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Posts Tagged ‘jordan farmar’

A Champion Caliber Win

Posted by hiphopmama on May 8, 2009

Lakers Rockets
LA Lakers 108, Houston 94
     Lakers lead series 2-1

Now that is how you play and win a playoff game.  Not just any playoff game, either, but a potentially series-swinging one in a contentious match-up against a serious contender. There was very little in the way of “afters,” as they would refer to it in soccer, referring to the extracurricular activities that marred game 2. There were a couple of contentious moments, but other than that, both teams just played hard, playoff basketball and gave it absolutely everything they had.

The normally stellar refs had another good game under difficult circumstances. They managed to keep a lid on what could have been a powder keg of a game, and they got the Vujacic call right even if they got the Artest call wrong. Sasha did come down a little hard on Wafer on that three-point shot, but in reality the Nilla-man jumped at a 45-degree angle into him, which could have been called a foul on the Rockets player instead. They gave him his three free throws and got on with the game, as they should have. The Artest call, on the other hand, was not so artfully handled. Yes he came across Pau’s head a bit and he crashed awkwardly to the ground, but he at least appeared to have some intent to go for the ball and clearly wasn’t looking to cause any kind of injury. It was either a hard regular foul (my vote) or a flagrant 1 at most. I could have understood the refs going with the flagrant 1 because of the circumstances of this series, but a flagrant 2 was pretty excessive. I fully expect that one to be overturned or at least reduced, and certainly no suspension handed down.

And the game. What a game. As a Laker fan, it was about all I could have hoped for. At this point you know they’re not going to blow anybody out and keep them down double digits the whole way, especially not against as tough a team as the Houston Rockets, so grinding out a convincing victory even through the nail-biting moments is as good as it gets. It shows that kind of champions poise that we’ve been looking for in them, and which they lacked woefully in game 1, and it is the first serious indication that they may be back on the right track. 

The first quarter was close, and the biggest edge we could claim was that we won the battle of the pace of the game by putting up 30 points in the first 12 minutes. We played the second quarter even but claimed the moral advantage by taking a 2-point lead into halftime with some good play to close the half, but we really got our mojo working in the third quarter, when we scored 24 and held Houston to a mere 14 points. As always, when our defense is knuckling down, there is little anyone can do to hang with us since we have such a killer offense. 24 points isn’t exactly a huge haul for us in a single quarter, but when we hold our opponents to 14 it is as good as 30 or more. 

We rode that 12-point advantage through the fourth quarter to a victory despite a few tense minutes when the Rockets got to within 6 on a Yao Ming slam dunk. Instead of panicking, though, we simply ran our offense, upped our defense, and gritted our teeth to get the victory. The next trip down court, Farmar calmly drained a baseline jumper, and Kobe hit a ridiculous three as the shot clock was winding down to bump it back up an 11-point gap.

And that, effectively, was the game. This was a quintessential playoff game in many ways, with defense being the foremost. Neither team made it to 44% shooting, but we won that stat battle, holding the Rockets to 41.7% while shooting 43.9% ourselves. Our distributed scoring was another hallmark of our good team play, as Kobe’s 33 was amply supported by 16 from Odom, 13 from Pau and Ariza, 12 from Farmar, and 8, 6, and 4 from Brown, Walton, and Bynum, respectively. The most impressive stat of the night, for my money anyway, was the turnover breakdown. While we scored 20 points off 17 Rockets turnovers, they were only able to capitalize with 5 points off just 6 turnovers. That means that all game long, we took care of the ball every single possession except for 6. That is simply incredible, especially for this Lakers team, which often seems to think it can get away with any number of turnovers by hitting shots. 

To me, this game came down to good coaching. No disrespect to Adelman, who has clearly done an incredible job getting the most out of this team without its best player and leading scorer, but he doesn’t have anywhere near the savvy – or star power – as Phil Jackson, and PJ worked his magic again tonight. No Derek Fisher? Fine, we start Jordan Farmar and instill the confidence and readiness in him to go out and have the biggest game of his career. (His stat line was 12 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1 turnover, by the way.) We lost home court and need this win to put ourselves back in the driver’s seat? Okay, our guys will come out ready and grind through a tough defensive game despite the “soft” label that is still being bandied about. The accusation that we don’t want it enough? Pfft. Just read our efficiency statistics and tell me who was better prepared for this game.

Let’s not get it twisted, now. This series is still a long way from over. That 75% number they kept quoting for teams who win game 3 after being tied 1-1 is all well and good, but it still means that 1 in 4 teams who lose game 3 come back to take the series. Those aren’t the most reassuring numbers as far as I’m concerned, and when this Rockets team is involved, I’m even tentative to call this more than a momentary advantage. But tonight’s was a huge game, make no mistake, and I do believe it will be a postseason-defining moment for us. If we can really drive the stake into their hearts all the way in the next game, we could essentially break their spirits and set ourselves up to close it out at home just like in the first round, as remarkable as that sounds. Will it happen? I’m not sure, but I’d say we have a good chance of doing it with our squad back at full strength Sunday with Fish’s return. My fingers are definitely crossed, though.

