Archives For Game Recap

That was quite the fun game. But in the end, the Blazers became the #1 team in the West (technically, since they beat the Spurs earlier this season) after beating the Lakers, 114-108.

The Lakers have been resilient for most of the season and they showed that in this game. L.A. was down, 21-4, at one point. But they caught the Blazers in the second half as they got a great boost from Xavier Henry and Robert Sacre. Unfortunately, Jordan Farmar was lost to a hamstring injury, which was pretty big considering how well he has played this season, especially the last few games. I was ready for Steve Blake to play the entire second half; the Lakers aren’t going to play until Friday so I didn’t see any problems with him going the distance.

Unfortunately, the Blazers’ shooting and ball movement overwhelmed the Lakers in the third. They dropped 41 in that quarter and it seemed like it was over by then. The Lakers’ starters couldn’t get anything going and Mike D’Antoni went with a ragtag bunch.

The weird line-up of Robert Sacre, Wesley Johnson, Shawne Williams, Nick Young, and Xavier Henry (who played point in place of a tired Blake) got the Lakers back in the game. They were energetic on both sides of the ball (Xavier Henry’s dunks, Jodie Meeks’ threes, and Wesley Johnson’s block really got the Staples crowd unglued) and were able to get the team within one. But Wesley Matthews (who has been so good behind the arc this season) and Damian Lillard (26 points) made huge three-pointers. The Lakers really had no business being in a close game after being down 20 twice but they made it one hell of an entertaining contest. Like I’ve said many times in the past, sometimes, that’s all you can ask for.

Henry led the way with a career-high 27 points. Jodie Meeks had 20 points, Nick Young had 17, and Steve Blake had 13 points and nine assists. Robert Sacre had 12 points, a career-high for himself. And Shawne Williams (four points, eight rebounds) made big plays in the fourth as well. Pau Gasol played horribly (six points on 3/15 shooting, although a bad ankle is bothering him) after a few good games. The Lakers had won five of six coming into this game and this loss stops a little momentum but these guys are just so fun to watch since most of us had no expectations for the team. As for Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge was nearly unstoppable early; he had 27 points overall.

Funny thing is that the Lakers are 9-9. That’s a better 18-game start than last year’s team when they were 8-10; that squad was superstar-laden if you guys remember *cough*. The Lakers don’t play again until Friday when they go to Sleep Train Arena (zzzzzzzzz) to face the Sacramento Kings. A certain dude who wears #24 may come back to the Lakers for that game (sorry; it’s not Lloyd Daniels or Jim Jackson). THAT could be interesting.

In the meantime, we’ll have a little injury watch (Farmar, Steve Nash, Kobe) this week before the Lakers play again. The Lakers just had four straight days off two weeks ago, too. Weird scheduling.

Entertaining game, everybody.

This win was, for lack of a better term, a professional effort by the Lakers. Based off record, the Lakers came into this game the better team. The Kings may have more young talent on their roster, but the Lakers have more talent that is properly harnessed. Tonight, that difference showed and, though there were some stretches where it looked as if the Kings might overcome, the Lakers were able to hold on and win 100-86. The win is the third straight for the Lakers and brings their record to an even 7-7 through 14 games.

Offensively, there was a lot to like in this game. As it was on Friday, the Lakers played through Pau Gasol for the majority of the minutes he was on the floor and he responded with a 20 point, 10 rebound effort. Pau worked well in the post against Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins while also hitting his jumper at a good enough rate to be a threat regardless of where he caught the ball. Pau wasn’t his normal self as a passer (he only tallied a single assist), but he consistently made the right shot/pass decisions, often kicking the ball out to the same side wing and attempting to re-post to set up his own offense. I’m not quite ready to say that this is the Pau we can look forward to on most nights, but I am ready to say that the respiratory infection that Pau was dealing with earlier in the year probably hampered him more than most were willing to acknowledge. Pau has more stamina and more life in his legs for longer stretches now and that bodes well for him moving forward.

