Archives For January 2011

From Dexter Fishmore: SBNation: Lamar Odom strains the vocabulary of hoops criticism. To understand how, begin with the question of positional taxonomy. Every Lakers box score, depth chart and official game program will tell you that Lamar is a power forward, and indeed he is. He plays on the front line alongside either Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol, and on defense he guards opposing fours. But he doesn’t fit neatly into any of the power-forward substrata recognized by the analytical vernacular. Although he can shoot three-pointers with some competence, he’s not a classic “stretch four” in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki. And although he has a potent scoring touch around the rim, he doesn’t have the back-to-the-basket post game of a Carlos Boozer or Zach Randolph. He’s probably closest to the “point forward” archetype that we associate with Scottie Pippen, but even that label seems a bit misapplied, as Lamar doesn’t handle the ball or initiate his team’s offense quite as often as Pippen did his. Lamar spends time in each of these categories but never lingers long in any of them.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Listen up, nerds: I’ve got a pop quiz for you. Without looking it up, and not counting the preseason, can you tell me the last time the Lakers played an overtime game? I’ll give you a few moments to ponder. You can’t come up with it, can you? That’s understandable, because it’s been a long, long time since a Lakers game was tied at the end of regulation. It hasn’t happened since March 4th of 2010 in Miami. The Heat’s starting lineup that night included Quentin Richardson, Michael Beasley and Jermaine O’Neal. Since then, the Lakers have played 88 regular-season and playoff games, and not one of them has gone to OT. That’s a little strange, yes?

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: From an efficiency standpoint, the Lakers are allowing relatively close to the same number of points per 100 possessions this year (101.7) as they did a season ago (101.1). Unfortunately, a figure good enough to tie for fifth last year, only .9 behind the league leader leaves them ninth this season, almost five points worse than the league’s top squad. Good enough for then hasn’t been good enough for now. The relative lack of performance, along with providing a squad struggling with some of the fairly natural issues of focus popping up after three straight Finals runs and consecutive titles, prompted the coaching staff to make some adjustments on the defensive side of the ball a few weeks ago.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Philosophically, Jerry West and Phil Jackson rarely agree on much. The former Lakers star and general manager has long maintained that talent determines championship success. The current Lakers coach believes it’s the system — the triangle, teamwork, managing egos to achieve a final goal — that’s pointed to his 11 championship rings. But there’s at least one point on which the two men reach consensus — the Lakers’ defense needs work. “If there’s a loose ball now, how often do they get it?” West asked as the keynote speaker Thursday during the annual Orange County Automobile Dealers Assn. luncheon. “The reason you ‘can’t play defense’ is because you can’t!”

From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: More revisionist history. In lieu of actual trades or real transaction fodder, it seems like this is the only thing NBA types have to rely upon for talking points at times. This time around, it’s Kobe Bryant talking, and making no sense. Smug beyond belief as a cadre of Denver-area reporters approached him on Thursday to talk all things Carmelo-ish, Bryant brought up his own self-styled soap opera from 2007, one that saw him demand a trade during the spring of that year, a move that nearly resulted in a deal with the Chicago Bulls that fall.

From Brian Kamenetzky, ESPNLA: The front end of the Lakers’ center rotation has been intact since Andrew Bynum returned to the lineup last month. Sunday during practice, they took a step towards getting the back end whole as well. Veteran center Theo Ratliff, who on Nov. 17 underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to perform a partial meniscectomy on his left knee, returned to the practice floor. The 37-year-old Ratliff, a 15-year NBA veteran, hasn’t played since Nov. 9. In eight games, he’s averaging 0.3 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks a game.

From Michael C. Lewis, Salt Lake Tribune: Ron Artest was only about half-listening, fiddling with his iPhone at his locker stall after a recent Los Angeles Lakers victory at Staples Center until part of a question about the Jazz grabbed his attention. “They haven’t won here,” the veteran forward said, looking up with his eyes widening, “in how long?” Yeah, he heard right. The Jazz haven’t beaten the Lakers on the road in 16 consecutive attempts — including eight in a row in the NBA playoffs — dating back more than five years to Jan. 1, 2006, when superstar Kobe Bryant was suspended and only three of his current teammates were on the team.

