All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘josh powell’

Aaaand We’re Back

Posted by hiphopmama on October 27, 2009

Ringzzz
LA Clippers 92, LA Lakers 99
(1-0)

It always feels a little weird to me when the NBA season doesn’t start on Halloween, but my daughter’s third birthday is as good a day as any to inaugurate another year of basketball.  With this being “Championship Ring Night,” which is apparently the newest addition to the commentator vernacular, emotions were high at Staples Center as the Lakers kicked off their season against their in-house rivals, the Clippers.

Now before I really get into it, I have a caveat. This year’s updates are going to be much shorter. At least that’s my intention. I’m back at work, braving daycare with my baby girl, and frankly too damn tired to pump out 800+ words for every Laker game. That said, I often have a hard time shutting my mouth (or my laptop), so brevity is more of a tentative goal than an absolute promise. And now on with the show.

The Lakers turned in a mostly convincing performance against a Clippers team that was without its number one draft pick Blake Griffin, who picked up a knee injury in the last game of an impressive preseason. He is expected to be sidelined for 6-8 weeks, which is a big blow to Dunleavy and the Clips. That wasn’t the biggest of their problems tonight, though, as they were generally dismantled by a far superior Lakers team that looked loose and ready to get back to work. We were without Pau Gasol due to a nagging but minor injury, so Odom was inserted into the starting line-up along with old faithfuls Kobe and Fish, the hopefully healthy Bynum, and newcomer Ron Artest.

The team fared well in the early going, moving the ball well and defending with good energy. Phil treated it like a preseason game with his rotation, playing the likes of Mbenga and Powell significant minutes in the first quarter somewhat surprisingly. When the Clippers made the expected run, the starters were re-inserted to steady the game and stretch the lead back to a comfortable margin. The same basic pattern followed in the second half, with the team taking a little cruise in the third quarter to let the Clips back to within one before slamming the door shut on them with an early fourth quarter burst.

It’s the first game of a long season, so I don’t think too much can be read into this one, but it’s worth analyzing things a bit I suppose. Kobe turned in a routine 33 in 38 minutes and filled out the rest of the stat sheet with 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals. He looked like a fish in water, thoroughly in his element and happy to be back on the court. He linked up well with his teammates all night long. Odom looked like the good Odom that makes us all but unbeatable, going for a cool 16 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Dayyyumm. Phil showed us a little somethin’ somethin’ with a three-guard set of Kobe, Farmar, and Brown on a couple occasions. We’ll have to see how that one plays out as the season goes on.

The biggest story of the night was easily Ron Artest’s debut in the purple and gold. He wasn’t spectacular, but he played the kind of game I’d like to see more of from him in the future. He was quiet for large stretches, defended staunchly, hustled for loose balls, and picked his spots offensively. The main question fans had going into the season was how Ron-Ron would fit into the triangle offense and whether or not he would be able to defer to the great offensive beings on his team. At least for tonight, he did all that and quite well. He missed a few open threes, but that will come with time, and the extra threat on the post and toughness in defense is well worth the transition time. And Ariza’s agent looks worse and worse….

So here I am, 650 words in and still talking. I’m gonna shut up now and leave it at that until Friday night, when we host the Mavericks. 20-1 may be a little lofty (but thanks for the nod, Reggie), but something similarly remarkable does seem achievable, at least for this early season stretch, which is pretty straightforward for the second straight year. 70 games? Probably not, but the goal is much more than that anyway. Here’s to all that and more.

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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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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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Str8 Ballin’

Posted by hiphopmama on March 24, 2009

Lakers Thunder

"They can never take the game from a young G"

LA Lakers 107, Oklahoma City 89

(56-14)

Exactly one month after their last win in Oklahoma City, the Lakers were back for more, looking to stay within a single game of the Cavs. Like the last game, we jumped out to a quick lead, built that lead up, and then sort of coasted. Unlike the last game, the players – be they starters or subs – maintained the lead all the way to the finish. It was exactly the kind of game I am constantly imploring them to play, and for once they delivered. They led from the opening to the closing whistle, and the Thunder never got closer than 17 points in the second half.

