Archives For November 2010

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As it turns out, Darius lied about there not being a recap. Like Willis Reed limping out of the locker room in the Garden, I’m here to save the day (or ruin the day, from the Laker perspective?).

Speaking of saving the day, the Lakers were kept afloat by Shannon Brown’s red hot first half, then carried home by Steve Blake’s clutch shooting. When Brown sank a three after checking in at the end of the 1st quarter, we had no idea we were in store for a bombardment. He sank 3 threes in the 2nd quarter, finishing 5-10 from three for the game, one huge three coming late in the 4th quarter to put the game away.

During the 1st half, the Lakers were really struggling in their half-court offense, with much of the credit going to Joakim Noah. Noah was so active in the post on defense that the first two possessions that the Lakers attempted to get the ball into Gasol led to turnovers. Because of that, Gasol never got into a rhythm (although his effort was questionable from the outset, given his matador defense and lack of lift on his rebounds). Chalk it up to a bad game by Gasol, but Noah simply outworked him on offense and defense. If not for Kobe’s quick start (the first 7 Laker points) and Shannon Brown’s explosion in the 2nd, the Lakers probably would’ve been down by double digits going into halftime.

At the start of the 3rd, it looked like the Lakers were going to pull away, going on an 8-0 run to start the 3rd to go up by 10. But then the Bulls stormed back, riding the power and speed of Derrick Rose. Rose simply got into the lane at will, due to both lackluster perimeter defense and poor help from the interior. The Lakers were unable to wall off the paint, and Rose made them pay with lay-up after lay-up. It wasn’t until halfway through the 4th quarter that the Lakers seemed to figure Rose out, successfully walled off the paint, and made the Bulls take some tough shots.

Other than the defensive improvement, it was great to see the Lakers actually run the triangle in the 4th quarter. With the game tied at 79 with 9 minutes to go, Kobe came in from his regular 4th quarter rest and immediately went to work in the pinch post. The Lakers ran the most basic triangle set, with the lag pass followed by a cross court cut by Kobe into the pinch post. 15 feet from the rim with his back to the basket, Kobe could survey the floor and see where the double teams were coming from. If they came from the top, Kobe would dribble out and find the open man. If they came from the inside, Kobe would hit the cutters going toward the rim. If the double never came, Kobe simply rose up and hit shots. Kobe’s excellent play led to 4 open threes (1 by Brown, 2 by Blake, 1 by Barnes), as well as a jump shot for himself and free throws for Barnes. This put the game at 95-83, the Lakers largest lead of the game, pretty much sealing the game.

Lost in all of this was the excellent play of Lamar Odom, who had 21 points on 7-13 shooting with 8 rebounds. Even though the Lakers had three starters that were basically offensive non-factors (Pau, Fisher, Artest), they still played very active defense, getting 9 steals and 9 blocks as a team. While this wasn’t the prettiest of wins, the Lakers managed to grind it out and execute down the stretch. They also were able to contain Derrick Rose during the key 4-minute stretch that put the Lakers up by 12. Just a good, solid, grind-it-out, team victory. Can’t really ask for much more.

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Records: Lakers 12-2 (2nd in West), Bulls 7-4 (3rd in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 117.6 (1st in NBA), Bulls 106.7 (15th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.8 (12th in NBA), Bulls 103.2 (9th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Bulls: Derrick Rose, Keith Bogans, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Omer Asik
Injuries: Lakers: Andrew Bynum (out), Theo Ratliff (out); Bulls: Carlos Boozer (out), Taj Gibson (doubtful)

The Lakers Coming in:  I have a feeling I’ll be typing this a lot this season, but the Lakers are on a winning streak (this time of 4 games) and are playing high level basketball.  Their point differential is tops in the league (nearly 2 points better than the Spurs) at 11.3.  Even thought they give up the most offensive rebounds a game of any team, they lead the league in total rebounds per game – a stat that will only improve once Bynum returns (as they better control their defensive glass andgrab a couple more offensive rebounds a game themselves).  So while there are specific parts of the game that can be nitpicked, there’s really no point to do so as it that would make me the Shallow Hal of basketball analysts.  Instead, appreciate what you have with this team because they’re putting on a display on most nights that even the most spoiled fans (and, based off the franchise’s success over the years, I’d consider Lakers fans pretty spoiled) need to get up and acknowledge as being pretty damned good.