As I mentioned in the preview for this one, having a bench player (or more) step up and have a good night is almost a necessity for the Lakers to win and tonight was no exception. Xavier Henry, quiet in recent games, broke out in a big way by scoring a team high 21 points on only 11 shots. Henry was active in transition and moved well off the ball in the half court, all of which aided him in finding the gaps in the Kings D that allowed him to get makable looks. Henry brought his usual aggression off the bounce and that allowed him to get to the FT line 6 times (making 5), but it also allowed him the space he needed to shoot his jumper.

Like it was against the Warriors, though, this game wasn’t so much won on offense but rather on the defensive side of the ball. The Lakers held the Kings to 41.7% shooting on the night and did a good job on nearly every King not named Greivis Vasquez. Because while the Kings’ starting PG had a good night scoring the ball (20 points on 9-18 shooting), the rest of his teammates had issues getting clean looks for most of the contest, often settling for contested jumpers or shots in the paint that always seemed to have either Pau or Jordan Hill lunging to try and alter the look.

The Lakers didn’t exactly force the Kings into a lot of mistakes, but what they did do was play fundamentally good D on most possessions, rotating well when the ball was swung and contesting shots when the Kings fired away. If there was one area the Lakers could have been better in it was playing the P&R a bit higher so to not allow the ball handler to get back to the middle after coming off the pick (Vasquez did this repeatedly most of the night and it was key to him scoring as well as he did), but for that was the only real issue I saw defensively. On most other actions the Lakers played things well and that led to the Kings taking the types of shots the Lakers could live with them taking.

Overall, I really can’t say enough about the way this team is starting to forge an identity for themselves and play a style that is not only sustainable, but one that can be successful long term. This isn’t to say they can be one of the better teams in the league — they still don’t have enough talent to make that claim — but by playing smart and hard every night, they’re positioning themselves to be in nearly every game with a chance to win. Without Kobe (and, to a lesser extent, without a healthy Nash) that’s really all you can ask for. So the fact that this team is .500 through 14 games with a chance to actually eclipse last season’s record through 15 games with a win on Tuesday is worth praising.

Where this team ends up will still be greatly influenced by Kobe, but where they are now is solely on the players on the court and the coaches pulling the strings. Both have been doing more right than wrong and have been entertaining us along the way. For that, I’m appreciative.

After four days of rest, practice, and preparation the Lakers took down the Warriors 102-95 to get within a game of .500 and show off some very good play on both sides of the ball.

The star of the night was Pau Gasol, whose 24 points and 10 rebounds paced the team. Pau, who seemed to most benefit from the time off, played with a good base and strong legs all night which allowed him to really shine offensively. Pau showed good lift on his jumper, leading to good success from mid-range. That success then fueled the rest of his offense as it forced defenders to close out on him, allowing the Spaniard to effectively use his dribble to set up some nifty post moves that kept defenders off balance all night.

The other stars offensively came off the Lakers’ bench. First was a very productive Jordan Farmar who has seemingly left his slump from a few games back all the way behind him. Like Pau, Farmar used an effective jumper as a springboard to the rest of his offensive attack, using quick moves off the bounce to get into the lane and create shots near the rim. On several possessions, Farmar was able to blow by the initial defender and either get up a short runner or scoop shot in the paint before the second line of defense could get to him and the result was some nifty shotmaking that was key to fueling the Lakers’ offense when the more methodical Steve Blake went to the bench.

As for Young, he was once again excellent in providing a nice scoring punch from his reserve role. Young poured in 21 points on 15 shots, hitting 3 shots from behind the arc while also doing damage in the paint. On several possessions, Young curled his way into paint in the half court and made quick decisions to attack the rim in the open court and the result was an inside-outside game that I’d really like to see more of from Young. When he doesn’t solely settle for long jumpers — which can be exciting shots when they fall, but not the most efficient option — Young becomes quite dangerous and the type of all court threat who can carry the team for short stretches on the floor and ignite the crowd with the flair he brings.