The obvious upside of this was that the starters got a good rest in the fourth. Kobe sat out all of the final quarter, and Pau left with more than 8 minutes to go, which is plenty good news heading into the final five games of this road trip over the next eight days. Gasol somehow still managed to play 34 minutes, but no one else reached 30. Six players scored in double-figures (Kobe 19; Odom 18; Pau 14; Powell 14; Fisher 11; Walton 11), and Shannon Brown even came in and got a couple buckets, including an awesome dunk on the fast break. 

Full disclosure here, I didn’t get to actually watch this one. I remembered at the last minute and tried to tell it to record from the computer at my mom’s house, but the damn thing didn’t listen to me so I was stuck reading all the recaps and watching all the highlight packages I could find. I’m glad to hear I didn’t miss the most exciting match-up, but I would have liked to see them play a dominating start-to-finish game, since we don’t get to witness that too often. 

For whatever reason, I was looking to this road trip as a possible time for us to get our act together, and so far we look to be doing just that. Maybe there are less distractions on the road, or the team just has nothing better to do than focus on itself and what needs to be done. It seems pretty likely given that places like Oklahoma City don’t have quite the same night life as Los Angeles and its environs. Maybe the guys just get up for the challenge better with a sort of Tupac “Me Against the World” mentality, hunkering down around their play. Whatever the case, I like what I’ve seen so far, or at least since the comeback against the Bulls. That first half can go to hell.

We start the first of our two back-to-backs on this trip, heading to Detroit on Wednesday and then New Jersey on Thursday. I know we have a lot more road games left than Cleveland, but they’re not against real powerhouse teams for the most part. We do have to play Detroit and Atlanta this next week, and we have one more chance for redemption in Portland (dear god, please), but the toughest of our remaining match-ups are all at home: against Houston, Denver, and Utah. Lots of those games will test our mettle, to be sure, and knowing our tendency for lapses I’m sure we will indeed slip at some point(s). But I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say we might catch the Cavs after all, especially since we have the tiebreaker. Of the three big teams – us, Cleveland, and Boston – the Cavs have the biggest need for home court advantage, and I don’t even think it’s close. They still have just one loss at home all season, and, unlike the Lakers and Celtics, they haven’t proven they can get the requisite road wins to advance in the playoffs. This year is different, sure, but they’re still a young and relatively inexperienced team looking to make that breakthrough, so playing at home will help their chances greatly. And oh yeah, that one home loss? That was to us, suckers, so I’m not overly concerned with catching them. It would be nice – hella, to expose my NorCal leanings – but it’s not absolutely essential. I know everyone goes on and on about that game six lost last year in Boston, but that wasn’t down to being on the road. That certainly didn’t help, but our backs were broken on our own home floor in game four, when we gave up a 24-point lead to fall behind 3-1 in the series. Would it be nicer to play games 6 & 7 at home, along with those mood-setting first two? Hells yeah it would. But this team believes it can steal at least one game on anyone opponent’s court, so even without it they’ll be okay and likely to win or lose on their own merits. I still wish they’d do a 2-2-1-1-1 for the Finals, though. Who the hell can consistently string together three wins in the playoffs, even on their home floor??

Game recap:

Highlights:

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Well, That Was Interesting…Again

Posted by hiphopmama on March 19, 2009

Scoring on my main Rony

Scoring on my main Rony

Golden State 106, LA Lakers 114

(54-14)

Okay, this shit just isn’t funny anymore. No lead is safe. Our team, purportedly the deepest and most talented in the league, looks lethargic and tired, for which there is no excuse (other than for Pau Gasol, who is still playing way too many minutes). Whether it’s the starters or the subs in the game, once we get up on a team by 12+ points they take their foot off the gas and act like they can coast to a victory on the strength of their reputation. The sad thing is, that reputation has taken a serious hit, as I’m sure even bottom of the barrel teams go into the final minutes against us thinking, “We can still get back in this,” even when trailing by double-figures. I’m not going to bother running down all the examples of big leads that disintegrated in the fourth quarter. Suffice it to say that tonight was emblematic of both our inability to close out games and our general luck (skill?) in withstanding the final barrage and coming out with a W.