Five years ago today, the Lakers were in a much different place than they are now. Rather than competing for championships, they were competing just to make the playoffs. They were only one dreadful season removed from trading Shaq, a year that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time in Kobe’s career (a trip to the lottery that netted Andrew Bynum, by the way), and were dealing with the fact that they may have actually been the 2nd best team in LA. A pretty far cry from the back to back defending NBA championship team we see today.

On that faithful Sunday, the Lakers entered the game 2 games over .500, had lost two games in a row and were facing the Raptors. And on that day, Kobe did what was before thought to be impossible. He scored 81 points in a single game in leading the Lakers to a victory in which they trailed for most of the game. Simply amazing. On the 5th anniversary of that game, we take you around the internet with some good stories remembering that day. Enjoy.

From Andy Kamentzky, Land O Lakers: By the time he took a final seat to a thunderous ovation, Bryant had scored 81 points, the second highest single-game total in NBA history. Since that iconic moment, so much has changed regarding Kobe. He’s grown as a player, with a desire to improve that is unmatched by any elite player in the league. He’s grown as a leader, having developed the ability to communicate high standards for teammates without alienating them in the process. He’s grown as a basketball mind, typically a step or two ahead of the competition mentally. And he’s grown as an NBA face, now as popular as he was before scandal derailed his image.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: “I just remember we were down 16 points to a bad Raptors team and we had just lost I think to Houston the game before and it was just kind of doom and gloom. We needed to win and I just got hot,” Bryant said Friday after shootaround in preparation for the Lakers’ game against the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers ending up winning the game 122-104 against a Toronto team that had a record of just 14-26. Los Angeles actually trailed the Raptors by 18 points early on in the third quarter before Bryant really went off, scoring 51 of his 55 second-half points from that point on. Bryant scored 14 points in the first quarter, 12 in the second, 27 in the third and 28 in the fourth.

From Mike Ganter, Toronto Sun: It is five years ago today that Kobe Bryant made headlines at the expense of the Toronto Raptors. Jay Triano was an assistant and Jose Calderon was a rookie when Bryant got locked in like no one before or since other than that Wilt Chamberlain fellow who had 100 way back in 1962. Bryant’s 81 points that night are the stuff legends are made of. What people looking back on that night though forget, and something Triano pointed out, is the Raptors had a 16-point lead as late as the second half in that game. And what Joe Public doesn’t realize is that night the Raptors went into the game intent on giving Bryant single coverage and making sure no one else around him got on any kind of roll. Even if Kobe had gone off for 40, the thinking was, they limit the surrounding cast to very little and they still have a good shot to win the game.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Five years ago Saturday, Kobe Bryant took over a game like nobody ever quite had before. Sure, Wilt got triple digits one time, but that had an element of sham to it (his teammates were fouling to stop the clock and get the ball back so they could feed him and get him over the mark). Kobe Bryant didn’t drop 81 on the Toronto Raptors because he could, he did it because he needed to. Well, a little of both, really. But he did it in the flow of the game. The Lakers trailed early to the Raptors and L.A. was playing in one of its lazy funks that it still suffers from at times. And, as he does now, Kobe decided to put the team on his back and carry them to a win.

UPDATE: From Mark Medina, LA Times Laker Blog: Finally, there came a point when Coach Phil Jackson felt comfortable enough the Lakers would secure a victory that Kobe Bryant no longer needed to be on the court. “Maybe I should take him out because the game is in the bag,” Jackson recalled saying to Lakers assistant coach Frank Hamblen, as detailed in the updated edition of his book, “Sacred Hoops.” According to Jackson, Hamblen responded this way: “There would be a riot.” That’s because at that point very little of the 18,887 at Staples Center cheered because the Lakers would prevail in a 112-104 victory over Toronto after overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit exactly five years ago. No, the fans chanted “M-V-P” throughout the game and stood up for the entire fourth quarter as they witnessed Bryant scoring 81 points, marking the second-highest scoring total in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point performance with Philadelphia against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962. It’s a good thing Jackson heeded Hamblen’s advice because he initially considered yanking Bryant when he had 77 points, one point behind Chamberlain’s then-No.-2-all-time mark when Philadelphia visited the Lakers in a 151-147 triple-overtime loss on Dec. 8, 1961.

