Archives For November 2010

In a way, every game lost is meaningful.  There are the smaller factors that make up a loss that we all want to analyze; that we want to find trends in.  The finer points of the game that need to be explored when looking at the team and figuring out what trajectory it’s on.  Even as a big picture thinker, longer term issues like playoff seeding and home court advantage can become part of the conversation – even if those are considerations that go far past a mid November night.  So, last night after rewatching some of the game, thinking about the Lakers’ record, and then really focussing on this loss I started to wonder how much I cared about the result.

The answer?  Not much.

The reason being  is that games like the one against Denver need not be put under the microscope and examined too closely.  This was loss #1 of the year and it happened in one of the tougher road environments that exists in the league.  The Nuggets went on one of their trademarked hot streaks and the Lakers couldn’t keep up offensively while not having an answer defensively (few teams do when the Nuggs get as hot as they were).  Really, I agree 100% with commenter dirty sanchez when he wrote:

 This contest was lost in the last 4 mins of play, the score was tied at 105-105, the next 2 mins the Nugs built a 9 point lead…I will take this teams chances of winning with 4 minutes left (and the) score tied against anyone in the league coming out on top the majority of time. Last night was just a bad night, it happens, not pleased but LA wasnt going to go 82-0.

No need to dwell on this game. I think we’d all be thrilled if the Lakers lost once every nine games (sustained over a full year, that would have the Lakers winning around 73 games – which isn’t going to happen, but still worth noting).  So as of now, I think focussing on Phoenix is the best way to move forward.  Yes last night stung, but often times the path back to victory begins with games like last night’s – especially for the really good teams.  You know, like the Lakers.


(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: You might mistakenly believe that the notable “first” to come out of the Lakers’ game Thursday night was their first loss of the season. To see Kobe Bryant after the game in the Pepsi Center visiting locker room, you would realize that a far bigger deal to him appeared to be getting to envelop his weary bones in his plush, new bathrobe for the first time. Bryant sat in front of his locker in the thick black robe, eschewing its hood but showcasing its KB24 “Carpe Diem” crest both on the back and on the left front lapel. In his ongoing quest for max efficiency, Bryant has lately taken to postgame multi-tasking: Instead of waiting until after he ices down, showers, takes additional medical treatments and gets dressed, Bryant has met with reporters while he sits idly (for a specific time period, clocked dependably by the little timer he holds in his hand) with huge icepacks on both knees and his feet and ankles minimizing swelling in their own ice water.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: The Lakers’ frontline struggled. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom should’ve had a field day considering the Nuggets have had to absorb absences to Chris Anderson and Kenyon Martin because of off-season knee surgeries. But Gasol and Odom combined for seven of 23 from the field. Odom played only 26 minutes and absent altogether in the fourth quarter. And Gasol’s post play and interior defending appeared tentative and exhausting. Allowing 54 points to the paint shouldn’t happen. They’ve been the team’s most consistent players this postseason, but it clearly shows they need everything they can from them until Andrew Bynum returns around Thanksgiving.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: It was fun while it lasted, the Lakers’ undefeated start to the season. But time marches ever forward and drops the occasional loss on even the most charmed franchises. Tonight the Lakers fell in Denver by the final score of 112 to 118. Even though they were favored in this game and, on balance, most of us probably expected them to push their record to 9-0 against a Nuggets team that had been looking a bit shaky, it’s not stunning that the perfect start ended this evening. When the NBA announced its schedule last August, a lot of us circled tonight’s game as a good bet for the Lakers’ first L.

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Offensively, I thought this was Ron’s best game in some time. As his fellow starters struggled early in the first quarter, he connected for five quick points to help maintain pace then rounded out the night with 18 points on seven-of-11 shooting. More than just his efficient percentage, I liked how Ron muscled his way to the rim for several buckets. Artest can be a load down low, and it’s always a welcome sight seeing use that power advantage. Throw in five boards, three blocks and two steals, and I thought he did a nice job offsetting some struggles guarding Carmelo Anthony.

