Archives For November 2010

(With Darius and Phillip having the night off, you’re stuck with me, Zephid, giving you your game recap)

Well, I really drew the short stick when it comes to game recaps. To be completely honest, I mostly stopped watching after the 3rd quarter (I feel the same way about writing this recap as Stu Lantz feels about 4th Quarter free throws, Do we have to?). The Lakers were so good, so dominant, that the only thing left in doubt after about the 6 minute mark of the 3rd quarter was the margin of victory. It’s not like the Warriors are a bad team; They’re above .500 and are in second place in the Pacific Division. But if the Warriors had played well and the Lakers had played average, they may have had a chance. When the Lakers play really well and the Warriors play poorly, they have absolutely no chance.

With David Lee out, the Lakers had a crushing advantage in the interior (as opposed to just a normal advantage). 56 points in the paint, including 28 from Gasol, was simply too much for the under-sized and under-manned Warriors. Gasol also had a perfect game, going 10/10 from the floor and 8/8 from the line to go with 9 boards, 5 assists, and 4 blocks, one game after Matt Barnes posted a perfect game against the Timberwolves. Gasol simply had his way with Biedrins for most of the night, using his full repertoire of jump shots, hooks, and scoops.

You can’t really point to any particular Laker and say he had a bad game (except Sasha, because he’s Sasha). Even Artest, who didn’t do much on offense, played lock-down defense on Monta Ellis, helped by the solid hedging of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol on the inside. Fisher had a strong shooting night, going 4-6, and was very active on the defensive end, gathering 3 steals and a bunch of uncounted deflections. Kobe had a pedestrian 20 point, 6 board, 5 assists night in 27 minutes, but he never forced the action and played very good help defense against Curry and Ellis. And Lamar had himself another double-double of 15 and 10 with a steal and 2 blocks.

Then there was the bench that once again came in and extended the lead. It’s almost getting to the point where you expect every Shannon Brown shot to go in. He had 17 points on 7/10 shooting and 3/3 from three point range, adding to his resume for Most Improved Player. Once again, Steve Blake ran the offense, netting 6 assists, while Matt Barnes brought the energy with 3 boards, 2 steals, and a block. Really, I could copy and paste most of the game recaps about the bench from the past few weeks, and it would be almost the same; these guys have been that consistently good.

There’s really not that much you can take away from a game like this. The Warriors put up a stinker and the Lakers played one of their best games of the year. Those two things added together get you a 28 point blowout. The Lakers played stellar defense and ran their offense spectacularly. Now if only they could get 32 assists on 44 baskets while holding the other team to 35% shooting every game…

Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Records: Lakers 11-2 (3rd in West), Warriors 7-5 (7th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 116.9 (1st in NBA), Warriors 106.5 (17th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.5 (12th in NBA), Warriors 108.4 (20th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Warriors: Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Dorell Wright, Vladimir Radmanovic, Andris Biedrins
Injuries: Lakers: Andrew Bynum (out), Theo Ratliff (out); Warriors: David Lee (out), Brandan Wright (doubtful), Lou Admundson (out), Ekpe Udoh (out)

The Lakers Coming in:  Nothing like a three game roadie against teams with bad records to cure what ails a team.  The Lakers left for the mid-west on a two game losing streak and return winners of three in a row.  On the trip they continued to show that their offense is in fact the league’s best while also playing some pretty good defense in two of the three games to raise their efficiency on that side of the ball to a more respectable 12th in the league.  Still not where we’d like, but inching in the right direction.

And since there’s really nothing new to report on this team from the perspective of Bynum’s return or other newsworthy events, go read Dan Devine’s take on Charles Barkley’s comments about Kobe being a top five player all time.  And then watch the video below of Blake Griffin dunking on the Knicks. Repeatedly.  These should hold you over until tip off tonight.

