Archive for the 'Pre-Game' Category

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Lakers – Pistons: Pregame Numbers

With the Lakers heading east for a three-game road trip, we took a look at both the team’s progress in recent weeks and Tuesday night’s matchup with the Pistons through some numbers:

1 L.A.’s league-wide rank in field goal percentage defense, tying Philadelphia at 41.7%, spurred by some excellent defense through a five-wins-in-six-games stretch. The Lakers also lead the league in rebounding at 45.76 per game, paced by Andrew Bynum (12.8, 3rd in the NBA) and Pau Gasol (10.4, 9th).

2 Members of the 2004 title-winning Pistons currently on L.A.’s coaching staff. John Kuester was an assistant coach who went on to serve as head coach from 2009-11, while Darvin Ham was a reserve big man.

5 Consecutive wins over the Pistons for the Lakers, who have won three straight at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

7 L.A.’s rank in field goal percentage in the league, a number that has been steadily rising for weeks as Mike Brown has loosened the reigns on the offense, and the Lakers have figured out how they want to attack teams. “We’re a low-post team,” said Kobe Bryant after L.A.’s win over Miami. “We’re not a screen-roll team. We don’t do that. That’s not (our strength) … The real test for any championship team is to understand what your weaknesses are and cover those, and understand what your strengths are and play to those.”

9 Home wins for the Pistons (9-11), who have really struggled on the road (3-15) but played pretty well in their own building.

16.7 Points averaged by big man Greg Monroe to lead the Pistons. He’s been their best player all season, and also leads the team in rebounds (10.1), steals (1.29) and field goal percentage.

20.2 Points averaged in his last nine games for Rodney Stuckey despite tallying a goose egg at Toronto (Feb. 22). He’s been far better of late for the Pistons after an injury-hampered start. A score-first combo guard, Stuckey does lead Detroit in assists with an average of 3.8 per game.

30.0 The Pistons have a small line up, with Monroe slightly undersized at center and Jason Maxiell playing PF; in related news, Detroit ranks 30th in the NBA on the defensive glass, and this with Bynum and Gasol coming to town. They also don’t block any shots, ranking last there as well, while the Lakers come in having fewer of their shots blocked than any other team.

34 Points per game averaged by Kobe Bryant since breaking his nose and suffering a concussion at the All-Star game. He’s OK at scoring. #MaskedMamba

37.5 Miami’s field goal percentage against the Lakers, leading to only 83 points, their second lowest output of the season.

40.9 Rookie Brandon Knight’s shooting percentage. While he’s been generally impressive for head coach Lawrence Frank, Knight has been inefficient on offense, and with fellow starter Stuckey hitting only 41.7% of his shots, Detroit has had a problem getting a high return on shot attempts from the back court. Motown’s team ranks just 25th in the NBA in FG%, and only one team allows a higher FG% to opponents.

47.5 FG% for Metta World Peace in his last 10 games, including 44.4% from three. World Peace went for 17 points on 6-of-10 field goals against Miami, his highest scoring output since the season’s second game at Sacramento (19 points). His defense has also picked up as he’s gotten into shape, highlighted by a season high four steals against Miami while holding LeBron James (55% FG’s on the season) to 12-of-26 FG’s.

Bosh Out Against Lakers

Heat power forward Chris Bosh will miss Sunday morning’s Lakers – Heat matchup at Staples Center due to the death of his grandmother, as reported by the Palm Beach Post’s Ethan Skolnick.

Bosh, who averages 18.4 points and 8.3 boards per game, is missing his third straight game, leaving Miami a bit shorthanded in the front court against the Lakers.

Heat coach Eric Spoelstra declined to reveal whom he’ll start on Pau Gasol, as Joel Anthony will remain at the five to guard Bynum. However, Shane Battier is expected to start, likely guarding Kobe Bryant, which would mean LeBron James would have to slide up to power forward to contend with Gasol.

Miami could also use Udonis Haslem more than usual to play up front, but either way, the Lakers will keep the same game plan of pounding the ball inside and trying to limit Miami’s opportunities to get out in transition.

Lakers – Mavs Pregame Numbers

We took a look at some of the more outstanding numbers leading into the first Lakers trip to Dallas since last postseason’s sweep at the hands of Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavericks:

PREGAME NUMBERS
4.7 Seconds left on the clock when Derek Fisher’s game-winning three-pointer left his hands in L.A.’s Jan. 16 victory over Dallas.