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: Kobe Bryant’s shot abandoned him. Pau Gasol no longer scored with ease.?? Shannon Brown, of all people, tried to keep the Lakers among the undefeated, but it all dissolved in front of an overjoyed Pepsi Center crowd, the Denver Nuggets dropping the Lakers on Thursday, 118-112.??The Lakers surrendered 33 points in the fourth quarter, their defense sputtering badly, matched in ineffectiveness only by Bryant’s outside touch.?? Bryant had 34 points but made only 11 of 32 shots. Gasol wasn’t much better: 17 points on six-for-17 shooting as New Orleans (7-0) became the NBA’s only undefeated team.??” Just another game in November,” Bryant said, not taking the loss all that hard.


Updated, Additional Links:

*From Jim Thompson, founder and executive director of the Positive Coaching Alliance at, an interview with Phil Jackson: In this episode, Jim talks with NBA coaching great and Positive Coaching Alliance National Spokesperson Phil Jackson, who shares his insights on how to build a true community within teams, finding voice for star players while encouraging role players to embrace their vital place on any successful team. Phil also shares his philosophy on balancing talent versus effort, the role of rivalries to motivate teams, and how to extend the lessons of sports beyond the court.

*From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: Everyone needs to get a bit of bad behavior out of its system every so often, and I hope the Lakers are happy with its exercise in this regard.  They’ve certainly earned it, by playing near-perfect basketball for the season’s first two-plus weeks. And while a two-possession loss to a playoff team in one of the tougher arenas to play in is nothing to freak out over, still, Los Angeles could have had this with better play.

(hat tip to Clarence Gaines  for the P-Jax interview and kaifa in the comments for Kelly Dwyer’s comments.)

(AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

Every team in the NBA has to record their first loss at some point, unfortunately it came at the hands of one of my least liked teams on a night where Kobe became the youngest player in NBA history to rack up 26,000 points. This definitely will not be the last Lakers loss of the season, but I can only hope this is the last loss they record in this particular fashion. They played an abysmal fourth quarter in a very winnable game, and furthermore, the Lakers failed to play well in every area that Darius highlight in the Keys to the Game portion of his Preview and Chat.

Offensively, that means going inside early and often to batter the Nuggets’ interior.  With Denver having a depleted front line, Gasol and Odom should be featured in the paint and the Lakers guards/wings should be penetrating the ball in order to get high percentage shots at the basket.

Because of the length of the Boston/Miami game, we didn’t get to see the first seven minutes of the game, but the play-by-play that ESPN offers suggests that the Lakers didn’t make a conscience attempt in getting the ball inside early or often. A lot of the Lakers field goal attempts in the first quarter were mid-range jumpers from 10-17 feet, not higher percentage shots around the rim from Pau and/or LO. In fact, both Pau and LO had off nights. It’s tough to imagine Gasol having a tough night considering he had 17 points and 20 rebounds, but he really struggled in the second half. When the Nuggets bench went on their 14-0 run (more on this later), Al Harrington really took Pau out of his comfort zone. Pau became frustrated, and made mental and physical mistakes for the remainder of the game. Pau missed a few bunnies around the rim that we’re not used to him missing, he made some bad passes from the low post, and wasn’t as decisive as he’s been for much of the season. Odom on the other hand didn’t see the floor much. He was the only starter to not play 40+ minutes, finishing the game with three points, 12 boards in just 26 minutes. According to Kevin Ding’s via Twitter, LO didn’t play much because “Phil wanted to play Shannon and keep Ron on Melo, and DEN went small.” This may be correct, but it’s hard to imagine this remaining true down the stretch. Odom was hitting the boards hard when he was on the floor and Phil usually isn’t one to change he personnel because of the players the opposing coach has on the floor. Suffice to say, the Gasol/Odom duo didn’t do what we have grown to expect from them in the early games of the season.

The other key offensive match up of course involves Kobe.  I was not too pleased with Kobe’s tactics on Tuesday as he often worked outside the framework of the Triangle in order to get his baskets.  And while he was successful doing so, tonight’s match up against Afflalo won’t be nearly as easy and thus that same approach is not advised.