Having said all that, if there’s one thing to note it’s that the Lakers’ early season schedule has not been that difficult.  And even though I’m trusting of the numbers I spouted off in the previous paragraph and in the quality of play we’ve seen being the product of the Lakers’ skills and not necessarily their opponent’s lack thereof, the caliber of opposition will start to improve in the upcoming weeks andthat starts tonight with the visiting Bulls.  So, while I remain confident and think that the Lakers will continue to show the class that they’ve displayed even against tougher foes, it will be interesting to if there are any marked changes in performance or results.

The Bulls Coming in:  As mentioned, the Bulls are a strong team and likely the best the Lakerswill have faced in their first 15 games.  They come in having won 5 of their last 6 contests with their only loss coming to a red-hot Spurs team. 

They’re led by Derrick Rose who in his third year has developed into one of the best young guards in the league and by Joakim Noah who is now one of the premier rebounders and defensive bigs in the game.  This duo is flanked by LuolDeng who also continues to flash his all around game (albeit inconsistently andnot with the greatest efficiency) by scoring and rebounding at an above average clip and by other solid role players that contribute by excelling at the things they do well and avoiding the things that they don’t.

While their offensive and defensive efficiency numbers don’t jump off the page, this group has the ingredients to stay close in any game and win them down the stretch (3 of their last 5 wins are by 5 points or less) based off  the individual talents of Rose and their ability to get needed stops and rebound the ball effectively.

Interestingly enough, though, it’s the development of Rose that has some wondering if he’s really as good as many have made him out to be.  Over at Hardwood Paroxysm, Noam Schiller has a great piece up that discusses Rose and how he’s judged by the media and fans and whether he is the MVP candidate that he’s being touted as.  It’s worth your time to read the entire thing, but here’s a key passage that caught my eye:

(Rose) has undoubtedly been fantastic this season, and this Boozer-less Bulls squad probably has no business being 6-4 right now. But we are constantly led to believe that Rose is more than this. His name has been repeatedly thrust into MVP discussions, both by the media and by himself. If this is the case, then the standards by which we must judge him are MVP standards. Not young-stud standards, not perennial all-star standards, but MVP standards. Either that, or re-adjust your expectations. Otherwise, we’re just being hypocrites.

Call it hate if you want, but I refuse to sit back andbe satisfied with what Rose is now when what he can be – and hopefully will be in the near future – is so, so much more. MVPs. Titles. Unheard of athletic dominance. This is what we were promised, and what we should look for. We are looking for Derrick Rose to become DERRICK ROSE, not some kind of glorified Steve Francis/Stephon Marbury, sans the headcase.

The article touches on more than just Rose and discusses hype, hate, and even brings up Kobe, so go check it out.

Bulls Blogs: For many years now Blog-a-Bull has been the gold standard of Bulls sites.  By the Horns also does a fantastic job covering the team from the Windy City.  Give both sites a read.

Keys to game:Tonight is a great match up for the Lakers not just because the Bulls are a good team but because the things they do well are things that the Lakershave struggled withcontaining both this year and in season’s past.  The Bulls post the 7thbest offensive rebound rate and attack the glass with reckless abandon.  Noah is the key culprit here but Deng also grabs nearly 2 offensive boards a game.  And while the Bulls will likely be without Taj Gibson – who is also a very good offensive rebounder – limiting the Bulls on the O-glass will be a test tonight for the Lakers.

The other thing the Bulls do well (and that the Lakers struggle to stop)  is penetrate from the PG position.  Rose is simply one of the best creators off the bounce in the entire league andwhoever matches up withhim will have his hands full.  We’ll see if Phil goes with Fisher on Rose or if the Bulls’ starting of Bogans allows Phil to use Fisher on the less talented offensive player while putting Ron or Kobe on Rose, but regardless of the match up the Lakers will have to deal with Rose’s darts into the paint where he can finish with a finesse floater or throw it down with authority.