Where this game was won, however, was on the defensive end of the floor. The Warriors were down their top two point guards (Steph Curry and Toney Douglas both sat out with injuries) and later lost Andre Iguodala to a strained hamstring, so we must acknowledge the Dubs didn’t have their full roster, affecting how they built their attack. That said, the Lakers were smart in how they defended the Warriors, pushing them to the corners and showing ball handlers and post players a second defender early in possessions to try and disrupt what they wanted to do on that side of the ball.

This strong side zone look flustered the Warriors for most of the night as the Lakers were able to force them into turnovers via traps on the sideline and by picking off hastily thrown cross-court passes when they tried to reverse the ball. The Lakers’ wings — Young, Blake, and Henry combined for 6 steals — were very good at dipping to the paint to help down low and then quickly rotating back to the opposite wing to either pick off passes when the ball was swung or pressuring ball handlers into mistakes on the catch. The Lakers turned 19 Warriors’ turnovers into 22 points and that activity and production were a big impact in how this game was decided.

All in all, this was a very good win for the Lakers despite the Dubs missing some key guys. After all, without Kobe, Nash, and Kaman, it’s not like the Lakers are at full strength, but they were still able to establish their identity and dictate the terms of engagement of this contest. Strong guard play and Pau playing well were the catalysts, but just as important was the team sticking to their game plan and executing it to a level that put the Warriors on their heels. Moving forward, with our without Kobe, this is the type of effort and attention to detail the team needs, especially when they don’t have four days to prepare.

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? The Lakers got their fifth win of the season in a fun Sunday night game against the Detroit Pistons (well, not so fun for Detroit), 114-99.

I felt Steve Blake set the tone early with his floor game. He had eight assists in the first period alone setting up his teammates on the right spots (like Wesley Johnson on alley-oops and Jordan Hill cutting to the basket). However, the Lakers defense seemed non-existent in the first half; the Pistons shot over 62 percent in the first 24. Detroit reminded the Lakers of their crosstown rivals with their alley-oops (that Brandon Jennings pass off the glass to Andre Drummond for the alley-oop was filthy).

Then the Lakers caught fire. Detroit’s shooting had to come down to Earth and, boy, did the Lakers take advantage. The Lakers turned up the defensive intensity, limiting the Pistons to 36 percent shooting in the second half. Jordan Hill seemed to be everywhere on both ends of the floor; he was scoring inside and outside and he was grabbing every rebound. And Nick Young (who continues to play well off the bench) ignited the run with back-to-back threes. Jordan Farmar caught fire as well (after a pretty bad slump the previous couple of games); he made a jumper to beat the third quarter buzzer. Overall, the Lakers scored 16 unanswered and by the time Jennings’ chucking finally started to pay off (he ended with 23 points and 14 assists), it was too late. What’s more: the Lakers were able to prevent Detroit from hitting the century mark, sending the fans at Staples with free food that starts with a “t” and ends with “-acos.”

Overall, this game was so much fun to watch (I think I already mentioned that, right?). Jordan Hill finished with an all-world performance of 24 points and 17 rebounds. Steve Blake had 16 assists (two short of his career high… and six short of ex-Laker Chris Duhon’s) to go along with his nine points. Blake has had double digits in assists in the last four games. Nick Young scored 19 points, his fourth straight game with double digits off the bench. Wesley Johnson had a few athletic plays that made you think he jumped off the rafters; he had 13 points. And Pau Gasol had a nice all-around game with 12 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists.

Lakers won’t be playing again until Friday when they face the Golden State Warriors. I know the Lakers are 5-7 but, for now, let’s enjoy this win. And we can enjoy this for the next few days.

That pretty much sums up how I feel about this game. In what is becoming a trend this season, the Lakers played a hard fought game and kept the contest close only to fall short at the end as the other team made the tough plays while they themselves fell short.