Yes, Kobe had a season high 34 points, but he took a stifling 32 shots to get there. For the second straight game, the Lakers offense wasn’t executing as well has it had during the first six games of the season and Kobe decided that it would be best if he attempted to take over with his shooting instead of working within the offense. Kobe had a huge third quarter where he was able to go at J.R. Smith and knock down some big, Kobe-esque shots. But down the stretch, he took a few ill-advised shots with the game still in reach. The three pointer he took with the Lakers down by just four points and a minute left in the game was the shot attempt that helped put the game on ice for Denver. Shannon Brown was playing well, and he was able to score a couple of possessions earlier by getting to the rim, with the Lakers being down only two possessions with plenty of time left on the clock, I would have liked him to run the offense or get to the rim for a higher percentage shot or to draw a foul, giving him a chance to chip away at the lead with the clock stopped. Neither happened, Chauncey Billups went to the line and extended the lead to six.

Defensively, the Lakers primary focus should be slowing Carmelo Anthony.  Ron Artest has had some good success against ‘Melo and I look for him to employ the same tactics that have worked for him in the past.  That means bodying ‘Melo up off the ball and making him work for every catch.  When Anthony does have the ball he should force him to his strong hand and make him drive all the way to the rim where there’s help to contest those interior shots.

Carmelo Anthony, especially in the first half, got everything he wanted. His jumper was falling. He knocked down mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper on his way to a 32-point, 13 rebound night. Ron Artest wasn’t able to do much to throw off Anthony’s game. Anthony’s EFG was 58 percent on the night and, more importantly, his ability to score at an extremely efficient rate opened up things for other guys later in the game. At least two sets of eyes were on ‘Melo at the same time, creating cutting lanes, driving lanes and wide open looks for shooters. When Carmelo Anthony can get into a scoring groove early, it makes things much easier for other guys to get going, and that’s exactly what happened.

The other match up I’ll be watching in this game is the battle of the benches.  We’ve all been impressed with the Lakers trio of Barnes, Blake, and Brown and how they’ve been able to turn games in the Lakers’ favor in the first 8 games.  Well, the Nuggets boast their own trio of bench players with Ty Lawson, JR Smith, and Al Harrington.  These 6 players match up by playing the same exact positions and whichever unit has the most success will be a major factor in who wins this game.

One doesn’t have to look further than the end of the third quarter into the fourth to see the effects of Anthony’s propensity to put the ball in the hoop. With 47 seconds left in the third quarter, J.R. Smith made a short jumper as he was fouled. He knocked down the free throw to begin a streak of 19 straight points by the Nuggets bench. Smith, Ty Lawson and Gary Forbes took I to the Lakers in the fourth quarter, which might have been the most pathetic quarter of the Lakers season so far. The Nuggets bench finished the night with 43 points, 18 rebounds and 11 assists compared to 29 points, nine rebounds and three assists from the Lakers reserves. Steve Blake was consistently beat off the dribble by Ty Lawson, and Matt Barnes wasn’t able to knock down any shots from behind the arch or score on one of his coveted transition baskets. Shannon Brown was an exception. He played very well and was the Lakers second leading scorer with 19.

The thing is, the Lakers were in prime position to win this game. They did a great job in closing out on the Nuggets shooters, they were doing a great job on the boards and were winning in the turnover battle – all until that awful fourth quarter. As the Lakers record finally indicates, this team is not perfect, but the first loss of the season is no reason to panic. Kobe isn’t going to go 11 for 32 every night, it’s very rare that Pau loses mental focus and (hopefully) the Lakers won’t have too many more quarters where they completely lose grip of what they’re trying to do on both ends of the floor. The Lakers play again this Sunday for the second time against the Phoenix Suns. Lets hope for a bounce back from two bad games.

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Records: Lakers 8-0, Nuggets 4-4
Offensive ratings: Lakers 116.4 (1st in NBA), Nuggets 108.9 (7th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.4 (7th in NBA), Nuggets 107.2 (19th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Nuggets: Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Shelden Williams, Nene Hillario
Injuries: Lakers: Andrew Bynum (out); Nuggets: Kenyon Martin (out), Chris Andersen (out)

The Lakers Coming in: Even an 8-0 team isn’t without some things kinks to work out.  Tuesday night’s lack luster effort in defeating the Timberwolves prompted some harsh comments from Derek Fisher.  The Lakers’ issues with controlling their defensive glass are real and can’t be dismissed as the result of simply missing Andrew Bynum (though that’s definitely a big part of it).  And while a wandering focus is natural for all teams, the fact that this is a familiar theme for the Lakers brings back concerns that many have had over the past couple of seasons.

