Archive for the 'Playoffs' Category

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Playoff Podcast No. 2: Benjamin Hochman

With the Lakers heading to Denver holding a 2-0 lead in their first round playoff series against the Nuggets, we called up the Denver Post’s Benjamin Hochman to provide some insight leading into Friday’s Game 3.

L.A. controlled the first two games in Los Angeles, never trailing in two wire-to-wire victories, getting 34.5 ppg from Kobe Bryant and dominant all-around play from 7-footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, who helped limit the Nuggets despite a far better Game 2 effort led by Ty Lawson.

Hochman offered his report from Wednesday’s Nuggets practice, detailed what to expect from Denver in Games 3 and 4 and explained how he came upon the nickname “Tinafey” for Timofey Mozgov (get it???).

To listen, click here:

LAL 104, DEN 100: Game 2 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home contest against Denver, the Lakers looking to build upon Game 1′s 103-88 victory, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, Ebanks, Gasol and Bynum
Denver: T. Lawson, A. Afflalo, D. Gallinari, K. Faried, K. Koufos

10:45 Most expected Denver to make some adjustments and come out firing after being blown out easily in Game 1, but the Lakers again asserted their will in the opening minutes, taking a 6-0 lead behind their 7-footers: Bynum scored easily over Koufos (no double team came), and Gasol hit two jumpers, both wide open, the first because Kenneth Faried left Gasol to double Bynum.

8:36 The early dominance continued, as Bynum dunked on consecutive possessions, the first after Gasol led a 2-on-1 break with Denver trying to press a Lakers’ inbounds pass, the Spaniard streaking up the floor before tossing an oop for his fellow 7-footer. Denver’s time out came as they trailed 12-3. However, out of that break, Denver finally found its fast-break game, rolling off an 8-0 run almost all in transition, led by Lawson and Afflalo.

0:05.1 With Denver choosing not to double Kobe until he got into the paint, Bryant went off from the rest of the floor, nailing 6 of 8 shots for 14 points, including a three-pointer with five seconds left to put L.A. up 32-25. The Nuggets scored more effectively than in Game 1, thanks in part to two Al Harrington triples, but the Lakers were scoring with ease, Bynum adding 10 points to Kobe’s effort, the team shooting 61 percent.

8:30 The Lakers know exactly what Denver wants to do, and it’s not complicated: sprint out on every make or miss. Yet like for a period of the first quarter, missed Lakers shots led again to run outs and layups, a 6-0 Nuggs run tying the game at 36. Mike Brown took a time out to discuss as Kobe checked back in.

6:00 Bryant immediately rolled off five more points, reaching 19 already, figuring that if the Nuggets wanted to raise the intensity level, he was more than happy responding in kind. Jordan Hill then hit two free throws, and Bryant pulled up again for another jumper. On fire.

0:00 The stats told a decent story in the first: L.A. shot 53.3% to DEN’s 38.5%, with both making six free throws, suggested a big Lakers lead. But Denver grabbed 13 offensive rebounds (LAL allowed only 11.48 O boards per game in the regular season), leading to 18 second chance points. They also had 15 fast break points to LAL’s six, which allowed them to trail by just seven despite the discrepancy in shooting percentages.

8:20 As L.A. started cleaning the defensive glass, some O boards started to come at the other end, with an Ebanks window clean and pretty extra pass from Gasol getting Bynum a layup, then Bryant’s own O board resulting in his pretty and-1 jumper after getting Afflalo in the air. Bynum was the next to climb on the offensive glass, and his put-back made it 69-52, capping a 12-0 run that became 14-0 with an Ebanks jumper. Bynum had 20, and Kobe 27 already.

4:46 It was the Lakers calling time out moments later, however, as Ty Lawson went on a personal 7-0 scoring run, getting repeatedly to the basket for three field goals plus a free throw, cutting the lead back to 12 at 71-59. Still a long ways to go here for L.A. to let up.

0:23.0 Despite the Nuggets hitting a ridiculous 11 of 12 shots, many of them around the rim, L.A. held onto a 7-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, as Bynum (career playoff high 24 points) and Bryant (33 points, of course nowhere near a playoff career high) kept scoring. Teams both scored 26 points in the period, but L.A.’s coaches couldn’t be too thrilled with how many easy buckets were being conceded at the rim.