This game it was Zach Randolph who played hero for Memphis hitting tough shot after tough shot against Jordan Hill while the Lakers tried, unsuccessfully, to play their P&R game against a Grizzlies’ D that can still stiffen with a game on the line. Randolph scored 14 of his game high 28 points in the final period, working over Shawne Williams early and Hill late with a flurry of contested jumpers and unorthodox scoops and hooks around the basket.

If you are looking for positives on the Lakers’ side, they came from the guards as Jodie Meeks (25 points, 10-16 shooting), Nick Young (18 points on 7-14 shooting off the bench), and Steve Blake (9 points, 10 assists and only 1 turnover) all played aggressive, taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them. All deserve credit for playing to their strengths, but I especially like that Meeks was able to bounce back from a poor game in Denver and that Blake continued to play a very strong lead guard with Steve Nash out. Both guys are having pretty good years and even though there are some down moments, both play with a spirit and competitiveness that is contagious.

That’s about the most positive thing you can say about this team right now. They play hard most every night and that allows them to compete. If their execution could catch up to the effort they give they’d probably have a few more wins in the ledger. Instead, they fall to 4-7 on the season and show glimpses of being a good team but offer more moments when you wonder if they will really be able to do much more than stay close in games before Kobe comes back.

And make no mistake, this team misses Kobe. Not only did the head coach say so, but it’s clear that as the season progresses there’s a hole in leadership and production from a top tier player. Whether Kobe comes back to be that guy is an open question, but through the first part of year it’s clear that Gasol (who has played okay, but not up to a level the team needs from him) and Nash (who was playing poorly before his injury knocked him out of the lineup) are not those guys.

Instead this team relies on the composite effort from multiple role players, needing several of them to play to (or above) their ceilings each night to win. Against Memphis the team got that from Meeks, Young, and Blake, but did not get enough from any of the Farmar (zero points, 6 assists), Wes Johnson (zero points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists), and Xavier Henry (zero points, 1 rebound, 1 assist) trio. When that’s the case, this team will need bigger performances from Gasol and Hill, but tonight did not get them. The duo combined for a respectable 22 points and 18 rebounds, but with Randolph’s big night and Marc Gasol producing a line of 18, 8, and 8 it’s easy to see why this game was a loss.

The Lakers fell to the Nuggets, 111-99, after blowing out the Pelicans last night. They are now 0-3 on the second game of a back-to-back.

After a quick 8-0 start by the Lakers, it showed that the Lakers were on the tail end of a back-to-back. They looked tired in the first half; it was like the Nuggets were on Windows 8.1 while the Lakers were on Windows 95.

Still, the Lakers had a pretty strong third quarter, holding Denver to under 29 percent shooting in that period. So from time to time, you’ll get some good defense from the Lakers. Unfortunately, the Lakers couldn’t stop Timofey Mozgov throughout the contest; he ended with 23 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks. We all know the Lakers’ penchant of letting role players have all-star nights; Mozgov was that guy tonight. Wilson Chandler, who played his first game this season, also made some big threes in the fourth that helped close the door on the Lakers.

Denver seemed to score at will inside the paint. They scored 22 of their 33 first quarter points in the painted area. The Nuggets would end up having 60 of those points at the end.

Pau Gasol had his best scoring output this season with 25 points (on 27 shots). But we now know he’s dealing with a strained foot to add to that upper respiratory infection. Jordan Hill helped the Lakers get some energy back in the second half; he had 18 points and 15 rebounds. Steve Blake played another excellent floor game with 15 points and 11 assists. But once again, like they did against the Pelicans, they let this one get away in the fourth quarter despite all the sloppiness that happened in the first three quarters. As much as they had that effort in the second half, it would’ve been nice if they were able to take advantage of those second, third, and fourth chances. And Nick Young, you probably don’t want to inbound the ball to somebody who has his back turned.

The Lakers have been wildly up and down thus far but with this level of talent from that team, that is to be expected. They go back to Staples Center and play against the struggling Memphis Grizzlies on Friday (on a personal note, Friday is my birthday!). L.A. starts a four-game home stand (and FOUR DAYS off coming up) then. They’d better take advantage as the Lakers are 1-4 on the road so far.