However, despite all of those issues I’m not worried and don’t think anyone should be.  Not every game will be one handily and there will be games that are outright ugly that still produce a W.  Tuesday night was one of those nights and now the team must move on.  A bigger challenge awaits tonight and if the team get’s too caught up in what was, they’ll not be prepared for what will be.

Other News: If you haven’t heard already, the Lakers plan to unveil a statue of Jerry West outside of Staples Center during All-Star Weekend (which takes place in Los Angeles this year).  The statue of Mr. Clutch will join those of Magic Johnson and Chick Hearn as Lakers related tributes outside of the team’s home arena.  It’s not yet known if West will be depicted as a player or an executive, but you can go here to drop a vote on which version of the Logo should be erected.

The Nuggets Coming in:  At 4-4, the Nuggets are still searching for some continuity and momentum in the early part of the season.  They’re coming off two straight losses (Bulls, Pacers) and had one of the worst defensive quarters in NBA history against Indiana when they gave up 54 points as the Pacers shot 20-21 from the field.

And the problems they’re having aren’t just limited to finding a rhythm in the season’s early going.  They’re currently struggling with injuries as two thirds of their big man rotation (Kenyon, Birdman) are out while recovering from knee surgeries and that’s really hurt their defense and rebounding.  They’ve been forced to play Shelden Williams and Melvin Ely a combined 40 minutes a night and also had to go small at times with Al Harrington playing the four.  Needless to say, this isn’t a recipe for success.

And of course there is the ongoing issue of what’s going to happen with Carmelo Anthony.  Will he get traded?  Will he sign the extension that’s been on the table for months?  No one knows for sure, but it’s got to be a distraction for a team that’s not been known to be the most focussed group in the league.  And while George Karl is back on the bench after his battle with throat cancer (and it’s great to have coach Karl back), there’s not much he can do besides play the guys that he has and try to keep his group on the same page each night.  So while it’s not a mess in Denver, I continue to get the feeling that we’re not too far away from it.

All that said, this team still does have talent.  Just because ‘Melo has that cloud doubt surrounding his future doesn’t mean his still not producing high quality numbers.  Though is scoring is a bit down from years past, he’s still putting up 24 points a game on 49% shooting (including 47% from three where he’s cut his attempts down from over 5 last year, to only 2.4 this season).  He’s also grabbing his highest number of rebounds a game (7.4) in three years.  And while the numbers for these players are down from last season, the Nuggs still also have Billups, Nene, JR Smith, and Ty Lawson as the core of a team that can easily go on big runs offensively and make any defenses night difficult.

Nugget Blogs:  Go check out the fine work that Jeremy and crew at Roundball Mining Company are doing on a daily basis.

Keys to game:  The Lakers are in for a test tonight.  Throw out the records tonight because the Nuggets are a team that always seems to raise their respective games when they face off against the Lakers.  So if the Lakers are going to win the game they’ll need to do the little things well and pay attention to detail on both sides of the ball in order to diminish Denver’s strengths and enhance their own.

Offensively, that means going inside early and often to batter the Nuggets’ interior.  With Denver having a depleted front line, Gasol and Odom should be featured in the paint and the Lakers guards/wings should be penetrating the ball in order to get high percentage shots at the basket.  Gasol will likely be guarded by Nene so I’d like to see Pau use his mid-range jump shot to set up his drives to the basket early in order to get the big Brazilian off balance.  Once Pau gets his offense going he’ll require extra attention and that’s when the other Lakers (especially Odom) can get going by slashing off the ball and getting into the gaps of Denver’s interior defense.

The other key offensive match up of course involves Kobe.  I was not too pleased with Kobe’s tactics on Tuesday as he often worked outside the framework of the Triangle in order to get his baskets.  And while he was successful doing so, tonight’s match up against Afflalo won’t be nearly as easy and thus that same approach is not advised.  Instead, I’d love to see Kobe operate at the mid and low post and use his strong base to back down Afflalo to try and create good looks in the paint or draw fouls.  I’d also like to see Kobe work more off the ball and make his catches while on the move in order to neutralize the length that Afflalo brings to table.  If Kobe can successfully use the curls, back cuts, and hand off sequences of the Triangle he should be able to score well and do so efficiently.