7:50 Sessions, displeased with a call on Corey Brewer’s missed dunk (he appeared not to touch Brewer) responded with consecutive field goals to push L.A.’s lead back to 14, when Denver had cut it to five with a hoop to start the final quarter. Bryant was on the bench for all but the second Sessions hoop (which was his first assist, incidentally), clapping as the bench (Sessions, Blake, Barnes, Hill and Gasol) rebuilt the lead.

6:00 L.A.’s lead at the six-minute mark, when most NBA teams want to be within 10 points for a final chance at a comeback, was nine at 92-83. The starters were in to try and close Denver out, a 2-0 series lead on the line, heading into Friday’s Game 3. Gallinari, who’d been far outplayed by his sub at SF, Brewer, missed a wide-open transition three that could have cut it to four, but Lawson’s transition pull-up after Kobe’s baseline miss made it 92-87 at the 4:35 mark, capping an 8-0 run.

3:00 Ebanks committed a charge as the Nuggets were on a 14-4 run, again cutting the lead to four after L.A. had pushed it to eight on Bryant’s three-pointer. L.A.’s offense stagnated as Kobe isolated on three straight trips, the two misses leading to Faried free throws (4-of-4) that again cut the lead to four, but Bryant stripped Faried on the next trip down, pushed the ball to the rim himself and fed Bynum for an and-1 dunk that made it 98-91 with 2:15 to play.

0:20.9 Sessions stepped up in crunch time first with a floater to keep the lead at six with 1:14 left, and then again by hitting both free throws at the 20.9 mark, countering a McGee tip in, to make it 102-96. Lawson got to the rim for a layup, but Bryant’s two free throws answered, giving him 38 points. Denver would get a final tip in, the winning score thus 104-100. Game 3 is on Friday in Colorado – see you there.

2012 Playoff Podcast No. 1: Kevin Ding

Now that the playoffs have started, there are ever so more many interesting topics to delve into here in Los Angeles, and few platforms provide for easier access to in depth analysis than the podcast.

And so, we’ll be posting regular pods featuring various guests that have a level of expertise on either the Lakers or L.A.’s opponents, beginning with longtime Orange County Register beat writer and columnist Kevin Ding, who also previewed the series with us on LakersTV.

After an impressive 15-point Game 1 victory over Denver featuring Andrew Bynum’s triple-double with 10 blocks (tying an NBA record), we discussed what the performance might mean moving forward into the playoffs, what makes Bynum tick and how his teammates respond to his personality, in addition to a breakdown of all things Kobe Bryant (Ding has been covering Bryant since 1999).

You can listen by clicking below:

LAL 103, DEN 88: Game 1 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon home opening playoff contest against Denver, the Lakers knowing the importance of Game 1 since they’re 33-1 when winning the first one, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, Ebanks, Gasol and Bynum
Denver: T. Lawson, A. Afflalo, D. Gallinari, K. Faried, K. Koufos

12:00 We tried to cover about everything you need to know about the matchup through my A to Z Preview, the scouting report video featuring assistant coach Chuck Person’s knowledge and a more in depth look at Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum with the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding. But after all that, we now get to watch some basketball and see for ourselves. Here we go, folks…

6:00 A sluggish, sloppy start from both teams had only 14 total points scored (8-6 Lakers) at the first time out, Denver making 3 of 12 shots and the Lakers 3 of 7. The Lakers turned the ball over four times in the opening stanza, including a miscommunication between Sessions and starting SF Devin Ebanks, who replaced the suspended Metta World Peace. Denver was only able to turn those TO’s into two points, however.

3:10 Kobe ranks third all-time in playoff scoring with 5,280 points coming into this campaign, trailing only guys named Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, OK players both. He started going to work halfway through the first, scoring five straight to put L.A. up 15-9.

12:00 A very strong defensive first quarter from LAL had the Nuggets scoring only 14 points on 25 percent shooting (6 for 20), with no fast break points and no three-pointers. Steve Blake was the offensive story, nailing three triples to push L.A.’s lead to 27-14 after one. However, after Ebanks was blocked at the rim, Denver leaked out for its first fast break points, from Corey Brewer, not a trend L.A. wanted to see get started.

