With their 116-94 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Lakers have moved to a 4-1 record since the All-Star break, one game under .500 and two games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference. While the Lakers did play well tonight, the implications of the win are much more important than how they actually went about winning the game. With a home loss to a very beatable team in the Timberwolves, it would have put the Lakers back three games behind the Houston Rockets with games against the Hawks, Thunder and Bulls coming up in the next five. And while the other five teams competing for the last 2-3 playoff spots (Utah, Houston, Golden State, and Portland) have all been struggling recently, it’s not in the Lakers best interest to keep pace with their struggles if their ultimate goal is to make the post season. Considering their upcoming schedule — 12 of the last 23 games will come against non-playoff and/or bubble-playoff teams — they have an opportunity to finish the season very strongly, and could very well end up as high as the seventh seed. I’m not necessarily trying to get ahead of Sunday’s game against the Hawks, but merely pointing out the importance of a mundane win over the Timberwolves at this point in the season. Every win matters from here on out, and losses will seemingly matter more.
Before we look ahead to Sunday, let’s take a look at what they did well tonight.
As expected, the Lakers didn’t make any moves as the NBA Trade Deadline came and passed. With the Lakers struggling to get back to .500 this year, many wondered if another big move was on the horizon for the Forum Blue and Gold, but there was never anything that made any sense. There were rumblings about both Howard and Pau Gasol being moved (which would have potentially been a bit louder had he not been injured). But in reality, the Lakers don’t have any pieces that other teams want that they want to move. Going into this trade season, it was expected that the team the Lakers had before the All-Star break would be the team that they finished with at the end of the season. The nature of the contracts, the ages of the guys with those contracts, and the fact that this team hasn’t really gotten a chance to really play together as a unit — especially under D’Antoni’s system.
Furthermore, there were no trades that were of the blockbuster caliber. J.J. Redick was the centerpiece in the most high profile trade of the day, and Thomas Robinson was the headliner in the biggest (and only) trade from yesterday. While I won’t provide much analysis here (i.e. none) here’s a look at all of the trades from the last two days.
Orlando gets: Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb, and Tobias Harris
Milwaukee gets: J.J. Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith
Houston gets: Thomas Robinson and a future 2nd Round Pick
Sacramento gets: Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas
Phoenix gets: Marcus Morris
Portland-Oklahoma City Trade
Portland gets: Eric Maynor
Oklahoma City gets: The draft rights to Giorgio Printezis
Oklahoma City-New York Trade
Oklahoma City gets: Ronnie Brewer
New York gets: 2nd Round Pick
Dallas gets: Anthony Morrow
Atlanta gets: Dahntay Jones
Atlanta-Philadelphia-Golden State Trade
Atlanta gets: Jeremy Tyler
Philadelphia gets: Charles Jenkins
Golden State Gets: Two 2nd Round Picks, one from each team
Charlotte gets: Josh McRoberts
Orlando gets: Hakim Warrick
Boston gets: Jordan Crawford
Washington gets: Leandro Barbosa
Phoenix gets: Hamed Haddadi and a 2nd Round Pick
Toronto gets: Sebastian Telfair
Good evening, Forum Blue and Gold. This is Phillip Barnett checking in from Houston. I’m in the Toyota Center for the festivities and I’ll be live-blogging all of the events tonight with updates from Texas. Make sure to check back here every 10-15 minutes for new content and follow me on twitter (@imsohideouss) for more frequent quips about All Star Saturday Night.
SHOOTING STARS COMPETITION
7:37 - James Harden’s team kicks this off the Shooting Stars challenge with a solid time of 37.7. They were my favorites coming into this. Westbrook’s team came right in and obliterated their score with a nice 29.5.
The scoring for this competition is a bit awkward as it’s East v. West — so the two times are added for a total of 107.4. Both Western Conference teams didn’t take much time to make the half court shot, I’m not sure if the Eastern Conference is going to replicate the West’s performance.
7:44 - Chris Bosh’s team didn’t exactly come out hot, and finished with a 50-second mark meaning Brook Lopez’s team would need a 17.3 to beat the Western Conference. Eh… not happening. Not only did they not hit the 17-second mark, they ended up with the worst time of the night of 1:07, the same score of the two Western Conference teams combined.
The Western Conference earns 20 points toward the overall conference competition. There is $500,000 worth of charity donations at stake for the winning conference. The West has jumped out to an early lead.
7:53 - For the championship round, Chris Bosh’s team had a worse performance than their first round with a time of 1:29. Dominique Wilkins, a career 31 percent three point shooter, was tasked with hitting the first three for the East, but took a boat load of shots to knock it down. Gothic Ginobili’s Adam Koscielac tweeted this gem:
However, the Russell Westbrook squad couldn’t hit a half court shot after getting off to a huge start early. They got to the half court shot after only about 20 seconds. The Eastern Conference wins 10 points in the overall competition for winning the championship. The West still leads 20-10.
