Archives For

Records: Lakers 39-36 Grizzlies 51-24
Offensive ratings: Lakers 107.7 Grizzlies 105.2
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.6 Grizzlies 100.8
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
Grizzlies: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Tayshaun Prince, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, Jordan Hill
Grizzlies: Tony Wroten

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers are coming off one of their best and complete wins of the season over the Dallas Mavericks. The Shot distribution between their three main guys — Kobe, Dwight and Pau — was about where you’d like it to be. Kobe had 18, Dwight 13 and Pau 12, and they recorded 23, 24 and 14 points respectively. Instead of increasing his shot volume, Kobe did other things, and he did them very well. Kobe finished with 11 assists and 11 rebounds. Furthermore, other guys stepped up huge on a night where they were down to pretty much a seven-man rotation. Steve Blake had a solid night hitting his spot up jump shots as they became available and Earl Clark had a great night off the bench with 17 points and 12 rebounds. He was much more aggressive than he had been in recent weeks, and after seeing a few shots fall, seemed more confident in the game against the Mavericks than he had looked in the whole month of March.

The Grizzlies Coming in: The Grizzlies come in playing some good, but not their best basketball of the season. They’re coming into tonight’s game in Los Angeles with a four game winning streak with some decent wins. Their last game was in the Rose Garden where they won by 18 over the Trailblazers. Before that, they defeated the Spurs (minus Ginobili) at home, the Timberwolves on the road and the Rockets at home. In those four games, the Grizzlies were awfully stingy on the defensive end of the floor, only allowing 86.5 points per game during their four-game winning streak. On the offensive end of the floor, they’ve been playing a very calculated game and doing a great job of taking care of the ball, turning the ball over fewer than 12 times per game.

Grizzlies Blogs: Make sure you check out 3 Shades of Blue for all of your Grizzlies news and analysis. They do a great job over there.

Keys to game: For tonight’s game, the Lakers are really going to have to focus on rebounding the ball. The Lakers are third in the league in rebounds per game at 44.8 per game as a team, but the Grizzlies rebound much better at a much higher rate. The Grizzlies have the second highest rebound percentage (percentage of all rebounds grabbed per game) and have the league’s second highest rebound differential. So the Lakers may grab more per game, but there are more opportunities to grab rebounds in games that Lakers play in. In the two previous games that the Lakers and Grizzlies faced off in, the Grizzlies won the rebound battle by an average margin of 10 boards a contest — so crashing the boards against the likes of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol is going to be crucial.

Offensively, ball movement and player movement is going to be crucial as the Lakers don’t have a legitimate advantage in any one-on-one situation. Marc and Randolph match up with the Lakers front court of Pau and Howard as any team in the league, as they’re big, physical guys who aren’t afraid of contact and are disciplined within the scheme of the team defensive principles. On the perimeter, the Grizzlies now have two guys who they can rotate on Kobe — and they have to be two of the guys who have been the most successful on Bean over the years. The Grizzlies got rid of Rudy Gay and brought in Prince, whose length has bothered Kobe’s ability to get off his jumper for years. Tony Allen is one of the league’s best on ball defenders, mainly due to his physical nature, strength and lateral quickness. With every great defender, Kobe has had some great games against both of these guys, but the Lakers can’t game plan hoping that Kobe goes off. Guys like Antawn Jamison and Earl Clark are going to have to have big games by their standards for the Lakers to be successful as they’re the two best moving off the ball.

Defensively, keeping Mike Conley out of the paint is going to be crucial. Without Nash starting, the Lakers might be able to do a better job tonight as Blake is a slightly better on ball defender — and definitely more tenacious than Nash ever has been. And if they can’t keep Conley out of the paint, Kobe (and the rest of the perimeter defenders) is going to have to have another good night staying disciplined off the ball. Darius wrote about Kobe’s off the ball defense in Dallas, and the Lakers are going to need a repeat performance from Bean — who has been a good defender when he’s wanted to be. Outside of Conley and staying home on shooters, both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph can hurt the Lakers anywhere from the rim to 15 feet out, so both Pau and Dwight will have to work hard and will have their hands full all night.

Where you can watch: 7:30 pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

The Lakers were able to come away with a huge 20-point victory against the Dallas Mavericks on a night that largely belonged to ex-Laker Shaquille O’Neal. The 101-81 was a performance that brought about nostalgia, frustration due to the rare glimpse at this team’s potential, and smiles to the faces of Lakers fans and legends everywhere.