11 Games out of the last 14 in the regular season won by the Lakers over the Mavs, including the last three straight.

23.8 Dirk’s average in February, after he posted just 15.1 points per game in January. The big German is back playing his game, also averaging 11 boards in his last three games. His return to form has helped Dallas win seven of eight games.

42.3 Points averaged by the Mavs bench, third in the NBA, compared to L.A.’s 21.5 points per game. But don’t be misled, because…

61.9 Points per game averaged by Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum alone, which is nearly 10 points more than the five Dallas starters average combined (52.5). In other words, Dallas is geared towards getting bench scoring, relying upon Jason Terry, Lamar Odom and Vince Carter (before Delonte West’s injury), while the Lakers still run their offense through Gasol or Bynum when subs like Steve Blake and Matt Barnes check in. The Mavs also lead the NBA in bench minutes, while L.A. ranks just 23rd.

2,515 Career steals for Jason Kidd after he surpassed Michael Jordan in the Feb. 20 Mavs win over Boston. He trails only John Stockton for the all-time lead, while Kobe Bryant ranks 17th all time and 2nd among active players in swipes.

LAL vs PHO: Coaches Quote Corner

Before and after L.A.’s Friday evening victory over Phoenix, respective head coaches Mike Brown and Alvin Gentry made their usual pre and post game comments. Because the two teams play again on Sunday, this time in the Valley of the Sun, the comments shine a bit of light on what to look for.

We tried to help by bolding some highlights; here you go:

MIKE BROWN POSTGAME:
On the game in general:
Brown: We got a lot of production from a lot of guys. For the first time in a while we got some easy baskets. I thought we did a better job in the second half of defending. We did something defensively to get them to drop 7-8 percentage points by the end of the game. On top of that, 26 assists on 44 baskets is playing the right way, moving the ball, moving bodies, trying to get good looks for one another. That’s fun to watch. I thought Matt (Barnes) gave us a huge lift off the bench, also Steve (Blake) with his six assists, but Matt’s activity (was crucial). He had some big defensive plays that led to some easy baskets for us. I thought Derek Fisher was very solid for us. He was pretty efficient shooting the basketball. Kobe’s ability to score is something that can’t be coached. It was good to see him get different looks from different areas on the floor.

On the Lakers learning, growing and gaining confidence:
Brown: I truly believe our guys are getting it a little bit. They’re starting to get to spots and even when we’re kind of in a random offense, our guys understand spacing and the concepts that we’ve been trying to get to them since the beginning of the year. They’re trying to do a nice job of attacking in spots and trying to get into our sets. The reality of it is whether we run a play or not is they’re doing a nice job of moving the ball and moving bodies. The comfort level of starting to understand what we’re trying to accomplish offensively aids their comfort level in their ability to shoot the basketball.

On what needs to improve in advance of Sunday’s rematch:
Brown: We didn’t do a good job of playing the pick and roll. The 2nd half with (Marcin) Gortat rolling down the middle (got better). (Andrew) Bynum has to be up a little bit higher in pick and roll; we have to try and play at our pace. If we’re getting stops and getting out and running like we did tonight, so be it, but we have to keep doing those three things offensively but also understand how to get stops.

On Kobe being able to carry the offense as he did in the third quarter:
Brown: That’s who he is. When times get tough for us, he’s supposed to carry us. That’s his job, that’s what he gets paid to do. The supporting cast around him is pretty good, starting with Drew and Pau. But at the end of the day, you have a guy like Kobe that you can say ‘Hey, go get me a bucket.’

On if the early struggles could be a good thing for his team:
Brown: Yeah. 18-12 is ideal because we need to struggle, to see if we’re tough enough mentally to withstand all the noise that’s outside our locker room… whether from fans, media whatever. Our guys have to ignore the noise. I knew we were going to get socked on the chin because I didn’t have enough time to figure out what I had; to our guys’ credit, they were searching too*.
*Editor’s note: Brown essentially said that his team has not yet fully arrived, but is getting closer, and that he would bet on his team come playoff time. Kobe then backed up those comments, and Alvin Gentry’s (see below, last question) about no one wanting to play the Lakers in the playoffs, from his locker after the game. Bryant expanded on his thought to say that the Lakers would move up in the standings (they are currently fifth behind OKC, S.A., LAC and Dallas) and would be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.

MIKE BROWN AT PRACTICE (SATURDAY):
On the difficulty of beating a team twice in a row:
Brown: Those guys are pros and they have pride, so it’s hard to continue to beat a team time after time after time, especially when you’ve beaten them twice already and now you have to come back and play them a third time right away. They’ll be ready for us, the crowd will be ready, and hopefully we can withstand the factors that we’ll face.