After winning the Shooting Stars competition, Chris Bosh was asked to compare the win to winning the title.”It was so close. It’s so close. Winning is winning, but, you know, it was a good time,” said Bosh. “This is my first time participating in it. So to actually win is pretty cool.”
Here’s the winning round of the Shooting Stars competition, courtesy of SportsCity.com.
8:06 - Jeff Teague didn’t get things off to a great start for the Eastern Conference. He started off missing passes, then took a few attempts to make the jumper, then missed a few more passes, then missed the layup to end the night. His 49.4 was easily eclipsed by Brandon Knight’s 32.2. He missed a few jumpers, but he has a pretty clean round. Drew Holiday was even cleaner with only one missed shot. Holiday’s final time was 29.3, which moves him into the championship round. The combined time is 150.9, which is what the Western Conference will have to surpass to win the team competition.
8:13 - The hometown favorite Jeremy Lin didn’t get off to the best start with a time of 35.8, but he got the Western Conference off to a better start than the Eastern Conference. Damien Lillard had the cleanest round of the night with no missed shots or passes. His total time was 28.8. Tony Parker, the defending champion, ended up with the worst time of the night with 48.7 and lost the team competition for the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference now has a 40-20.
8:21 - Jrue Holiday got the championship round started off with a sub-par 35.6 round. He missed an early pass and a couple jump shots to put him in a tough spot. Damien Lillard, who is the front runner for rookie of the year, had a much quicker round of 29.8. He missed two passes and one jump shot, but was much quicker from spot-to-spot and gave the Western Conference annother 10 points. The East is still leading though, 40-30.
Here’s Damien Lillard’s winning round in the Skills Competition:
Zach Harper tweeted this brilliant idea for the Skills Competition:
The last shot should really be a floater. If you miss that, then you can lay it in.
8:42 - Stephen Curry got off to a pretty slow start in the 3-point shoot out, but picked things up in the last two racks to finish with 17. Ryan Anderson was the exact opposite. He started off hot, but cooled off at the third rack, yet he still finished with more than Curry with 18. Bonner started off 5-5 after the first rack and ended on top for the Western Conference with 19 points. That’s an overall total score of 54 for the Western Conference. That’s the standard that the Eastern Conference is going to beat. Bonner’s has one of the most mechanically pure forms I’ve ever seen.
8:53 - The Eastern Conference off to another slow start, this time in the 3-point contest. Kyrie Irving got things started off with 18 points, and watch as Paul George only record 10 points and Steve Novak only record 17, even after a pretty hot start. The Eastern Conference surrenders 40 points to the West after their poor performance in the team round. The score heading into the championship is 70-40.
9:00 - In the championship round, Kyrie Irving was hitting early and often. He finished with an overall score of 23 — two off off the all time record. Matt Bonner got off to a slow start, heated up, but couldn’t knock down a key money ball on the fourth rack to keep him close. The Red Mamba finished with 20 points and Kyrie’s excellent All-Star Weekend continues. I enjoyed this Josh Zavdil tweet during Kyrie’s run.
Here’s Kyrie Irving’s winning round from the 3-point contest.
9:26 - Gerald Green got things started with a sick off the side of the back board alley-oop. He almost hit his head on the rim. It was pretty absurd and it earned him a perfect 50. Up next was James White, he walked into the arena with a flight crew and had the biggest buzz before his dunk. Unfortunately, he was a bit disappointing with a free throw line dunk from a foot and a half in front of the line. His leaping ability is impressive, but the dunk was underwhelming considering what we’ve seen in the past. Last for the Eastern Conference was Terrance Ross with a slick behind the back 360 that earned him a perfect 50.
For the Western Conference, there wasn’t anything too impressive. Kenneth Faried threw it off the backboard, caught it after a 360, but jammed it down kind of weak. Eric Bledsoe tried to throw one down from an alley-oop between the legs, but failed on a few attempts before throwing down a regular dunk. Jeremy Evans was the most impressive with grabbing the ball from a sitting Mark Eaton and throwing down a reverse on the other side of the rim.
9:39 - The second round of dunks for the Eastern Conference were pretty unimpressive. Both James White and Gerald Green failed to make their dunk while Terrance Ross made a pretty simple off the bounce self alley-oop dunk. The Western Conference was much better. Faried caught an alley-oop and threw it between his legs before throwing it down. Eric Bledsoe caught a self alley-oop and 360′d before throwing it through the iron. Jeremy Evans grabbed two balls and dunked them both after a 360. The WC dunks gave them the team competition win and a 140-70 lead.