The part that I absolutely don’t understand is why our players look like they hardly care while all this is going on. Defense is lax, passes are lackadaisical (I’ve had to use that term way too much lately), shoulders are slumped, heads are down, all while our opponents gain ground and confidence in our wake. Maybe they’re tired. Maybe the 82-game grind is finally starting to wear on them. Maybe they can’t stay motivated with no real race in the Western Conference. I might be able to buy any of these reasons if it weren’t for that little event that happened last summer which supposedly drives this team. I won’t go into detail – it’s both too painful and too obvious – but you know what I mean and I’m sure the players do too.

That’s the end of that rant; on to a new one. This game played out according to a very predictable script. Lakers start equivocally; eventually build up a big lead; lose said lead; regroup and build lead back up; choke down the stretch and let opponent back in it; hold on by their fingernails and walk off the court shaking their heads. Phil will use words like “disgruntledness” and “malaise” to describe our effort and will probably heap some blame on the second unit. 

That sums up tonight’s game, so I won’t go into any more detail. Instead, I’m going to turn to the announcers’ pet issue tonight: whether to push for home court advantage throughout or rest players in preparation for the playoffs. I don’t think there is one right answer to this, so I would say that it’s all about hedging your bets at this point. While we’re still just a game behind Cleveland and a few ahead of Boston, there’s no point conceding the race for the best record just yet. At the same time, home court advantage against our Eastern Conference rivals means little if our key players are too tired to get out of the first or second round. I think we can survive at least to the Western Conference Finals with a B-level team, but the more games we have to play to get there the tougher it is going to be, especially if we don’t have a healthy Bynum. Right now, the number one concern has to be competing at the highest level each and every game while keeping a close eye on the minutes of Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher. I know Kobe’s getting older, but the way he competes he can play 48 minutes a night the rest of the way and still be ready – I’m not worried about him. Pau has been playing too many minutes for a while, though, and in a seven-footer I expect that wear and tear to start showing soon. Same goes for Fisher, who suffers the affliction of age as opposed to height. A lot of this playing time pressure could be alleviated if we could just HOLD A DAMN LEAD, but since we are much too forgiving of our opponents and our bench doesn’t hold up under pressure, they still have to come back in more often than not. Unfortunately, I don’t see much relief in sight for Pau, because there is no one to spell him for extended minutes except in garbage time. The only solution I can envisage is for Phil to go all Don Nelson and use a smaller speed line-up with Powell at center. He has used this tactic before, but I think we would be better served to see a five-man line-up geared toward speed and uber-activity instead of trying to pretend Powell is anything other than a decent four out there. For instance, we saw the Warriors play Corey Maggette at center tonight, and they were quite successful with their five guard line-up. There’s no reason we couldn’t accomplish something similar, especially since we have a good array of guards to choose from. It might even help our perimeter defense since we’d be able to switch everything on the outside and possibly even, you know, contest a shot or two. 

Here ends my tactical analysis. I must now go fold clothes and unwind from a day that tired me out for absolutely no reason. We went to our home inspection today and just stood around for two hours, but when we left we were all beat. It’s kinda like traveling long distances – why do you sit on your ass for six hours and then get up and feel exhausted? Whatever the case, I could use a good beauty rest. Seven-game road trip starts Saturday at Chicago. Let’s line ’em up and knock ’em down like the last time we had an extended road run.