UPDATE #2: From Michael Goldsholl, Lakers Nation: Jan. 22, 2006; 7:25 p.m. pacific standard time. Five minutes until the tipoff of the Lakers and Raptors game at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Lakers are barely floating above .500 at 21-19 and the Raptors are sitting at a lowly 14-26. There is not much for fans to expect of the game; the Lakers will probably win by a just-better-than-slim margin and it’s pretty much a given Kobe’s going to score at least 35 points. After the final buzzer, the season will move on, and the game will ultimately be forgotten. Oh, how the basketball world was so terribly mistaken.

Finally, take a look at the box score from that game. Yeah, the Lakers had Lamar Odom at that time, but look at the other names. Kwame, Smush, Cook, George. How did that team even make the post-season? And here is the video of his historical scoring outburst. Even 5 years later, all I can say is WOW.

When previewing this game, I mentioned that a major key to this match up would be for the Lakers to play a controlled game where they kept an even keel and didn’t let the emotion of the game get away from them. Well, they were able to do just that as they defeated the Nuggets 107-97. The Lakers played with precision and focus, ultimately showing that in a game that could have gone either way (especially at half time) that they could still seize control of a game and take down an opponent with a deliberate attack.

At the start of the game, the Lakers showed their hand early by trying to establish the interior with post ups. Bynum are Pau were both featured from the get go and while both big men missed some bunnies inside, the plan was clear. The Lakers were going to go inside and attack Nene and Kenyon Martin and make them defend the rim.

But while the Lakers probed the interior trying to find their rhythm, Ron Artest started the contest with his game in a groove. He too went to work inside, getting his first three baskets on lay-ins after attacking Carmelo on quick moves to the rim and strong post ups. He then complemented his inside scores with a corner three pointer that pushed his first quarter point total to 9. Ron’s early offense kept the Lakers in the game and his work on that side of the ball seemed to only fuel his defensive effort against Carmelo Anthony. Ultimately, Ron scored 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting while helping to hold a frustrated Carmelo Antony to only 23 points on 24 shots from the field.

In the 2nd quarter it wasn’t the starters that made the difference, though, it was the bench unit. With about 2 minutes remaining in the first frame, Phil went to the group consisting of Blake, Brown, Walton, Odom, and Gasol to settle the team down and see if they could finally put together some consistent offense and defense. This group rewarded Phil’s faith by executing well on both sides of the  ball and getting the team into a rhythm that would last the rest of the game. Mind you, they didn’t cut into the 3 point deficit that began the first quarter (the Lakers trailed by that same three points at the half) but what they did do was slow the game down and start to convert on the types of plays that the Lakers wanted to emphasize. Using an inside-out attack and good ball movement, the Lakers got good looks at the hoop for Odom and Gasol (and later Bynum) and then swung the ball back outside for shots by Shannon and Blake. When shots missed the Lakers used their excellent floor balance and spacing to hit the offensive glass and get second shots at the hoop. By the time halftime came, the Lakers had grabbed 8 offensive rebounds which helped them stay close as the Nuggets continued to score the ball well by knocking down threes (5 of 11 in the first half) and get into the open court.

Where the game turned, though, was in the 3rd quarter. Right when the period started, it was obvious that Kobe was going become a more active participant in the Lakers’ sets and not just rely on simple post ups to the bigs to get the Lakers going on offense. After playing set up man and facilitator in the first half (taking only 4 shots), Kobe came out shooting in the third period making 6 of his 10 shots from the floor and completely taking over the game on offense. Mind you, he didn’t dominate simply by making shots. Instead Kobe mixed in pin-point passes with his fantastic baseline jumpers and post ups from both low blocks to completely dissect the Nuggets defense. When Denver double teamed him, he ably kicked out to shooters both with simple strong side kickouts and precise skip passes to the weak side to set up shooters. Every time Kobe touched the ball he seemed to make the correct read and by the time the quarter was over he had poured in 14 points and 4 assists in the frame playing a major role in turning the Lakers 3 point halftime deficit into a 10 point lead going into the 4th. You really can’t say enough about the offensive clinic he put on as Denver literally had no clue how to go about slowing him, and subsequently, the team down in that period.

