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Lakers – Thunder Running Diary

CLICK HERE FOR THE LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE

Read about the Lakers vs. Thunder as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Inactives
Lakers: Pau Gasol
Thunder: Ryan Bowen, Byron Mullens, Kyle Weaver

Starters
Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum
Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic

Phil Jackson Pregame
The gist of Jackson’s pregame was to update Kobe Bryant’s health (fever subsided, will start) and address Gasol’s hamstring (MRI still pending, won’t play).

Follow Us On Twitter
In case there aren’t enough observations for you in the diary, feel free to follow us on twitter on @Lakers or @LakersReporter.

First Quarter
11:46 Does Kobe Bryant play better when he’s not feeling great? He started the game be going straight to the hoop, drawing a foul for two free throws, though he did air ball his second shot. No matter as Bynum followed with a baby hook, Odom offensive boarded that Bryant miss for an Artest three and Bynum ooped off Kobe’s alley for a quick 9-0 lead two minutes into the game.

5:00 Keeping the Thunder in the game early was Jeff Green, the former No. 5 overall pick, who hit three rather uncontested threes to pull OKC within seven at 22-15. Bynum was very effective underneath, converting 4-of-5 shots including two dunks. In related news, Bynum is tall.

0:05.4 Oklahoma City went on an 8-0 run to get within seven as the first quarter drew to a close, as L.A. began to mix a few subs into the action. Kevin Durant led the way with 12 points (3-of-6 FG, 6-of-6 FT), while Bryant matched him with 12 of his own. Lamar Odom was again terrific for the Lakers, making 3-of-4 shots for six points with five rebounds and two assists. Still, L.A. had taken its collective foot off the pedal a bit heading into the second quarter.

Second Quarter
8:49 Generally, Lamar Odom is able to provide a big matchup edge against second units of opposing teams, but in the absence of Pau Gasol, Odom’s is often on the bench at the beginning of the second. Still, it was hard work more than anything that had the Thunder chop four quick points off L.A.’s lead, with three put-back layups by Durant (two) and Etan Thomas.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Thunder Running Diary’

Lakers 106, Nuggets 89: Postgame

58715395The biggest piece of news coming out of Anaheim actually occurred before the game, when Phil Jackson said that starting forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum would miss the Thursday evening contest against the Denver Nuggets.

The rematch of the Western Conference Finals would go on, of course, with L.A. managing to beat the Nuggets by _ despite the absence of 14 collective feet. Every player getting minutes contributed to a nice win, yet the story remained whether or not the Lakers would be healthy for Tuesday evening’s regular season opener against the Clippers, particularly when Jackson confirmed that Gasol would miss Friday night’s game as well.

Jackson explained that his All-Star forward had some questions about how his hamstring felt after Wednesday’s practice, and to alleviate those feelings, the staff thought it was best to keep him out of the final two preseason games.

“I’m not worried,” said Jackson before the game. “Whether he makes it (for the season opener on Tuesday) or not I’m not worried.”

Bynum, however, is a game-time decision for the Friday contest in San Diego, but since he didn’t go Thursday, fans got to hear this in the starting lineup call:

“Starting at center, a 7-foot center from the Republic of the Congo … D.J. Mbenga!!!!!!”

“Congo Cash,” as he’s called by his teammates, began the game with two early blocks of Denver center Nene, and finished the evening with an impressive seven blocks. Starting in place of Gasol was Lamar Odom – a major luxury off the bench – and the lanky lefty could barely miss in the early goings, nailing three consecutive three-pointers in the first quarter and two more in the second.

Odom’s previous career high from three in his 10-year career? Four. Too bad preseason stats don’t count. Nonetheless, his 15 points helped the Lakers to a 52-46 halftime lead, and Kobe Bryant’s 11 third quarter points spurred the Lakers to lead by 10 near the close of the period.

With the starters resting on the bench in the fourth quarter, the smallish fivesome of Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, Adam Morrison, Luke Walton and Josh Powell did well to preserve L.A.’s lead, even pushing it to 90-78 halfway through the quarter when Vujacic’s three bounced high off the front rim before sinking through. Powell, playing strong as the team’s center, guarded Nene and scored consecutive points at the other end before finishing with 15 points and six rebounds for the night.

Jordan Farmar and rookie Tony Gaffney joined the fray moments later, helping the Lakers close out with a 17-point victory to push L.A.’s preseason record to 6-1 as the team awaits more news about the minor injuries of Gasol and Bynum.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
4 Odom’s career high for three-pointers made in a regular season game.