Highlights:

And here is Kobe’s 30+ footer to close the third quarter and give us the 12-point cushion that saw us through:

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Easter Goodies

Posted by hiphopmama on April 12, 2009

Getting there, slowly but surely

Memphis game + no injury = good night

Memphis 75, LA Lakers 92

(64-17)

This was a well-played game. Not perfect, not without its typical Laker moments, but well executed and well within control throughout. Well, after the 8-0 start the Grizzlies had and the three minutes it took us to score. But after that, it was smooth sailing. What’s more, I’d say we accomplished the things we needed to in this essentially meaningless game which was more preparatory for the playoffs than anything else.

It looked like Phil had given them the mission of executing well and smoothing out the rough edges in anticipation of more important games, and almost everyone did that. Kobe streamlined his numbers, taking just 9 shots and making 7 of them for 16 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 assists in 29 minutes. Pau had a rough start but eventually settled down and did well against his brother to grab a double-double of 12 and 13. Ariza and Fisher used the game to get themselves back on track a little, with Fisher trying to shoot himself out of a slump and Ariza accomplishing the same feat by getting to the basket. 12 points, 3 steals, 4 rebounds, and 6-of-9 shooting will get it done every night from Trevor. The subs also contributed solid minutes. Lamar didn’t have fabulous numbers, but his presence was a boost for the team. Luke was perfect on the night, making all of his shots and dishing it off for some beautiful assists, including a between-the-legs bounce pass to Vujacic for the jumper. Sasha played some feisty defense and shot the ball well. And Shannon Brown played even more positive minutes, getting himself on the highlight reel with a big dunk on the break for a three-point play.

Then, of course, there was Andrew Bynum. Don’t get me wrong – he’s still off – but he worked his way to a team-high 18 points on 6-of-10 in just 25 minutes. He probably would have played more if not for the fact that he picked up some early fouls and had to sit for the better part of the third quarter. Still, he made the most of his minutes, working around the basket and easing his way into the game again. If he can get some good minutes in the Utah game and use the first couple rounds of the playoffs to be reintroduced to the full rotation, hopefully he will be close to full strength for the big time.

And now, because I liked it so much last time, the good, bad, and ugly again. Good’s up first:

  • The Lakers. Yep, the team as a whole played this one great from start to finish. Or, more precisely, from three minutes in to finish. After that early deficit, they jumped in front and never looked back. There was a brief moment in the second half when Memphis cut the lead to 6, but it never got that close again and was as high as 19. Finally a straightforward win.
  • Luke Walton. The whole team played well, but Luke deserves a special shout-out for his brilliant tactical game. His court awareness and ability to pick players out at impossible angles always amazes me. I remember when he led the PAC-10 in assists as a center at Arizona, but I never expected he could keep up that pace. He has, and his unique skill set is a crucial piece to our puzzle. If he can occasionally knock down the open shot the defense will inevitably give him, he will be a great asset indeed in the postseason.
  • The Laker D. Another surprising note, but we have looked mighty solid on defense the last few games. We held Memphis to 36.6% shooting and 75 points, plus kept their leading scorer to 10 points. We also kept their surging PG in check and essentially anonymous, which is something we wouldn’t have been able to do earlier in the season. All good trends going forward.
  • Phil’s player rotation. Substitution decisions are an almost mystical science that few can master, but PJ knows exactly how to shuffle the deck. He has worked everyone into the mix and knows what he can expect from them in different situations. My only quibble is over Josh Powell’s disappearance from the rotation. He was playing a bigger role right after Bynum was injured, and I thought he did quite well, fighting for offensive rebounds and knocking down that face-up jumper. I could still see him playing a role in certain match-ups in the playoffs. Just another good option stuck at the end of our very deep bench. 
  • O.J. Mayo. Wow is this kid good. I’ll be honest – I didn’t see him making the transition to the NBA this well at all. I thought he might be a little one-dimensional, a little soft, not mentally prepared. Obviously I was completely wrong. He leads all rookies in scoring and is right there in contention for Rookie of the Year honors. Even with all that, I think the nod should go to Derrick Rose, just because of the greater burden he has had to bear as point guard and the composure he has shown in that role. But you couldn’t be mad at the choice of Mayo either.

The bad:

  • Darko Milicic. Yeah, it’s a cheap shot, but it’s still true. What a bust. I always thought it was a bad decision to take him, especially over Melo, and you’d have to agree I got at least that one right. He still looks lost out there, even after a few years in the league and doesn’t seem to really care. He is not a long-term project – he’s a lost cause.
  • Jordan Farmar. With just 13 minutes, it’s hard to say he got a real chance to get going, but he still looks all wrong out there. Falling behind Shannon Brown in the rotation won’t have helped any either, but he’s got to earn his way back into playing time rather than hang his head. Tomorrow is his last chance to prove he deserves a bigger role in the postseason.

The ugly:

  • Nothing really, except for maybe our three-point shooting. We were a dismal 3-for-15 (20%), but happily no one took more than 3 so it wasn’t like players were indulging out there. Not too much of a worry in a throw-away game like this one.

Highlights:

Cleveland thwomped Boston today at home, so while it’s not mathematically impossible for us to catch them, it is everything but at this point. If we win our final game against Utah and they lose their last two – at Indiana and home against Philadelphia – we would have the same record and own the tie-breaker because we swept the season series against them. Seeing as how we’re the only team to win in Cleveland this year, however, it doesn’t seem likely. I don’t particularly care, since we can obviously beat them at home and have superior experience and a deeper bench, but I suppose it’s worth keeping an eye on. Till Tuesday.

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WTF Is Up With Portland?

Posted by hiphopmama on April 10, 2009

Is it the postseason yet?

Is it the postseason yet?