The final 12 minutes was much of the same from the Lakers as they combined their 2nd and 3rd quarter showings to create a solid 4th quarter that would see Denver gain no ground. In the last period the bench came in and played well like they had earlier and then the starters came in after their normal rest to clean up the rest of the game. When the final buzzer sounded, the Lakers had proven that, on this night at least, their focus and determination could not be disrupted by Denver. Every small push by the Nuggets was countered and whether it was a set play to get Pau a lob or just a power post up by Bynum, the Lakers continued with their game plan of attacking the paint to keep Denver at bay.

A couple of other key stats/notes from this game:

*I mentioned that the Lakers had 8 first half offensive rebounds, but they kept that pace up for the rest of the game finishing with 15. Gasol had 6 on the night to go along with 7 defensive boards and 19 points – included in both his o-rebound and point total was a snare of a Shannon Brown miss at the end of the third quarter that Gasol put-back to before the horn sounded to push the Lakers lead to 10. On twitter I called that board a “man’s rebound” as Pau muscled his way inside and grabbed the ball between two Nuggets.  On the night the Lakers out rebounded the Nuggs by 20, 47-27.

*Kobe played a great game on offense, but so did his counterpart. Arron Afflalo had 22 points on only 11 shots and made 5 of his 7 three point attempts. Whenever Kobe (or another defender) left him, Afflalo made the Lakers pay with another made jumper. After he made a few in a row you would have thought that the Lakers would have paid a bit more attention to him but with the defense clearly geared on slowing Anthony, Billups, and to a lesser extent Nene, Afflalo just continued to be the open man. Luckily tonight his ability to knock down shots didn’t turn the game but you could see that he was ready and able to take advantage of the space given to him.

*I mentioned Pau’s 19 points, but LO and Bynum also had very good games (again). Even though Drew suffered through some foul issues in the 2nd half, he was still able to play 27 minutes scoring 17 points, grabbing 7 rebounds and blocking 2 shots. LO, meanwhile, had 18 and 10 with 2 assists off the bench. Combined that’s 55 points, 30 rebounds, and 6 assists for the Lakers’ trio of bigs and as James said in the comments: “This is one of those games where I’m reminded how unfair it is to have Pau, Drew and Lamar on the same team.”

Records: Lakers 31-13 (2nd in West), Nuggets 24-17 (7th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.1 (1st in NBA), Nuggets 111.7 (2nd in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.5 (9th in NBA), Nuggets 108.5 (19th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Nuggets: Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Nene Hilario
Injuries: Lakers: Matt Barnes & Theo Ratliff (both out), Andrew Bynum (questionable); Nuggets: Chris Andersen

The Lakers Coming in: There are two ways to look at the Lakers right now – either they’re winners of 8 of their last 10 games or they’re coming off a tough loss against the Mavs that has them trending downward again. I think a lot of folks would say the latter is more true and I can’t blame them. However, as I mentioned yesterday, the Lakers are also not the types to win more than 6-7 games in a row and then they lose a game or two only to start another run. Based off that math, the Lakers should be turning it around right about now, ready to start another push by rattling off 3-4  (or more) consecutive games.

What stands in the way of that logic is the fact that the Lakers may be in the midst of the toughest part of their season schedule. Starting with the OKC game on Monday, the Lakers opponents have been/will be Dallas, Denver, Utah, Sacramento, Boston, Houston, then San Antonio.  After that brutal stretch, the Lakers embark on their “Grammy” road trip where they play 7 games away from Staples in 11 days and face a slate that includes New York, Boston (again), and Orlando (with Memphis, New Orleans, and Charlotte – always a tough foe for the Lakers – thrown in). Even the most optimistic fan would say that’s a slew of tough games over the next month with the potential to rack up losses a real possibility. This stretch will help define this team…we’ll see if it’s for the better or not.

The Nuggets Coming in: There really hasn’t been much going on with this team lately. I’m not sure if there’s even anything worthwhile to discuss.