5 Three-pointers hit by Odom in the first half on Thursday night.

7 Blocks for center D.J. Mbenga in 26 minutes of work.

11 Third quarter points for Kobe Bryant, who finished with a team-high 23.

26 Nuggets turnovers, compared to just 13 from the Lakers, a major factor in L.A.’s win.

Lakers 113, Warriors 107: Postgame

D067741004.JPGAfter two weeks of training camp, NBA players want nothing more than to see a different color jersey. As it were, a given player spends each day draped to a teammates’ hip, challenging his every move, trying to earn his minutes.

But then, mercifully, another team comes along; in this case for L.A., it’s Golden State that comes along, three times.

In 13 days.

That’s why it was no surprise that neither team came out playing like it were the preseason, instead exchanging (the opposite of) pleasantries in a hotly-contested first quarter. The first salvo was Kobe Bryant inspired, leading to a 17-4 Lakers burst behind six straight Bryant points to start the game. The Warriors, however, were sick enough of watching L.A. score this preseason to battle back and trail by just eight at the quarter’s close, 29-21.

58601698Then in the second quarter, the intensity flared to the point that L.A.’s Josh Powell and G.S.’s Anthony Randolph fought for a loose ball for a full four seconds after the whistle was blown for a jump ball, neither willing to cede an inch.

Where’s the Dalai Lama when you need him?

Eventually, the teams would calm down (a bit) and play some basketball, the Lakers holding onto a slim lead until Golden State jumped ahead for the first time halfway through the third quarter when Anthony Morrow – last season’s leading three-point shooter as an undrafted rookie – hit back-to-back triples.

Punching back was the Lakers’ second unit, sparked by the athleticism of Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown, as they collectively led an 11-2 run to close the third with a 84-79 lead. Yet Golden State wouldn’t wither away, instead opening the fourth on a 7-2 streak to again tie the game.

Tired yet?

Next, Farmar was at it again, setting up three buckets and scoring five points in the first six minutes of the period to swing the pendulum back in L.A.’s favor, the home team posting a 98-92 lead with 6:00 to play. Stepping up when Farmar went to the bench were Shannon Brown and Adam Morrison, who knocked home back-to-back buckets in the final minutes, allowing Lamar Odom (who came off the bench when rookie Tony Gaffney had to leave after falling on his back) to nail a dagger three from the top of the key with 1:05 to play, sealing L.A.’s fifth preseason win in six attempts.

Good thing these teams don’t face off until Nov. 28th in Oakland … They need a bit of time to see some different colored jerseys.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
4 Threes made for Warriors second-year guard Anthony Morrow through three quarter, the same amount as L.A.’s team (4-for-13).

8 Lakers players to notch an assist in the first half, as the team dimed on 15-of-19 field goals. Ron Artest led the way with five of his own, and finished with a team-high eight on the night in 28 minutes.

20 More points for Andrew Bynum, now averaging 20.3 for the preseason, good for third in the NBA. He needed just 11 field goal attempts and six foul shots (making seven and six, respectively) to get there in 30 minutes, adding nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks in a terrific effort.

21 Team-high points scored by Kobe Bryant, who made 7-of-12 shots and all six free throws in addition to five rebounds, three assists and three steals in nearly 29 minutes.

50.6 L.A.’s field goal percentage on the night.

Lakers 91, Bobcats 87: By the Numbers

58668191A total of 66 fouls and 43 turnovers considerably slowed L.A.’s 91-87 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats in Saturday’s preseason game, though in the absence of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Luke Walton due to minor injuries, it’s difficult to draw many conclusions from the fourth preseason game.

Prior to the contest, L.A.’s first at STAPLES Center, Phil Jackson said that he expects all three of his regulars to be fine by the start of the regular season on October 27; in the meantime, Andrew Bynum was again efficient and effective with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, Josh Powell added 15 points and eight rebounds off the bench and Kobe Bryant chipped in 13 points with seven assists.

To detail the game’s ins and outs, we let the numbers do the talking for the now 3-1 Lakers:

586682101 L.A.’s lead with 11 seconds remaining when Vladimir Radmanovic (traded from L.A. to Charlotte last February for Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown) hit a three to cut what had been a comfortable lead. However, Powell made 1-of-2 free throws, and Jordan Farmar stole Charlotte’s ensuing inbounds pass before hitting two from the charity stripe to seal the win.

2 Lakers turnovers in the first half, compared to eight from the Bobcats, numbers L.A.’s head coach was quite happy about. Of course, he was equally unhappy with L.A.’s 19 second half turnovers.

3 The number of regulars missing the game, with Gasol (hamstring), Walton (back) and Odom (shin) nursing minor injuries. Jackson said after the game that none of his three frontcourt players will play in L.A.’s Sunday evening contest.