LA Lakers 98, Portland 106

(63-17)

Even more importantly, what is up with Phil? He just didn’t feel like traveling to the Pacific Northwest this weekend? He needed a little breather before the playoffs? I’ve never heard of a coach missing a game for a foot injury, but I am not yet of that venerable age so maybe I just don’t get it. Whatever the case, we were coach-less tonight, with Kurt Rambis filling in for the beardless one, and I can’t believe I’m saying this but it actually mattered. Not an excuse, just something to note. Believe me – we don’t need any excuses for losses in the Rose Garden. Not at this point anyway.

I won’t go into the whole game much. It was a good one, with both teams sparring and feeling each other out, taking what the opponent had to offer and then counter-punching with the best of them. The teams traded leads a few times, but a Portland surge gave the Blazers a small lead late and forced us to play catch-up down the stretch. Kobe and Brandon Roy squared off in a battle of two of the game’s best closers, and Kobe was not the victor tonight. Granted, it’s easier to play as the front-runner in that situation, but Roy was tough as nails and aggressive in the clutch. It takes cojones to want to take those meaningful shots late in games, and Roy was sporting a Sam Cassell pair in this one. After Kobe and Wade, he’s the best I’ve seen this year. As with Dwyane, I can’t even be mad about it because I like the dude.

I’m baffled as to how this can be, but I actually like this Blazers team as a whole. It’s quite a change from their old toker persona, when Sheed and Stoudemire were passing blunts rather than basketballs, and their youngsters are a likable bunch. LaMarcus Aldridge, despite a relatively quiet 16 tonight, has an impressive all-around game to complement his size and strength on the block. Steve Blake is one of those hard-nosed utility guys at the point, and he proved he can hit key shots tonight as well. Travis Outlaw is another fun player to watch and is explosive off the bench. And Brandon Roy is a superstar in the making who I fully expect to be a perennial all-star in the league. To top it off, none of them has the A-hole attitude that the old Blazers possessed in spades. Batum has his moments, but nothing that approaches Rasheed levels of impertinence. I wish them well, although I wouldn’t be sad to see them go out in the first round. I’ll be damned if I want to see us head up to Portland again this year.

And now to swagger-jack one of my favorite soccer blogs, Ole Ole’s Chelsea blog, with the following segment: the good, the bad, and the ugly. First off the good:

  • Shannon Brown. He has been by far my favorite Laker over the past week. He comes in and just does his job with the requisite hustle. Shooting 4-for-4 with two 3-pointers doesn’t hurt, either, and his contributions were much appreciated tonight, as evidenced by his 20 minutes on the floor. Farmar has slipped way down the bench, playing just 5 minutes tonight and going 0-for-2, but I’m not particularly sad about it. Brown even proved that he can fill in at the point a little, paired with Sasha in the backcourt, which gives us lots more options in there. For a throw-in on a cap-saving trade deal, he’s been quite an addition. 
  • Brandon Roy. Gotta give credit where it’s due, and Roy certainly earned it tonight. He didn’t have the most amazing shooting night, but just like Kobe, he found a way to get it done when it counted and his team reaped the benefits. Keep an eye on this one. (Not “that one,” as per McCain. Just saying.)
  • Kobe Bryant. I suppose you have to put him in here for scoring 32 points and carrying us down the stretch, but it wasn’t a stellar performance from him in general. He was in foul trouble from jump, picked up a technical foul, and spent more time pouting than defending at times. Wait, this is the “good” section…
  • Lamar Odom. 17 points off the bench, plus 10 boards for the double-double. That is one helluva sixth man. Bynum is still a step – or maybe two or three – slow, but the ability to bring a player like Odom off the bench is a huge luxury that we should use to our advantage from here on out.

And the bad:

  • Derek Fisher. 1-for-7 and 2 points in 23 minutes. Is he getting tired? He definitely had to carry a heavy load this season when Farmar went out, so maybe it’s catching up with him. Maybe he’s just coasting to the finish line before the postseason push. Don’t want to be too harsh on him because he’s always come through for us when we needed him, but I’m hoping he can pick it up in the playoffs. We need his leadership out there, but not without any kind of production.
  • Trevor Ariza. He came out with a bang when he was first inserted into the starting line-up, but his effectiveness has waned since then. Even his defense hasn’t been as sparkling as usual, so I wonder whether a move back to the bench might not be in order. He seems to thrive there anyway.
  • Team defense. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but at the same time it is. We held the Blazers to 42.7% shooting and took them out of their offense at times, but we got all of 2 steals for the whole game. What happened to the old swarming team that forced double-digit turnovers in a half? I understand that a more settled D is helping us hold down opponent shooting percentages, but the drop-off can’t be this huge. We just looked tired tonight, which makes sense since it was the second of a home-away back-to-back. We also had just one block to Portland’s 6 and were out-rebounded 44-39. 
  • Pau Gasol. This one may seem unmerited, but even at 6-of-9 from the floor it was an off night for Pau. He only had 12 points and, despite the score sheet listing him as just 1 turnover, made a number of iffy plays that hurt our possession chances. Ticky-tack fouls, followed by plenty of whining, and little of the aggression he’s shown this year. Again, I’m attributing it to end of season lethargy. Please prove me right.

