On Friday night the Lakers went in to Phoenix, one of the league’s better home teams, and played excellent much improved basketball, with all five starters scoring at least 15 points for the first time since the 03-04 season. Since the game was on Friday, I’m sure you’ve already consumed enough information about the Phoenix game, but I do have a couple of tidbits from the game:
– If you haven’t already, please check out Silver Screen and Roll’s running diary of the game. It gives you a great account of all of the events that happened, and it’s absolutely hilarious.
– Also, reader Joel B inquired about Pau Gasol’s free throw shooting against some of the better teams in the league. I took the liberty of crunching the numbers against the best eight teams in the league. His free throw percentage did fall, but only from 79.35 to 79.07 percent. Also, he gets to the line a bit less, too, dropping from 3.74 trips to the line on the season to 3.58 per game against seven of the other top eight teams in the league.
Here are some other links on Lakers news in bulleted form.
– From ESPN.com: Having survived the three-game lull with two wins against Toronto and Phoenix, Artest wants the Lakers to do some streaking of their own. “We just want to win every game and hopefully just win out,” Artest said. “That would be the main goal, just not to lose anymore.” Wouldn’t that be something? Eighteen straight wins to end the season would be just like the last Lakers team to accomplish a championship repeat. The 2000-01 squad won its last eight games of the regular season and started the postseason on an additional 11-0 spurt to extend its winning streak in the time when winning really matters to 19 games.
– From NBA MVP: Kobe Bryant is playing at a high level but not the best we have seen if his career. He’s reached the peak of his career, I know you have heard it numerous time and the Lakers have not played consistent basketball compared to last season. Kobe missed 5 games due to several injures which hurt his campaign. He’s not out of the race yet, and the Lakers are still within striking distance for the best record in the NBA to close out the season. Kobe can compete and continue to dominate scoring the basketball but he isn’t the Kobe we are accustomed to seeing this late in the season.
– From the Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog: As he approached the small gathering of reporters following Sunday’s practice in El Segundo, Lakers forward Pau Gasol let out a smile. There’s not a better feeling knowing your Crest-kid friendly teeth no longer have braces, a two-and-a-half year venture that ended Thursday morning when they were removed just before the team’s trip to Phoenix. “Hopefully I don’t get popped in the mouth and lose a couple of teeth,” Gasol joked. A reporter had an immediate comeback, suggesting that may happen since he’s been throwing elbows lately, most notably his hard foul in the Lakers’ 102-96 victory Friday against the Phoenix Suns. In that game, Gasol made a hard foul with 5:06 remaining in the fourth quarter on Phoenix backup center Louis Amundson across his face after he received a pass from guard Steve Nash inside. Suns Coach Alvin Gentry ran to the mid-court line and immediately told officials they should’ve given Gasol a flagrant foul. Instead, they ejected Gentry, who had to be restrained from his coaching staff and Phoenix guard Jason Richardson.
– From Land O’ Lakers: Friday, in detailing the shortcomings of the Lakers on the offensive side of the ball over the season’s first 65 games, I noted they still had the time and talent to turn things around. And while victories over the Raptors Tuesday night and Phoenix on Friday weren’t exactly dominant (though in regards to the Suns game, you won’t find me in the crowd complaining about any missing style points), they certainly marked steps in the right direction when it comes to scoring. Consecutive games with outputs ahead not only of this year’s 106 points per 100 possessions, but also last year’s mark of 109.8 (all numbers via HoopData.com). Granted, neither opponent qualifies as a defensive juggernaut (or “juggerprettygood” for that matter), but beggars can’t be choosers. It’s a positive sign. Moreover, the Lakers will have a chance to continue finding their proverbial flow over their next four games, all against some of the league’s weakest sisters: At Golden State and Sacramento, then Minnesota and Washington at home.