The Warriors Coming in:  If I were to tell you that tonight the Lakers played the team in 2nd place in the Pacific Division with a 7-5 record and currently sits in the 7th spot in the West it’s doubtful the first team you’d think of is the Warriors.  The Suns maybe.  But the Warriors?  That is the case, though.  This team is definitely on the upswing.  They’re playing with a renewed sense of pride and I would think a lot of that has to do with the ownership change that was just finalized by the league.  In their past few games they’ve struggled (losing 3 of 4) but a lot of that has had to do with the injury to David Lee who has had to sit out the last 4 games with an infected elbow.  If you’re not familiar with the story, Lee was facing his old team (the Knicks) and after securing a defensive rebound he swung his elbows to clear some space and connected with Wilson Chandler’s mouth.  Lee knocked out one of Chandler’s teeth, but in the process sustained a puncture wound to his arm that became infected and required Lee to be hospitalized.  Lee was just released this week and will not likely return for at least another week.  So while Lee sits, the Warriors sputter on the glass and lose their only inside scoring punch, and thus the losses have started to pile up.

But even in defeat, not all is bad for the Dubs.  The one player that’s really playing excellent basketball is Monta Ellis.  Just last season he was thought of as disposable as his inefficient gunning seemed to have a stranglehold on the team.  This year, though, he’s just a different guy.  He’s become a leader for the team.  His scoring is not only up but he’s doing it efficiently.  I’ll let Ethan Sherwood Strauss at Warriors World take it from here:

Some players are described as scoring easily. I’ve often heard it like this: “You think he’s not doing much, then you look up and he’s got 30 points.” Monta Ellis is the opposite: He scores difficultly, to thrilling amplification. Monta’s twisting layups and off-balance jumpers tend to leave you feeling like he scored 10 more points than he did. The stat sheet reads, “40,” my memory whispers, “50.”

And Monta’s dunk. That’s what it’s like to be transported, to completely fly away from whatever problems, issues, or entanglements haunt your life. The straining stuff just doesn’t exist when Ellis crushes Turiaf like a Venus Flytrap. All that matters is the unbridled joy of seeing it live.

Warriors Blogs: Check out Warriors World for any and all information on the Dubs.  Also visit Golden State of Mind for more on the Warriors.

Keys to game:  The Last time these two teams met it was also a Sunday night contest in Los Angeles.  On that (Halloween) night the Lakers struck early and often and ultimately cruised to a 24 point victory.  The Lakers used their size to dominate the interior by both scoring in the paint at will and by gobbling up offensive rebounds.  Tonight, they’ll be looking to do the same thing and it may be even easier considering the Warriors’ injury issues.  I’ve already mentioned that David Lee will be out for the Warriors and Brandan Wright will also likely be out with back issues.  That greatly depletes an already thin Warriors’ front court and should allow the Lakers to feast in the paint once again.

So, hopefully we’ll see the Lakers go into their bigs early and often with post ups to Pau and Odom to get the offense going.  When those early post ups aren’t there, the Lakers can then try Kobe in the post against either Ellis or Curry as neither undersized guard has the size to battle #24 on the block.  However, where Kobe needs to be careful – especially against Ellis – is by trying to back him down from too far out on the court.  In recent match ups between these two teams, Ellis has done a good job of poking the ball away from Kobe when he’s dribbling into his post position.  And considering Kobe’s turnover totals this season (20 in his last 5 games), he’ll need to be extra careful against Monta’s quick hands.

Defensively, controlling the Warriors in transition and off the dribble will be the Lakers biggest challenges.  Both Ellis and Curry are excellent in space and love to get the ball up the court quickly to attack defenses before they get set.  The Lakers can battle against this through their own offensive approach (going into the post, avoiding long jumpers early in the clock) and by attacking the offensive glass, but ultimately the Lakers will still have to be aware of the Warrior’s want to push the ball and get back in transition to avoid early offense from the Dubs.  Especially important will be the Lakers’ big men who will have to change ends quickly in order to discourage drives by obstructing driving lanes in early offense and showing early help when the Lakers guards get beat off the dribble (which will happen).

