Archives For March 2006

On Tap: The Sacramento Kings

Kurt —  March 14, 2006

What you need to know: The season records and offensive ratings are pretty meaningless with the Kings, they are a different team since Artest joined them. In the last 10 games they are 8-2 (14-7 since Artest arrived) and they are just half-a-game back of Lakers for the seventh seed. They are half a game ahead of New Orleans for the eighth spot.

Want to watch a repeat? Artest or no, the Lakers beat Sacramento handily at Staples last month in one of their best defensive games of the year. Mike Bibby had 25 points but was 9 of 24 from the field, Artest just 6 of 17. Plus, the Lakers had 10 steals. On the other end, Artest did a decent job on Kobe (he still had 36 points and 10 assists) but the key was Odom was driving the lane, finishing with 19 points, a true shooting percentage of 59.4% and was +21. D. George and Cook also had good outing offensively, knocking down open looks.

One good sign from that game was it was one of Kwame’s best of the year, he finished a +23. He’s going to have to do that again (and start doing it consistently) with Mihm out.

March Madness: Making sure Mike Bibby doesn’t have a throwback game tonight like it is 1997 and he is wearing an Arizona jersey will be a key.

March Madness Hypothetical: Andrew Bynum was committed to go to UConn before entering the draft and playing for the Lakers. We’ll see how Bynum looks tonight going against an Olympic team invitee in Miller, but can you imagine how good the Huskies would have been with Bynum getting minutes in the paint? They’re already the most talented team in the bracket.

The Other K-Mart: Maybe the most overlooked King player this year is Kevin Martin, but along with Artest he has been a key to turning this season around up in the Capital built on a swamp. (Or at least near one.)

Martin is scoring 16.2 points per 40 minutes at an incredible 62.3% true shooting percentage (think points per shot attempt). That is the second best TS% in the league. He has become a quintessential efficient shooter and a perfect compliment to Bibby in the backcourt.

What Ron-Ron Means To Me, Part II: From the brilliant Sactown Royalty blog yesterday:

Ron Artest Ron Artest Ron Artest. Everything is Artest. Can you blame us? We were staring at Portland Trailblazerdom in December and January. After two weeks of Artest, we still weren’t lighting the league on fire, but we saw the difference it made. We saw B-52 (Brad Miller) getting nasty. We saw Bibby getting open looks. We saw (gulp) K-9 getting loose inside. Kevin’s already growing confidence screamed to the sky. Francisco immediately became Doug Christie II. Rick Adelman showed signs of a pulse. ARCO seemed like someone pumped a couple of Red Bulls into the foundation. The whole city awoke, and the Kings mattered again.

Big Game, Big Keys: This is about as big as it gets in the race out West, and the Lakers go into ARCO where the Kings have won a dozen in a row.

As much as Kobe would like to redeem himself for a poor shooting night against the Sonics, he needs to get other players the ball early and they need to knock down shots. Odom needs to be aggressive and get in the paint. Do those things and Kobe starts to get better looks and the Lakers score plenty.

But it’s not the offense that’s in question. The Lakers need a big defensive night from Smush and Kwame (and Sasha and Bynum off the bench). They need to stop the penetration and keep Artest from easy post up shots. Play D like they did last time these two met and they can win, play like it is still the Seattle game and it will be ugly. They should be motivated to play a good game, but who knows with this group.

Fast Break

Kurt —  March 13, 2006

Got back last night and passed up watching the Soprano’s return (which I will watch tonight, while eating some baked ziti) to catch the Laker game against the Sonics (on Tivo). I was saying ouch before the final minute, but I was in a lot of pain afterward. So let’s talk about those issues, the great win against San Antonio (which I did watch half of on cable) and more.

• First things first: Thanks to Gatinho for doing a great job filling in over the weekend while I watched ball boys/girls squeegee the water off of tennis courts live. It’s much better than watching squeegeeing on television.

• Last offseason, Mitch went out and got Kwame Brown — I said then overpaid for Kwame Brown — to give the Lakers some depth inside. Well, now this pickup may be the key to the Lakers making the playoffs because Chris Mihm’s injury is being described as a severe ankle sprain. Remember, that’s exactly the injury that put Kobe on the sideline so long last season, and Kobe has a high pain threshold. I’d be shocked if we saw Mihm any more in March, at best.

So the Lakers chances to make the playoffs rests on the two big-man projects they took on this offseason — Kwame and Bynum. Kwame will start and needs to play the good man defense we’ve seen from him at times, and Bynum is going to have to deliver good minutes nightly off the bench. Both need to play good defense, something they have done at spots this season.

• About the playoff chase: The Lakers currently sit as the seven seed, half a game ahead of 8th seed Sacramento and one game up on ninth-seed New Orleans. If you want to see a great breakdown of the teams out west and what they have left on the schedule, check out this post (it is a few days old but relevant). The thing I look at and see here is I’m not as worried about Utah, what really affects the Lakers is how the Hornets do — their schedule is not that bad but they have been fading. Also, the next two games — against Sacramento and Minnesota — loom large.