4 Field goals, including three three-pointers, nailed by Sasha Vujacic in six attempts as the Slovenian continues his excellent shooting form in four preseason games. He’s now converted 11-of-15 shots (73.3 percent), which includes a full-court heave to end the third quarter of L.A.’s Thursday win in Vegas that Vujacic is quick to point out shouldn’t count against his stats.

5 Free throws missed by Ron Artest in as many attempts. Artest struggled in his nearly 18 minutes of play, scoring five points with three boards before fouling out with roughly six minutes remaining. Shannon Brown also struggled with his shot, though from the field, in missing all six of his attempts.

6 Shots attempted by Bryant in the first quarter. Bryant looked to be trying out a variety of shots (including a left-handed turnaround baby hook) and moves upon which he’s worked throughout the offseason and training camp, perhaps testing for the regular season. You know, preseason heat checks…

586682167 Assists handed out by Bryant, which gave him a team-high 17 in L.A.’s four games.

12 Point differential for the Lakers in a 17-5 run that turned a 21-17 deficit into a 34-26 lead halfway through the second quarter. Powell, Jordan Farmar and Vujacic were primarily responsible. Also the number of straight points scored by the Lakers out of the second half gate, turning a 46-39 halftime score into a 19-point lead.

20 Personal fouls called in the third quarter alone, leading to 23 collective free throw attempts in a slow-moving game that featured 66 total fouls.

37.5 Charlotte’s shooting percentage for the game on 27-of-72 as the Lakers were quite active on defense.

73.7 Combined shooting percentage from Andrew Bynum (6-for-8), Josh Powell (4-of-5) and Sasha Vujacic (4-of-6) to lead the Lakers.

Bynum Solid Early and Often in Lakers Win

Andrew BynumIf the first three preseason games are any indication, a major part of the Lakers’ first quarter offensive game plan is pretty simple: Let Andrew Bynum go to work in the paint.

On Thursday evening in Las Vegas against the Sacramento Kings, Bynum was dominant in a 16-point, four-rebound first quarter in what was ultimately a 98-92 Lakers victory, controlling the paint much like he did against Golden State in L.A.’s first two contests.

“I think that’s something that you’re going to see all year,” said Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak from his courtside seat. “It’s always a focus to initially attack teams down low, and Andrew has that ability.”

“You have to be aggressive to start the game, because sometimes people come out relaxed,” added Bynum. “We know we can move the ball to the backside and (get those inside shots).”

Andrew BynumThe numbers suggest as much, as the first game against the Warriors saw the 21-year-old hit 4-of-5 shots and all five free throws for 13 points, plus three offensive boards (four total). The second contest, just two days later also against the Warriors, saw a less-inspired team effort produce 24 first quarter points. Ten of those points were scored by Kobe Bryant as Bynum chipped in four points and two boards on 2-of-4 shooting. Nonetheless, L.A. still looked for Bynum’s initial post ups, and he didn’t force anything. On Wednesday, No. 17 again hit all of his free throws (6-of-6 off fouls committed at the rim) and made 5-of-8 shots including two powerful dunks off alley-oops from Bryant and Derek Fisher, respectively.

“He’s completing at the basket,” said Phil Jackson. “I think he’s stronger. At times his defense has been really good (although) there are always areas to work on.”

Bynum has scored 33 points with 10 rebounds in three first quarters, though in fairness, the Warriors and Kings don’t exactly offer the league’s most threatening defensive frontcourts. Furthermore, Pau Gasol (hamstring, day-to-day) didn’t play on Thursday, affording Bynum at least a few more touches than he may get consistently. Nevertheless, Bynum will indeed get the ball often in the early goings, and L.A. will have trouble thinking of a reason not to feed him the ball when he’s this productive, particularly when he’s establishing such good post position.

“I need to focus all year long on being the first one up the floor on both (offense and defense),” said Bynum. “Because if I stay ahead of the ball and stay healthy I think the sky is the limit.”

As it turned out in Vegas, the Lakers looked for Bynum far less often as the game continued, producing just five additional field goal attempts in 20 more minutes (32 total as he played the entire first quarter), yet he still finished with a game high 24 points and eight boards plus a block. But the lack of late touches didn’t seem to bother him; on the contrary, Bynum understands that it’s his defense and rebounding that will increase in importance as games draw on.

“That’s when people are really going to come out and attack, especially if you have a big lead at halftime,” he concluded. “You have to shift your focus to defense.”

So, with a recipe made up of one part early offense and another late defense, Bynum is already looking much more like the January 2009 version of himself than what he was able to show in the playoffs due to his knee injury.

For the Lakers, that’s pretty good news.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
1 Injured shin for Lamar Odom, who was kicked as Ron Artest and Kings rookie Jon Brockman wrestled underneath the hoop. Odom missed the second half – though he tried to return but couldn’t run – and is listed as day-to-day. After the game, he said he was “sore,” but “fine.”