And finally, the ugly:

  • Game management. Kurt, you may have designed a good defensive strategy for this team, but you, sir, are no Phil Jackson. Big surprise, I know, but Phil’s absence was palpable tonight, much to my own shock. PJ is usually barely sentient on the sidelines, sporting the same expression in good times and bad, but he at least has the team prepared. Kurt didn’t do that tonight. As the game wound down and we were playing catch-up, he just didn’t have the guys ready to make the necessary plays. He called time-outs that Phil wouldn’t, because apparently he hadn’t thought ahead to call the next play as PJ would have, and even our veteran point guard committed an ill-advised foul when we just needed to play tough D. Kobe was furious, and some of the blame must lie with Fish, but the coach should have drilled the plan into the players’ heads before that point. We were like an orchestra without our maestro tonight. And I thought he was just a figurehead. 

So there you have it. An over-long run-down of that one, but I felt it was needed following another disappointing loss in Portland. Thank god we at least have home court against these fools come playoff time, although I won’t be rooting for that match-up. Two more home games and then we’re off. And home court throughout is looking less and less likely.

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Welcome Back, Andrew!

Posted by hiphopmama on April 9, 2009

Nuggets Lakers

Denver 102, LA Lakers 116

(63-16)

How much have we missed Andrew Bynum? It’s hard to quantify exactly, especially when you consider how good our record without him has been. But it only took one game with him back to see how much he helps our line-up, even hobbled and out of shape after missing 32 games, because of how much improved our rotation is when he’s available. It’s a tough blow for Odom to be sent back to the bench after performing admirably in Drew’s absence, but how much better is our second unit with Lamar as playmaker and sparkplug. It will be an adjustment, to be sure, but I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see Luke, Lamar, Sasha, and Shannon Brown/Jordan Farmar in there with Pau while Kobe got a rest. That’s a second unit I can live with. In fact, now that Odom is coming off the bench, I could see Walton moving back into the starting line-up because we don’t need him to settle the subs as much with Lamar out there to run the offense. That makes our second unit that much more dangerous, especially because Ariza seems to thrive on catching teams off guard when he comes off the bench. The possibilities are endless.

The game itself deviated from the standard Laker script slightly. Instead of building a big lead in the second half and then nearly blowing it late, we maintained a middling lead for most of the game and then slowly put it out of reach over the course of the second half. It was a much less nerve-wracking storyline than the usual one, and it made Andrew’s return a more settling one as we got to work him in in spots without putting too much pressure on him on the production end. We did give up one lead, in the second quarter, when we watched the Nuggets tie it up at the halftime buzzer despite being generally outplayed by us. Actually, that’s not entirely fair, as we shot poorly and Denver did their part by hanging around. Our entire advantage boiled down to offensive rebounding and foul shooting in the first half, but we picked up the defense in the second and it helped spark the offense. From there, it was just a matter of working up the lead, and Denver’s propensity to get into foul trouble only helped matters. Dahntay Jones started the foul-fest by picking up three quick ones in the first couple minutes of the third quarter, which sent him to the bench and helped us get into the penalty by the six-minute mark. Carmelo followed shortly thereafter with his fourth, as did Johan Petro. When Kobe decided to take the game over in the fourth, it just sealed the deal. If this is the best the Western Conference has to offer, I’m not particularly worried.

Aside from Bynum’s return, my favorite development in this game was the continued emergence of Shannon Brown. Perhaps more important was the evidence of Phil’s growing trust in the young guard, as he was the first man off the bench when Fisher picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter. He didn’t just spell Fish, though. He played some solid minutes, hitting a three, getting fouled on another three-point effort for a few free throws, and playing some feisty defense. I’m not entirely sure why, since he hasn’t proven himself completely yet, but I like seeing Brown off that bench before Vujacic and Farmar, maybe just because I know he’s more likely to stay within the established system and not go off on some individual tangent and kill our momentum. It’s nice that some of our old hands are comfortable enough to want to improvise a little, but when you’re a role player, you need to know your role and pick your spots. Sasha and Jordan have both been guilty of forgetting that at times this year, so maybe a stint further down the bench will do them some good. 

Andrew played just 21 minutes and took a little while to warm up, quite understandably. His timing looked off in the early going, as did his footwork, but he picked it up considerably in the second half and made a number of good shots in addition to his solid rebounding. He shot 7-for-11 for 16 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, 4 of them offensive, and helped us get the early advantage on the boards which set the tone for the whole game. You couldn’t have asked for anything more in his first game back, and I only expect him to get stronger and more comfortable with each progressive game. With three games to go before the playoffs start, he should be able to do a little work to get his legs back under him, and we can work him back in slowly throughout the first couple rounds. With San Antonio falling by the wayside due to injury problems, I feel much more comfortable with the idea that he’ll need some extra time. His mere presence on the roster aids us considerably.

No highlights available yet. Damn, this game went late! I even caught up with the live broadcast and had to sit through commercials like some common TV viewer. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to watch a game live that I’ve lost all patience with commercial breaks. Oh well. I can handle it in a win. Back tomorrow for Portland. Keep your fingers crossed as we enter that Bermuda friggin’ Triangle known as the Rose Garden. By the way, how did the Blazers end up with such a decent name for their arena? Sure as hell beats Amway Arena.

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I’m Baaaack!