• You all were saying it in the comments after the Seattle game — It’s the Defense, stupid. Seattle shot 64% in the first half, for the game they shot 63.1% (eFG%). They shot 50% from beyond the arc. I don’t care how poorly Kobe shot, the Lakers as a team shot 52.1% from the floor, better than their season average of 48.9%. But you can’t let your opponent shoot lights out like that and win.

• Look at the game flow and you see the Laker starting 5 held its own, Seattle made its runs when the Lakers bench players were in.

• My nomination for best driving CD ever: The Essential Clash (two CD-set).

• Lost if the frustration of the Seattle game is the fact the Lakers played a very good game against San Antonio. Yes, it was a back-to-back for them, but beating a quality team that others are losing too is big.

• The other thing we’re all doing today is starting to fill out our NCAA brackets. I’m one of those people who does consistently well but ends up coming in third in the office to some person who picks teams by going, “ohh, Virgina is pretty, I’ll pick them.” If you like the efficiency stats I use here, or you’re just looking for more information, I suggest checking out Ken Pomeroy’s Web site, which is the best college blog/state page out there and has loads of great information (it convinced me to take UNC to win it all last year).

On Tap: Seattle SuperSonics

Gatinho —  March 12, 2006

Record: 24-38
PF: 101.4
PA: 105.9
Road: 9-22
Last 10: 4-6
What Vegas says: Lakers -8

Seattle will be trying to win consecutive games for the first time since January 22-25.

Smush Parker headband watch: This could be a new stat. If it stays on, like it did in San Antonio, the Lakers win. Parker’s headband actually stayed in place all night when it usually gets discarded whenever his first fit of frustration comes.

Dear Editor: Ever wonder what the criteria is for getting a letter published in Sports section of the Times? I’m guessing a mild case of dementia qualifies you.

Road Dogs: Seeing Lamar and Kobe both hold up their USA jerseys the other night makes one realize that these two will be spending a lot of time playing together over the duration of their 3 year commitment to Team USA, and that can only be a good thing.

Queen for a day: The surging Kings have won 3 in a row and have reached the long awaited .500 mark. Their stay there could be short after hosting Dallas tonight. Fire up the League Pass, that could be a good one. Ron Artest had 19 in the fourth quarter in their win over Memphis.

Five man Tai Chi: Parker has taken to pausing after each timeout, trying to center himself the way Jackson has become famous (and mocked) for. Parker was particularly diligent about it Friday night, stopping at the scorer’s table at the end of each break, putting two fists down to support his body, taking one deep breath to clear his mind. “It’s getting my mind right for what I have to do on the court,” he said.

-Gatinho

Playing Right

Gatinho —  March 11, 2006

Kurt’s in the desert, and I’m sure he will return with a story to tell about missing this one. If indeed he did.

Fourth game in five days, played the runnin’ Suns last night, got in at 3:30 AM…

“I can’t understand it’s just because it’s a back-to-back,” Manu Ginobili said. “Every team does them, and probably nobody is as bad as us. One guy can be tired. Two, maybe. But the whole team didn’t play well today.”

“A lot of guys didn’t play a lot of minutes last night, so just give L.A. credit,” Bowen said. “They kicked our tails.”

“The Spurs are a strong team, with a deep bench,” Phil Jackson said, ” so this is still a good win for us and probably tough for them to digest.” Only Bowen played more than 30 minutes in the Suns win, and Steve Nash played zero.

11 offensive rebounds, Lamar Odom with a 27 eff. rating, 18 assists to 8 turnovers. No turnovers for Kwame, who added 10 and helped hold Duncan to 12 points and 4 rebounds. No Devean George and a sub par 3 and half quarters from employee #8. (Behind the backboard? The English on that lay up?)

So, go ahead, get a little giddy. It’s okay.

-Gatinho

On Tap: The Spurs. Again.

Kurt —  March 10, 2006

Didn’t we just see this movie? And we didn’t like the ending?

On the optimistic side, if you look at the game flow the Lakers played the Spurs pretty evenly except for a stretch at the start of the third quarter. Of course, that part of the game counts too. That’s just one of the differences between teams like the current Lakers and Spurs — we have lapses, they don’t and pounce on them. Still, that was not a bad Laker outing, they just lost to a better team.

While he scored 21, the Lakers did a fairly good job on Tony Parker. The bigger problems were what Tim Duncan brought, particularly on defense (which is why he was a game-high +28) and Ginobli, who was 5 of 6 from beyond the arc and finished with 21 points and a +19.

The Lakers need to steal a game from one of the top two (seeded anyway) teams in the West, San Antonio and Phoenix — they account for 20% of the Lakers last 20 games. The good news is the Lakers are now tied for the seventh seed and it is the Hornets that look to be falling back to Sacramento.

One more bit of optimism — last night the Spurs played a track meet against a Nashless Suns team (and won), so this is a back-to-back for them and we are certainly the half of it they could be looking past.

I imagine much to KD’s envy, I’m gone for a couple days again, out to watch tennis in the desert. I’ll be back Monday.