2 Three pointers made by the Lakers, one each from Sasha Vujacic and Ron Artest, to go with nine misses. Artest finished with seven points, seven rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes.

4 Steals from Kobe Bryant, two of which ignited explosive fastbreak dunks for the Finals MVP, the first of which featured No. 24 double-pumping the ball off his left shoulder. Bryant finished with 18 points, four assists, four rebounds and four steals as he entertained a highly-partisan Lakers crowd.

12 Game-high plus/minus rating for Bryant and Odom, no surprise the team’s best in that category throughout the 2008-09 season.

18 Margin for the Lakers after three quarters (85-67), until the Kings regulars cut the lead to as few as three with 1:45 minutes remaining in the fourth against L.A.’s bench.

26 Made free throws by the Lakers on 30 attempts for a solid 86.7 percent.

80 Percent shooting for Vujacic, who nailed 4-of-5 shots (the only miss was a full-court heave at the third quarter buzzer) as he continues to shoot the ball well early in the preseason.

Lakers – Magic Running Diary 5

57688836Read about the Lakers vs. Magic Game 5 as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Game 1
Lakers – Magic Running Diary, June 4, 2009
Lakers 100, Magic 75: Postgame 1

Game 2
Lakers – Magic Running Diary, June 7, 2009
Lakers 101, Magic 96: Postgame 2

Game 3
Lakers – Magic Running Diary, June 9, 2009
Lakers 104, Magic 108: Postgame 3

Game 4
Lakers – Magic Running Diary, June 11, 2009
Lakers 99, Magic 91: Postgame 4

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Magic: Tyronn Lue, Jeremy Richardson

Starters
Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum
Magic: Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard

Phil Jackson Pregame
- Jackson opened his presser by talking about Tex Winter, who he said is able to watch and enjoy the Finals from home but isn’t able to speak on the phone: “When I became the head coach of the Bulls, I asked Johnny Bach to be the defensive coordinator and Tex to be the offensive coordinator. Tex is obviously the innovator of the triangle offense … His dedication to it made him the drill sergeant to the team. He always encouraged team play and system play, so if it became too individual, he would always bring that to bear. But more than anything else, he kept a running score on the sideline, which is now done by Brian Shaw.”
- He also talked about how difficult it is to maintain a singular focus with all the outside distractions with just one more game to win. Ultimately, he said, it’s not about him and his 10th title: “It’s really about these young men and what they’re doing.”
- Finally, Jackson compared Jameer Nelson’s return to Orlando’s lineup to Andrew Bynum’s prior to the playoffs and explained that the team skipped the morning shootaround due to the time that would have been wasted getting to and from the arena. Instead, the team watched film at the hotel.

Stan Van Gundy Pregame
- “They’re prepared, they’re in a good frame of mind, it’ll come down to how well we play. I thought practice yesterday was very good, I thought the walk through this morning was good.”
- Van Gundy said he doesn’t worry about missed free throws, because they aren’t a lack of effort or execution. It just happens. He added that Dwight Howard’s improved considerably throughout the season … But just missed some shots.
- He doesn’t think Orlando is getting “badly outplayed,” but didn’t take the bait to say that the Magic should or could be up or even in the series, as an Orlando reporter suggested. “What it could be is basically anything, the reality is it’s 3-1,” he said. In other words, he said that the Magic had a chance to win two of the last three, and the Lakers had a chance to win Game 3, meaning the series “could” have been 4-0, 3-1 or 2-2. But it’s “not.”

Jim Cleamons Pregame Video
Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons joined us to preview the final game, and take a deeper look at the pick and roll, which has been critical for both teams in the series. CLICK HERE and scroll down to “Coach Speak” to watch.

Follow Us On Twitter
In case there aren’t enough observations for you in the diary, feel free to follow us on twitter on @Lakers or @miketrudell.

57688869First Quarter
12:00 The energy in the building for Game 5 is noticeably less than that of Game 4 … Will that seep into the Magic (or Lakers) players? One thing to keep in mind in the early goings: Bynum, Gasol and Odom all had two fouls after quarter one of Game 1, which in large part caused L.A.’s 12-point deficit at halftime.

11:25 Lee scored the game’s first points on a deep pull-up jumper after Bynum turned the ball over trying to find Gasol down low, but quickly made up for it by grabbing an offensive board and keeping it alive for Pau’s tip in.

8:17 Orlando was extremely active on defense as the Lakers struggled to get good looks, resulting in two deep jump shots from Bynum. At the other end, Turkoglu and Lee scored on consecutive drives to put Orlando up 11-6.