Offensively, the Lakers’ game plan shouldn’t look too different than on most nights but may require some early tweaks.  The fact that Gibson is likely to sit out means that the Bulls will trot out some height in its front court with both 6’11” Noah and 7’0″ Asik patrolling the paint.  Gasol has been on such a roll lately that he should still be able to get his typical numbers, but when he goes inside it will be a stark difference than what he’s seen in recent games vs. the Warriors, Pistons, and Suns.  I’d like to see Pau use his face up game more against Asik and his standard post game against Noah and would like to see him do the majority of his work from the mid-post where he can either turn and face or back his man down for good looks at the basket.

Tonight is also a night where Kobe should be able to get going early.  The Bulls start an undersized back court in Rose and Bogans and neither has the size to keep Kobe from earning good post position nor contest his shots effectively when he shoots his turn around jumper.  If the Bulls decide to turn to Deng as a defensive option, the Lakers should then move the ball onto Artest who will have a similar advantage inside against whoever switches onto him.  When the Bulls go to the bench they have better a defensive option in Ronnie Brewer, but Kobe’s typically had his number as well dating back to Brewer’s days with the Jazz.  Essentially, don’t be surprised to see Kobe go to work tonight or for the Bulls to try to counter Kobe’s aggressiveness with double teams andtraps withthe result (hopefully) being facilitator Kobe breaking down the defense with the extra pass.

There’s also a good match up of benches tonight.  I’ve already mentioned Brewer but the Bulls also have former Jazz-man Kyle Korver and former Warrior CJ Watson as key reserves.  This trio has the ability to affect the game in different ways and the Lakers must be ready for Brewer’s activity in the passing lanes, Watson’s open court skill, and Korver’s marksmanship from deep.  I’m especially concerned about Korver as the Lakers haven’t done the best job marking shooters this season and Kyle is currently shooting an outlandish 56.3% from three this season.  The Bulls use him a lot like the Jazz did by running him off screens and as a weak side threat that keeps help defenders from clogging the paint on penetration by Rose.  So, whoever is on Korver tonight (likely Barnes) will need to chase hard and fight through screens while also showing discipline when not directly involved in the game action.  Because if Korver gets hot it can change the game.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time out West, locally on FSW and nationally on NBA TV.  Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.

Around the World (Wide Web)

Phillip Barnett —  November 23, 2010
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

From Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports: Ask him what he embraces in his early 30s that he never understood in his 20s, and there’s no hesitation: It’s what everyone insisted he had been a failure with, a perception that he has transformed with two post-Shaquille O’Neal championships. “How to truly make players better, what that really means,” he said. “It’s not just passing to your guys and getting them shots. It’s not getting this or that many players into double figures. That’s bull[expletive]. That’s not how you win championships. You’ve got to change the culture of your team – that’s how you truly make guys better. In a way, you have to help them to get the same DNA that you have, the same focus you have, maybe even close to the same drive. That’s how you make guys better.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Andrew Bynum said he’ll undergo an MRI exam on his right knee Tuesday, and with medical clearance will then begin jumping and lateral movements on the court. He said, however, he will not join team practice for a week or two weeks after that, meaning he’ll miss his goal of doing that by Thanksgiving by a significant margin. Phil Jackson has projected a Dec. 10 season debut for Bynum, even though Bynum told Jackson the timetable was probably a week later than Jackson was suggesting. Bynum’s comments Monday jibe more with a Dec. 17 debut.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: There are, admittedly, a few things I don’t know about the intricate machinations of time, but I’m quite certain about this: Projecting a return from an Andrew Bynum injury is the time/space equivalent of cat herding, particularly when the source of any information is Andrew Bynum. As we’ve noted multiple times over the last few seasons, Drew is notorious for, well, just kind of saying stuff, often appearing more definitive than he ought. So last week, when Bynum said he hoped to be practicing by Thanksgiving and playing again before Christmas, I noted it’s best not to run out and start marking up the desk calendar. So it should come as no surprise that Monday in El Segundo, ironically a day he was wearing his game uniform to film some clips for the Staples scoreboard video screens, Bynum adjusted his most recent timetable once again.