8:00 Remember all that positive LAL stuff from the previous quarter? Well, a 13-4 Nuggets run to start the 2nd was just the opposite, including leak outs for fast break points and two three-pointers, Brewer’s including a foul, cutting L.A.’s lead to four. But since it’s the playoffs, Kobe returned at the 8-minute mark, the rotation of course shortening, and the Lakers scored the next four points.

2:55 Maybe the best sign the Lakers had in the first half was to see how engaged Bynum was on defense. The best example was when he got switched out on to Ty Lawson – one of the league’s fastest players – in a pick and roll, moved his feet well and swatted Lawson easily when the PG thought he was past the 7-footer. It was the fourth block for Bynum in his 15 minutes, plus a game-high eight boards. He’d taken only two shots, a two-handed dunk from Sessions and a tip in of Bryant’s miss, and those hoops plus the fifth Ebanks field goal (he led all scorers with 12) put the home team back up 43-34.

6:34 The defense remained excellent to start the third, L.A. getting two more blocks from Bynum, and then a corner three from the Spaniard — from the same spot he drained two in OT against Dallas — that helped the Lakers push their lead up to 17 points at 64-47.

4:20 Moments later, the lead was pushed to 19 when Kobe scored at the rim, thanks in part to Bynum’s seventh block, which matched his career playoff high last accomplished in Game 2 of the 2010 Finals against Boston. Can’t stress enough how important Bynum’s rim protection and general D is to LAL’s playoff chances. Moments later, he threw down an alley-oop dunk off Gasol’s seventh assist.

0:00 L.A.’s lead was 13 after three, adding three points onto the halftime margin even as Denver trimmed what ballooned to as many as 19 points. Bynum added his eighth block, two short of the NBA playoff record of 10 (Hakeem Olajuwon, Mark Eaton), alongside 10 points and 12 boards, approaching an ever-so-rare playoff triple-double with swats. Kobe was up to 17 points and Sessions 14 in an effective backcourt, while Nuggs starting PG Lawson had only one point, one assist and one board, to backup Andre Miller’s eight, six and five.

8:24 Leading the way in the fourth was Gasol, who scored four early points with two boards to push L.A.’s lead to 85-68. Mike Brown was running Sessions/Gasol pick and roll to good effect, with Matt Barnes (four steals) creating some havoc on defense.

3:36Mike Brown’s been a better-safe-than-sorry coach in terms of keeping starters on the floor when L.A. has big leads (even though they haven’t had a ton this season, opting for close/entertaining games), and Gasol/Bynum/Kobe were still out there with L.A. leading by 15. That said, none had played major minutes, Kobe at 36, Bynum 35 and Gasol 33 to that point. Kobe hit two free throws shortly thereafter to reach 29 points, 12 coming in the fourth quarter, putting the game on ice.

3:02 Meanwhile, Bynum went ahead and made Lakers playoff history, swatting Mozgov in the paint for his 10th of the game, surpassing the nine by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He also tied Hakeem and Eaton for the NBA playoff high, and thanks to his 10 points and 13 boards, had the first postseason triple-double for the Lakers since Magic Johnson in the 1991 NBA Finals.

Your final from Game 1: Lakers

First Round Playoff Schedule

The Lakers will open up their 2012 Playoff campaign against the Denver Nuggets at STAPLES Center on Sunday April 29th at 12:30pm PT (ABC). Game 2 will take place in Los Angeles Tuesday night before the series shifts to Denver for games 3 and 4 on Friday and Sunday respectively.

Game 1 – Sun April 29 Denver at L.A. Lakers 12:30PM ABC
Game 2 – Tue May 1 Denver at L.A. Lakers 7:30PM FS West/TNT

Game 3 – Fri May 4 L.A. Lakers at Denver 7:30PM KCAL/ESPN
Game 4 – Sun May 6 L.A. Lakers at Denver 6:30PM KCAL/TNT
Game 5 * Tue May 8 Denver at L.A. Lakers TBD FS West/TBD
Game 6 * Thu May 10 L.A. Lakers at Denver TBD KCAL/TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 12 Denver at L.A. Lakers TBD FS West/TNT

* – if necessary
(All Times Pacific)

Lakers Get West’s No. 3 Seed

With the L.A. Clippers falling to Atlanta on the road on Tuesday evening, the Lakers clinched the Pacific Division title and No. 3 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.