7:00 Phil Jackson called timeout after Bryant was stripped and Alston converted a layup at the other end, with Kobe coming up lame surely due to pain on his troublesome finger. However, Bynum grabbed a Fisher miss and stuck it back in, his first make in seven attempts after he was forced into some tough shots.

4:15 After Bryant stuck his second consecutive jumper, Bynum converted his second straight field goal in the paint, a dunk over Howard, to bring L.A. within four at 21-17. In essence, L.A. had survived Orlando’s initial burst.

2:21 At an extended TV timeout that only the Finals can provide, Orlando’s “Dancin’ Dads” performed a bizarre dance to “Ridin’ Dirty” and “Pretty Fly For A White Guy” that you’re glad you missed, though to be fair, they sort of redeemed themselves when my top-three rap song “Big Pimpin’” came on.

0:53.4 Bryant’s two free throws cut Orlando’s lead to just one at 27-26, getting him to 11 points to lead all scorers. On the next possession, Howard got to the free throw line and missed badly on the first in an interesting situation since the last freebies he shot allowed L.A. to tie Game 4. He made the second, however.

0:00 After a Luke Walton miss, Mickael Pietrus (who moments earlier had converted a driving layup after taking six steps) couldn’t convert a quarter-ending three, making it a 28-26 margin after one. In Game 4, L.A. had trailed 24-20.

Continue reading ‘Lakers – Magic Running Diary 5′

Lakers – Magic Running Diary 4

57657160Read about the Lakers vs. Magic Game 4 as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Game 1
Lakers – Magic Running Diary, June 4, 2009
Lakers 100, Magic 75: Postgame 1

Game 2
Lakers – Magic Running Diary, June 7, 2009
Lakers 101, Magic 96: Postgame 2

Game 3
Lakers – Magic Running Diary, June 9, 2009
Lakers 104, Magic 108: Postgame 3

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Magic: Tyronn Lue, Jeremy Richardson

Starters
Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum
Magic: Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard

Phil Jackson Pregame
Jackson’s response to a reporters relation of Alonzo Mourning’s quote that suggested Kobe Bryant was doing most of the work: “I’m just here kind of sitting on my chair.” His sarcasm suggested that he’s really not concerned about his coaching legacy, and need not seriously address such a claim. The argument suggesting that Jackson’s only won his nine titles because of stars is absurd … What NBA coach has ever won without star players? Jackson also said that he liked the NBA’s decision to allow for more movement on the perimeter by cutting down on hand checking: “It’s promoted cutting and more driving and less stagnation.” Finally, when told that 60 percent of the starters (6-of-10) in the NBA Finals did not play in college, Jackson said that he hopes they make it two and done, suggesting that the NCAA would be happy with that and that it could help players. “I’m a big proponent,” he said. “That being said, talent is talent, a lot of these young players have jumped from high school to the pros … The creme rises to the top.”

Stan Van Gundy Pregame
Interesting comment from SVG to open: “I don’t think there’s any question that it’s a tougher game for post players than it was with the old rules, and I don’t think many coaches, players or post players would dispute that.” Van Gundy added that high schoolers should have the right to “earn a living,” and had a problem with the one and done because the players (like Carmelo Anthony, O.J. Mayo, etc.) aren’t really going to school for school. That led to this quote: “I don’t want to get going on the NCAA in this press conference, because I think that’s about the worst organization going.” Solid.

Josh Powell – Rasheed Hazzard Pregame Video
We had forward Josh Powell grab the mic to interview assistant coach/advance scout Rasheed Hazzard, and you can CLICK HERE to see what happened.

Follow Us On Twitter
In case there aren’t enough observations for you in the diary, feel free to follow us on twitter on @Lakers or @miketrudell.

57658050First Quarter
12:00 The Magic again had Gina Marie sing the National Anthem, as she did before Game 3. She’s 7-0 on the season, but I’m not a superstitious kind of guy. Cute story nonetheless.

11:40 Ball movement got Ariza a wide open look at three on L.A.’s first possession, but he passed it up, drove and missed over Howard. L.A. tried to get Gasol the ball, but Lewis did a good job of fronting.

9:51 Bryant was giving Lee open threes to start the game, and after missing his first two, he converted from the top of the key. Bryant had L.A.’s only bucket at the other end until Fisher pulled up to put L.A. up 4-3.

8:41 Bryant quickly goaded Lee into two personals, bringing Mickael Pietrus into the game for Orlando … Remember, Pietrus was terrific in Game 3. On the other end, Bynum’s second personal brought Lamar Odom in, which could help Odom. In Game 3, he didn’t check in until the two-minute mark or so of the first. And indeed, he made his presence felt early with a put-back of Gasol’s miss.