From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: We know that LeBron James, when firing on all cylinders, is the best player in basketball. We know that Kobe Bryant is the cruelest, the most devastating when he has to be, that Chris Paul can affect the game differently than any small man, and that Dwight Howard can absolutely dominate a game even while going full quarters at a time without a field goal. But has Pau Gasol been the best player in the NBA during its first month? I’m OK with saying yes to that.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Time and time again, there appeared Lakers guard Derek Fisher, making a three-point shot off the dribble, off a pull-up or over an opponent. Time and time again, there appeared Fisher, forcing himself into the passing lanes, deflecting passes and even making steals. Time and time again, there appeared Fisher, leading fast breaks, finishing layups and throwing alley-oop lobs. You read this in April, May or June and you conclude there goes Fisher, proving once again his playoff clutchness. But you’re reading this in late November, when Fisher is usually struggling to defend young point guards, fighting an inconsistent shooting stroke and justifying to a forgetful fan-base how his locker-room standing and experience have brought plenty of Lakers championship banners and parades.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: A late-November game against Golden State is as good an occasion as any to ask the question: What exactly motivates Kobe Bryant these days? What gets the modern-day Mr. June, the guy who has had seven of his 14 seasons in the league finish in the NBA Finals, ramped up for a one-of-82 regular-season matchup against the perennial Pacific Division also-rans? Does he just take joy in teaching the next generation what it takes to be great? He’s already punished former USC products O.J. Mayo and DeMar DeRozan this season when the Lakers played the Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors, respectively. During the summer he’ll play pickup with those guys and geek out in their shared love of the game, but when the season rolls around and the cameras are on, he does whatever he can to degrade them with his play.

From Nick Friedell, ESPNChicago: It was about 16 years ago in Saint Joseph’s gym in Philadelphia, where a talented high school player first met an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers. On Tuesday, for the first time since that meeting, the two meet while at the top of their professions as Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers host first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau and the Chicago Bulls. “He was crucial. He was with me when I was 16 or 17 years old,” Bryant said Sunday night at Staples Center, after leading the Lakers to a 117-89 win over the Golden State Warriors. “Just doing drills and just working on ballhandling and just teaching me the game. He was there from Day 1.”

From Bill Simmons, ESPN: Upon further review, the Summer of South Beach gave the Lakers an edge that’s atypical for most two-time defending champs. Three Lakers are playing their best basketball ever: Pau Gasol (doing an ’86 McHale impersonation), Lamar Odom (a top-20 player this season) and Shannon Brown (outstanding off the bench). Kobe seems more invested than ever. Their bench is better thanks to Steve Blake and Matt Barnes. They’re 10-2 without Andrew Bynum, and like Boston, both their losses came in the final minute.

The Technical

Bill Bridges —  November 22, 2010

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

From Janis Carr, OC Register: Lakers fans don’t need much incentive to head to the exits early, and Sunday’s game against the Golden State Warriors did little to keep them in their seats for the entire 48 minutes. Besides, each fan was set to receive a crystal Chick Hearn commemorative paperweight as they exited the building. So with five minutes to play and little reason to stay, Staples Center began emptying as the Lakers put the finishing touches on another historic night and a 117-89 victory. On a night when the team honored their late famed broadcaster, the Lakers put this game “in the refrigerator” long before halftime. They led, 69-41, at the half.

From Jeff Miller, OC Register: They might be only the NBA’s second-most celebrated Big Three, and as such their union was deemed unworthy of a made-for-bad-TV infomercial. LeBron James had “The Decision.” Shannon Brown, Steve Blake and Matt Barnes only made their decisions. With muted hysteria, silent hyperbole and no commercial breaks. Each opted to be a Laker this season, and so far no one has tweeted hatred, suggested race was a factor or made a complete donkey of himself.

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: The Lakers aren’t exactly a picture of health these days, but their opponent on Sunday night lent plenty of credibility to the axiom that things can always be worse.?? The Golden State Warriors limped into Staples Center and stumbled out of it after getting drubbed by the Lakers, 117-89.?? It was bad enough for the Warriors that they played without power forward David Lee, sidelined because of an infection in his left elbow, but then they lost the NBA’s second-leading scorer, Monta Ellis, who crashed hard after a missed shot and sustained a bruised hip early in the third quarter.?? The Lakers, not the types to sympathize with opponents these days, buried the Warriors, leading by 16 after the first quarter, 28 at halftime and 35 through three quarters.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson approached lectern at a loss of words. “I don’t know what to say,” he said. That’s because he mostly uses his opponent statements to address poor habits the team displayed or area he would like sharpened up. But, really, what are you going to complain about the Lakers’ 117-89 victory Sunday over the Golden State Warriors?  The Lakers (12-2) extended their four-game winning streak. The team featured four players in double figures. They shot 55.7%. They held Golden State to 35.2% shooting. And they built enough of a lead for all the starters to rest in the fourth quarter and all but Pau Gasol to play less than 30 minutes.

