’s next game, on Thursday), the Lakers utilized pre-groin-tweak-looking Kobe and some swarming team defense to burst to a 25-point lead after three quarters. Detroit managed to cut to just seven late in the fourth before ultimately falling by 13 when Bryant swished a 28-foot three to get to his 40 (he’s good) on the final shot of the game. Guess the groin was OK?

“I wanted to come out and have a good game and have people stop asking about it,” he said.

Forty points surely did the trick, and led by No. 24, the purple and gold can still make the claim that you may get ‘em once, and maybe even twice, but definitely not three straight times.

58945900“(Losing) two in a row means something,” Phil Jackson had said after Monday’s practice. “One game is really a bump in the road for this team and they feel it. Two is an embarrassment. Three we don’t even want to think about.”

They won’t have to think about it, at least until the next two-game losing streak, which happened four times in 2008-09.

“Some of that is just talent and some of it is resiliency of the team that comes back,” said Jackson. “They were embarrassed with the losses and they want to feel good about themselves so they worked hard to change that.”

The tide of this one turned with L.A.’s first substitution late in the first quarter, when Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown checked in to match Detroit’s small lineup and produced a collective 11 points, two assists and two steals during a stretch that saw a 17-10 Pistons lead morph into a 48-36 Lakers edge with three minutes left in the second quarter (57-42 at the half).

“You’ve got to credit them,” said Pistons head coach John Kuester. “They played awfully hard, they were the aggressors.”

This was a welcome sight for the Lakers, whose bench struggled just as Bryant did in the team’s previous two games. Yet like the bench, Bryant turned things around in immediately after missing his first four shots by sinking eight of his next 10 for a game-high 21 points at the break, then converted 6-of-8 in the third to push L.A.’s lead to 88-63.

58944803“We played a couple of good periods in this game tonight and we sustained the effort at the end,” said Jackson. “I was pleased with the ball movement and the way we played in the first course of the game.”

The Pistons refused to quit, however, chipping away at L.A.’s lead first with a 9-0 run to start the quarter before getting it to seven with 1:55 remaining by outworking the Lakers second unit, drawing Jackson’s disdain. But it was too little, too late on this night.

L.A. has a chance to start a winning streak when the Chicago Bulls come to town, and perhaps more importantly, they expect to get their 7-foot power forward back in the process.

Until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
1,049 Career coaching wins for Phil Jackson, pushing him past Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown for 5th on the NBA’s all-time coaching list.

65 Points scored by the Lakers in the second and third quarters, to 41 from Detroit. Kobe Bryant had 27 in that mid-game stretch.

44 Career double-doubles for Andrew Bynum heading into this season. Thus far in 2009-10, he already has eight double-doubles in nine games after posting 17 and 12 against Detroit.

24 Points off the bench for Pistons backup guard Will Bynum, who helped Detroit close the gap to seven points late in the fourth as Jackson put Bryant back into the game.

12 Edge on the glass for the Lakers, including a 25-15 margin in the first half.

8 Of lots of things for Lamar Odom, including eight rebounds, assists and points in 29 minutes.

Lakers Fall To Rockets at STAPLES

58925998While the Lakers were struggling in Denver last Thursday night, Rockets forward Shane Battier was with his team in Sacramento watching on television, apparently lamenting the score.

He figured the Lakers, annoyed with the big loss, would bring a little bit extra when the 2008-09 Western Conference Semi’s opponents locked horns. As if to specifically prove Battier’s point, the Lakers stormed out to a 16-2 lead on Sunday’s contest at STAPLES Center.

Yet L.A. also knew something about Houston.

The Rockets are an especially gritty team, as they showed last season in the Western Conference Semis and 11 days ago in a one-point, OT Lakers victory in Houston. As if to prove that point, the Rockets stormed right back into the game, climbing to within three points (24-21) before L.A. ended the quarter up 29-23.

Whatever burst the Lakers had out of the tunnel simply never came back, the Rockets outscoring the home team 49-37 in the second half to hand the Lakers their second home loss of the young season.

“It was a great game for us,” said Houston head coach Rick Adelman. “They jumped all over us (to) start the game and then we got our composure and got back in it. The whole second half was terrific.”