6:45 L.A. wasn’t doing a good job of getting to Orlando’s shooters, and Alston made them pay with an open three that made it 12-8 for the home team, though Bryant answered moments later with an and-1 drive (3-for-3 on FT’s after going 5-for-10 in Game 3).

4:48 Just like in Game 3, Alston made L.A. pay for going under the pick and roll, pulling up for his second make, then using Howard’s block of Ariza to score in transition at the other end. Responding for the Lakers was Odom with a hook over Howard to make it 16-13 Orlando.

3:44 Gasol’s second foul brought D.J. Mbenga onto the floor at the earliest point in the season to my memory, but Howard’s two missed free throws made him 1-of-4 for the quarter.

2:48 Odom was whistled for his second as he joined Gasol and Bynum on the bench, with Luke Walton in to play the four alongside Mbenga. That hadn’t happened in the playoffs.

0:57.7 Alston really likes being in Orlando, apparently, making his fourth shot in five attempts to get to nine points to put L.A. in a six-point hole. However, Mbenga made a great play to swat Alston’s next attempt, and Bryant hit a jumper in JJ Redick’s face after Bryant drew Pietrus’ second foul minutes earlier.

0:00 The aforementioned Redick missed a three over Bryant as time expired, and L.A. trailed just 24-20 despite playing much of the quarter without Bynum, Gasol or Odom, getting 13 points from Bryant on 4-of-7 from the field and 5-of-5 from the line.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Magic Running Diary 4′

Lakers 104, Magic 108: Postgame 3

KobeIn the old school NBA JAM 2-on-2 video game, players would get “On Fire” after three consecutive makes from the field.

On subsequent possessions with that player, the ball would turn orange, and a flame would follow the rock’s inevitable trail through the twine until the net singed off the rim.

That was just a video game, but perhaps riding the energy of a city’s first Finals appearance in 14 years, the Orlando Magic played as if each player were NBA JAM(ming), shooting an Finals record 62.5 percent (40-of-64) in the game, including a 75 percent (24-of-32) first half.

“Ball was going in the basket,” said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. “That always works.”

Yet L.A. stuck around.

Never trailing by more than eight, the Lakers managed to cut Orlando’s lead to just three with 5:55 to go in the game when Pau Gasol nailed a baseline hook, and two when Derek Fisher hit a three with 5:25 remaining. Then, with eight fourth quarter points from Lamar Odom and some key defensive stops, Gasol drew a foul with 2:41 remaining, sinking both freebies to tie the score at 99. At the point, the shooting percentages mattered little.

“That tends to even out,” said Phil Jackson.

As such, the teams traded blows into the final minute, and the Lakers came up with a key stop on Gasol’s block with 37 seconds remaining in the game to get the ball and a chance to tie, down two at 104-102.

Bryant, the ball in his hands, had struggled after a ridiculous 17-point first quarter, making just 4-of-15 shots, but … well … he’s Kobe Bryant. One expects him to make a play.

Instead, while attempting a high pick and roll with Gasol, Bryant lost the ball when Dwight Howard reached in; Mickael Pietrus eventually gathering the loose ball after Gasol appeared to have control. Bryant then wrapped up Pietrus, who sunk both freebies at the other end, putting the Magic up four with 28.7 seconds remaining.

From that point forward, the Lakers missed four three-pointers, two by Bryant, and the Magic held on to win 108-104 after two Rashard Lewis free throws with 0:00.2 seconds on the clock.

“It’s disappointing,” said Bryant. “I’m used to coming through in those situations, my teammates trust me to come through but it didn’t happen.”

“They made some plays down the stretch we weren’t able to match, even though we got the best in that fourth quarter,” added Phil Jackson.

Contributions to Orlando’s win came from across their roster. After getting little from any of their role players in Games 1 and 2, the Magic received huge contributions from Rafer Alston (20 points) and Mickael Pietrus (18 points) on a collective 15-of-23 shooting, complimenting 60 combined points from Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu.

For the Lakers, Bryant ended up with 31 points and eight assists, while Pau Gasol added 23 points and Trevor Ariza 13, but 10 missed free throws and 25 personal fouls hurt the road team.

So, whether it was a less-than-good defensive effort throughout of one misplaced Kobe Bryant dribble that did L.A. in, the Magic held serve at home to bring the NBA Finals to 2-1 with Game 4 back in Amway Arena on Thursday.

Until then, some numbers:

75
Magic shooting percentage at halftime on a ridiculous 24-of-32, though the Lakers weren’t bad at all with 22-of-41 (53.7 percent) shots. L.A. actually had control for most of the half, but a late Magic charge produced a five-point cushion at the half.