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<3

Posted by hiphopmama on March 11, 2009

Lakers Rockets

LA Lakers 102, Houston 96

(51-13)

That’s what we showed tonight: heart. And composure. And persistence. And even a little bit of that swagger that eluded us last year against Boston. We came out decent enough and ended up playing the first quarter even, but the Rockets jumped on us in the second and took an 11 point lead and all the momentum into halftime. I don’t know what Phil told them at halftime, but it worked, because the Lakers rediscovered their defense and held Houston to 19 points in the third quarter and slowly but surely chipped away at the lead. Instead of wilting in the face of pressure, they just kept at it, knowing that if it was close down the stretch, only one team had the necessary tools to close the deal.

We reclaimed the lead on a Vujacic jumper at the 9-minute mark of the fourth quarter and never looked back. It was still tight the rest of the way, with the Rockets hanging around and occasionally tying it up, but they never had quite enough to take it from us. Or more accurately, we never let them. We really won this one in the second half with our defense. We suffocated Yao Ming on the block, making him look like a total butterfingers out there, and they were unable to punish our hanging off the weak side by knocking down outside shots. One V. Wafer had another good game against us, as did Aaron Brooks, but Houston had no one to go to in those close late-game possessions, while we rode comfortably on Kobe’s back. He had only 6 points in the first half, but his 21 in the second – including 18 in the fourth quarter – buoyed us to the victory. He did it in typically spectacular fashion, with the extra twist being his jawing session with Ron Artest. It started when the two got tangled up halfway through the fourth, Kobe taking exception to Artest’s physical play and responding in kind. From then on, they never stopped the back-and-forth, all the way through the requisite free throws and final buzzer. Artest is a good defender, but he didn’t do much to stop Kobe tonight, as Kobe scored on pull-up jumpers and slashes to the basket, as well as from the line to close it out. It was exactly as Clyde Drexler said – if it’s close in the final minutes, it’s advantages Lakers simply because of the existence of number 24.

I rarely do this, so let’s make it count: the Houston announcers were really good in this one. Clyde Drexler and the other dude were completely painless during the whole game, which is rare indeed for announcers of teams taking on the Lakers. Kudos to them. 

Highlights:

Game recap:

This was a much needed win after some extremely shaky play from us, especially going into the game tomorrow night against San Antonio. As I watched the game slip away from us in the second quarter, I started questioning the team, wondering if this would be the point in the season when it all slipped away. But then they found their resolve, played some D, and put the Rockets in their place, which is the middle of the Western Conference playoff picture. That’s pretty good considering they are without T-Mac, but still nowhere near challenging us in crunch time. 

One final shout-out: to Josh Powell for his 17 points and 9 boards in his cameo as starting power forward in Lamar’s absence. That was a serious contribution from a player who has earned his minutes in our crowded rotation. That face-up jumper is deadly and could be real helpful down the line. Oh, and his slam dunk on Yao was the play of the night.

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The Skid Stops At Two

Posted by hiphopmama on March 3, 2009

The Brothers Gasol, or Battle of the Beards

The Brothers Gasol, or Battle of the Beards

Memphis 89, LA Lakers 99

(49-12)

Two words: D. J. Mbenga. (Forgive my Michael Scott impression.) With 4 points, 2 boards, 3 blocks, and 1 steal in 19 minutes, he was emblematic of the difference maker in this game, which was the bench. Our vaunted subs have been noticeably absent for a number of games now, and it has exposed our weaknesses without Bynum in the line-up. Because really, without Andrew, we’re just a talented offensive team that happens to be backed by a solid bench. With neither Bynum nor bench production, we are quite vulnerable to teams putting together big runs while Kobe and Pau are on the bench. 

But tonight, the bench was back, scoring 32 points and extending the lead in the fourth quarter to put it beyond Memphis’ reach. Of course, they then turned around and let them claw back to within 8, but they steadied themselves with the insertion of Gasol and closed the game out with the double-digit lead in tact. 