Posted by hiphopmama on April 7, 2009

Scruffy white guy alert

Scruffy white guy alert

LA Lakers 122, Sacramento 104

(62-16)

Please, dear readers – all both of you – forgive my extended absence. I just bought a house and spent the last week moving in, much of it without internet access. By the way, was anyone else aware of how much the world comes to a halt without the worldwide web? Apparently I have nothing to do, outside of menial household chores and unpacking, without the ‘net. Needless to say, I am glad to have some semblance of normalcy back and be watching the Lakers for the last five games of the regular season. Tonight was the first night since we moved that I’ve actually sat down to watch anything, and I only did minimal unpacking. I’ll get back on that bandwagon soon enough too.

As for the game, it was a good one to come back to. It didn’t look that way to start, with the Lakers falling behind by 12 points in the first quarter, but the time off has apparently given me some added perspective, because as I watched the Kings run up the score on us, I stayed calm and relatively certain that we would pull out of our funk. The Kings are a bad team – make no mistake – and there was no way they could keep shooting at a 70% clip, no matter how porous our defense. They put it on us the first three times we played, even getting a rare win against us, but without Brad Miller they were less able to open up the floor by pulling out our big guys. Plus, with no Andrew Bynum we’re a more mobile group out there and we guard the perimeter better. Whatever the case, it was only a matter of time before they cooled off and our offense kicked into gear, all of which happened in the second quarter. We put on a bit of a run to close the first down just 6 and then absolutely routed the Kings 40-18 in the second. It was a 28-point swing from down 12 to up 16, and it was an easy ride from then on out. Of course, we had a couple of lax stretches that let the Kings get to within 10, but we settled down pretty quickly and got the game back in hand.

The easy pickings were reflected in the lower minutes played by the starters – Gasol topped out at 37, Kobe and Odom at 31 – and extended time for the bench. The most impressive of the subs was easily Shannon Brown, who has looked good in his limited minutes so far. This is the first extended run I’d seen him given, and it included some good time in the first half that should reassure Phil that he can help shore up the backcourt for brief periods. He finished with 9 points on 4-of-7 shooting and a couple steals, plus no turnovers in his role as ball-handler. He’s a good hustle player with amazing athletic ability, and if he can prove his ability to play within the offense with minimal mistakes, he will be a good asset. Vujacic hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire, although his outside shooting always makes him a threat, and Farmar has been less than stellar as well, so an extra body to throw in there is a plus. 

Not to bash Sasha too much, because he had the play of the game with his dunk on half the Kings team in garbage time in the fourth quarter. It was all the more amazing because it came from Sasha, whom I’ve never seen get so much as a breakaway dunk before. Okay, maybe I have, but it wasn’t memorable enough to make an impression, so to see him facial on the Kings’ front line was jaw-dropping. It had me hitting the Back button on my DVR more than once. 

Another substitute who made a real impact was Luke Walton. He was part of the unit that got the Lakers back in it in the second quarter, and he orchestrated perfectly during his time on the court. His offensive gamesmanship was exceptional, as he picked up 11 points (on just 4 shots) and a whopping 9 assists in his 24 minutes. His willingness to move to the bench to anchor the second unit is a testament to his belief in the team concept, but it was also a brilliant tactical move that could pay dividends down the line. Ariza seems a touch less explosive since he doesn’t enter the game when everyone else is already huffing it a bit, but it’s still a good trade-off. Trevor had a good game as well with 14 points and his usual scrappy defensive effort. 

All in all it was a solid game that helped us pull within half a game (one loss) of the Cavs, who have a fairly straightforward set of games to close the season. They do have to take on Boston at home on the 12th and play Philadelphia twice, home and away, but Washington at home and Indiana on the road aren’t daunting proposition for Lebron and Co. We still have to play Denver at Staples on Thursday before traveling on Friday to Portland, where we still can’t win a game for some damn reason. We finish things out with a pair of home games against Memphis and then Utah before we get to the postseason and the real fun. Oh, and Bynum is coming back, probably on Thursday. He won’t be anything near full speed or strength right away, but even the ability to bring him off the bench – good lord, what an option – will strengthen the team considerably. And as much as it sucks, Manu Ginobili going out for the remainder of the season makes our road to the Finals that much smoother since no one besides the Spurs looked likely to really challenge us. Without Manu, they just don’t have enough firepower, if they ever did, to contend with us. Not to rule out Denver or Houston, or even – heaven forbid – Portland, but it’s going to take an effort both special and steadfast to knock us out, and I don’t see any team in the West that can measure up. Let’s hope I’m not just being over-confident.

Highlights:

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Kings of Detroit

Posted by hiphopmama on March 26, 2009

"Welcome to the new world, Detroit Rock City"

"Welcome to the new world, Detroit Rock City"

LA Lakers 92, Detroit 77

(57-14)

Who the fuck is Will Bynum, and how can we sign him? In all seriousness, we need one of those monstrously quick little dudes on the perimeter. Don’t get me wrong. I love Farmar, but when paired with Fish they’re not dynamic enough to match up with some of those spark plug guys other teams have in the backcourt. 

The game itself was a mixed bag, which translates to a typical Laker affair. We jumped out quickly on them, building a 13 point lead by the end of one, but then we faded into nothingness in the second quarter. The Pistons literally scored the first 17 points in the second before we ever got on the board. It was pure disgusture from the second unit (plus Pao, who is a part of every unit at this point). It’s not even worth pretending this bench so much as resembles what we saw earlier in the year, but it’s not entirely their fault. We have to remember that the first two guys off the pine – Odom and Ariza – are now in the starting line-up, meaning that our first-choice subs are now Farmar and Vujacic. Or maybe Powell and Walton. Either way, it’s a considerable drop-off, and it means that we are going to give up leads like this pretty regularly when the starters need a rest. 