10:03 - The final round showed some pretty impressive dunks. Jeremy Evans got things started off by dunking over a covered easel. After the dunk, he revealed a painting of him dunking over an easel. Ross followed that up by putting on a Vince Carter jersey and caught a pass off the side of the back board and threw down a 360 a la young VC.
The second round of dunks saw Evans catch a pass from Dahntay Jones and nearly jumped through the roof before throwing it down. Ross brought out a ball boy and jumped over him while going between the legs for the jam.
Ross ended up winning the dunk contest after the fan vote and the Western Conference ended up winning the conference battle. Check out some of the better dunks from tonight’s performances:
Tonight, Kobe scored 28 points on 19 shots with nine assists and six rebounds — and he was only the third best basketball player on the court tonight. When your best player has a fantastic game, and two guys from the other team have better nights, it just isn’t in the cards for you to win that basketball game. Dwyane Wade scored 15 of his 30 points in the all-telling fourth quarter. His 30 points came on 12-for-18 shooting with five assists and two rebounds. And then there was LeBron James, who, according to Alias Sports Bureau, James has joined Moses Malone and Adrian Dantley as the only three guys to have five straight games with at least 30 points and shoot at least 60 percent from the field. During Bron’s current five-game stretch, he’s shooting over 70% from the field.
There were lots of good things we saw in today’s game outside of Kobe’s brilliance. We can begin with Earl Clark, who was great scoring the ball, passing the ball, and hitting the glass. His box score numbers were outstanding (18 points, nine rebounds, one assist), but his propensity to do things that benefit the team that are outside of the box score are what continue to impress. What he’s been doing on the offensive end throughout this past month and a half haven’t gone without notice, but his range as a defender is what has really stood out to me on this trip. Tonight he saw time guarding Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony. He’s been asked to defend multiple positions with all of the injury issues — and while the results haven’t always been great (both Bron and Wade made light work of him), his willingness to be versatile on that end has been an asset for this team, and was for them again tonight for much of the first three quarters.
Both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard had good shooting performances (3-5 for Nash, 6-9 for Howard) and both recorded 15 points. When he got the ball, Howard was really good a moving fronting defenders up the line and creating space for entry passes. He was a little off to start the game, but got in a groove in the middle quarters finishing around the rim and hitting his free throws. The team collectively shot well from the field. 50 percent overall, 58 percent from three. They were clean with their ball security, at least through three quarters. Heading into the fourth, the Heat only had seven takeaways. However, the Lakers ended with 14 turnovers on the night — and the last seven took scoring opportunities away from a team that desperately needed them. I’ve detailed the Lakers turnovers in the fourth and took a look at what resulted from them below.
10:18 – Steve Blake and Dwight Howard run a 1-5 P&R. After slipping the screen, Howard receives a pass from Blake and is immediately double teamed. Instead of kicking out and reposting, Howard drives baseline, and spins back toward to middle. As Howard completes his spin, LeBron James reaches in and rips the ball out of Howards hands, begins to fly down the court and is fouled by Steve Blake. Dwyane Wade would hit a jump shot on the ensuing possession. 82-78, Heat.
9:52 – On the Lakers next possession, the set gets disrupted at the top of the key with Norris Cole harassing Steve Blake. Blake eventually gets the ball into Howard on the right block who tries to throw a pass along the baseline. It goes out of bounds. Heat ball. They don’t score, but it’s the 2nd Howard turnover in back-to-back possessions. 82-78, Heat.
7:58 – The Lakers go to their Horns set with Earl Clark and Dwight Howard at the elbows. Steve Blake brings the ball up and receives a screen from Howard. After setting the screen, Howard rolls while Blake swings the ball to Clark who has popped to the top of the perimeter. Howard initially has great position on Chris Bosh, who had been fronting Howard all game. Recognizing where the ball was going, Dwyane Wade comes over from the back side and disrupts the entry pass and recovers the loose ball. Wade misses a jump shot on the other end, but more importantly, the Lakers miss another opportunity to score.
6:15 – Kobe gets the ball on the left wing, isolated against Ray Allen. Kobe faces up, swings through and drives baseline. Chris Bosh helps off of Howard and keeps Kobe from getting a shot up. Kobe tries to feed Howard, but Dwyane Wade steps in, knocks the ball away and saves it before going out of bounds to Norris Cole. Cole pushes the ball up the floor with LeBron James trailing and only Steve Nash back (which has been a trend on this Grammy trip). Cole lobs the ball up for Bron who catches it and obliterates the rim. 91-84, Heat. Their largest lead of the game up until that point.