I’m tempted to say this was a game whose outcome was never in question, but I know better. There is no such thing as a money game, especially for this Lakers team, so a relatively comfortable victory against a horrible road team is good enough for me. In addition to the good bench play, our defense was passable, holding the Grizzlies to 41% shooting. Memphis is one of the worse shooting teams in the league, but we didn’t look as susceptible to defensive breakdowns as we have in recent games and the rotations seemed to be on target more often than not. And although the Grizzlies finished at 50% from three, we defended the outside shot much better tonight. I rarely saw us scrambling after the ball was swung to the weak side, a play which has caught us out many a time this season, and this is quite a comforting development. 

Players just showed up and filled their roles tonight. Kobe sensed that the team needed a good start after some poor showings, so he came out firing, finishing with 31 points in 30 minutes. Luke was aggressive offensively, hitting his open shots often enough and finding the open man as niftily as usual. Lamar had a terrible shooting night (1-for-8), but he made up for it with 13 rebounds, 8 assists, and 6 blocks in yet another energetic effort. He kept himself on the right side of the officials as well. Pau seemed a little out of sorts battling his brother, even shooting 50% from the free throw line, but other players picked it up, including Josh Powell (8 points) and Sasha Vujacic (11 points).

This little two-game homestand is just what we need before setting off on the road again, so with Memphis under our belts we can turn our attention to Minnesota on Friday. It will our second and final game of the week, which should hopefully allow us to refuel before heading out to take on Portland, Houston, and San Antonio. After that we have three games at home followed by a ridiculous SEVEN GAME road trip that includes stops in Detroit and Atlanta.Of the final 21 games, only 8 are at Staples, which has to be one of the toughest home stretches of any team in the league. If we intend to challenge for the title, though, we ought to be up to that challenge. We shall see.

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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Sweet Victory

Posted by hiphopmama on January 25, 2009

That's what I like to see.

That's what I like to see.

San Antonio 85, LA Lakers 99

(35-8 )

That was pleasant. After losing that heartbreaker in San Antonio a week ago, it was nice to see us take up the challenge and do what we should have done in that first game: put them away. So the outcome was definitely nice, but there were plenty of other things to rejoice about in this one. Kobe out of the game and icing his knees before the fourth quarter even started? Fisher playing just 25 minutes? Farmar making his triumphant return? All priceless, and that doesn’t even include how well Bynum held his own against Duncan, which is cause for celebration in and of itself. I am rarely at a loss for words of critique with the Lakers, but I am happily stumped right now and will content myself with raving about the spirit we found to regroup after our second set of back-to-back losses of the year. 

I almost forgot my biggest source of pride for the evening: the bench’s closing abilities. It was only because of that that Kobe and all the rest got to sit out the last 10+ minutes, as Farmar, Vujacic, Radmanovic, Ariza, and Powell did something they’ve struggled with all year, which was to hold onto a sizable lead until the final whistle. The fact that we were at home surely had something to do with it, but I’m still jazzed nonetheless. Farmar’s return had a noticeable effect on the squad and was probably a key reason for our consistently high level of play throughout, as his solid play kept other backcourt guys from accumulating too many minutes and helped keep the squad fresh. 

It was also heartening to see us play at a more Spurs-like pace and still come out the victors. We did almost break the 100-point barrier, but we held San Antonio to 85 on 37.5% shooting and held them to 21.7% three-point shooting. That’s quite a feat against this team, which is right up at the top of the NBA in that category. It wasn’t the toughest scrum we’ve had against them, to be sure, and we were able to coast to the finish line after opening up a big lead early in the second half, but that in itself is something to be proud of, as we’ve certainly had our struggles doing that this year.

And that’s all I really have to say about that one. It was satisfying to watch us win that way, and you have to believe that the fully rejuvenated bench had something to do with it. Now if we can just keep our guys healthy the rest of the way, we have a good chance of securing that dreamed about home court advantage. I know we have the highest number of road games left for any team, but we’re not exactly chumps away from Staples. We are currently 12-5 on the road, and there are at least a couple among those five losses that could easily have been ours if we had executed better. Indiana comes to mind. And Miami. And Orlando. And San Antonio. I have no comment on that Sacramento game.