Before getting into the game, it must be mentioned that it was great to see Shaq’s jersey retirement. Kobe’s video, Phil’s speech, Jeanie’s speech, Shaq’s speech, and Shaq’s jersey being unveiled with the Superman theme song being played in the background — all really cool and fun to catch. I did notice that Shaq is the first Laker to have his jersey retired with the new design, essentially ushering in a new generation of Lakers greats. Seeing Shaq’s jersey hanging up there with the likes of other Laker big men like Kareem and Wilt is a testament to how great and consistent this franchise has been throughout not only the course of my lifetime, but the lifetime of my father and will likely continue through the lifetimes of our children. While Dr. Buss is no longer with us, Shaq’s jersey, and those that were already hanging, will be a everlasting reminder of what he was able to accomplish as an owner and the standard that this organization will strive to live up to — and now, Shaq is forever immortalized as a part of that Forum Blue and Golden Standard.

Of course, there was also a basketball game played. It was a game that many felt was a must-win for this Lakers team if they still wanted to consider themselves in the hunt for the 8th spot out West. Not only did the Lakers win, we got and idea of how good this team could have been, and probably should have been all season. Here are a few observations from tonight’s game:

  • Kobe Bryant played a brilliant basketball game. He set the tone for the game early, looking to attack the rim and looking for his teammates. He picked his spots, found open teammates, and saw a couple of jump shots fall early that got him into a good rhythm. While some of the other guys weren’t knocking down the open looks he got for them (Steve Blake, Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison all missed open looks after kickouts or swing passes from Kobe in the first quarter), Kobe continued to look for them throughout the game. Kobe finished the first quarter with one assist, and finished the game with 11. He also recorded 11 rebounds and 23 points. Kobe needed 18 shots to get his 23 points, but there were very little qualms with his shot selection. A few of his misses came at the end of the shot clock, and a couple of them were just Kobe being Kobe, but for the most part, he was on top of his game offensively. And even with a triple double, the most impressive part of Kobe’s game was the work he put in defensively. It was one of the rare nights over the last three or so years where he was keyed in both on and off the ball — and the defense as a whole looked a whole lot better because of it. Kobe wasn’t caught sinking into the paint looking to play free safety while loosing his man for open looks on the perimeter. Instead, he played helpside from two passes away, and rotated over to his man when the ball was being swung back to his side. He had a the huge block on Brandon Wright who was looking to dunk and picked off a few passes. All in all, this was one of the best games for Kobe this season, and he nearly played every second. It was hard not to expect a huge night from Bean on Shaq’s night, and he definitely delivered.
  • The starting front court of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol both showed up big for the Lakers tonight as well. The two combined for 38 points and 22 rebounds. Howard finished with a solid 24 and 12 line — and in Shaq-like fashion — he hit his free throws when they counted. When the game was still in doubt with just over three minutes left to play in the 4th, the Mavs went to the Hack-a-Howard strategy and Howard made them pay, going 6-8 from the line during that stretch and helped the Lakers extend their lead instead of watching it crumble like similar situations this season. Pau was phenomenal defensively. The Spaniard was assigned the tough task of defending Dirk Nowitzki, and essentially did a great job on him. Along with Earl Clark, they were able to crowd Dirk for the most part and not allow him to get off quick shots on the catch. Clark struggled a bit with staying on his feet during those Dirk pump fakes, but Pau did a fantastic job staying home and forcing either a pass to a lesser scoring threat or forcing a tough jump shot over a 7-footer’s arms. Dirk finished with 11 points (!) and needed 13 shots (!) to get those 11 points. Dirk hit a couple of tough jumpers, but there are nothing but good things to say about how Pau and Clark defended the German and his glorious beard.
  • Speaking of Clark, it was nice to see him have a big game after three consecutive nights without recording a point. With about three minutes left to play in the 3rd quarter, OJ Mayo drained a three pointer to cut the Lakers lead to five after it had been pushed to 16 only four minutes before. After a D’Antoni timeout, Kobe missed a 3-pointer and Clark grabbed the offensive rebound and scored. 7-point lead. On the next possession, Clark drilled a 3-pointer. 10-point lead. On the next possession, Earl Clark dropped a dime to Jodie Meeks. 12-point lead. In a three-minute stretch to end the third quarter, Clark scored five points, grabbed two rebounds, recorded an assist and a block. More importantly, he gave the Lakers the momentum back going into the fourth quarter. I can’t emphasize how much his energy was needed on a night that the Lakers were playing short-handed and with guys playing heavy minutes. It was nice to see him have a great game, he needed it more than anyone else. His 17 points12 rebounds and five blocks are all highs for him in the last 20 games.