If only those two sentences were close to being true…

Trade rumors have been swirling around this team all season as the Melo-drama has been going full boar for over a month. Frankly, it’s been exhausting following this as a fan, so I can only assume the behind the scenes strain this has put on the players and coaches. As New Jersey and New York (and Houston and others) all threw their hats into the ring to acquire Anthony, the Nuggets have still had games on their schedule and have been trying to block out the distractions to stay competitive in the deep-as-ever West.  And it’s not just Melo that’s had to deal with trade rumors. Billups has also been rumored to be part of the Nets/Nuggets trade talks and for a man that’s from Colorado and sees the Nuggets as his hometown team that’s a tough thing to deal with. 

Through it all, though, they currently sit 7th in the conference and with the distractions starting to die down (some) this may be the best time for them to make a real push back up the standings. They’re coming off a very good win over the Thunder on Wednesday and in their past 5 games they’ve won 4 – including a drubbing of the Heat.  After the Lakers they face the Pacers, Wizards, Pistons, Cavs, 76ers, and Nets so I’m sure they’d just love to have back to back wins over the Thunder and Lakers and carry some momentum into a pretty soft stretch of their schedule. Right now, this team is dangerous and I have a strong feeling we’ll see a strong effort from them tonight.

Nuggets Blogs: Jeremy does an excellent job covering the Nuggets at Roundball Mining Company. He’s been all over this ‘Melo stuff since the get go and spearheads consistently smart analysis at that site. Go give ’em a read.

Keys to game:Normally X’s and O’s litter this part of the preview and while we’ll get to that stuff in a second, I can say that there may be no bigger key to this game than controlling the emotion and feelof this game. Denver is always a tough road game and the fans there love to see the Lakers come to town one day and leave the next after watching the Nuggets hang an L on their heads. This makes for a rowdy arena with hometown supporters ready to burst at any big shot or play from the Nuggs. Tonight, emotions will be even higher than normal due to the drama surrounding Anthony. In the Thunder game, he got booed but that only seemed to rally him (he had 35 points) and the team to the point that they pulled out an impressive win. So, the Lakers will need to find a way to keep an even keel during a game that will be emotionally charged. They’ll need focus and calm in the face of a team that’s looking to circle the wagons and use the moment as a rallying point.

From a tactical standpoint, this game will hinge like most Lakers/Nuggets games do which is on the ability of the Lakers to exploit their size advantage inside on offense while limiting Anthony and Billups on the other end. That means that Gasol will need to have more than a solid game against Kenyon Martin – a player that loves to try and bully Pau into mistakes – and Bynum will have to use his length and power to get deep position against Nene and establish the low post. If both those things happen on offense, the Lakers should be able to establish a tempo that works in their favor.

Defensively, there will be no better test to Ron’s even-more-stingy-of-late defense than sticking with Carmelo. Many tout Anthony as the purest scoring wing in the league and I’d have a hard time arguing with that. Forget that the advanced stats say that he’s not that efficient for a moment and just concentrate on the fact that he’s a major threat from any position on the floor – three point line to the low block. His footwork is excellent and his triple-threat work rivals Kobe’s as the best in the league. Plus, he’s strong as hell so knocking him off his spot or keeping him off the offensive glass is a problem when he’s determined to get there. All that said, slowing him down is possible. Ron needs to fight him for space and consistently push him to the baseline regardless of what side of the floor he sets up on. When he drives hard, the goal is to stay on his hip in order to contest his step back jumper and rely on big man help rotating to contest shots at the rim. When he goes to his left hand, he’s prone to spin back to his right to shoot his jumper, so be aware that any drive left is likely a move to set up a counter. After that, all a defender can do is get a hand up and contest the shot. If he makes it, tip your cap and go back the other way.

As for Billups, he’s still the same guy that loves to shoot PUJIT’s from deep or feint his jumper and drive to the rim to draw contact and earn foul shots. I’d love to see Kobe take some minutes on him but with Afflalo having an excellent year shooting the ball (not to mention his excellent size for a SG) it’s doubtful that Phil can afford to slide Fisher up on defense. So, the Lakers will have to play solid team D on Chauncey by getting back on D to contest his transition shots and then building a wall higher up in the lane to discourage his drives both in the open court and in the P&R.