ALVIN GENTRY PREGAME:
On Kobe holding a grudge against Phoenix for the playoff losses in 2005 and 2006:
Gentry: Still trying to figure out why. The only people left from (that time) are me and Steve (Nash), and we’re great guys. I know he doesn’t dislike me, and I know he doesn’t dislike Steve, so maybe it’s the purple? Maybe it’s the jersey’s? But not another coach, not another player, not the general manager, not a president … the owner and us are the only ones that are left.

On defending Kobe:
Gentry: You can’t judge him by looking at the stat sheet and saying, ‘Oh we held him to 15 (points),’ because it’s not going to happen. To me, the thing with Kobe is first of all you have to try and keep him off the (foul) line. If he’s making jump shots, he’s making jump shots and it doesn’t matter who is guarding him. You could have the defense lineman from the (New York) Giants guarding him and it’s not going to matter if he’s making his jump shot, so you try to make him work for his shot and then when it goes up, the most important thing is to let that be the end of the possession. Nobody ever controls him. If they did, he wouldn’t lead the league in scoring. He’s pretty consistent in what he does. The offense they run makes it really difficult to try and keep the ball out of his hands.

On if there’s another team with such a difficult low post combination as Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol:
Gentry: I don’t think so, because of the length of both of those guys. There are some teams that may be a little more physical, but as far as the length and then when you take Pau and you add in just the basketball savvy that he has, and that Bynum is still a really young player and has continued to improve, they become very difficult. It’s frightening. These are guys that have been in championship situations and have done extremely well when the ball has come their way.

On Shannon Brown falling out of the regular rotation at times behind Jared Dudley and Michael Redd:
Gentry: It has been (tricky to get him minutes). It becomes extremely tough to play three guys at one position. He’s been unbelievable as a professional about it, and I know he’s not happy about it. Who would be? I as a coach have to be a little bit understanding on his part. We like to try and get him in games, put him in a situation where he can help us with the scoring.

On how he still considers the Lakers a major threat:
Gentry: As long as they have No. 24 they will be thought of that way. Their record doesn’t really matter. They’ll have him, and they have Bynum and Gasol. They haven’t played as well as they have played (in the past), they’ve struggled on the road some, which is a little unusual for them because they’ve always been a really good road team, but at the end of the day, are you telling me that anyone would want to play them in the first round? I don’t think so. I don’t think anybody’s begging to play them in the playoffs in the first round.

Lakers at Raptors: 10 a.m. Tip

We really don’t want you to be upset.

So make sure you’re paying attention, that you write this down or commit it to memory: the Lakers play at Toronto at 10 a.m. Pacific on Sunday morning.

As in, the game starts when you get out of bed.

Turn into KCAL 9 for the broadcast as Kobe and Co. try to salvage a 3-3 record on their Grammy road trip, which began on Feb. 3 at Denver, and took the team through Utah, Philly, Boston and New York. The long road trip has already balanced out L.A.’s schedule to the point where the Purple and Gold have played more road games (14) than home games (13), with many of the league’s toughest arenas checked off the list (Boston, Denver, Portland, Utah, Miami, Orlando, etc.).

When LA. gets home on Sunday evening, it will have three more home games (Atlanta, Phoenix and Portland) and three on the road (Phoenix, Dallas and Oklahoma City) before the All-Star break.

But first, we’ll see you from the Air Canada Centre, folks. At 10 a.m.

Kuester to Step In for Brown

With the news that Mike Brown will serve a 1-game suspension for making contact with an official (at Utah) on Monday in Philadelphia, the Lakers will turn to Brown’s lead assistant, John Kuester, to take over head coaching duties.

While fellow assistant coaches Chuck Person, Quin Snyder (who served as an assistant last season under Doug Collins) and Darvin Ham scout opposing teams, Person drawing the Sixers, Kuester is responsible for taking in the big picture, just like Brown.

Should Brown ever get ejected or suspended as in Philly, Kuester stays ready to step in, though he’ll still be very active particularly in drawing up offensive plays, as he does when Brown’s on the bench.