It was a great night of basketball on a historic occasion. The Lakers were able to keep pace with the Jazz and distance themselves a bit from the Mavericks. While the playoff race is far from over with seven games left — five against teams that are playoff bound — tonight was a huge win and something that can be built upon. Once again, congratulations to Shaq. We were spoiled for the eight years he was a Laker, we’ll never see another quite like him.

Tonight’s win in Minnesota wasn’t an easy one to watch. While the 120-117 win is valuable in terms of this team holding off the Mavericks and making the post season, it isn’t exactly the kind of performance you’d like to be seeing heading into the post season either.

The first half of the game was eerily sloppy. They turned the ball over at an alarming rate, 15 times in the first 24 minutes. When they weren’t turning the ball over, they were playing some decent basketball, running the offense through their bigs Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol who combined for 21 points and 18 rebounds on eight-for-13 shooting. Kobe, although turnover happy, was in facilitator mode early and often in the first half and was the last of the Lakers starters to record any points. Antawn Jamison also came off the bench and had a productive first half with 12 points on 4-6 shooting and four rebounds.

Defensively, the Lakers were much improved from their last two outings, but still left much to be desired. Bryant seemed a bit more locked into running his guy off the line and closing out on shooters. They also did a better job of keeping guards (Rubio, Barea) out of the paint in the first half. When the perimeter defense did break down, Howard and, to some extent, Gasol both did a great job of protecting the rim. The ‘Wolves shot 17-of-47 in the first half, which is just above a .360 clip. A lot of Minnesota’s missed shots were a open looks that just didn’t fall, but regardless, the Lakers defense did seem much improved on the night.

In the third quarter, the Lakers played a much cleaner game. The first two possessions of the third were turnovers, but they only finished the quarter with three total turnovers. The offense moved from playing inside-out to Kobe taking over (16 points in the 3rd), but the lack of turnovers allowed for a 41-point third and pushed the lead from four to 12 going into the fourth — and would have remained the same had Howard and Gasol received more touches.

However, the defensive struggles returned for the Lakers in the third, and would eventually spill over to the fourth. Barea and Rubio started getting into the paint while Dante Cunningham and Chase Budinger continually found themselves wide open — a 17-footer for Cunningham and the corner three for Budinger — were what continued to give the Lakers issues.

Regardless, the lead stayed at about 3-possession deficit for much of the second half. But in Laker-Like fashion, the Lakers couldn’t hold their lead and were a non-called foul on a Ricky Rubio desperation three away from seeing the game go into overtime after pushing their lead to 14 points. In the last six minutes of the game, the Lakers gave up 25 points and lost the rebound battle 16-3. SIXTEEN TO THREE. And while it took the Wolves 23 shots to get their 25 points in the final six minutes, the Lakers afforded them nine extra possessions with two turnovers and giving up seven offensive rebounds. Nicola Pekovic, Budinger and Rubio all scored nine points in the final six minutes while the Lakers as a team shot three-for-eight in that same time.

Of course, the ‘Wolves explored the Hack-A-Dwight option for a full minute and cut at 12-point lead to seven during that minute span, but the Lakers never really regained control of the game.

It was an ugly win, but a win nonetheless. They’ll have another opportunity to prove that they can win on the road tomorrow night in Milwaukee with a Bucks team that poses a lot of match up problems for this Lakers game. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond after an ugly win despite a few very good individual performances.

While the Lakers were run out of the building in their game against the Suns, they had been generally playing some very good and fun basketball. After the Lakers loss to the Atlanta Hawks that saw Kobe Bryant go down with an ankle injury in the closing seconds, they played a tough, physical game against the Indiana Pacers and won a more uptempo finesse game against the Sacramento Kings.

The result of each game was a win despite the very different nature in which they were played, but a few things remained constant: 1) The ball moved very well, with all guys who saw at least 20 minutes in those two games shooting the ball at least six times. Five guys scored in double figures in the game against the Pacers and six guys scored in double figures in the game against the Kings. There was a natural flow to the offense, it was ran through Dwight Howard, and guys stepped up when needed. 2) The three ball fell at a solid rate in both games. They made .500 of their threes against the Pacers and .429 against the Kings. The Lakers three point success was directly related to the ball moving well and shots being taken from the offense playing inside out. 3) They didn’t let turnovers kill them. They had 15 and 13 turnovers, respectively, but neither the Pacers nor the Kings had a tremendous number of points off turnovers or fast break points. 15 turnovers is around their season average, and while it isn’t the most clean game the Lakers can play, they didn’t turn the ball over in positions favorable to their opposition.