Giving up leads is one thing. Complete capitulation to the forces of doom is another, and that’s what the team showed in the second quarter. It wasn’t just that they couldn’t run the offense – and they definitely couldn’t, make no mistake about that – but they also couldn’t defend for shit. We only gave up 12 points in the whole first quarter, but we let Detroit score more than that in the first five and a half minutes of the second. Will Bynum, the plucky little point guard forced into starting by AI’s absence, ate us for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including aperitif and digestif. I guess you could say it’s a good sign that we haven’t seen that in a while, but it’s still a familiar pattern that I hope we don’t revert to.

The third quarter started to slip further away from us as we fell behind by 10, and then they pulled an us and disappeared for the remainder of the quarter. Phil uncharacteristically called a timeout to regroup, and they came out gangbusters after that. Kobe got aggressive without sacrificing the flow of the game; Ariza added a few hustle points; and Sasha capped it all with a three. But the real savior of the quarter was Derek Fisher, who exploded for 10 points in the third, including two three’s and a few free throws. He is so steady out there it’s ridiculous. He even had an ugly airball go wide, got heckled by the crowd, then ran right back up and nailed one. Farmar might be quicker, but he doesn’t have half the steadying influence Fish does and you can see it in how ragged our play gets when the veteran is out of the game. Someone find this man a philosopher’s stone.

Now that I have outed myself as a nerd, I will note that we finished the third on a 30-5 run after having trailed by 10, and we took a 15-point lead into the fourth. That proved to be enough to get us to the finish line, as Detroit was never able to climb closer than 10 after that. I don’t know if Phil was trying to enact some weird form of punishment, but the starters played the whole way down the stretch, even when the outcome was decided. He did eventually take Kobe out with a minute left, and Fisher and Odom followed shortly thereafter, but it was kinda bizarre watching them out there in garbage time when we have another game tomorrow in New Jersey and four more left in this road trip. Was he sending a message to the subs? Punishing the starters for past blown leads? Losing track of time while Twittering from the bench? I don’t know the reason, but any of our big guys picking up a knock in that situation would have been pretty hard to take, so I hope he’s gotten it out of his system.

While I was happy to see us pull out a good road win after looking so hapless, it should be noted that the Pistons were down three former All-Stars in Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, and Allen Iverson, all of whom were out with injuries. That we couldn’t put them away in the first half, after jumping out to an early lead, without their three best players is a little troubling. But I guess I’ll let it slide since we haven’t won in Detroit in nine years. Now if we can just get a win in Portland, we can shed that last monkey.

Game recap:

Highlights:

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Bucking the Bulls

Posted by hiphopmama on March 21, 2009

You have done well, grasshopper

You have done well, grasshopper

LA Lakers 117, Chicago 109

(55-14)

I get it now. We just don’t like big leads of any variety. It doesn’t matter who’s leading, us or them, we’re not going to let a lead of any size last the whole game. Tonight, it worked to our benefit as we fell behind by as many as 16 in the first half and went into the locker room down 14. After jumping out to an early 9 point advantage, someone flipped the switch off and we went into hibernation until the third quarter. One apparently very motivating halftime speech later, the Lakers reemerged a new team, playing with energy, vigor, and all those other words you hear in toothpaste commercials. 

The nicest thing about the comeback was how distributed the scoring was throughout it. Coming out of the break, we got points from all five starters on our way to cutting the deficit to 2 points. Kobe didn’t have to completely take over to get us back in it, although he played a big role in getting us started by making two jumpers straight out the box. After that, though, it was mostly the bench players who got us over the hump and gave the Lakers their first lead since the opening quarter. The Bulls responded to our initial burst by running the lead back up to around 6 points, leaving us some work to do in the fourth. 

Then the subs went to work. As ridiculous as it sounds, Sasha got into it with Ben Gordon and – no joke here – it worked to our benefit. It was stupid on Sasha’s part, completely out of place, but he bugged him just enough to really unnerve him, and on top of that it got Sasha going as well. After picking up some clear fouls, which he of course argued about, he started making shots, including a three-pointer and a long two with defenders hanging off him. Jordan Farmar added a few huge threes to the mix, and Lamar Odom even got in on the act, adding some versatility to the offensive attack. Luke Walton was the final piece that helped push us in front, as he finally got his post game working against a smaller Chicago team.

It was only after all this work by the bench that Kobe and Gasol came back in and closed it out. 117-109 ended up being a quite generous scoreline which could have been much worse. Salmons capped a good game with a three-pointer in the last seconds to make the spread more reasonable, and Gordon had another just prior to that too. The Bulls overall played a fairly solid game. They just peaked at the absolute wrong time. Derrick Rose still looks likely to emerge into the top-flight point guard class that currently includes only Chris Paul, Derron Williams, and Tony Parker, and I see him eclipsing Parker and possibly Williams as well. He’s explosive and a more natural scorer than either of them, and he has a good feel for the game to go with the perfect temperament for a floor general. He doesn’t get phased, and he doesn’t back down for anybody, both qualities that make him even more endearing.