The other key to the game is slowing the Nuggets’ bench. JR Smith, Ty Lawson, and Al Harrington represent an explosive trio on offense that feasts in the open court. They’re all dual threats from behind the arc and attacking the rim so there’s no set way to play them besides hustling back, finding them early in transition, and then playing them straight up. They all require attention, but Smith and Lawson are much more explosive and tend to turn their games up when the Lakers are the opponent.

In the end, this is a tough game and it can go either way. However, the Lakers know what it takes to beat this team. If LA can limit Denver’s runs and keep the pace of the game slow-ish there’s a good chance that LA leaves the victor. But the work must get done to make it happen. Good close outs, strong rebounding, and determination in getting back on D will win the day. Let’s get this win.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start out west on KCAL and ESPN. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.

The Lakers Nation’s LD2K got his hands on this video of Kobe Bryant’s state title run with Lower Merion High School and sent me the link last night. Check out the seven minute clip for some Kobe high school highlights, including a few fantastic passes from the young KB.

From Bret LaGree, Hoop Speak: Michael Schumacher’s 2007 biography of George Mikan, Mr. Basketball: George Mikan, the Minneapolis Lakers, and the Birth of the NBA, attempts both to represent Mikan as the league’s proto-superstar and to imply the degree to which the league has transformed from an unstable, regional, American league into a financially robust, worldwide phenomenon. It’s easy to forget both how new the NBA is and how different the second half of its existence has been from its first. Easier, perhaps, when one’s conscious memory encompasses only that second half of the league’s existence. Befitting the NBA’s origin as a less popular alternative to college basketball, my earliest conscious memory of watching live basketball dates to Patrick Ewing repeatedly goaltending early in the 1982 NCAA Championship Game.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Kobe Bryant sat in Carmelo Anthony’s home arena on a day when Bryant’s career inched further toward immortality with the news he’ll become the first athlete to have his hands and feet imprinted at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. It’ll happen next month, the day before the All-Star Game. For that, Bryant is set to beat out LeBron James in fan votes for the first time since 2006, when Bryant’s ballot box got stuffed by 81 points on a certain January night. Speaking of points, Bryant is now 51 points shy of Hakeem Olajuwon and eighth place on the all-time NBA scoring list. Bryant’s legacy is by now secure.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: I think it was three seasons ago I stood in a nearly empty Lakers locker room, chatting with Kobe Bryant.* Tired of talking basketball, his mind soon wandered to Hollywood. “You know, Brian,” he said, “this hoops thing has worked out pretty well, I’d say, but at the same time I’ve always been a little jealous of people like Harrison Ford, Al Pacino, Michael Douglas, George Lucas, Doris Day, Natalie Wood, Yul Brenner, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, and Joan Crawford. People who have had their hands and feet immortalized outside the Chinese Theater in Hollywood.” “That, Brian, would be really cool.”

From C. A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: In the midst of watching the Los Angeles Lakers get carpet bombed on their way to another loss, this time at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, I was troubled by a single recurring thought … How in the hell are the Los Angeles Lakers good at 3 point defense?  All too often, they play like they did last night … late close outs, poor rotations, needless doubling of non-threatening post players; these are staples of the Laker defense on any given night.  And yet, year after championship winning year, the Lakers are amongst the leaders in opposing 3 point field goal percentage.  They were third two seasons ago, first last season and currently rank fifth this season, despite last night’s air raid.

This may seem random, but I love visiting Basketball-Reference.  I go there multiple times a day just to search through their vast database of stats, games, teams, and players looking for nuggets of information that better help me understand the game. (I also use their stats for our game previews for info on offensive and defensive efficiency, pace, and other useful info to help look at that day’s match up.)

Today, when visiting the site, I found an interesting stat that I wanted to share. Did you know that since the 2007-08 season (the one in which the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol) that the Lakers’ longest winning streak (in a single season) has only been 11 games? They’ve reached that mark a single time. Their second longest streak has been 10 games (twice) and besides that their longest streak has been all of 8 games.  This year, the Lakers longest streak has been 7 games, you’ll surely remember it since it just ended against the Clippers this past Sunday. (On a side note, there have been 12 streaks longer than the Lakers’ 11 game tear during this same time frame. They’ve been accomplished by 8 different teams with multiple streaks by the Celtics, Cavs, and Mavs in that time.)

