- From the Los Angeles Times: Say this about the Lakers: Every game is an adventure. The Lakers knew they could beat the Golden State Warriors, so they joined them most of the game, running and gunning without a care or a conscience on the way to a surprisingly tough time against one of the NBA’s worst teams. After a first-half deficit, the Lakers returned to a somewhat deliberate offense and a defense that no longer looked like they were playing pick-up games at Venice Beach . . . for the most part. The Lakers outlasted the Warriors, 124-121, Monday at Oracle Arena, a testimony to, uh, well, it wasn’t really clear. Andrew Bynum had a good game when he wasn’t turning the ball over eight times, finishing with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Kobe Bryant had 29 points and a staggering nine turnovers. Pau Gasol had 26 points on efficient 10-for-13 shooting.
- From the Oakland Tribune: Warriors guard Stephen Curry had a question for Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. With Lakers guard Shannon Brown at the free-throw line, Curry asked Bryant is he was worried. The Warriors, who lost by 33 points to the visiting Lakers earlier this season, were within six and had momentum. Bryant snickered. “I told him,” Curry recalled, ” ‘I’m new to the league. I can’t read you yet.’ He just looked at me (smiling) and said ‘Nah.’ “Bryant’s confidence was justified by a 124-121 Lakers win Monday that happened partly because he scored nine of his 29 points in the fourth quarter. But the Warriors certainly gave the Lakers reason to doubt.
- From NBA.com: The Lakers took care of the standings Monday with their 124-121 victory against the Warriors. But when it comes to searching for any broader conclusions, Kobe Bryant has a simple message: Don’t bother. “You just want to get the hell out of here with a win,” Bryant said. “You’re not going to see anything remotely close to (the Warriors’ style) in the playoffs. Not even close. So there’s nothing you can gauge in this game. You just get out of here with a win and move on.” The Lakers did so, although thanks to a 9-0 Warriors run in the final two minutes, the outcome was in doubt until Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis missed 3-pointers on the game’s final possession. Ellis’ attempt, coming off a 180-degree spin after scooping up the offensive rebound, bounced on the rim three times before falling away.
- From SLAMOnline: I’m just happy we had great games last night. After not watching much of anything NBA for the whole week -seriously, crazy, right?– it was so nice to sit in front of the TV and take in some bball goodness. I kinda thought ESPN was going to have two blowouts on their hands, but the Warriors/Lakers game turned out to be a great nightcap. While the Lakers won 124-121, the Warriors fought them the whole way through as Steph Curry missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds. After Monta Ellis grabbed the loose offensive board and tossed up a three at the buzzer, the ball bounced three times before finally refusing to go through the hoop and the Lakers exhaled. Kobe Bryant exhaled after escaping a missed free throw in crunch time and nine turnovers in the game. Oh yeah, a rookie named Steph Curry hanging with him, too. Yes, I’m not kidding. Kobe finished with 29 points on 9-18 fgs, with three rebounds, four assists and nine turnovers. Curry finished with 29 points on 11-19 fgs to go with five rebounds, nine assists and didn’t turn the ball over in his 33 minutes. Pretty sweet line for the kid. I really wanted him to hit that three and take the game to overtime. He’s just so much fun to watch.
- From Silver Screen and Roll: Stephen Curry is a rock star. I’m not sure I really understood that before tonight’s game, a frantic and garbled 124 to 121 Lakers win over the Golden State Warriors, but I do now, and I apologize to him for being late to the party. The kid has an amazing suite of basketball skills, and I fully expect him to torture the Lakers throughout the coming decade. Tonight he came achingly close to powering the Dubs to an upset. Curry scored 29 points on 73% True Shooting and distributed nine assists, delicious numbers even in a 100-possession NBA Jam game. No one on the Lakers could guard him. Not Shannon Brown, and most certainly not Derek Fisher. Despite running the offense on almost every possession he was on the floor, Curry committed zero turnovers. With three seconds left and Golden State down only three, he danced away from Fish for a clean look from 26 feet that was perfectly on line but just a touch long. The Lakers were lucky to survive the rook’s magnificent performance.
- From Ball Don’t Lie: Oh. My. Gosh. Pau Gasol(notes) got his braces off. He’s been wearing those things for, like, two years. Probably, like, even longer. How embarrassing. But for real, he’s been a brace face for such a long time. I’m just happy that he can, like, get on with his life now. Everybody’s always calling him “soft,” or whatever, and maybe it’s because he’s a grown-up with braces. But I’m just like, “he needs to straighten his teeth, guys. Geeeeeeez.” Chill out.
From Land O’ Lakers: A few seasons back, NBA writer Ross Siler, then of the Los Angeles Daily News, now in Utah covering the Jazz for the Salt Lake Tribune, described the experience of writing about the Lakers as “82 Super Bowls a year.” Plus playoffs, of course. Every game, big or small, is generally treated like Game 7 of the Finals by the faithful. But in my nearly five seasons covering the team, I’ve taken some amount of pride in keeping a level head. In not freaking out, or losing perspective, remembering always on any given night in the NBA one team can beat another. Especially on the road. Monday night in Oakland, the Lakers chose to test my calm demeanor in a serious way. Quite frankly, against an undermanned, undersized Golden State Warriors team, one with about 35 percent of the D-League on its roster, only an act of God- I’m talking a genuine, Lord Almighty-touching-the-Warriors-during-the-anthem act of God- should have allowed the game to be close. This is a Golden State team so small, the sign at the amusement park noting how tall you have to be to ride this ride could post up half their lineup.