Defensively, the Lakers primary focus should be slowing Carmelo Anthony.  Ron Artest has had some good success against ‘Melo and I look for him to employ the same tactics that have worked for him in the past.  That means bodying ‘Melo up off the ball and making him work for every catch.  When Anthony does have the ball he should force him to his strong hand and make him drive all the way to the rim where there’s help to contest those interior shots.  Carmelo has a complete offensive game and will try to shake off Ron with jab steps to free up his mid range jumper, but Ron needs to stick close to him and force him to put the ball on the ground.  If ‘Melo does go left, look for him to step back and shoot his jumper off one or two dribbles or for him to jump step into the lane where he can elevate and shoot over the top of his man.  Regardless of whether it’s Artest or Barnes in the game, the Lakers need to follow this game plan and make Anthony work for every bucket.

The other player to really look out for is Billups.  While he’s having a down year so far (only 14.5 points and 4.4 assists a game) he’s still quite dangerous.  He’s been a top performer against the Lakers since the 2004 Finals and I get the sense that every game against the Lakers is circled on his calendar.  Billups is great playing in the P&R and loves for guys to go under the screen so he can step back and shoot his jumper.  When defenders chase him over the top of the screen he still likes to explode off the pick in an attempt to get in the lane and draw fouls so he can go to the FT line and show off his 90% stroke on freebies.

The other match up I’ll be watching in this game is the battle of the benches.  We’ve all been impressed with the Lakers trio of Barnes, Blake, and Brown and how they’ve been able to turn games in the Lakers’ favor in the first 8 games.  Well, the Nuggets boast their own trio of bench players with Ty Lawson, JR Smith, and Al Harrington.  These 6 players match up by playing the same exact positions and whichever unit has the most success will be a major factor in who wins this game.  If Smith comes out hot or Lawson uses his speed to jam the ball down the Lakers’ throats in transition, it could be a long night.  The Lakers need to try and limit these players’ effectiveness while trying to make a difference in their own right by running the Triangle and getting each other good shots as they’ve done all season.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start out west on TNT.  Also listen live on ESPN Radio 710am.

Fast Break Thoughts

Phillip Barnett —  November 10, 2010


*As most of you noticed, Kurt took this morning’s post and shared some insight on how Forum Blue and Gold was started, how it has grown and a little on what it represents. Today is the website’s sixth birthday and the website couldn’t have been started by a better guy. Even though he has the new gig over at Pro Basketball Talk, he’s still loved around these parts.

*Last night, the Lakers improved to 8-0, tying their second best start in franchise history. Yes, a win is a win, but last night’s was one of the ugliest we’ve seen in recent history. Via e-mail from Darius: “[There were] So many isos and Kobe in gunner mode….ugh.  Seriously, last year all over again.” One of the things about Kobe getting hot in the first half is that he tends to try to carry it over to the second half, and sometimes, it’s to no avail. Last night was a prime example. He closed out the second quarter hitting a few jumpers and an and-one with fewer than two seconds left on the clock. He began the third quarter with a make three pointer and the gunning was on. He would go on to take six more shots in the quarter — none of which were taken within the offense. Of course, the whole offense looked terrible last night, and Kobe’s natural reaction is to try and take over in those kind of situations. However, when the opponent is the Minnesota Timberwolves, you’d like to see this Lakers team try and slow things down, and see what kind of opportunities present themselves, instead of trying to create opportunities that aren’t there. Now that I’ve added my two cents, here are some post-game reactions from around the web:

Land O’ Lakers
Silver Screen and Roll
LA Times
Yahoo! Sports
A Wolf Among Wolves

*It appears that the Lakers weren’t the only team who struggled last night. The Miami Heat blew a 22-point lead, thanks in large part to Paul Millsap — a career 10 percent three point shooter — knocking down three consecutive three pointers and a put pack to tie the game as time expired. It is this Miami team, according to Magic Johnson, that has the Lakers off to an 8-0 start. Via the Los Angeles Times:

“I don’t think the mind-set would have been the same if Miami hadn’t done what it did, because what Miami did sparked everybody,” said Johnson, a Lakers vice president who just sold his share of the team ownership. “It sparked Dr. Buss, because, remember, he was going to cut back but he decided to spend the money, so give him a lot of credit, and then it just trickled all the way down. I think it sparked Phil [Jackson] too, and especially the best player in the world. Kobe [Bryant] has now got everybody else on the same page.”