Some other notes ahead of Lakers – Sixers:

- Kobe Bryant needs to score his jersey number, 24, to pass Shaquille O’Neal as the NBA’s 5th leading scorer in history. He has played 28 games (24 starts) against his hometown Sixers, averaging 22.6 points per game.
- The Lakers have gone 14-6 in the last three Grammy trips and built momentum for the respective season’s stretch runs. In 2008-09: 6-0; 2009-10: 5-3; 2010-11: 4-3. 2012-13: 1-1 so far.
- The Lakers lead the NBA in field goal defense (opponents shooting 41.6%).
- The Sixers have six guys in double figures, the leader (Sixth Man) Louis Williams averaging only 15.1 ppg, while the vast majority of LAL points come from Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
- Elton Brand didn’t play in Philly’s last game due to a finger injury. We’ll have to check on him at the arena.

Wade Out, LeBron Questionable vs. Lakers

Following Thursday morning’s shootaround, Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post reported that Dwyane Wade (ankle) will not play against the Lakers, while LeBron James was sent home from shootaround due to flu-like symptoms.

It’s possible that Chris Bosh is the only healthy member of Miami Thrice, while the Lakers have Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum primed to start. The lone Lakers rotation player that will be out is, of course, Steve Blake, not expected back for another three weeks or so due to fractured cartilage in his ribs.

L.A.’s coaching staff expects Heat reserve Shane Battier to spend a lot of time guarding Bryant, particularly if James does not play, while Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace will draw the bulk of minutes defending LeBron if he does go.

Alvin Gentry on Bynum + Gasol

It’s a frequent occurrence to hear NBA coaches discuss how difficult L.A.’s seven-foot tandem of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum make things on the inside when their respective teams draw the Lakers, and Suns head man Alvin Gentry was no exception in advance of Tuesday evening’s contest.

“I think Bynum is probably playing as well as any center in the league right now, when you look at the rebounding, shot blocking and scoring,” he said. “When he’s healthy and playing at this level, it’s a really, really tough matchup.”

Gentry made the comment after acknowledging that his own center, Marcin Gortat (the “Polish Hammer”) has been terrific since coming over in a trade with Orlando last season, agreeing with (this) reporter’s assessment that Gortat is already among the league’s top 10 pivots. Gentry also offered some unsolicited praise of Gasol’s game, relating his comment back to the Spaniard’s partnership with Bynum.

“Everyone knows about Pau … the guy is probably as skill as any big guy that plays the game,” he said. “His footwork is great, he’s a real smart player. When you’re dealing with those two guys down there, rebounding becomes such an issue, and when those two guys by themselves are getting 30 rebounds, it puts a lot of pressure on your front court.”

For the young season, Bynum is averaging 18.8 points, 15.7 rebounds and 1.67 blocks in six games, while Gasol checks in at 16.7 points, 9.3 boards, 2.3 assists and 1.8 blocks in 10 games.

Bryant Calls Knee “95 Percent Better”

There’s been more than a little bit of chatter about Kobe Bryant’s right knee early this season, particularly because he has looked legitimately more explosive and healthy than in recent years in L.A.’s first three games.

Lakers head athletic trainer Gary Vitti explained to us back on Dec. 5 that Bryant was in constant communication with the team’s training staff before he went to Germany for an innovative treatment that he has since recommended to Yankees shortstop Alex Rodriguez.

Bryant called his knee “95 percent better,” adding that it’s “as close to 100 percent” as it’s going to get.

In the three games, Bryant has averaged 27.7 points on 45.3 percent shooting, and has made more forays into the paint than he was able to last season, upping his free throw attempt average by more than one per game to 8.3.

Pre-Utah Numbers

We took a look at some of the outstanding numbers from L.A.’s first two games, losses to Chicago and at Sacramento, in advance of the team’s third game in as many days against Utah on Tuesday:

82.6 Lakers winning percentage against the Jazz at STAPLES Center (19-4) in the regular season.

44.5 Team field goal percentage through two games.

28.5 Kobe Bryant’s ppg average, on 44.7% field goals.

23 Team rank in points per game (89.0).

16 Preseason scoring average of Jazz forward Derrick Favors, the No. 3 overall pick last season in New Jersey, who was acquired by Utah in the Deron Williams trade. He added 9.0 boards as well.

15.6 L.A.’s 3-point percentage after a horrible shooting night from the arc in Sacramento (1-for-16).

14.5 Pau Gasol’s ppg average on 50% field goals. His coaches would like to see him shoot the ball more, needless to say.

13 Lakers rank in points per game allowed (94.0).

7.5 Boards per game for rookie Enes Kanter, a Turkish 2011 lottery pick (also No. 3 overall, like Favors the year before), in only 19.5 minutes per contest, plus 1.0 block per contest.

1 Back-to-back-to-back on the season. At least L.A. gets it out of the way early. They’re set, however, to play 17 games in 31 January nights.