A Running Diary From Basket Blog: 7:30 The Lakers were hotter than Sasha Vujacic after getting called for a foul to start the game, nailing all six of their shots and all three free throws, but three turnovers and two threes from D-League call up Anthony Tolliver kept Golden State within two points. L.A. then promptly missed its next six shots in a 16-all tie. Not yet into the game was D.J. Mbenga, whom I bring up as he sat down with us for an extended interview in which he discussed building a basketball court in his native Congo with Kobe Bryant’s name on it, fashion, his nickname and much more. 2:52 Nobody was happier that Ron Artest drained two wide open 3-pointers than Kobe Bryant, who assisted on each when the Warriors’ defense overcompensated on the other side of the floor. Artest has been L.A.’s best 3-point shooter this season, flirting with 40 percent for most of the year before dipping to around 38 percent of late. Kobe knows quite well how much more difficult the Lakers are to beat if Artest’s 3-ball is going down, and went immediately towards Ron Ron with a “Yeah boy!” look after the second make.
From the OC Register: More and more, the world is needing to see Pau Gasol’s public displays of affection for a certain someone whose name rhymes with “Flowbee Giant. Late Monday night, though, Gasol walked out of the locker room after the Lakers had beaten Golden State, came back toward the Oracle Arena court and waited for his girlfriend to make her way down from the stands. I’m not sure what the movies are like in Spain, but what ensued seemed right out of a serious Spanish love scene. Gasol leaned down into a kiss that went on long enough to count “one-Barcelona, two-Barcelona, three-Barcelona, four-Barcelona, five-Barcelona …” That Gasol would be so amorous in front of still plenty of people in the arena was a little surprising. Then again, that’s what everyone needs to understand about Gasol: He will surprise you. He’s not just what you think he is. He’s soft, but he’s also sharp.
From the Los Angeles Daily News: Derek Fisher doesn’t believe the Lakers are where they need to be in order to repeat as NBA champions. He doesn’t believe they are all that far away, however. He does believe there is time to bridge the gap. “In the next 30 days, we have that opportunity, but we have to make the most of it,” he said before the Lakers faced the Golden State Warriors on Monday night at Oracle Arena. “We still have to go out on the court and do it.” The Lakers have 15 games remaining in the regular season, including tonight’s contest against the Kings in Sacramento. They have a little more than a month before the playoffs start and they begin their defense of their NBA title in earnest. “Interestingly enough, I like the position where in,” Fisher said. “I feel like we’re at the lower part of the curve of where we can be. There’s a lot of upside and the upside is matched by ability and capability, and we can reach the upside.”
On tonight’s Lakers/Kings game
From The Sacramento Bee: The Lakers aren’t supposed to be revered in Sacramento. They’re not supposed to be loved at Arco Arena – not when their coach, Phil Jackson, mocked Kings fans as being “semi-civilized” or “maybe redneck” nearly 10 years ago. But the Lakers have made themselves at home in Northern California. Tonight’s game against the Lakers marks the third sellout of the season for the Kings. The other sellouts were the home opener against Memphis and the Lakers’ first visit in late December. Cowbells no longer ring in the Lakers’ ears. And based on the warm ovation they receive during pregame introductions, the Lakers might think they’re at Staples Center if they closed their eyes.
From The No Look Pass: I don’t do Laker GameDay Q&A’s too often but this gives us a chance to get to know other teams. The Sacramento Kings are tonight’s opponents for the Lakers. They have a bright future with rookie Tyreke Evans on the helm. And they have played the Lakers very well this season. In this Q&A, I talk to Zach Harper, the man behind the super Kings blog, Cowbell Kingdom (part of the ESPN TrueHoop Network). And, of course, you may have heard of TalkHoops Dot Net; he is behind that site also. Watch how fast this conversation goes wrong. Gotta love it. You were high on the potential Tyreke Evans/Kevin Martin duo. Then Martin was traded and now the Kings have Carl Landry. How much do you (dis)like this trade? I love the trade for the simple fact that it gives the Kings’ offensive attack some balance. The Martin-Evans duo would have absolutely worked if Spencer Hawes and/or Jason Thompson had been effective scorers inside. The team had no balance to the offense and the Kings were trying to get their two best players going on the perimeter without giving the defense something to respect inside. Because of that, the opposing teams could overplay the perimeter with a wall of long defenders sitting behind them. Now, teams can’t do that as much. You have to respect Landry inside and with his face-up jumper because he can score on anybody. This opens up shots outside for Donté Greene, Omri Casspi, Francisco Garcia and Beno Udrih. More importantly, it gives Tyreke Evans some room to operate and a safety valve to dump it off to when he gets stopped in the paint. The trade has worked out perfectly for this Kings team.