58926119In the third quarter, the Rockets had ridden the (red) hot hand of Aaron Brooks to a 28-19 spread that featured a 12-0 run, including three triples from the diminutive third-year guard. That gave Houston an 80-73 edge heading into the fourth, and new Rockets acquisition David Andersen promptly gave the visitors their biggest lead of the game to that point with back-to-back buckets to open the final period.

The Lakers never really got back into it from then on, watching their shooting percentage dip to just 38.1 percent for the game on 32-of-84 from the field. Kobe Bryant managed to hit just 5-of-20 and Derek Fisher 3-of-13, and while Andrew Bynum was again solid with 21 points and 11 rebounds, he only took 12 shots (making eight). Perhaps the stat of the game, however, was Houston’s 60-38 dominance of the backboard.

“(The Rockets) pursued the ball really well,” said Phil Jackson. “They just chased it. I was upset at halftime, I thought (we) forced shots. In the second half, (we) had wide open shots, much better shot selection, but (we) didn’t make shots.”

Some light was shed upon Bryant’s uncharacteristic effort when it was learned that he was dealing with a strained groin originally suffered on Sunday, Nov. 8 against New Orleans, which he tweaked in the first quarter*. Yet Bryant said he didn’t plan on missing any games, and looked forward to practice (and treatment) on Monday.
*CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL BRYANT INJURY UPDATE.

Ron Artest added 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting with three triples, plus six boards and three steals, while former Laker Trevor Ariza (who received his ring from Bryant and Fisher in a pregame ceremony) struggled to a 2-of-12 from the field offensive night, but was terrific on defense behind four steals, two blocks, eight rebounds and the stalking of Bryant.

L.A. has a chance to get back in the win column on Tuesday against Detroit, aiming to avoid losing for three consecutive times for the first time since the team acquired still-missing Pau Gasol (hamstring) in February of 2007.

In other news, Luke Walton missed the game with a sore back, and will be re-evaluated on Monday morning.

Until then, your numbers:

58926311POSTGAME NUMBERS
60 Rebounds for Houston to L.A.’s 38, giving the Rockets a commanding 22-board edge including a 13-6 win on the offensive glass.

45 Bench points for Houston, including 19 for Australian center David Andersen, 15 for Carl Landry and 11 for rookie Chase Budinger.

33.3 L.A.’s shooting percentage in the second half on 11-of-33. They made only 32-of-84 (38.1 percent) shots for the game.

25 “Is that Chris Rock” jokes that came into my Twitter account (@LakersReporter) referring to Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks, who torched the Lakers with a regular season career-high 33 points.

9 Combined blocks for both teams in the first 7:11 of the game.

5 Lakers turnovers in the first half, helping them overcome 41.2 percent shooting and the concession of six offensive boards.

Lakers – Nuggets Running Diary

Carmelo AnthonyCLICK HERE FOR THE LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE

We took a look at the Lakers – Nuggets showdown while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter. Here’s your running diary:

Inactives
Lakers: Pau Gasol
Nuggets: Johan Petro

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and Bynum
Nuggets: Billups, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Martin and Nene

Phil Jackson Pregame
L.A.’s head coach covered topics ranging from Michael Jordan’s jersey being retired, guarding Carmelo Anthony, Andrew Bynum’s outstanding game against Phoenix and more.

Chauncey BillupsFirst Quarter
9:00 All Lakers to start. Bryant nailed two free throws before Artest and Odom sunk back-to-back threes to put the Lakers up 8-0. Denver responded with five quick points, before consecutive Bynum and Artest hoops put L.A. up 12-5. The Lakers didn’t seem distracted by a pregame South Park themed video that saw Cartman throw a basketball in the face of cartoon Jack Nicholson. This is Denver, after all, home of South Park co-creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, but it’s never smart to mess with Jack, is it?

5:00 The next offensive salvo went to Denver, who got consecutive buckets from Nene and jumpers from Martin and Billups to cap a 12-4 run that put them up a point. Some of the vitriol that L.A. earned by beating Denver in this building last season to advance to the NBA Finals (and the year before in a first-round sweep) came out in the form of a few aggressive “boooo!’s” when I walked around downtown wearing a Lakers warm up earlier. Fortunately I’m non-descript in a suit at press row right now.