The Lakers have had more exciting wins in this brief season, but none have been more complete and less reliant on extremes than this one over the Pelicans. By finally combining a strong offensive performance with very good defensive effort and execution, the Lakers made up for their loss against this same team last Friday by dominating them 116-95.

As with every win this season, the Lakers’ bench was a key factor in this one. The Lakers’ reserves scored 56 of the team’s 116, led by efficient efforts from Nick Young and Xavier Henry. Young poured in 17 points on only 11 shots, canning jumpers from all over the floor. Henry, meanwhile, added 15 of his own on only 8 field goal attempts, knocking down all three of his shots from behind the arc while also having the play of night when he hammered home a dunk over his former Jayhawk teammate Jeff Withey.

http://youtu.be/1WnUuCHfow0

This contest, though, was more about what the starters provided. For the first time all season, the first five seemed to finally click, not only finding their rhythm but finding a way to maintain it for most of the night. And key to that was, seemingly, the shift that head coach Mike D’Antoni made with this group by putting a lineup on the floor that featured guys playing more in their traditional roles.Rather than playing a combination of a small back court and a super-sized front court, D’Antoni went with guys at their natural spots and it really seemed to pay off.

Instead of toiling away at shooting guard, Steve Blake stepped in for the injured Steve Nash and played a very smooth and controlled game all night. Blake probed the defense for openings, attacked when he found space, and, when he was able to draw a second (and sometimes a third) defender, made the right read to hit his teammates for open shots. Blake may have only scored 5 points on the evening, but he dished out 10 assists (to only 2 turnovers) and was the epitome of a floor general. Wes Johnson also slid into a more natural position as the starting small forward, rather than playing PF for most of his minutes. His production — 5 points and 5 rebounds — was nothing spectacular, but he played good defense on the wing and was aggressive when cutting to the rim and when attacking the glass.

The key to the starting lineup, however, was Jordan Hill. Moving out of his bench role and into the first group, Hill showed that his production when playing limited minutes wasn’t some fluke. Hill scored a team (and career) high 21 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds. Hill flashed his usual activity level on both ends of the floor and did a great job providing a physical presence in the paint, diving to the front of the rim out of the P&R on offense and challenging every shot he was within a couple of steps of defensively. Further, Hill showed very good chemistry with Pau Gasol, sliding into open spaces to make himself available for passes and ducking along the baseline when the Spaniard isolated in the post to ensure the proper spacing existed to allow for one-on-one work.

Taking a step back, then, it’s safe to say that while the individual performances were very good up and down the lineup, the bigger takeaway from this game was that D’Antoni deployed his players in personnel groupings and lineups that made more sense. Players were put in better positions to succeed by playing their more natural positions and that led to, at least from what we saw in terms of body language and how their games meshed, a greater sense of comfort from everyone. Beyond that, though, the substitution patterns and how bench and starters were mixed also made a lot of sense. The final result was a 10 man rotation in which every player saw good minutes and did so with a greater sense of purpose than at any other point during the year.

This isn’t to say that was the only reason the Lakers won. After dominating the Lakers this past Friday, Anthony Davis suffered through foul trouble for most of this game and was never really able to establish his presence on either end of the floor. With Davis on the bench, the Pelicans’ bigs had trouble matching up with Gasol, Kaman, and Hill on both ends which allowed the Lakers to control the paint and dictate the terms of engagement in the half court. Add to this the fact that the Lakers were playing at home and saw a lot of their jumpers fall and it’s difficult to just say “the rotation was better so the team won”. No, it was much more than that.