In other words, the Lakers were Dr. Jekyll, a “large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty”. While smooth faced may not suit may guys suited up in the Forum Blue and Gold, they’re a rather large team full of old guys. And like Jekyll, the Lakers have been trying to fight off the hoop evils that just aren’t suited for a team of this stature. Considering the expectations, this Lakers team should be well above two games over .500 — and for those two games without either Bryant or Gasol on the floor — they ostensibly fought those evils away and played good basketball.

While it’s hard to ignore the egg that the Lakers laid against the Suns (again), the Lakers pretty much continued their stretch of good hoops in the first half of their game against the Wizards. The ball movement was absolutely brilliant, and the movement off of the ball was equally great. Dwight Howard made a gorgeous pocket pass to Pau in the paint. Steve Blake made a couple of gorgeous passes (one to a cutting Jodie Meeks and the other being a behind-the-back pass to Antawn Jamison who was cutting baseline). Kobe was using the attention he got from the defense to find open teammates, which led to six first half assists. Everyone who saw time in the first half took at least two shots and no one took more than six.

The three ball was also falling at a 50 percent clip. Ron Artest hit both of the attempts he took in the first half (his only two shots of the first half) and all four guys off the bench hit one-of-two from behind the arc. The Lakers only made one more three pointer in the first half than the Wizards, but the Wizards took three more attempts. The Lakers looked like a fine-tuned machine, a team that had spent the whole season together, the team pundits and fans alike expected to see by at least December. While it was a bit later in the season than expected, it was nice to see the potential of this team realized, even if it was against what seemed like an inferior opponent. The Lakers ability to shoot the ball at a high clip coupled with their exquisite ball movement led to a 16-point halftime lead.

There was a red flag, though. Nine turnovers. Nine turnovers is quite a bit, and those nine turnovers turned into 14 first half fast break points for the Wizards. The transformation was coming to the surface.

Mr. Hyde.

The Lakers turned into a completely different team in the second half. In an attempt to rid themselves of the hoops evils that had haunted them all season, those very evils came to fruition in the second half of this game and they were outscored by the Wizards 62-43 in the final 24 minutes.

On the defensive end, a combination of their inability to stay in front of John Wall coupled with their unwillingness to aggressively close out on shooters or run them off of the three point line led to them putting themselves in some compromising positions. Either John Wall was finishing around the rim, finding one of his bigs for a layup at the basket or finding a wing for a wide-open three pointer. Wall had 18 points on six-for-11 shooting with 11 assists in the second half alone.

The biggest beneficiary of Wall’s ability to get into the paint at will was ex-Laker Trevor Ariza, who hit five (WIDE OPEN) three pointers in the second half, seven in the game — a career high for made three pointers. Ariza was largely found wide open because of Kobe’s propensity to play free safety and his disinclination for getting back out to the perimeter when Ariza received kick out passes. And when Kobe wasn’t being lazy, he was just flat out wrong. There was one play in particular where Wall got caught in the air near the left wing and Kobe assumed that he was going to pass to Nene at the elbow, but instead opted for a skip pass to Ariza in the right corner, that led to one of his five 2nd half three pointers.

For the most part, the Lakers rotations were worse than biting into a steak sandwich laced with globs of unwanted mayonnaise (this happened to me tonight), and it all really began with the whole crew of guards’ inability to keep Wall out of the paint. One late rotation led to another, a pattern that continued until there was no rotation at all and an open shot was taken.

On the other end of the floor, the ball movement we saw in the first half was nearly non-existent. Guys held on to the ball for long stretches, there was too much dribbling without purpose and the shot distribution went from a looking like a plateau to looking like a cliff. Kobe took 13 shots in the second half, and no other Laker took more than five (Steve Nash took five, everyone else had fewer than that). And when the game was tight in the final eight or so minutes, there was a stretch where Kobe took eight of the Lakers nine shots, completely taking the rest of the team out of rhythm.

Mr. Hyde.

The result was a 103-100 loss at home at the hands of a team, while much improved, the Lakers really should beat. There was a whole first half of really good basketball, but even against some of the NBA’s bottom feeders, if you only play one half of basketball, chances are you aren’t going to pull out the victory. It was expected for this team to take a bit of time to figure each other out with Kobe and Pau back in the lineup, but with a 16-point lead going into the 2nd half, it’s a game that absolutely needs to be closed out regardless of circumstance.

And while the loss stings, it doesn’t sting nearly as much as the team potentially losing Antawn Jamison for some time because of the sprain wrist he suffered tonight. We’ll await the MRI tomorrow to know how serious, but a sprained wrist on the shooting hand of a guy who had been playing very well is going to have its consequences whether or not he misses games. The Lakers have the rest of the weekend off to work out some of their kinks before they head up north to play the Warriors in an important game in terms of playoff positioning.