1:00 After a 1-for-4 start, Bryant nailed consecutive jumpers to get to 10 points and give L.A. a two-point cushion heading into the second quarter. In related news, he’s good, and leads the NBA in scoring (33 per night). He’s taken his usual 2009-10 spot on the block, spending more time there than Bynum does looking at potential new cars online.

Second Quarter
10:09 Did you know that Bynum is averaging the fourth-most minutes per game in the NBA at 40 per night? It’s true. Looks like we’ll see that again tonight, as his first breather came just now when D.J. Mbenga checked in. ‘Drew had eight points and seven boards in another good effort, though he seemed a bit winded (remember the altitude doesn’t help). Think about sprinting with your mouth closed, only using your nostrils to breath. Does that work? Never tried it. The Lakers held a four-point lead when he went out.

5:40 Perhaps the best way to tell that L.A. was tired (other than remembering that the team arrived at their Denver hotel at 4 a.m. the previous night) was watching them take long jumpers. The Nuggets weren’t able to take too much of an advantage, leading by only three (44-41) into a TV timeout, but the style of play was bound to catch up with the Lakers in the second half.

0:37.2 Did I mention the Lakers looked tired? The final minutes of the half revolved around more perimeter jumpers from Bryant and Artest, though both managed to nail late-shot-clock threes to keep L.A. in the game. Another Artest three just rimmed out heading into the half, the purple and gold somehow trailing by just two after a weary half.

JR Smith - Lamar OdomThird Quarter
9:04 Halftime didn’t seem to help L.A. much in terms of energy, as they missed four shots and turned the ball over twice while allowing five Denver field goals (including three straight layups from Anthony) as the lead grew to 12, the home team’s biggest to that point. Last altitude comment, I swear … At the break I climbed to the top of the upper deck to visit some old high school friends, and was legitimately a bit winded from the lack of oxygen. But perhaps more than the altitude, L.A. was having trouble matching Denver’s energy in general, as they seemingly couldn’t help but try to avenge the playoff loss (not that it can be done in the regular season, but think of L.A.’s effort vs. Boston last Christmas).

5:33 With a few inches on Nene, Bynum didn’t have much of a problem getting shots off over him, and connected on his fifth in seven attempts. The Lakers, however, were having trouble getting him the ball, continuing to take jumpers as if they were Phoenix from the previous evening. On a brighter note, the Denver media room had Mountain Dew among its fountain choices.

0:55.2 Odom’s two missed free throws with just under a minute remaining underscored a horrid third quarter for L.A., during which they managed to score only eight points as their basket may as well have had small pieces of the Rocky Mountain covering its entry point. Denver had no such problem scoring, going for 29 points to take a commanding 87-64 lead into the fourth.

Fourth Quarter
6:20 Bynum stayed on for the first half of the fourth, building his double-double to 19 and 15 on 8-of-13 shooting … But things didn’t get any better from the Lakers, who trailed 100-71 at that point. Denver finally took out its starters as well, Anthony sitting with 25 points to lead al scorers.

4:45 Jordan Farmar hit back-to-back threes to make the score look a bit better … yet it was still a 23-point game.

1:34 Adding a bit of mental pain to L.A.’s loss, rookie point guard Ty Lawson came out of nowhere to dunk in traffic, plus the harm, as the Lakers were wondering how quickly the bus could get to the airport.

Bottom line: L.A. didn’t have energy, and Denver had a lot of it.

They’ll get a chance to get things going the right way again on Sunday at STAPLES Center against the Rockets.

Until then, some numbers:

Ron ArtestPOSTGAME NUMBERS
66.8 Combined scoring average of Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, the league’s two top guns, heading into the game.

44 Combined points for Bryant (19 in three quarters) and Anthony (25, 18 in the second half) in this one.

28 Lakers points in the paint, emblematic of the team’s reliance on perimeter jumpers, and 50 less points down low than they managed against Phoenix the night before.