The Lakers’ pick and roll defense will also be severely tested tonight.  Both Ellis and Curry are fantastic operating in the P&R  as they’re both able to shoot from distance when defenders go under the screen and can explode off the dribble to the rim when defenders chase over the top.  They’re both also adept at splitting the double team when the big man hedges so there’s really no safe way to defend this action without Ellis and/or Curry having a potential answer for the initial defensive strategy.  The Lakers will have to show good discipline on this play by hedging/recovering, rotating to shooters if the pass is made to the wing, while also having a third line of help waiting at the rim should the Warriors’ guards split the pick and get into the paint.  There’s really no other team in the league that has multiple guards that can do as much in the P&R as the Warriors so the Lakers will need to be ready.

In the end, this game should go much like the Halloween game did.  The Lakers are clearly the superior team and are once again rolling on offense with an improving defense over the past few games.  However, this is the first game back from a road trip (which is always a game that’s tricky) and the Lakers could look at the Dub’s injury ledger and think this game will be a walk.  So, besides battling the Warriors’ guards, their overall shooting prowess, and their speed in the open court, they’ll also need to battle complacency.  I doubt it will be too much of a problem after what the team showed in Detroit and Minnesota, but with this Lakers’ group you won’t really know until the ball tips.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on Fox Sports West.  Also listen on ESPN Radio 710am.

During the off-season, there were certain needs the Lakers were looking to fill.  Back up point guard was the obvious, but nearly as important was finding a suitable reserve at small forward.  The first name that the Lakers were hot after was Raja Bell but he spurned the Lakers for a bigger contract with the Utah Jazz.  At that point the Lakers moved on to Matt Barnes who, to many people’s surprise, was still available late in the free agency period.  He’d flirted with several teams but had not yet found a home and the Lakers were suddenly in the hunt for a guy that seemed to be a very good fit.

We’ve already discussed how nice it is to have Matt in the mix this year, but last night’s performance against the Timberwolves was the latest example of what Barnes can bring to the Lakers’ bench.  ESPN Stats and Information tells us that:

Matt Barnes made all seven field goals and all five of his free throws, finishing with a team-high 24 points in the Lakers win against the Timberwolves. Barnes also had seven rebounds and six assists. In the last 25 seasons, Barnes is the third player to go 20-5-5 and shoot 100 percent from both the field and free throw line in a game. The other two players are Gary Payton against the Cavaliers in 1994-95, and Charles Barkley against the Spurs in 1988-89.

Pretty good company, there.  Below is a quick highlight clip of Barnes from last night.  Here’s to more nights like last night’s to come this season (even if we can’t realistically expect more perfect nights).  Enjoy.

(video via TheRealCaCHooKaMan)

David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Tonight, instead of writing the traditional game recap, I’m going to take a look at deconstructing tonight’s simple box score. I’m not taking a look at advanced statistics, just analyzing the Lakers 11th win with a look at the game’s purest statistics: points, rebounds, assists, turnovers and field goals. The game against the Timberwolves wasn’t complicated to figure out, the analysis should follow suit.

Matt Barnes: 7-7, 5-5 3FG, seven rebounds, six assists, zero turnovers

There really isn’t anything negative to say about what Matt Barnes brought off of the bench against the ‘Wolves. He shot the ball well, knocked down the three-ball, hit the boards and made a few fantastic passes. Barnes’ 24 points came within the flow of the offense, nothing was rushed or forced, he just let the opportunities come to him. There was one play in particular where Barnes was open for another three on the right wing, but found a wide-open Lamar Odom under the basket and fed him the ball for the higher percentage shot. I’ve said this before, but Barnes ability to make plays is the most underrated part of his game. He has excellent vision, and Phil Jackson will be able to really take advantage of his skill set when he gets another month or two of the offense under his belt.

Lamar Odom: 11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists

This is just a classic LO stat line. He does a little bit of everything which all adds up to a whole bunch. It’s games like this that prove the worth of having such a multi-faceted player. Tonight, LO spent a lot of time bringing the ball up and initiating the offence, which really opens up a wealth of options for the Lakers offense. We weren’t able to see what it opens up for Kobe and Pau too much, but we saw what it means for the other two on the floor. Derek Fisher, like Barnes, finished the night without missing from the field, including two for two from behind the arch, Shannon Brown came in and knocked down an open three. Even Derrick Caracter was able to come in and get some good looks at the basket on possession that began with LO starting the offense.