62.5
Orlando’s Finals record shooting percentage for the game on 40-of-64 field goals. They also shot 23-of-30 (76.7 percent) from the line.

38
Combined points from Rafer Alston and Mickael Pietrus, who combined for just six points in Game 2 and 20 points in Game 1 (14 from Pietrus).

18
Second chance points for the Lakers to just five for the Magic, in part because of Orlando’s hot shooting (which didn’t allow any follow ups). The Lakers grabbed 11 offensive boards to five from Orlando.

13
Turnovers for both teams, which produced 16 points, respectively.

11
Points off L.A.’s bench from both Lamar Odom (eight of which came in the fourth quarter) and Jordan Farmar, who played 16 minutes off the bench. Shannon Brown didn’t see the floor, and Sasha Vujacic saw only three minutes off action at the end of the first and start of the second quarter.

5
Three pointers from the Magic on 14 attempts, meaning Orlando shot 35-of-50 on two-point field goals, otherwise known as 70 percent.

Lakers – Magic Running Diary 3

Pau GasolRead about the Lakers vs. Magic Game 3 as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Magic: Tyronn Lue, Jeremy Richardson

Starters
Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum
Magic: Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard

Phil Jackson Pregame
Jackson responded to a question about Pau Gasol’s apparent basket interference play by citing a Dwight Howard goaltend that had occurred earlier in the game. As the discussion continued, Jackson said that he thought the play was in fact a violation, but the rule actually showed that it was not since the ball’s path was not affected. He added a line about his backup point guard: “Just giving them both a little feel for the game. Jordan can energize us with his speed, quickness, his offensive ability out there. Shannon a little more in the defensive aspect of the game.”

Stan Van Gundy Pregame
“They’re doing a very, very good job defensively,” SVG said of the Lakers. His focus is limiting the turnovers (20 in Game 2), but eight of them came in a first quarter after which the score was 15-all. He also explained that Courtney Lee took no heat after missing what was “not an easy shot,” and said that the Gasol rim-touching did not affect the shot. “Calls didn’t decide that game,” he explained.

Shaw Pregame Video
While the Magic were the team that made more adjustments heading into Game 2 (they had to after getting blown out of the building by 25 in Game 1) the Lakers feel like they’re the team that can change a few critical things before Game 3 in Orlando tips off at 6 p.m. CLICK HERE to check out Brian Shaw’s scouting report.

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In case there aren’t enough observations for you in the diary, feel free to follow us on twitter on @Lakers or @miketrudell.

57643338First Quarter
12:00 The Magic had six of its cheerleaders and their kind-of-bizarre-friendly-green-dragon mascot repel from the rafters to lead into introductions, which didn’t feature a video. As such, we can declare that Houston by far had the best pregame intros for any of L.A.’s playoff opponents.

Moments later, Howard won the tip for the third straight game, then received a pass from Turkoglu. When Ariza came to help, Turkoglu had a wide-open three that would have sent an already frantic crowd into a frenzy, but he missed, and Fish hit a jumper at the other end to start the scoring.

10:43 Gasol’s baseline spin move worked easily on Lewis, and a one-handed dunk ensued after Lewis had hit from the baseline. On the next possession, Lee missed an open three, and Bynum’s hook was goaltended by Howard. Lakers 6, Magic 2.

7:44 Howard hit 1-of-2 free throws after the first foul of the game (on Gasol) to cap a 5-0 Magic run, but Ariza ended it with a pull-up jumper from the top of the key. Both teams were getting good looks at the basket. Yet the Magic had actually missed three wide open jumpers, which to me is a product of the pressure of being down 2-0 with a frenzied crowd ratcheting up expectations. That’s a lot to live up to.

4:54 Five straight points from Bryant, the second on a pull-up three, gave L.A. a 17-13 cushion prior to Bynum’s foul of the Turkish Turkoglu, who’d go to the line after the first TV timeout. Here are a few things you could do during a Finals’ TV timeout: run around the arena; count to 1 million; text everyone in your phone book; check your running diary for grammar errors.

3:46 Rafer Alston was 1-of-13 heading into the evening, but nailed his first three to help the Magic tie things up at 21 before Bryant made the prettiest of moves to get a finger roll off a post up. Meanwhile, Bynum had amassed four points and four boards in nine minutes before Odom lined up to check in, giving the Lakers exactly what they wanted. Furthermore, he committed only one foul after being saddled with foul trouble in Game 2.

2:36 Odom put a deep J up immediately upon entering the game and missed, equaling the amount of shots he missed in Game 2, but Bryant nailed two more pull up jumpers, looking like he did in Game 4 at Utah in the First Round when he was taking shots really early in the clock and nailing all of them. He was 6-for-7 with 13 of L.A.’s 27 points to put his team up two.