25 Denver’s rank on the defensive glass heading into the contest, which the Lakers did take advantage of in the form of 15 offensive boards as they actually won the rebounding battle 48-47.

22.7 L.A.’s second half shooting percentage (10-of-44).

8 Points scored by the Lakers in a tough third quarter, enabling Denver to stretch a two-point halftime lead to a 23-point edge heading into the fourth.

3 Fouls in five minutes whistled on Ron Artest to open the third quarter, giving him five for the game and earning him a seat on the bench.

Lakers Put Out Sun(s) in the Paint

58900493Watch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.
The closer a given shot is to the basket, the better chance it has to go in.

Simple and common knowledge, right?

That’s why it was particularly impressive that Phoenix came into Thursday evening’s game at STAPLES Center leading the league in field goal percentage, because after all, they shoot a lot of jumpers. Yet in an 8-1 start to the season that was as hot as their nickname, Phoenix nailed 50.8 percent from the field (the only team in the league over 50 percent), including 47.4 percent from three (lava?).

58901363Of course, as Phil Jackson mentioned before the contest, that kind of shooting just doesn’t last forever (even if Steve Nash is creating better looks than Versace).

Boy, was that proven true from the opening tip against the purple and gold, when the Suns opened 4-for-18 (also known as 22 percent) and didn’t get much better, clanking and bricking to the 36.5 percent mark as L.A. dominated the game en route to a 121-102 margin for the team’s seventh win in eight tries.

There was a reason for that, as it were: L.A. scored 78 points in the paint. You know, near the hoop…

Sure enough, the Lakers barely took a shot that wasn’t within 10 feet of the hoop, scoring 20 of their first 26 points in the lane before cooling down just a little to settle for 60.9 percent shooting in the first quarter and 57.6 for the game.

No one was more responsible for that than Andrew Bynum, who was almost perfectly emblematic of L.A.’s efficient game in an impressive return from a two-game hiatus due to a strained elbow.

58900947Using his size advantage to terrific effect, Bynum offered a variety of dunks, layups and short jumpers to punish Phoenix in the paint. No, really, punish. He made 13-of-18 shots for 26 points, and grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds. He wasn’t bad on defense, either, swatting three shots and holding Amare Stoudemire to just eight points on 2-of-15 from the field.

“He played extremely well and he obviously had a matchup advantage with his length and his size. He used it extremely well,” said Kobe Bryant.

Bryant was nearly as efficient, operating out of the post once again to the tune of 13-of-21 shooting, meaning he and Bynum combined to knock down 66.7 percent of their shots. He finished with 29 points in 33 minutes, plus four assists and four boards.

“It feels very good. You have to get post position and really do your job. When the team tells you to come through, you have to come through and play hard and do the work inside,” said Bynum.

Teammates like Lamar Odom (eight points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, Josh Powell (14 point, seven boards, three assists), Jordan Farmar (eight assists) and Shannon Brown (10 points including an absurd dunk rounded out a terrific all-around effort.

There’d be little time for celebration, however, as the Lakers headed straight to the airport after postgame interviews to hop a flight to Denver, where they’ll face their Western Conference Finals opponent.

Until then, some numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
78 The ridiculous number of paint points for the Lakers, compared to 48 for Phoenix.

66.7 Percentage of shots made by Kobe Bryant (13-of-21) and Andrew Bynum (13-of-18).

45 Bench points for L.A., led by Josh Powell’s 14 and Shannon Brown’s 10.

42 Points for Phoenix’s starters.

38.9 The one poor area for L.A. on this night, coming from the free throw line. They made only 7-of-18 from the charity stripe for a season low percentage.

1 Public Enemy rank for Louis Amundson after his put-back layup got the Suns over 100 points in the final minute, erasing the fans’ shot at free tacos.

Watch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.

Bryant Leads L.A. Past N.O.

blog_091108kobebryant_headerWatch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.

We used the title “No Gasol, No Bynum, No Problem!” when L.A. dusted Memphis on Friday evening, crediting L.A.’s impressive by-committee approach in a solid team effort.