Kevin Love: 0 points 0-7 FGs, 7 rebounds

The last time the Lakers saw Kevin Love he scored 24 points and grabbed 23 rebounds, 11 of which were on the offensive glass. The game before the last meeting, Love recorded a 16 and 16 line. Two games after their last meeting, Love recorded the historic 31 and 31 line. Needless to say, when Kevin Love has been on the floor this season, he has played extremely well. Tonight, Kevin Love was a non-factor. A lot of the Lakers success in keeping Love off of the glass can be given to Ron Artest, who was out there putting a body on Love every time a shot went up. What Artest was able to accomplish won’t show up in the box score (five points, four rebounds), but he deserves a lot of credit for putting in the effort to keep Love off of the glass. Giving so much attention to Love did open up things for Darko Milicic, who had a fantastic game by his standards, but that is something the Lakers can live with. They went into tonight’s game with the mindset of not letting Love kill them on the boards for the second straight game, and Love had, by far, his worst night of the season.

Kobe Bryant: 23 points, 8-27 FGs, 8 rebounds

Don’t get me wrong, I completely enjoyed the shots that Kobe made. There were a few toward the end of the second quarter that were absolutely fun to watch (i.e. that beautiful reverse layup), but there just wasn’t any reason for Kobe to take 27 shots. A few of them were early in the shot clock, outside of what the offense normally dictates. The Lakers were never in any kind of threat of losing the game, so trying to “save” the team wasn’t an excuse either. I understand that he’s still working on getting his legs back, and considering that he is great at what he does and I am not, it’s hard for me to question his ways. However, at some point he has to realize that he has five teammates who are more than capable of carrying his conjectural load while he gets back to where he wants to be. This offense needs to work inside-out, and it’s up to Kobe to let that happen. It didn’t’ hurt them tonight, but at some point, an eight for 27 night is going to result in a loss. We’ve seen how capable he is in picking apart defenses with his ability to pass the ball and selectively pick his shots. Of course I’d like to see more of that, but then again, the Lakers scored 112 with the reserves in for the last few minutes of the fourth.

The big picture of last night’s win is the fact that the Lakers swept their first road trip of the season. It wasn’t the toughest road trip they’ll have all season, but the road trip began right after their second loss of the season. The three straight road wins were a good response to their first couple of losses of the season. The Lakers play again on Sunday against the Warriors before games against the Bulls and Jazz, who promise much tougher than the trio of teams they faced on their road trip.

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Records: Lakers 10-2 (3rd in West), Timberwolves 4-9 (12th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 117.3 (1st in NBA), Timberwolves 101.6 (27th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 107.5 (19th in NBA), Timberwolves 110.4 (26th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Timberwolves: Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic
Injuries: Lakers: Andrew Bynum (out), Theo Ratliff (out); Timberwolves: Jonny Flynn (out), Martell Webster (out), Nikola Pelovic (out)

The Lakers Coming in:  Two straight wins and some strong, professional play is what’s been presented so far this road trip.  The Lakers poured it on late against the Bucks and early against Pistons and the team has seemingly bounced back from last week’s mishaps against the Suns and Nuggets. 

Minutes played by the front court continue to be a concern and before Wednesday’s game, Phil Jackson specifically referenced Gasol’s heavy load as a worry moving forward.  Games like the one against Detroit (where Pau only played 33 minutes) will help ease Pau’s burden, but getting another big to soak up some minutes is still a front burner issue.  As we’ve mentioned, don’t expect a flashy signing but rather the type of guy that will practice hard, play when needed, and be happy with an unguaranteed deal that will quickly be voided when Bynum returns. (So, sorry Dampier supporters.  That description doesn’t fit the still unsigned big man.)

On a side, but related note, Bynum’s potential return date is now listed as sometime around the middle of December.  If you hadn’t noticed, that’s a bit of a delay from the original timeline put out by the team.  Just as we mentioned yesterday, when it comes to Bynum no timeline is really accurate and I think we should all operate under the “I’ll believe it when I see it” mantra.  Again, when he’s back, he’s back.  Until then the Lakers will have to find ways to make it work.  If that means signing another big or playing Caracter through the typical ups and downs of a rookie big man, so be it.  This team still takes the long term view on most things and this should be no different.