I bring this all up because I think we can all agree that one of the more frustrating aspects of following the Lakers this season has been the lack of ability to build momentum. Early in the year, the Lakers seemed to have everything going well but soon after starting out so hot the team fell into a roller coaster of a season where a handful of wins was followed by a few losses. And on like that we’ve gone. The team takes a couple of steps forward, a couple backward and we all sit back and talk about what’s wrong with the team and wonder if any of the recurring issues we see will be the fatal flaw that ends the team’s reign over the league. 

I think most fans would agree that all they want is consistent play and the chance to win each game; for the team to play hard and smart and to their potential. If that happens, most think, the wins will follow and ultimately we’re all happy.

But if pressed harder, I think what fans really want is another championship and for this team to play its best basketball in May and June. For a parade at the end of the year and for Kobe and Fisher to hold up 6 fingers as they grasp on to another trophy.  And therein lies the rub because what fans really want (a win each night AND a championship at the end of the year) don’t always mean that the team is going to play the way we want on any given night.

In the comments, there was a brief debate about statement games. I think if – taking from my earlier example – fans can’t get a win each night, they at least want wins against the best teams. A team like the Spurs (2 weeks ago) or the Mavs (last night). Commenter Joe summed up this side of the argument well when he said:

(Dallas) is a game that has more meaning than against a non playoff contending team. If I were the Lakers, I wouldn’t want to let these good teams to keep on beating us and give them more confidence against us going into the playoffs. I mean if the Lakers believe they are still far and away the best team and can just flip the switch like they did last year come playoff time, they will lose, they need to let go of the arrogance.

However, to counter that another commenter (Dirty Sanchez) stated that:

A statement game during the regular season for a two time defending champion is an oxymoron. LA knows what type of effort it takes to win in the playoffs. You cant judge whats happening now will be what the future holds. Don’t get me wrong the team is frustrating to watch, but at the same time things can change at anytime.

And this is what it’s like to follow this team. Frustration. Confidence. This is the roller coaster we all ride on the journey towards the end of the season. I wish I knew which side was right but I don’t. None of us do and we won’t until the end of the line. Such is this Lakers’ season. I have a feeling this won’t be the last time we’re all wondering what’s wrong while also feeling perfectly confident that it will all be better in the next game.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The Lakers’ fans might be blaming reserves Shannon Brown and Luke Walton, who shot 1 for 9 and were on the court while an even second-half game exploded into a double-digit lead for the Dallas Mavericks. Lakers coach Phil Jackson acknowledged the team started “messing around” on offense instead of getting the ball inside properly to Pau Gasol. ut the consensus inside the Lakers locker room after their 109-100 loss Wednesday night was that lackadaisical defense did in the Lakers … again. “We were just being lazy,” center Andrew Bynum said. “I’m quite sure if you look at the tape, everybody is kind of stagnant and just staying still. And we didn’t cut off the baseline.

From Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: In almost a single-file motion, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Steve Blake, Pau Gasol and Shannon Brown trudged their way toward the locker room in American Airlines Arena with different expressions on their faces. The Lakers were just minutes removed from a 109-100 loss Wednesday to the Dallas Mavericks and the varying movements, ranging from Bryant, Blake and Brown staring straight ahead, Odom wiping his face with his jersey and Gasol looking at the ground revealed the unanimous frustration the Lakers currently face. That’s expected after a loss, but the reasons why the team’s frustration level remain high point to their seemingly inability to capitalize off any momentum they build during stretches of the season. Instead, any morsels of progress come crashing down into a head-scratching loss that makes the Lakers feel they lost the little ounce of momentum they once had.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: If you’ve been burning precious leisure time watching the 2010-11 Los Angeles Lakers, you know there’s been something awry about their perimeter defense all season long. Guards double pointlessly on post threats who aren’t all that threatening. Guys get rubbed out on high screens way too easily. Opposing shooters get open in transition because there’s a Laker or two still at the other end complaining about a no-call. The disease has many symptoms, but the end result is that opponents are getting open outside the arc with undue frequency. It hasn’t always come back to haunt the Lakers – coming into tonight’s game against Dallas, the champs actually ranked fifth in opponents’ three point percentage – but it’s a systemic weakness that’s contributed to some ugly defensive efforts. Tonight’s loss, a 109 to 100 pasting at the hands of the Mavericks, was among the ugliest.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Call it a Tale of Two Halves. In the first half, the Lakers played fairly solid ball, save a couple of minutes in the second quarter. But in the second half, the third quarter in particular, the wheels came off the wagon. Turnovers, poor decisions on offense, breakdowns on D, and some white-hot shooting from Jason Kidd and Jason Terry did them in. Dallas owned the last seven minutes of the third quarter, and continued its domination into the fourth. The Lakers tried to make a late push, but the hole was too deep. The Mavs picked up a win they were desperate to get, while the Lakers missed a chance to keep a Western Conference rival, slumping but healthier now with the return of Dirk Nowitzki, on the mat for another night. Perhaps most disappointing was the lack of pushback from the visitors. They had no answer for what became an extended run for the Mavs.