The Purple and Gold had a magic number of one heading into the contest, needing either a Clippers loss or a victory at Sacramento on Thursday to seal the deal.

But who will the Lakers play in Round 1?

Well, a key matchup on Wednesday should provide a more clear answer, as current No. 6 seed Denver (36-28) plays a critical game at Oklahoma City. The Thunder have nothing to play for, having already locked up the No. 2 seed, though should they beat Denver, they’ll be more likely to face the Nuggets in the first round, giving Dallas an inside track to that No. 6 seed and a rematch of last season’s Western Semi’s against the Lakers.

Should the Nuggets beat OKC, they can then clinch the sixth position with either a season-ending win at Minnesota on Thursday, or a Dallas (36-29) loss to Atlanta. They could also get the No. 6 spot by going 1-1, in conjunction with a Dallas loss. On the contrary, the Mavericks can jump into the six slot if they beat the Hawks on Thursday, along with a Denver loss to either OKC or Minnesota. Denver needs to finish at least one-half game ahead of Dallas, since the Mavericks own the tiebreaker.

In short:

Lakers Play Denver If…
- The Nuggets defeat Oklahoma City AND Minnesota
- The Nuggets defeat Oklahoma City OR Minnesota AND Dallas loses to Atlanta

Lakers Play Dallas If…
- The Nuggets lose to Oklahoma City AND Minnesota
- The Nuggets lose to Oklahoma City OR Minnesota AND Dallas defeats Atlanta

If the playoffs ended today, here are your matchups:

#1 San Antonio vs. #8 Utah*
#2 Oklahoma City vs. #7 Dallas
#3 Lakers vs. #6 Denver
#4 LAC vs. #5 Memphis**
*Pending the result of Utah’s home matchup against Phoenix later tonight.
**Memphis could still earn the No. 4 seed if they defeat Orlando at home and the Clippers lose at New York.

Lakers coach Mike Brown may now choose to rest some of his stars against the Kings, or at least limit minutes, since the game is meaningless in terms of postseason standing, but he’d have been short at the small forward position regardless.

L.A. will be without starting small forward Metta World Peace, suspended for seven games for an elbow of OKC guard James Harden, and MWP’s backup Matt Barnes will also miss the trip due to a sprained right ankle. This leaves Devin Ebanks – who played all 10 overtime minutes in Sunday’s win over OKC – as the lone small forward on the roster.

LAL Magic Number for No. 3 Seed: 2

With the Lakers currently holding a .5 game lead over the Clippers for the Pacific Division title and No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, any combination of two Lakers wins or Clippers losses will do the job for the Purple and Gold.

LAL (40-26) finishes its regular season schedule with a home game at Oklahoma City (Sunday) and road game at Sacramento (Thursday), while the Clippers (39-26) face New Orleans at home before traveling to Atlanta and New York.

Should the teams end up with the same record, the Lakers will get the nod, as they defeated the Clippers 2-1 in the season series and therefore own the tiebreaker.

The scenarios:

- If the Clippers go 3-0, LAL must go 2-0 to clinch the No. 3 seed
- If the Clippers go 2-1, LAL can go 1-1 to clinch the No. 3 seed
- If the Clippers go 1-2, LAL can go 0-2 to win the Pacific*
- If the Clippers go 0-3, LAL automatically finishes ahead of LAC
*Stay tuned for how Memphis could sneak into the No. 3 seed.

It’s not out of the question for Memphis to leap ahead of the Lakers or the Clippers, however, as the 39-25 Grizzlies have two very winnable home games left against Cleveland and Orlando. That said, both the Lakers and Clippers have the tiebreaker over Memphis, so the Grizz would need the Lakers to lose both games while winning out, and the Clippers to lose two of three to move up.

In short: should the Lakers win one game and the Clippers win two, Memphis stays locked into the No. 5 seed.