The Timberwolves Coming in:  It was only 10 days ago that these Wolves faced the Lakers and in the time since that match up this team is playing well.  They’re 3-2 in that stretch and even in their losses they’ve played much better ball.  They’ve scored over a 100 points in all 5 contests and they’re really getting inspired performances from some of their guys – especially Kevin Love and Michael Beasley. 

In the last 4 games, Love has been outright beastly as he’s averaged a shade over 24 points and nearly 18 rebounds each night.  And in that run he had an amazing 31 point, 31 rebound effort against the Knicks that, needless to say, was a game for the ages as no player had put up a 30/30 game since Moses Malone.  Pretty good company there.  Then there’s Beasley who is finding his groove as a go to scorer and starting to fulfill his potential as the guy taken #2 in his draft class as a dynamic scorer and rebounder.  In Beasley’s last 5 games he’s not been below 25 points once and has put up 30 or more three times, including a high of 42.  His rebounding is still only average, but that’s to be somewhat expected when he’s playing SF and is sharing the front court with a rebounding machine in Kevin Love.

Overall this team is one that, while not quite on the rise, is getting back to a competitive level that’s been absent for the past several years.  If they continue to improve they’ll surely win more games but maybe even more important can potentially be that “tough out” team that no one really likes to face.  They’re not there yet, but they’re inching in that direction.  And once they do get there, confidence will come and that’s when the wins will follow.  They’re definitely building something and for that I give them credit.  Yes, even Kaaaaahhhhhhhn.

Timberwolves Blogs:  A Wolf Among Wolves is putting up great work everyday.  Between Benjamin Polk, Zach Harper, and Myles Brown it’s doubtful there’s better content on the ‘Wolves anywhere.

Keys to game:  So far I’ve mentioned that the Wolves are playing much better and that the Lakers are playing strong, professional basketball.  Despite all that, let’s just say I have my concerns about this game.  This is the third game in four nights and the last game of a road trip.  And while the ‘Wolves are playing better, they’re still a team that the Lakers could easily look past.  So, be forewarned that a slug-fest may be on the docket tonight.

If the Lakers are to avoid that scenario, playing hard would be the first step but playing smart is a close second.  Taking care of the ball and attacking with a focused, disciplined offensive approach will go a long way towards the Lakers starters icing their knees in the fourth quarter rather than looking to put the game on ice with FT’s in the closing minutes.

First and foremost that means a patient and deliberate attack from Kobe.  Ten days ago Kobe decided he would try to beat the Wolves mostly on his own early and it led to a night where he more than doubled any of his teammate’s shot attempts.  Tonight there should be better ball and shot distribution in order to capitalize on all the Lakers’ match up advantages and not just the one that Kobe has.  Get the ball inside to Pau against Darko and to Odom at the top of the circle and mid post against Kevin Love so both bigs can go to work.  If Kobe deems having the ball in his hands is necessary, he can run some P&R or back down his man from the mid-post but I’d like to see him be a willing passer in those situations rather than looking for his shot first. 

Defensively, there are two keys tonight: get back in transition and control the defensive glass.  Minnesota really tried to push the pace in the last match up and got up 92 shots (to the Lakers 89) even though they had 25 turnovers on the evening.  Those quick shots led to long rebounds that the Wolves turned into second and third possessions when they hauled in 26(!) offensive rebounds.  The third defensive key for the Lakers is simply caring more by paying closer attention to detail.  That means closing out on shooters and not giving up such easy penetration to Minnesota’s guards and wings.  In the last game the Lakers allowed too many driving lanes which then forced big men to help thus weakening their defensive rebounding. 

I can’t say this enough, but tonight’s game is one where the Wolves will be looking to get the win they didn’t 10 days ago and if the Lakers are lax in effort they just may get it.  However, if the Lakers that played the Pistons show up, this game could be over by the time the 3rd quarter begins.  The choice is theirs.  Let’s hope they make the right one. 

Where you can watch: 5pm start time out West on KCAL.  Also listen on ESPN Radio 710am.