Quick Update: Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook has a post on how the Lakers’ triangle offense beat the Dallas Mavericks zone. Make sure you go check that out here.

There will be games when scoring will be enough. Tonight, against the Mavs, was not one of those games. What the Lakers needed was defensive effort and the stops that follow but instead they tried to rely on their offense to carry the way and they fell way short by the score 109-100.

Early on, it didn’t look like the Lakers would be forced to pay for their poor defensive effort. Actually, scratch that. Early on, I thought the Lakers approach of leaving certain players open on defense wasn’t going to hurt them. Intent to ensure that Dirk didn’t find his offensive rhythm, the Lakers forced Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, and Sasha Pavlovic to shoot open jumpers and early on only Pavlovic made them pay. Neither Kidd or Stevenson could make open shots and the Lakers happily took the ball the other way to execute their offense quite well.  The ball went inside to Gasol and Bynum, Fisher and Kobe were making excellent choices with the ball and the team was scoring pretty easily. By the time the first quarter ended, the Lakers were up 31-23 and it looked they were well on their way to a win.

Then, the rest of the game happened and Dallas turned the game around by attacking the Lakers’ weaknesses. Once Dallas went to their bench they increased the pace of the game and they started to find the range on their jumpers. Led by notorious Laker Killer Jason Terry, the Mavs got into the open court and created open looks for their shooters by running the Lakers defense into the paint and then passing back out to shooters at the three point line.

But, it wasn’t just in the open court that the Mavs were doing damage. In the 3rd quarter, the Mavs pick and roll heavy attack started to further break down the Lakers defense. With Jason Kidd quarterbacking the Mavs’ attack, they got one good look after another and turned the game from a back and forth contest where the Lakers were completely in the game to a one sided affair that put the Lakers in a deep hole.

Whether the ageless point guard was deciding to shoot or create for one of his teammates, Kidd completely controlled the game action. He sank jumper after jumper of his own (making 8 of his 12 shots including 5 of his 8 three pointers for 21 points) and then used the Lakers closeouts (when they did close out) against them to set up his mates. The main beneficiary of Kidd’s passes was Shawn Marion who, like his former Suns teammate, had a throwback game showing off a variety floaters, half hooks, and set jumpers.  Marion finished the night with a 22 point effort of his own (on only 13 shots) and hit several shots to curb a potential Lakers’ run.

The Lakers did do a variety of things right tonight, but when a team’s success is limited to only one side of the ball it’s often not going to be enough to win. The Lakers found that out first hand tonight as they only had a couple of bad stretches on offense but found nearly a full game of poor defense too much to compensate for.  Furthermore, even when the Lakers did start to tighten up their defense, it was too late as the Mavs had already found their rhythm and just hit the contested shots too. Kidd, Terry, and Marion were all perfect examples of this as they buried some tough shots down the stretch that ultimately did the Lakers in.

Looking at this game from a glass half full approach, the Lakers can use this game as a teaching tool. By reviewing the film to this game they can see where their defensive rotations were bad and hopefully get to the root cause of some of their miscommunication on that side of the ball. Offensively, they can also take some positives away as the Mavs’ zone did little to disrupt the Lakers O and both Kobe and Gasol were able to have good games by getting good shots in the teeth of the defense. So, despite the loss there are things to build on. Too bad one of those growth points isn’t a victory.