– From Yahoo Sports: Privately, people wonder: How many more passes does Kobe Bryant give Pau Gasol(notes) for speaking so boldly about him? How long until Bryant’s public and private reprisal comes with a ferocity that could bring a 7-footer to his knees? All season, Gasol has been a relentlessly consistent, if not passively aggressive, critic of the franchise star’s shooting habits, of an offense that doesn’t deliver him the ball with the frequency that he wants. Whatever the reasons, Gasol has been emboldened to speak his mind. Whatever the odds, Bryant has bit his lip and let it go. “I believe in what I believe,” Gasol said. Hours before Friday night’s victory over the Phoenix Suns, chatting on a chair inside U.S. Airways Center, Bryant let out a laugh and insisted there will be no public rebuttals. “I’m not touching that,” Bryant said with a smile and shrug.
– From Basket Blog: After stopping a four-game road losing streak with a Friday night victory in Phoenix, the Lakers will look to build a streak in the other column when they head to Northern California for Monday-Tuesday road clashes with Golden State and Sacramento. On paper, the Warriors (18-47) and Kings (22-44) are among the league’s worst teams, the Lakers having already beaten the Kings twice and Warriors thrice. But both wins against Sacramento came down to the wire, first a 112-103 overtime victory in the state capital on Dec. 26 and second a 109-108 buzzer-beating win courtesy of Kobe Bryant’s three-pointer in front of the Kings’ bench. The victories came easier against Golden State (a total of 49 points, in fact), but the Warriors have played better at home of late, taking Portland down to the wire before a late loss on Thursday and defeating Toronto on Saturday.
– From Warriors World: Quick Hits with Rey & Peter of TheNoLookPass.com Is Pau Gasol now the best player on the Lakers? Ha ha. Is this a trick question? Kobe Bryant still makes the Lakers go but they’re obviously both important to the team with Kobe being the perimeter presence and Gasol being the inside man. Pau is such a flower, though. I would like to see him toughen up and be physical on the inside… and I would like to see him jam the ball down someone’s throat. Gasol will never be a bruiser but he wasn’t scared of anything last year. This year, he’s reverted back to that ’soft’ form. And if I call Pau Gasol a flower, he’s far from being the best player of the team. Kobe continues to be nails in clutch situations, what do you think makes him so special in those particular situations? Kobe has nerves of steel. He lives for those moments and wants to take responsibility for that shot. Win or lose, it’s on him and he will take the burden. The Lakers have been in this situation many times and we all know that the four other Lakers are looking for him to take that shot. #24 will take the pressure off his teammates. Basically, he’s fearless. And while it’s thrilling to see all those game-winners, the Lakers really shouldn’t be in that situation many times in the first place.
apropos to much of the above, from Stein’s Power Rankings:
Some background for your next heated Lakers argument: They’re 3-5 when Kobe takes 30 shots or more, 25-9 when he takes 20 to 29 shots and 20-4 when he takes fewer than 20, including the five games Kobe missed.
1, Whether your intention or not, I don’t like that people use those stats to say that Kobe is a ballhog to the detriment of his team. He could just as well be taking more shots because the rest of the guys aren’t playing well, rather than the team plays poorly because he’s taking those extra shots. I’m not saying the latter is completely untrue, however.
Simple Answer says
2. I agree with Don,
Kobe taking more shots might be in response to the team not playing well or losing as opposed to the team losing because Kobe is taking too many shots.
It’s as if saying that a team is taking and missing too many three pointers in the closing seconds of the game when in reality, that team has to take those threes in order to even have a chance.
Correlation need not equal causation.
I’m not sayin’ nothin’.. I’m just sayin’.
-joe (just the fax) friday
Craig W. says
A couple of year ago there was an extended analysis of Kobe’s shooting and I think today’s commenters should read this extended article before getting specific with their comments. http://www.littlewhitestatistics.com/?cat=7
Frequently Kobe shoots more because his team is in trouble. This usually occurs in the 3rd and/or 4th qtr of games. When he shoots fewer shots it is usually because the team is ahead and functioning well. This ballhog name tag just doesn’t take into account the when or why he is shooting. Also, his percentage often goes down when he shoots more because his teammates are ‘out of it’ and the other team is – properly – assigning more defenders to him.