Tyrus Thomas was another revelation. I had pegged him to be more successful than his LSU teammate Glen Davis when they left college, but he has taken a while to warm up to the NBA. Another reason for the quiet start to his professional career is the team he’s on, which is understandably lower profile than Davis’ Celtics. He’s always been an incredible athlete, but tonight he showed that he has added some more skill elements to his game, and if he can keep building on that, he has a huge upside. Did I use the word “explosive” to describe Derrick Rose? Then I guess Thomas needs a different adjective, because the man practically pulverizes the floor with his take-off. Especially if he can develop something close to that Chris Webber elbow jumper, which he showed flashes of tonight, he will be quite a threat indeed.

That’s more analysis than I usually do of the opposing team, but the Bulls deserved it. They really outplayed us for much of the game, but they were too young and erratic to carry their first-half momentum through the full 48. This was a big win for us, being the first of a season-long seven-game road trip, and I’m hoping it points to more good things in the games to come. The Lakers have two days off before heading to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, followed by their second-to-last back-to-back of the year in Detroit and New Jersey. 

A few notes:

 

  • Five players in double-figures tonight (Kobe 28; Pau 23; Ariza 18; Odom 16; Farmar 13)
  • Only 10 turnovers, which is miraculous considering how sloppy we were in the first half
  • We were somewhat disturbingly out-rebounded 45-39. Not huge, but it’s a statistic I’ve grown accustomed to seeing us dominate. We had Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom; they had Tyrus Thomas and a prayer. We should have won that battle.
  • How did John Salmons end up on Chicago? And why didn’t the Bulls start him on Kobe Bryant?? He did as good a job as you can against him in two games with the Kings, so the decision to try to match Kobe with Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose is a strange one. 
  • I liked the focus on the post-up game tonight. It was like there was a team memo that came down demanding everyone try out the post-up before resorting to anything else, and it worked. Luke finally started hitting that little turn-around he likes, Kobe looked typically unstoppable over his bevy of shorter defenders, and Pau was money as usual. Am I the only one who would like to see more of this?

 

Game recap:

Highlights:

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140? Not Tonight

Posted by hiphopmama on February 27, 2009

Suns Lakers

Phoenix 106, LA Lakers 132

(48-10)

Ah, that was sweet. It had little meaning as a win over the Suns, being that they were without their two most important players in Stoudemire and Nash. But it signified plenty as the kind of professional performance we have had a hard time putting together for a full 48. We started well, continued well, and finished well, building up and – here’s the key – maintaining a big enough lead that the starters didn’t have to make an appearance in the fourth quarter. It’s always nice to see your superstars icing the knees with more than 10 minutes left to play.

We were on offensively all game, but it took us about half of the first quarter to bother with defense. When we finally paid some attention to it, we went on a big run and put them away before the second quarter even began. We shot 57.4% for the game (!) and held the Suns to 42.9%, which is saying something since our reserves all got in the game for considerable minutes. 

My highlight of the game, other than the blowout? DJ Mbenga. Dude played 15 minutes, shot 4-of-7 for 8 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, and 2 blocks, and more importantly, he spelled Gasol for long stretches without giving up the lead. I had almost forgotten he existed, but there he was last night, playing competently and helping keep Gasol’s minutes under 25 for the first time since the fall of the USSR. Especially in the first of a home-away back-to-back, that meant a lot. I hope he can give that kind of performance all the time, because it would help prevent any more Pau burnout as we await Bynum’s return. 

There really isn’t much to say about this one. We absolutely blew them out of the water, especially their little miniature line-up with Grant Hill at power forward. So instead of any kind of in-depth analysis, I’m going to give you our guys’ shooting numbers.

  • Luke Walton: 6 (3-6)
  • Derek Fisher: 7 (2-3)
  • Pau Gasol: 16 (6-12)
  • Kobe Bryant: 22 (10-13)
  • Lamar Odom: 23 (11-12)
  • Sasha Vujacic: 14 (5-14)
  • Jordan Farmar: 12 (5-10)
  • Trevor Ariza: 10 (3-9)
  • DJ Mbenga: 8 (4-7)
  • Josh Powell: 6 (2-3)
  • Adam Morrison: 5 (2-4)
  • Shannon Brown: 3 (1-1)

Only two below .500 shooting and everyone got on the score sheet. And hot damn, look at Kobe and Lamar. Odom missed just one shot all game and Kobe missed three. They were a combined 21-for-25 for 45 points. Disgusting. 

Game recap:

Highlights:

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UCLA Basketball Reunion

Posted by hiphopmama on February 24, 2009

Lakers Thunder

LA Lakers 107, Oklahoma City 93

(47-10)

Could we have had any more UCLA alumni in the game tonight? At some point or other, Earl Watson, Russell Westbrook, Trevor Ariza, and Jordan Farmar all made appearances as former Bruins. It had nothing to do with any aspect of the game, but it was still interesting. How often does that happen anyway?

I have a new theory about why we don’t put teams away before absolutely necessary. It’s not that we’re apathetic or lack that killer instinct or are mentally weak or lazy. We’re sadists. We enjoy inflicting pain upon others, and while a 30-point blow-out might be crushing, nothing is as devastating as believing you may have a chance to beat the Lakers only to see them snatch it away at the last minute. Imagine how giddy the players and fans of a team like the Thunder must get at the thought of stealing a win against the team with the best record in the NBA? It’s a natural reaction – as natural as the “beat L.A.” chant that inevitably follows – so we let them indulge in it for a god while, until the zen-master decides to put them out of their misery and close the deal. Or until the game is over, whichever comes first. That’s gotta be it, right?