Of course, Kobe Bryant’s 41 points didn’t hurt the cause. He’s pretty good.

Bryant’s scoring came so easily, we nearly forgot that he also dropped 41 points in two of the three Lakers wins prior to Friday, against Atlanta at home and then in Houston three nights later.

So while adorned in his Sunday white uniform against New Orleans, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see Bryant filling up the twine yet again for 26 points in the first half on 10-of-16 shooting, helping his squad to a 55-42 lead at halftime. He was scoring so readily that one wondered why New Orleans wasn’t sending a double-team his way … And sure enough, that’s what Byron Scott would do in the third quarter, turning Bryant into a ball mover as his teammates took over in the second half.

“We had a little easier time tonight than I had anticipated,” said Phil Jackson. “A lot of it due … Kobe’s 26 point first half, they really came out to double to take the ball out of his hands and we were able to get some three-point shots and make them.”

58866893The Lakers canned eight of their 12 threes in that second half, while Ron Artest and Lamar Odom combined for 17 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 points in 30 minutes of burn each. Shannon Brown and Luke Walton pitched in 26 total points, all but five of which came in the latter half as the Hornets struggled to find an answer.

“This was a game that we believed was going to be a really tough game,” said Bryant. “I think because of that, everybody’s antennae were up, everyone was extremely focused and ready to go.”

No one more than himself.

Sure, Bryant didn’t hit the 40-point mark for the fourth time in five nights (a surprise despite only 12 second half minutes), but his initial burst was more than enough. D.J. Mbenga was so enamored with Bryant’s play that the center said he almost wished he were on the bench, as he might be with a healthy team, so he could just sit there and watch Bryant. Instead, Mbenga put up his first career double-double, a 10-point, 12-rebound effort capped off with four blocks … Even if he had to focus more on protecting the paint than marveling at Kobe.

“Well nothing surprises me anymore,” said Phil Jackson. “So I’m honestly not surprised at all … (Bryant is) the kind of guy [where] it doesn’t matter if things are going well like that. He’s going to want the ball and make them have to come double team him, make them play him in a way … He’s been doing a good job.”

Though Bryant is as much a stranger to scoring binges as peanut butter is to jelly, last season he didn’t score 40 points until Dec. 20 at Orlando (41), and only did it four times for the entire regular campaign*. After seven games this season, he’s just a game away from matching that pace.
*Other three times: 40 at Utah on Jan. 2; 61 at New York on Feb.; 49 at Phoenix on March 1.

One simple explanation for Bryant’s burst of points (other than the fact that he’s the world’s best player) is the convergence of two things: he spent much of his offseason working on his post game, and the block is wide open for his use with Bynum and Gasol in street clothes.

58867046After the game, Bryant was asked how much of his offseason workouts focused on his low post game.

“More than usual,” he said. “I always concentrate on it, but more than usual.”

Not a shocker. By the way, ceding the block to either seven-footer when they return isn’t exactly the plan.

“They know I eat first,” said the Finals MVP. In other words, this isn’t just a temporary experiment.

Case in point: in the second quarter, Bryant so easily laid in and banked home respective shots on post ups of New Orleans shooting guard Devin Brown that Brown just sort of stopped and looked around, his face resembling the female lead of “Paranormal Activity” after the door of her bedroom door closed randomly in the middle of the night.

Brown wasn’t sure how to make it stop, but then again, who is?

POSTGAME NUMBERS
1 Year of college basketball played together at UCLA for Jordan Farmar and Hornets back up Darren Collison. Farmar’s five assists helped lead to 46 bench points for L.A.

4 Blocks for D.J. Mbenga, not to mention 12 rebounds to lead L.A. in both categories in relief of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

5 Free throws attempted by the Hornets in a first half dominated by the Lakers, showing how New Orleans largely settled for jump shots.

12 Three-pointers hit by the Lakers, eight of which came in the second half. Luke Walton and Shannon Brown nailed three apiece.

33.6 Kobe Bryant’s scoring average so far this year, tops in the NBA.

40 Points scored in STAPLES last January by Hornets forward David West in a Hornets’ win; L.A. held him to just 11 on Sunday.

Watch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.