Mavs/Nuggets Battle for No. 6 Seed
Whichever team clinches the No. 3 seed will face either Dallas (36-29) or Denver (35-28). Phoenix and Utah have no chance of grabbing the No. 6 seed, because even if the Mavericks lose their final game to match 30 losses of the Suns and Jazz, Dallas owns the tiebreaker over each. Alternatively, if Denver wins out and Dallas loses its final game, the Nuggets would have two fewer losses than Phoenix or Utah. Here are the remaining schedules in the push for the No. 6 slot:

Dallas: @ATL
Denver: ORL, @OKC, @MIN

Atlanta is essentially locked into the No. 5 seed with home court over Boston; the Celtics are the No. 4 having won the Atlantic Division, but have two more losses than Atlanta after their reserve-laden squad lost to Atlanta last night. In other words, the Hawks may not share the motivation of the Mavs in that final game.

If the Mavs do win in Atlanta, Denver would still have to go 3-0, since Dallas owns the tiebreak between the two. If Dallas should lose again, Denver can go 2-1. The Lakers could influence these proceedings as well, because if they beat OKC on Sunday, the Thunder have less incentive in their home game against Denver, since San Antonio will have a big edge for the top seed.

Should be fun … stay tuned!

Western Conference Playoff Picture

With 10 days left in the regular season, things are starting to shape up in the Western Conference playoff push, even if we may not know every matchup until the final day of the regular season, April 27.

As things sit today, this is what we’d see in the Wild West:

#1 San Antonio (43-16) vs. #8 Phoenix (32-29)
#2 Oklahoma City (44-17) vs. #7 Dallas (34-28)
#3 L.A. Lakers (39-22) vs. #6 Denver (34-27)
#4 L.A. Clippers (38-23) vs. #5 Memphis (35-25)

The battle for the No. 3 seed is centered in Los Angeles between the Lakers and Clippers, with the Grizzlies looking in from the outside, 3.0 games back of the Lakers. Mike Brown’s team holds a one gamelead on the Clippers, who won a big game at home against Oklahoma City on Monday night to stay well within striking distance, though the Lakers do own the tiebreaker. Here are the remaining games for each squad:

LAKERS: vs. SAS, @ GSW, @ SAS, vs. OKC, @ SAC

On the surface, the Clippers schedule appears more difficult, as all four road teams they’re set to visit are battling either for their playoff lives or seeding. For the Lakers, the Warriors and Kings are a combined 36 games below .500, while the Spurs and Thunder may or may not be in competition for the No. 1 seed, which could impact the level of intensity for each of the three matchups. That’s why they play the games…

Don’t count out Houston (32-29) or Utah (32-30) from sneaking in, as both have a puncher’s chance at claiming the final playoff spot Phoenix moved into with a Monday win over Portland due to consecutive Rockets losses to Denver. The Nuggets, with those two wins, moved from the eight slot to the six, since Dallas lost back-to-back road overtime games at L.A. and Utah on consecutive evenings. In short, whichever L.A. team gets the No. 3 seed could face any one of five teams, with Denver and Dallas holding narrow advantages in the loss column.

All of this can change in a single NBA day, so stay tuned while we try to make sense of it all for you.

Lakers Second Round Schedule

The Lakers open up their second round playoff matchup with the Dallas Mavericks Monday night at STAPLES Center. DESKTOP SCHEDULE WALLPAPER

Game 1 – Mon May 2 Dallas at L.A. Lakers 7:30PM TNT
Game 2 – Wed May 4 Dallas at L.A. Lakers 7:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Fri May 6 L.A. Lakers at Dallas TBD ESPN
Game 4 – Sun May 8 L.A. Lakers at Dallas 12:30PM ABC
Game 5 * Tue May 10 Dallas at L.A. Lakers TBD TNT
Game 6 * Thu May 12 L.A. Lakers at Dallas TBD ESPN
Game 7 * Sun May 15 Dallas at L.A. Lakers 12:30PM ABC

* if necessary

Kobe Game 5 Hammer Dunk Triptych

For those that might have missed it last night on the Lakers’ Twitter and Facebook accounts here’s a triptych of Kobe’s dunk over Emeka Okafor in the second quarter of Game 5.

(Photos by Harry How/Getty Images, Design by Ty Nowell/