*On that same note, Dexter Fishmore of Silver Screen and Roll feels like Raja Bell deciding to play for the Utah Jazz instead of playing along side Kobe and Co. has put the Lakers in the position they’re currently in. Clark believes that the Lakers bench with Matt Barnes is a lot better than it would have been with Bell:

“[…] on the 14th, the Jazz dropped an offer on Raja (for three years and about $10 million) considerably larger than anything the Lakers could put on the table. Not unreasonably, he called off the meeting with Kobe and signed his name on Utah’s dotted line. I don’t think at the time any of us were driven to tears by this. I mean, it’s just Raja Bell. On the other hand, none of us then suspected how beautifully the series of events he set in motion would ultimately play out for the purple and gold.”

*Lastly, the HoopDoctors named the Lakers as the team of the week and made this fantastic highlight video of the Lakers season up until the Portland game. Enjoy.

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Six years ago this morning, I clicked on a little button that said publish and started a blog with this sentence:

Welcome to my attempt at keeping personal sanity in the midst of the swirling vortex of controversy that is the Lakers.

As I remember, 25 people read it, and they all found the site on accident stumbling through Blogger. But to this day that idea is sort of what this site remains, save it’s not just for me anymore.

Six years later, it feels all so different. The Lakers aren’t controversial, they are steady and professional (well, maybe professional isn’t the word I’d use to describe last night’s Timberwolves game). My sanity is fully up for debate, but life feels far crazier.

Forum Blue & Gold is different, but the same at its core. It’s not really mine anymore. But it still feels like home.

For those of you a little confused, my name is Troy McClure Kurt Helin, you might remember me from such posts as “Tip Off” and “Forum Blue?” I was the guy who started this little site as a hobby and had no plans for what it would become or how it would change my life. It really was my little attempt to keep some sanity and have some fun. I had gotten married and was watching more Lakers games focused in at home on a television rather than slightly blurry-eyed at a bar. Then I’d wake up the next morning and read the analysis of the game — not the Lakers beat writers, who have always been good, but the columnists — and think, “what were they watching?”

Basically, I was watching Rudy T’s painful inside-out, live-or-die by-the-three offense (which works fine with Hakeem surrounded by shooters but was a dud in LA) then picking up the paper and reading about what Shaq said about Mitch. I didn’t care. I wanted to talk basketball, and if nobody else would, I just would start my own little site. I modeled it after Dodger Thoughts. Maybe some others would find me and we could have a semi-smart conversation that didn’t involve how anybody’s ass tasted. There was no marketing plan or goals, no thoughts of monetization (which wasn’t even a word yet), no thoughts of getting into the business, there was just me writing and chatting with likeminded souls.

To me, that’s always what FB&G was and will be. It’s why it’s still home.

I wasn’t totally alone. The NBA blogsphere was just a handful of us — me, Mike at Knickerblogger, Jeff at Celtics Blog, Matt at Blog-a-Bull, Henry at TrueHoop, a few others — and all of us just doing it for fun. Just because. No corporate entities and no money. Which makes it sound far more idealistic than it was — it wasn’t all puppies and rainbows.

Things change. The site grew. FB&G became part of the TrueHoop Network at ESPN, because I liked and trusted those people. More people found the site and the conversations became more interesting. The goal was always not just growth but growth in a way that fit FB&G. That’s why no message boards, there are great Lakers message boards out there but the feel on those is different. FB&G was always seemed a little more mature and nuanced, it seemed to me.

I’ve got this new(ish) gig, a new home on the Web. But I view that as my Upper West Side place in NYC. Posh and somewhat high profile (that may be overstating it, but I’m stuck with this analogy now). Urban, and both stimulating and isolating the way a great city can be. I work hard to make it home like I remember. But it means I am rarely around the place I grew up on the Web (I read everything but rarely participate).

FB&G is that home, it is coming back to may parents place in Woodland Hills to see the Christmas lights up and smell peanut butter cookies being baked. It’s Lakers fans talking Lakers, but in a sane way. Most of the time. It’s warm and comfortable.