Gross. Gritty. Grotesque. Gruesome.

For three quarters, the Lakers and Pacers engaged in one of the ugliest games of the season. Both teams were shooting under 40 percent from the field and both teams were shooting lest than 43 percent around the rim. There were loads of bunnies missed right at the bucket way too many long twos were taken and the two teams had combined to shoot six-for-19 on mid-range jump shots. Also through three quarters, both teams were reckless with the ball with each team turning it over 13 times.

For much of the season, these were the kind of games that the Pacers seemed to win and the Lakers seemed to lose. And with two of their best four players in Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol sidelined with injuries (Kobe gave his ankle a go in the first quarter, but wasn’t able to return), the writing seemed like it was on the wall — the Lakers would be heading home with another road loss. The Pacers went into the fourth quarter with a one-point lead, a healthier lineup, a better bench unit and more size to collect the rebound from misses that came at an alarming rate up until that point.

Then the fourth quarter happened. Both teams lifted their collective games and some fantastic basketball was played. While the Lakers may have run a variety of sets in the fourth quarter, they largely ran their offense through Dwight, looking to get him the ball in the post on both sides of the lane, giving him room to operate and sliding down to the wing to receive open passes should a post up stall. They ran a series of P&Rs between Nash and Dwight, they ran the Horns sets a few times and even got the ball to Howard through the center-opposite action a few times.

The variety in the Lakers sets down the stretch kept the Indiana defense on their heels, and allowed for the Lakers to shoot some open jumpers — that they were actually able to knock down. They cut down on the number of long twos that they shot in the fourth (only three of their 20 fgas were between 15 feet and the 3-point line, and they made two of those). And it wasn’t only hitting the shots, but the timeliness of the shots that they made were huge.

There were five times in the fourth quarter where the Lakers recaptured the lead after the Pacers either tied the game or took the lead. Steve Blake’s three pointer after sliding down to the left wing during a Dwight post up; Steve Nash’s pull up 17-footer with 7:45 left to play; Earl Clark’s three-pointer to put the Lakers back up three after Paul George knocked down a game tying three of his own; Blake’s 2nd three pointer of the quarter following George Hill’s floater over Dwight that gave Indiana a one-point lead; and then Dwight’s layup that he slammed off the backboard with his right hand after Hill’s mid-range jumper tied the game — all huge plays for the Lakers down the stretch.

And when the Lakers took that final lead off of Howard’s layup with about 1:30 left to play in the game, they held onto the lead and closed out the game. The Pacers shot two-for-six in the final 90 seconds while Jamison hit a huge three to extend the lead to two possessions and Howard was able to get a break away dunk off of a loose ball that essentially put the game on ice.

This wasn’t just a huge win because it was on the road against a good team without two of their best players, it was also a huge win because of the way they won. The Lakers, even when winning, haven’t been able to pull out the ugly victories much this season. They didn’t shoot well to begin the game. Hell, they didn’t shoot well through the first three quarters. But they played hard for those three quarters to keep them within striking distance going into the fourth. They worked hard on the defensive end by contesting shots at the rim (Indiana shot 43 percent on field goals at the rim tonight). They could have done a much better job of running shooters off of the line, but for the most part the defensive energy was good enough to keep the Pacers offensive attack off balance.

D’Antoni got solid contributions from almost everyone who played tonight. Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison were the keys tonight. Blake was five-for-eight from the field with 18 points, but he stuffed the stat sheet adding six rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks while only committing one turnover. Jamison wasn’t as spectacular, but he shot six-for-10 from the field with 17 points and hit a couple of timely threes to help the Lakers cause down the stretch.

Dwight and Ron were both very good tonight for the starting unit. Dwight had 20 points on seven-for-17 shooting, but showed tons of maturity during the fourth quarter allowing the offense to run through him and constantly making the right play. He had a few shots that didn’t fall around the rim, mainly do to a lack of touch, but his kick out to Steve Blake and an absolutely gorgeous pass to a cutting Jamison that was almost Shaq-esque really stood out. Ron, who was a bit reckless in some instances as he sometimes is, played a decent game, and hit a few shots in the third quarter to help keep the game from getting away from them after Indiana got off to a hot start to begin the 2nd half.

All-in-all, I was largely impressed with the grit this team had tonight. Road wins against a tough, physical teams come at a premium — and with a series of very winable games over the next week and a half (v. Sac, @PHX, v. Was, @GS, @MIN). The Lakers are putting themselves in position to not only make the post season, but maybe finish with either the seventh or sixth seeds, pulling them away from a first-round match up against the Spurs or Thunder. While there is still a lot of hoops left to be played, you have to love what they were able to do tonight.