From J.A. Adande, ESPN: It’s getting to the point that even Phil Jackson doesn’t have an answer for the Lakers. A four-game winning streak punctuated by a 28-point victory over the Warriors Sunday night led to a 10-word opening statement at the coach’s news conference afterward. “I don’t know what to say,” he concluded. “You can ask questions.” In running their record to 12-2 the Lakers have already told us plenty about their approach to the season. They will do everything to win all their games, which seems like a basic assumption unless you’ve spent enough time watching the NBA. Taking nights off is an affliction that can strike both the good teams and the ones just playing out the string, an inevitable by-product of an 82-game season.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: What the Lakers did Sunday night to Golden State — particularly in the first half — was incredibly impressive. They put on a clinic at the Warriors’ expense, torturing the visitors with variety appropriate for some sort of hoops remake of those Saw movies. They hit shots inside, and drilled them from the perimeter. On the break, early in the offense, and late in the clock, all with some of the best spacing they’ve had all year, and surgical ball movement. On the other end, the Lakers forced turnovers and tough shots, while blocking a few others. It was, in short, a red letter night for people who like to sit at home and cut together highlight reels off game footage to post on YouTube. Scoff if you want because it came against the Warriors, a team against whom the Lakers have wide ranging matchup advantages, but playing this way they’d have abused a lot of teams.

From Dave McMenamin, Land O’ Lakers: – It was the sixth time in franchise history that a Lakers player finished the game perfect from the field after 10 or more field goal attempts. The last to do it was Byron Scott in 1986 (10-of-10). It was also reached by current GM Mitch Kupchak (11-of-11), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (11-of-11; twice) and Wilt Chamberlain (14-of-14). – Barnes joined Charles Barkley as the only other player in NBA history to post a minimum 20-point, five-rebound, five-assist night while not missing a single shot and Gasol joined him a game later. – According to ESPN Stats & Research’s Kenton Wong, the last two times two different teammates had perfect nights while attempting seven or more field goals were Phoenix’s Boris Diaw (8-of-8) and Leandro Barbosa, Indiana’s Dale Davis (7-of-7) on March 1 and 3, 2006 and (9-of-9) and Antonio Davis (7-of-7) on Jan. 7 and 10, 1997.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Coming into this game, the Lakers had beaten the Warriors 14 of their last 15 tries at Staples Center. I can’t imagine anyone really expected this trend to reverse itself tonight. As a franchise the Warriors are making progress, but they’re really not equipped to trouble this Lakers team in the least. There are size mismatches up and down the roster, and after years under Don Nelson they don’t have anything like the defensive system, technique or intensity to disrupt the Triangle offense. Prior editions of the Lakers might have evened the playing field a bit by, say, ignoring the paint in favor of terrible outside shots, or by running out bench players that can’t hold a lead. Not this year. This incarnation of the purple and gold beast sees its prey and goes straight for the kill.

From Janis Carr, OC Register: Andrew Bynum doesn’t know when he will return to the lineup, and the Lakers apparently aren’t waiting around to find out when the center’s surgically repaired knee will be healthy enough to play. With reserve center Theo Ratliff out at least 4-6 weeks because of surgery on his left knee, the Lakers need help now. Coach Phil Jackson said before Sunday’s game the Lakers are looking into signing a back-up center and “will have something settled this week.” Two names that have surfaced recently as potential fill-ins are free-agent Erick Dampier and Jake Voskuhl, who did not play in the NBA last season.

Lastly, one game after Matt Barnes went perfect from the field by hitting all 7 of his shots and all 5 of his free throws, Pau Gasol duplicated the feat by making all 10 of his shots from the field and all 8 of his FT attempts.  Below is the video of all of Pau’s makes from the field.  (h/t to Kurt at PBT)