This isn’t the entire answer, but I suggest people read the above link before starting this old saw again.
i dont agree that kobe is past his prime just yet.
the guy plays with a broken finger and still delivers amazing stats. while guys like lebron take a week off, and shaq the rest of the regular season because of his thumb even though he probably needs 2 healthy fingers to dunk a ball and lets face it, he doenst have a shooting touch to lose, kobe still keeps it going.
i am quite certain that if he takes care of his body this summer and gives himself the chance to heal he will have improved stats next season for sure.
The reason Kobe is past his prime isn’t entirely his age. There are just so few athletic freaks who make it into their 30’s without losing much athleticism. Kobe has had two knee surgeries and after each he has lost a little something. To me Kobe’s work ethic and skill speak volumes to this as he has maintained his play at such a dominant level while his explosiveness has taken a hit. He has gone from the next Michael Jordan to the next Larry Bird. He can get his shot off in the tightest spaces and make so many of them. When you watch Lebron you ask how does his body do that? When you watch Kobe now you ask how did he just do that?
Its OK as a Lakers fan to admit he is past his prime. He still is the 2nd best player in the NBA and the guy who is going to lead us to another championship.
I have no problem acknowledging that Kobe is past his athletic prime. I am not so sure that means his productivity is in decline. I think we will see Kobe become a better shooter and better facilitator for the next two or three years. Drives to the hoop will be a rarity, but with Gasoland Bynum, it is not really needed.
The question is can Kobe keep evolving as his scoring totals shrink, or will he still feel he has to ‘eat first.’
Chris J says
Off topic, but the Boston fans at CelticsHub are having a meltdown, wake-up-and-smell-the coffee kind of moment about their team’s title chances. They’re a bit late in making this realization, but Boston fans aren’t known for seeing things as they are.
The best comment was this one:
March 15, 2010 at 11:59 am
i also REALLY wish we would’ve held onto Leon. Him, Perk and Rondo would’ve been a great new ‘Big 3? to build the team around”
Yeah, a nucleus of Rondo, Perkins and Leon Powe would easily replace the talent level of regular All-Stars like Garnett, Allen and Pierce.
Maybe we should hope the Lakers can build around Sasha, Josh Powell and Sun Yue when Kobe, Pau and Odom begin to fade. Yeah, that’s the plan…
For his sake, let’s hope NHBluesMan is only 7-years-old. Otherwise, he may be the least-informed basketball fan on the planet, and that’s saying a lot considering he’s distinguished himself from so many other Boston fans.
Joel B. says
Philip thanks for looking up that free throw percentage for me. I did a quick look at just the top four teams (the teams they will most likely have to face to win a championship) Dallas, Denver Cleveland and Orlando. In 8 games versus those teams he’s 16-25 64% a drop for 79% average. (and thats just by not missing any freethrows versus Orlando). Thats an average of 3 freethrows a game versus those teams. So in the playoffs I just hope he can pick that part up. Last year in the playoffs he got to the line regularly like he’s doing this season. An average of 3 freethrows a game is not going to cut it this year. But it was just an observation so I digress.
10 Joel, how is a 15% (79 to 64) drop an average of 3 free throws a game? Pau would have to be shooting 20 FT’s a game for that to be the case. It seems like that drop should only account for a 1.5 pt difference per game. Am I misunderstanding you?
Warriors game preview is up.
Edit to above comment: I got you Joel, you’re saying he missed 3 FT’s a game versus Dal, Cle, and Den. I want to point out that he’s “costing” the team 3.75 FT’s by shooting 64% instead of 79%, and that avgs to 1.25 pts per game. If you factor in the Orl game, he’s costing .94 pts a game against those elite 4 teams w/ his “poorer” free throw shooting.
The Dude Abides says
13. I think Joel meant that Pau shot 3 FTs a game against those teams (25FTs in 8 games).