It’s all that more because of all of you than me. I was just the host, but the party is no fun with just a host. It took Scott, Darius, Reed, now Philip and Jeff and Bill Bridges and so many others. It took all of you. FB&G is a gathering spot, a warm and inviting one hopefully. One where we can really enjoy celebrating Lakers wins with friends.

And hopefully this season, we’ll get to celebrate another big one. Thanks for coming by and being part of the fun.

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If I spent as much time writing this recap as the Lakers spent playing good basketball against the Timberwolves on Tuesday night, it would last about three more sentences.  However, since you demand more of me than that, I will give this my all.

In a contest that was as strange to watch as any win I can think of off the top of my head, the Lakers outlasted the Timberwolves 99-94 to improve their record to 8-0.  And really, the win is the only positive I’ll choose to really take from this game.  Because for most of the evening, the Lakers just didn’t look interested in playing winning basketball.  I hate to say a bunch of negative things after a win, but tonight this is where we are.

Nearly every positive thing the Lakers did was counter balanced by something that they did not do correctly.  For example:

*Kobe Bryant scored 33 points and on many possessions looked to be the dangerous scorer that we’ve come to know and love.  His jumper was falling, his first step was executed quickly and with purpose, and he hit many shots that had me simply shaking my head they were so deadly in their efficiency.  But that was mostly the first half.  Then the second half came and things turned for him as shots got forced and he hunted foul calls rather than good looks for his teammates.  On the night he needed 28 shots to get those 33 points and when looking at his night on the whole, he seemed more interested in getting his own offense than helping his teammates get theirs.  At one point in the game, Kobe had taken 21 shots and the next closest Laker had taken 9.  This type of shot distribution reminded me of last season where the offense didn’t run as smoothly, with the result being that the Lakers often needed late game heroics in order to pull out a win.  Tonight didn’t require those heroics, but the feeling was the same.

*The Lakers, in some ways, were very active on defense.  They forced 25 turnovers and turned those miscues into 23 points.  They got their hands in passing lanes (9 steals) and pressured ball handlers into making careless mistakes either with their dribble or on a pass.  However, that activity did not carry over to their defensive backboards as they gave up a whopping 26 offensive rebounds to the ‘Wolves (including an astounding 11 to Kevin Love alone).  Often times the Lakers were simply outworked on the glass and even though the ‘Wolves only shot 38% from the floor (missing 57 shots), they were able to stay in the game because they turned so many trips on offense that should have been one and dones into 2nd and 3rd chances to get a single bucket.

Those are just two examples of how the Lakers were both bringing and taking things off the table the entire night, but there are many more examples in what was, again, just a puzzling game to endure.

What struck me as most strange about the game were the closing minutes.  After wrestling with the ‘Wolves all night, the Lakers finally staked out a lead late in the 4th quarter.  But with the lead in hand and only needing to pull off the equivalent of a victory formation and three kneel downs in an NFL game, the Lakers got loose with the ball and quick with their shot attempts to allow Minnesota to stay within striking distance.  On twitter I mentioned that the Lakers acted like they were playing from behind even though they had the lead.  For such a smart, veteran team that typically shows a lot of discipline the Lakers baffled me with how they handled this stretch.

In the end, though, they pulled out the win.  And really, that’s all that matters in this results driven league.  On a night where the Heat blew a 22 point first half lead (and an 8 point cushion in the final 33 seconds) to lose in overtime and the Pacers only missed one shot in an entire quarter (going 20-21 and scoring 54 points in the process), I guess more bizarre things and worse results could have occurred.  The Lakers may have allowed a 20-20 game from Love, but they still won the game on the backs of Kobe and Gasol (who had a quietly effective 18 point, 10 rebound game) as it has been for most of the year.  This surely wasn’t a contest that the Lakers will throw on the highlight reel at the end of the season, but the win counts just as much as the demolition of Portland from Sunday.  So while we’re all left a bit unsatisfied with the victory, I think we can all agree it’s better than the alternative.