I’m sure you can tell from all that how this game went. It was pretty comfortable for the first two and a half quarters. Then the Thunder mounted a run, Kobe went to the bench, and we floundered for an extended period, letting them come all the way back to within one. Phil doggedly refused to bring Kobe back in until the 9:17 mark of the fourth quarter, and that was all she wrote. Kobe had been content to probe and take what the defense was giving him through the first three, but in the fourth he did as he pleased. He scored 15 points in those last nine minutes on some ridiculous contested jumpers, free throws, and a couple drives. He also assisted on a couple other baskets that helped put the game away. 

So that makes it 2-0 on this rather brief road trip. We return home for Thursday’s game against Phoenix, but then we have the second of a back-to-back in Denver against the Nuggets before heading to Arizona to take on the Suns again. That’s three straight games against playoff-bound opposition after some decidedly average performances against mediocre teams. We usually play better against the tougher teams, but it’s a rough few days with travel and all, so we’ll have to wait and see. In any case, you know Kobe will be up for the two against Shaq and eager to give his former teammate a taste of his own ass. That is often enough to get us the win. I just hope we can get Pau’s minutes under 40 for one or two of those. He played 42 again tonight, and it stands to reason that he can’t keep that pace up forever. Come on, Lakers. Go ahead and sign Robert Horry or Mikki Moore. Anybody who can stand in there for a few minutes while Pau gets a breather. We need the newly fortified Gasol for the coming playoff run. Let’s keep him fresh for when we need him most.

Game recap:

Highlights:

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Deep and Wide

Posted by hiphopmama on February 18, 2009

Threeeeee!

Threeeeee! He's dedicating it to you, Diana.

LA Lakers 129, Golden State 121

(44-10)

This post is brought to you by Nyquil. Normally on Wednesdays I watch Lost with my sister and spend the rest of the night baffling over the new episode’s revelations and mysteries. Tonight, little sis downed some Nyquil halfway through the show and was ready to pass out by 10:00, so I took my leave and came back to watch the recording of this game instead. I suppose there’s always time to peruse Lost theories in my spare time, but the Lakers can’t wait. 

I guess you can say this was an entertaining game, and at least it had a positive outcome, but we sure didn’t bring our A game for this one. Or rather, we were content to play our B-minus game until it mattered, and one quarter or so of our B-plus game was enough to get the win. 

We played most of the game from about 6 points behind, occasionally making a run to tie it or cut it to 2. The Warriors came out on some kind of adrenaline high and blazed it up from the field, making damn near everything they threw up there. Literally, as when Stephen Jackson tossed up a lob for Monta Ellis only to see it drop through the net. And for three, no less. They finished the game shooting over 50%, but it would have been much worse had they kept up their first half pace. 

In the meantime, we just kind of hung around and waited for them to come down from that initial high, which they inevitably did. The first eight or so minutes of the third quarter looked pretty dismal as the Warriors ran the lead up to 12 and parried every one of our attempts to get back in it. Then our big men went to work. Odom atoned for an iffy first half by getting to the rim repeatedly and even knocking down an outside shot, and Gasol muscled his way to a couple easy buckets. Kobe threw in a long three and a couple free throws, and before you knew it we were down just 2 heading into the fourth. 

We still played from behind for most of the fourth quarter, but you sensed we were about to take the game by the throat at any minute. The big moment finally came at the 4:18 mark when Ariza made the first of two consecutive three-pointers to take the lead. From there, we never looked back, and it was mostly a free throw battle the rest of the way. Composure down the stretch sealed the deal, and the game seemed over long before it was a statistical certainty.

I think tonight’s performance comes down to a few things. One, it was a road game. Any time a team, especially a lesser team, hosts the Lakers, you know it’s going to be a sell-out and a highly charged atmosphere. It was both of those and more tonight, as the Warriors were riding a three game win streak and feeling pretty good about themselves. That alone was enough to give them the extra wind at their backs that kept them going. Consequently, when we came out of the gate slowly, it sparked their confidence and they managed to keep the hot shooting going for a long time. When Rony Turiaf is 5-of-5 in the third quarter on a variety of mid-range jumpers and put-backs, you know the team has it working. But that kind of rhythm can’t last, and it didn’t tonight. I must say, we looked a little mentally fatigued out there in this one, which was why we really needed the bench to step up. Farmar gave us a nice boost again, and Ariza was the game-changer with his defense and shot making. Kobe somehow got to 30 points, but his role was that of a decoy for much of the game. He was the one who set up Ariza for both of those big threes. The defense wasn’t too good tonight, either. It wasn’t quite the revolving door defense we saw so much of a couple months ago, because the Warriors were making perimeter jumpers rather than lay-ups, but it was loose nonetheless. When we finally started crowding the lane late in the third quarter, we got immediate results, which makes sense given the youth an inexperience of this Warriors team. 

Whatever, a win is a win, and we just racked up another one. Next up we have our final game against New Orleans at Staples, as we look to take the season series against them at 3-1. We beat them twice on their home floor, but they countered with a win in our building, so this should be another good match-up. Let’s just hope they have recovered their psychological edge by Friday evening, because they didn’t seem to have it tonight. Until it really mattered, that is.

Game recap:

Oh, and the title of this post is in reference to the fact that our depth saved us yet again. It is also, however, another reference to Aceyalone and his song of the same name off his debut album titled, coincidentally enough, All Balls Don’t Bounce. And if ya don’t know, now ya know.

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