Game recap:

And highlights:

Couldn’t ask for much more on a Sunday afternoon. =)

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Shoot-Out!

Posted by hiphopmama on January 9, 2009

Smells like team spirit, or Jarrett Jack is very short

Smells Like Team Spirit, or Jarrett Jack Is Very Short

Indiana 119, LA Lakers 121

(29-6)

Why is it that we have such a hard time with this Indiana team? Oh yeah, because they score and we can’t defend. We are two of the top five teams in scoring offense, and it showed tonight, with the Lakers surpassing 40 points in the first quarter and both teams passing the century mark with plenty of time left in the fourth.

Shooting was the story of this game, especially the first half. Both teams came out blazing and we emerged from the half with a slim two point lead. We created some distance between us and the Pacers with a solid third quarter when we finally strung a few stops together. Whether it was good defending or bad shooting is up for debate. The Pacers missed a number of shots they would have hit in the first half, but the Lakers also stayed home better defensively and closed out well on shooters to make them think about it a little. Whatever the case, they had a manageable lead in the fourth quarter which evaporated with a couple minutes to play.

This time, though, our superior coaching shone through clear as day, and a number of inexplicable decisions left the Pacers out in the cold. First, the Pacers somehow decided to leave the 6’2″ Jarrett Jack on Kobe Bryant for the entire stretch run of the game, and Kobe took advantage every time, backing the shorter man down and firing over the top. With the game tied – after we allowed Dunleavy a wide open three to knot it up – they had Danny Granger pick up Kobe Bryant on defense. Granger, the Pacers’ best player by far, was sitting on 28 points as well as five fouls, and with the seconds ticking away, he was called for a reach and had to retreat, visibly upset, to the bench. Why they would have their star player guarding the MVP on a game-deciding possession is beyond me, but it worked out well for us. To make matters worse – or better – theythen  stranded Jack in single coverage of Kobe, who ran the clock down, backed down to the outside of the key, and then nailed the easy jumper over the little dude. Okay, maybe it wasn’t really easy, but by Kobe’s standards it was fairly routine, and he had just made the same shot multiple times over the same defense. The final possession was just salt in the wound for Indiana, as Vujacic did a great job face-guarding Dunleavy after he inbounded the ball, preventing Jeff Foster from getting the ball back to him. With just three seconds remaining, Foster looked around helplessly for someone else to dish it to, found no one, and then failed to get a shot off before the clock expired. It was downright dismal, if you weren’t rooting for the Lakers, which is to say that I rather enjoyed it.

Some notes:

  • There is no more clutch player on the planet than Kobe Bryant. I know it’s nothing new or surprising, but it has to be said. Playing against a man nearly half a foot shorter than him just makes his job that much easier. Sorry, Jarrett.
  • Josh Powell made a strong case for more playing time tonight, but I still don’t think he’ll get it once everyone is healthy. He shot well (5-of-7) and always provides the hustle plays, but he is not a go-to guy offensively and cannot get his own shot or open things up for other guys, which is something Lamar does quite capably. We did alright tonight, but it was painfully evident that we lacked an offensive playmaker off the bench when the lineup consisted of Fish, Sasha, Ariza, Powell, and Bynum. We ended up standing around watching Ariza do his thing, which succeeded better than expected – he is sure coming into his own – but I don’t see that as a long-term strategy. Get well soon, LO.
  • Fisher is still playing too many minutes. 41 again tonight after lots of PT in those back-to-back games. I like having him on the floor as much as possible, but I’m worried about how he’ll hold up if he keeps up this pace. Come on back, Jordan. Rehab like a mad man.

Our marathon schedule continues Sunday when we take on the Heat at Staples. They burned us last time when Wade went off and Kobe saw a heartbreaker go halfway down before popping out at the last second. I expect better things on our home court as we are in the midst of some good play even without the full roster. Oh, and the Celtics lost too. So all in all a good Friday.

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