However, as noted above, the rotation and personnel groupings were smoother and the results were fantastic. On the evening the Lakers went with two primary lineups and both produced at levels that we’ve not really seen in the same game, for the full game, all year. The starters played 18 minutes together and posted an offensive efficiency of 115.7 and a defensive efficiency of 97.9 in those minutes. Meanwhile, the primary bench group of Farmar, Henry, Young, Williams, and Kaman played a combined 13 minutes together and posted an offensive efficiency of 114.8 and a defensive efficiency of 86.1 in those minutes. These numbers were definitely influenced by how poorly the ‘Cans played on both ends of the floor for long stretches, but you have to credit the Lakers for forcing them into a lot of bad shots, cleaning up their defensive glass, and then moving the ball and making the most of their offensive possessions on the other end.

Whether or not this lasts is something we don’t yet know. But D’Antoni may have finally found some lineups and rotations that work for this team in the long term, so beyond the great win, that is what should be celebrated after this game.

All of this spells some trouble for the Lakers as they face a team with specific match ups that have been problematic this year. If there are two positions the Lakers haven’t been able to handle well this season it’s been skilled power forwards and shooting guards with size who can really score. The Warriors’ game immediately comes to mind, but also the Pelicans’ game where Anthony Davis had his way on both ends. With Love and Martin, the question isn’t necessarily how to slow them down — there are game plans that can be put in place to limit one or both — but whether the Lakers even have the personnel to do so.

Love has evolved into the premier stretch big man in the league. He can not only hit the three ball, but has the ability to put the ball on the floor against a close out against bigger players or post up and dominate the offensive glass against smaller ones. The Lakers don’t have a player with the combination of size, quickness, and rebounding prowess to limit Love and that can lead to Love having his way in this game. As for Martin, his style of running off screens and cutting actively against aggressive defenders is one that Steve Blake is used to defending, but with his size and craftiness off the dribble, Blake will still have his problems containing Martin in all that he does.

What the Lakers need, then, is to be as sharp as they can be in their half court defense and understand where to be in help situations at all times. Love and Martin have the ability to play 25 feet away from the rim and still be effective and it’s in combatting that spacing where the Lakers need to be sharp. Can Gasol, Kaman, Hill, and Wes Johnson rotate from the paint to the perimeter and then back to the paint to contest shots and rebound? Can the wings shade their man and limit penetration while making the correct back side rotation to either contest shots on the wing or body up a big man crashing the offensive glass? And, most importantly, can these groups of players work in unison to accomplish these tasks on any given play and not suffer miscommunications that can lead to wide open shots or easy put-backs? If they can, the Lakers will be in this game throughout. If they can’t, this could get out of hand early.

The above is from the preview for this game. So, while I hate to say I told you so…well, I told you so.

The Lakers lost this game in the 1st quarter when the Wolves used blistering shooting from Kevin Love and Kevin Martin to take a 24 point lead into the 2nd period. I could go on and on about how it happened, but all you really need to know comes from these two tweets:

That’s right, with the 1st period almost over, the Lakers, as a team, had been outscored by Love and were tied with Kevin Martin. By the time the period was over, the team trailed by 24 points and the game was essentially over.

We could get into the details, but the how is really immaterial, right? This may not be who the Lakers are every night, but it’s who they’re possible of being on any given night. And it’s certainly who they likely will be when the match ups line up a certain way and things tilt against them just enough that those match ups get exploited.

So, really, I don’t know if there’s a lesson to be learned here. At least not one we weren’t already at least partially aware of. The Lakers are capable of being bad. The “how” in this equation matters if you really want to dive deep into an analysis, but when it comes to wins and losses the “how” becomes less relevant. Whether it’s bad defense, bad offense, or a little (or even a lot) of both the losses will come when you don’t play every minute hard and when you don’t have the talent other team’s have.

In that respect, this was a loss we could see coming. And if you read the three paragraphs cited at the top of this post, we saw it coming. This team will surprise on some nights, but in this game they didn’t; in this game the things that didn’t favor them in this match up were exploited by their opponent. It really is that simple. Other nights, that won’t be the case. Against different opponents, the Lakers may play above their heads (or their opponents play below theirs) and it will shift the terms the game is played on. Minnesota did the dictating in this game, however. It probably won’t be the last time this happens to the Lakers this season either.