0:30.0 Bryant was simply masterful in the first, nailing a silly 25-foot three-pointer on Pietrus AFTER the Frenchman jumped into him. Bryant went on to hit the free throw to get to 17 points in the period with his Lakers up 31-27. Thanks largely to Kobe, the team shot 58.3 percent, which actually paled compared with Orlando’s 11-of-16 (69 percent).
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Magic Running Diary 3′

Lakers – Magic Running Diary 2

TeamRead about the Lakers vs. Magic Game 2 as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Inactives
Lakers: Adam Morrison, Sun Yue
Magic: Tyronn Lue, Jeremy Richardson

Starters
Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum
Magic: Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard

Stan Van Gundy Pregame
SVG’s presser opened with a question about his critical nature: “For anyone to improve in anything, whether it was our performance in Game 1 or anything else, the first thing you have to do is take a critical look at yourself and take responsibility. If you want the players to do that, which I do … You have to do the same thing yourself.” Orlando’s head coach also talked about Dwight Howard’s increased work at the free throw line particularly after the Philadelphia series, about how Jameer Nelson’s Game 1 playing time had nothing to do with the rest of the series and about Trevor Ariza: “I think the main thing that he has done, it’s sorta been interesting, because I think over his career and over this season he was a guy who played very hard, ran the floor, a slasher, but he’s (turning into) a spot up guy playing off Kobe’s double teams and pick and rolls. When he combines that with his slashing ability he’s pretty effective.”

Phil Jackson Pregame
When Phil was asked how he felt being apart of the team with a nice cohesion, he instead talked about Derek Fishier: “More than anything else I think Fish is a catalyst for that, the captain, a guy who holds a lot of sway with players, talks to them about their sacrifice, their role, what they have to do.” He mentioned that he expected a more up-tempo style from the Magic, and emphasized the importance of continuing to contest their three-pointers. The head coach also talked about Kobe Bryant’s growth in feeling out games and knowing the difference between taking on a challenge as an individual and as a team. Finally, he explained that he’s never had an interest in coaching Team USA, or the Canadian National Team, who also reached out to him. That’s only fair.

All Star Announcement
NBA Commissioner David Stern, AEG President and CEO Timothy J. Leiweke and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took stage to announce that the 2011 NBA All-Star game will take place at STAPLES Center. Lots of good basketball news in L.A. these days.

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In case there aren’t enough observations for you in the diary, feel free to follow us on twitter on @Lakers or @miketrudell.

Lamar OdomFirst Quarter
12:00 American Idol winner Kris Allen sang the National Anthem, which had the 6-16 year old girl demo going nuts. Not sure how that helps the Lakers, but it can’t hurt.

11:35 L.A.’s defensive rotations were solid, as they were all Game 1, to force a tough Alston shot (miss), but Bryant missed a pull up in transition as well. The rotations weren’t as crisp on the next possession, and Lee got to the hoop for a layup.

10:43 Bynum’s first personal came away from the ball as he tried to prevent low post position to Howard, but Lewis was tagged with an offensive foul to send it back the other way.

10:16 L.A.’s first bucket was an Ariza triple as Orlando shifted towards Bryant, significant because L.A. took only three threes in Game 1. The Lakers, by the way, have not lost all season when wearing their white jerseys, which come out on Sundays and holidays.

8:56 Just a lethal move to the left hand off a spin got Gasol a bucket around Lewis, but Turkoglu answered with a three to tie the score at 5. Moments later, Bynum’s second foul came trying to guard Howard, bringing Odom off the bench. Orlando was going to that matchup while L.A. opted for the Gasol-Lewis mismatch.

5:22 Here was the big lineup Stan Van Gundy referred to in practice: Marcin Gortat checked in at the four alongside Howard, which moved Lewis to the three and Turkoglu the two. L.A. led 10-6 after Bryant’s first jumper.

2:20 While the Magic offense runs less efficiently with Gortat and Howard both in, it helps them on the boards, and the Lakers had grabbed just one offensive board in a 13-13 tie as Howard hit 1-of-2 free throws.

1:29 Howard reached his Game 1 FG total (1) with a layup off his offensive board, though Gasol contested his next attempt, leading to a Fisher jumper at the other end to tie the score.

0:02.6 Howard’s offensive foul thwarted Orlando’s chance to take the lead heading into the second, and Bryant missed a deep pull-up three to end a low-scoring, poor shooting period from both teams at a 15-all draw.

In short, Orlando crowded Bryant early, and the primary recipients of the offense (Gasol and Ariza) both made only 1-of-5 shots from the field. The Lakers did, however, play well defensively so as not to take a hit on the scoreboard.
Continue reading ‘Lakers – Magic Running Diary 2′