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Records: Lakers 7-0, Timberwolves 1-6
Offensive ratings: Lakers 118.3 (1st in NBA), Timberwolves 96.4 (30th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.3 (10th in NBA), Timberwolves 113.3 (30th 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); Timberwolves:Johnny Flynn (out), Martell Webster (out), Luke Ridnour (questionable)

The Lakers Coming in:  At this point, there’s little to say about the Lakers besides that they’re rolling. A 7-0 start with the number one offense and a top ten defense has reminded everyone that this is a pretty good team and that maybe looking East for the eventual NBA champ – at least before the season started – was a mistake.  Besides the Hornets, you’d be hard pressed to find a team that has impressed as much to start the year as the Lakers.

But rather than continue to gloat about all the things the Lakers are doing well or nit pick some of the things they could be doing better, I just want to remind everyone that as good as the Lakers look now there will be some down times ahead.  This team will not go 82-0 and, at some point, will underperform in comparison to the lofty level of play they’ve displayed early this year.  And when it does happen, just try to remember these opening games as they’ll serve as a gentle reminder that regardless of how bad this team can look on any given night, they’re still, you know, pretty good.

On a side note, we’ve noticed that in the past few games the roles of the Lakers’ two rookies have been reversed.  Early in the year it was Ebanks that was getting burn and treating the crowd to some above the rim action.  However, since Luke Walton returned Ebanks has been inactive and Derrick Caracter has suited up and gotten some playing time in Phil’s big man rotation.  Recently Phil said that once Bynum is back, both rooks will likely be inactive and could see some time in the D-League.  For more on this topic, you can go over to the great site D-League Digest and read up on what this means for the rookies.

The Timberwolves Coming in:  There aren’t too many positives to discuss when it comes to the ‘Wolves.  If the Lakers are at the top end of the spectrum of NBA teams, the ‘Wolves are on the complete opposite end.  They’re 1-6 and are last in offensive AND defensive efficiency – which is quite a feat.  Their roster lacks quality depth and a couple of their better players (Flynn and Webster) are out injured.  Their best player – Kevin Love – doesn’t seem to get along with the head coach and only plays 27 minutes a game even though he’s averaging a double-double.  I don’t want to pile on, but this franchise is a mess from the top down and I’m unsure what could turn it around, save for a complete house cleaning.  When looking at their team stats, the one thing they do do well is rebound, so they’ve got that going for them.  Normally I try to find a few things to bring up that can paint a team in a positive light, but in this case it’s just too hard.  This team is probably the worst in the league and it seems like it could be some time before it gets any better.

Timberwolves BlogsA Wolf Among Wolves is a great site that pumps out fantastic work all the time. You should be reading it. Go over there now (we’ll still be here when you get back). It’s that good.

Keys to game:  The last time I thought the Lakers would man handle a team was this past Friday against the Raptors.  What proceeded was a geeked up Raptors team that came ready to play and a Lakers team that went through the motions for most of the contest while potentially looking ahead to a better foe two days later.  Tonight breaks down the same way with the ‘Wolves in town and a road game in Denver waiting on Thursday.  Let’s see if the Lakers can learn from last week and dominate the game from start to finish and not get caught day dreaming about an opponent that is still 48 hours away.

From an X’s and O’s standpoint, getting this win is pretty straight forward.  As mentioned, the ‘Wolves don’t do much well so the Lakers should just concentrate on executing on both sides of the ball and let their superior talent carry them to a W.  No need to force the ball into the player with the biggest mismatch because nearly every Laker is playing with an advantage tonight.  I can’t say this enough, just run the sets.  Make the correct pass then proceed to cut and screen hard.  On defense, pressure when possible, don’t over-help or gamble for steals, and just play sound position defense.  And since the ‘Wolves actually rebound the ball well, be sure to box out (especially on Love) to secure the ball and finish possessions.

One last note, despite the gulf in talent that exists between these two teams one thing I’ll be keeping a close eye on is if Rambis’ familiarity with the Lakers schemes leads to an ability to disrupt the Lakers’ sets.  Will Rambis have his guys deny the wing entry?  Will he have them half or fully front the post?  Will he send double teams on the dribble after Pau and Kobe make their initial moves with the ball?  These are all little things that have given the Lakers fits in the past and a coach with Rambis’ insider knowledge should know these things.  It will be interesting to see how much Rambis tries to throw off the Lakers and how many wrinkles he uses to try and keep the game close.  If I were him I’d be pulling out all the stops. 

Where you can watch:  7:30PM start time out west on Fox Sports West.  Also listen live on ESPN Radio 710AM.