5:49 – Kobe is in a similar situation in which he’s isolated on the left wing with Ray Allen defending him. He spins and drives baseline and has to pass the ball when Norris Cole slides over to help. Kobe gets in the air to make the pass, which is knocked down by LeBron James. Ray Allen would miss a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, but it’s two turnovers by Kobe on consecutive possessions instead of shot attempts — which is devastating when you’re down by seven against a better team.
3:36 – Steve Nash misguided entry pass is picked off by LeBron James who takes it the length of the court and obliterates the rim. 97-88, Heat.
2:34 – Steve Nash brings the ball up, and hits Kobe on the left wing after Howard sets a pin down screen for him. Howard rolls immediately after the screen and is wide open. However, Kobe isn’t able to make the pass over the top with a hard double from both Wade (defending Kobe) and Bosh (defending Howard). Instead, Kobe tries to get the ball to him with a behind-the-back pass which was picked off by a lurking Shane Battier. Both Kobe and Nash had been forced into making behind-the-back passes out of double teams early in the 1st quarter. I tweeted that it would be something that could potentially come back to haunt them, it did. Battier would go on to miss a 3-point attempt on the other end, but again, it was more about the lost possession rather than the result of it.
Overall, it was one of the Lakers better played basketball games of the season. Heading into that fourth quarter, the Lakers had been going blow-for-blow with the defending champions. Unfortunately, to beat a team like the Miami Heat, you can’t just engage in a slugfest, you need a more calculated approach. The better team usually prevails in closely contested battles, and that’s what ended up happening today. The Lakers could have been better on the boards, they could have gotten to a few more loose balls, they could have rotated a bit better on the defensive end — but there was no underling flaw that the Lakers had last night outside not being as good as the Heat. The Grammy trip is over and will head back to Los Angeles for some home cooking and a home game against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.
With six minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Bobcats held a 73-51 lead. The Lakers had been playing awfully throughout the game up until that point — and the bad stretches included no new problems: the defense was shoddy, guards were able to get into the lane at will, the rotations were slow, there were a plethora of turnovers and there was very little movement on the offensive end. Even when guys found themselves open, shots weren’t falling and the long rebounds led to fast break opportunities. From the beginning of the Celtics loss to the end of the first half of tonight’s game, the Lakers were minus 33, with no signs that things would change.
To start the third, the Bobcats pushed their lead to 16 points, the Lakers took a timeout, and then watched as the lead balloon to 22 points with six minutes left in the third. With 18 minutes left to play in the game, the score was 73-51 and I was (admittedly) ready to walk a plank — and things began to turn. Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison really closed out the quarter well. From the six minute mark in the third until the end of the game, Meeks and Jamison combined for 14 points and seven rebounds on five-for-eight shooting and three-for-four from deep. They were the spark for the comeback, but it was Kobe and Earl Clark who really drove the stake into the collective hearts of the Bobcats.
During those last 18 minutes, Kobe scored 16 of his 20 points and four of his eight assists. He got a lot of touches from 15-feet and in from both sides of the floor and just picked his spots. Much like the first half, when Kobe touched the ball, there was very little movement off the ball despite Charlotte throwing double-teams at him on every touch. Unlike the first half, Kobe became more aggressive looking for his own shot. He was forced into quite a bit of contested, turn-around or fall-away jumpers, which weren’t exactly ideal, but largely needed with the offense being as stagnant as it was in the first half.
Kobe ended up turning the corner on the baseline a couple of times to get to the rim with the double coming from the middle of the paint. He hit a shot over Byron Mullens outstretched arms after a 2-4 P&R with Earl Clark. The jumper was sandwiched between the two baseline layups, which ultimately cut the Bobcats lead to one. With about 2:20 left to play, Bean hit a tough jumper off the glass over Gerald Henderson to give the Lakers a 94-91 lead, and a transition layup with about 0:45 left to play pretty much iced the game for the Lakers. Kobe shot 5-10 during that stretch, and the misses were largely shots taken with no one else moving off the ball.
The team was also to come up with some huge stops during the last six or so minutes of the game. Howard was able to alter some shots at the rim. They forced the Bobcats into some contested jumpers that weren’t taken on their end of the floor all game and forced a couple of 24 second violations.
This wasn’t the prettiest win of the season for the Lakers. In fact, this is the second time this season that the Lakers were down huge to the Bobcats and came back to win. During their first meeting, they fell down by 18 and had to claw their way back to a win. Now, they’ve secured a winning record for this Grammy trip as they look ahead to their match up against Miami (who is currently up by 25 points against the Clippers, Lebron looks so good). A 4-3 trip isn’t bad, but a 5-2 trip would be much better. The game against Miami is on Sunday, hopefully a miracle is in the works.