From Ben R, Silver Screen & Roll: If you finally wanted to see a team take advantage of a squad that is missing its second and third centers, you had the Atlanta game, as whenever Dwight Howard exited the game, the Hawks went nuts on the interior. Granted, every team does this, Pau Gasol or no Pau Gasol, because Dwight is that much of a difference maker around the rim, but it especially shows when your undersized frontcourt players get abused by a team like Atlanta. Metta World Peace shouldn’t have to cover Al Horford, Kobe Bryantshould never have to be saddled with the responsibility of checking Josh Smith, and so forth. If there is any downside to the eight man rotation that Mike D’Antoni has settled on, this is it. At some juncture, the team was going to have to deal with the consequences of not playing Robert Sacre or signing an additional big. Granted, between the lack of good options available to sign and Sacre’s inexperience, the Lakers have very good reasons for carrying on as they’ve been doing; not a lot of teams are going to lose two of three players at a key position for a fair chunk of the year. As noted last week, there might be some on-court problems to work out, but if there’s any place to see Pau’s impact, it’s in a set of matchups such as these.
From Eric Pincus, LA Times: The common thread in Lakers’ losses this season has been turnovers, poor transition defense and free-throw shooting. Currently the Lakers are the worst team in the league from the free-throw line, shooting just 68.9%. After every practice, the players routinely shoot to improve and in the team’s gym. By and large, they are accurate. A board tracking their progress was recently updated to show individual percentages through the All-Star break. Steve Nash and Jodie Meeks led the way at 97% over 1,278 and 1,340 cumulative attempts, respectively. Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake, Earl Clark and rookie Robert Sacre also averaged at least 90% in practice. In games Bryant dipped to 84.6%, Blake to 54.5%, Clark to 67.6% and Sacre to 63.6%. Nash’s actual percentage of 91.9% was actually second to Meeks’ 92.7%. Dwight Howard hit a legitimate 82% in the gym (1252-1532) but in games he couldn’t come close to that level of accuracy (49.5%).
From Suki Thind, Lakers Nation: Earlier this season, I wrote an article on how Antawn Jamison put up very solid numbers when given 25 minutes on the floor. At the time, he was in the “dog house” and wasn’t getting on the court at all, but injuries to the team allowed him to finally get off the bench and have a chance at producing. Similarly, Earl Clark’s versatility allowed him to continue playing even with Pau Gasol back on the floor (as he initially got his chance as a result of injuries to Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Jordan Hill). Unfortunately, Pau Gasol was sidelined once again on February 5th with a torn plantar fascia. However, a few games after that, as a result of a consistent slot in the rotation and a larger responsibility, Antawn Jamison came alive and has produced the way many Lakers fans–including myself–had envisioned him doing so at the start of the season.
From Janis Carr, OC Register: The Lakers did it once this season. They beat Oklahoma City last month by nine points. But can they do it again? The Lakers face Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder on Tuesday for a fourth time, the finale coming on the road, where they have not fared well this season. They are 10-19 away from Staples Center, a mark that includes a 114-108 loss to the Thunder in December. “We just have to try and not let their crowd really get into the game, which is easier said than done,” Steve Blake said. “It’s one of the toughest places to play in the NBA. We have to somehow try to keep them off rhythm. It’s not going to be easy, but we can do it.”
From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Kobe Bryant saw Serge Ibaka’s below-the-belt hit Sunday on Blake Griffinand thought that some retaliation was in order. “I probably would have smacked [Ibaka] in the mouth,” Bryant said after the Los Angeles Lakerspracticed Monday. “I would have dealt with the pain after.” The Lakers head on the road to play Ibaka and theOklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday. The NBA has not stated whether Ibaka, who received a flagrant foul 1 for his punch of Griffin, will be suspended. Ibaka was not ejected and stayed in the game Sunday as the Thunder held on to beat Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers, 108-104. “It doesn’t matter,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said when asked if he would plan for Ibaka to play. “They’re deep. It won’t change what we do, more or less. Obviously it would help us because he’s a good player. But we won’t change anything up.”