Going into their game against the Sacramento Kings, the Laker had lost four of five games. And it seemed bad going in with Kobe Bryant (foot) and Steve Nash (hip/back) nursing injuries. It started badly, too, as Nash went out after two minutes and didn’t return for the rest of the game.
But the Lakers played some great all-around ball after the first quarter as they stifled the Kings to 61 points in the last three quarters and won the game, 103-98.
What was really nice to see was some ball movement by the Lakers. 28 assists overall by Los Angeles. Saw a couple of high-low plays between Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard and saw Kobe Bryant make some wonderful decisions with the ball whenever the Kings threw the farm at him. Kobe would end up having 14 assists (to go along with those 19 points and nine boards) and Gasol helped out on the dishing with 10 dimes.
Dwight looked jazzed the entire game, looking especially active in the third quarter, and protecting the rim against the Kings. He went for 24 points (10/14 shooting), 15 boards, and five blocks in what was probably one of his top five games this season. As for the rest of the team, Steve Blake (15 points), Jodie Meeks (14 points), and Antawn Jamison (10 points) provided some great support for the stars.
What was also great for the Lakers? They tied a season-low with seven turnovers in this game. This is the kind of game the Lakers are capable of but we wonder if it’s too late.
The Kings got off to a great start and looked ready to run the Lakers out of the building. But the Lakers really took it to the Kings in the third quarter, as they forced Sacramento to commit six turnovers and held them to 18 points. While the Kings still got some easy putbacks that were baffling, the Lakers played a great game on both ends in three quarters.
We probably would’ve been talking overtime had the Kings made a better play than DeMarcus Cousins putting up three-pointers in the waning seconds of the game. Those moments probably reminded some people of when Dawson from Dawson’s Creek forgot his best friend, Pacey’s, 16th birthday. They were basically thinking, “Why are you stupid?!” The Boogie Wonderland saga continues.
Utah also won earlier today so, while the Jazz and the Lakers have identical 38-36 records, they do own the tiebreaker. The Lakers really have to step it up in the last eight games of the regular season, which is probably the reason Kobe Bryant played all but 22 seconds. He knows what’s at stake at this point.
And speaking of Kobe, congrats to him passing Wilt Chamberlain for fourth overall in the NBA all-time scoring list. He has 31,434 points now and can pass Michael Jordan for third on the list (Jordan is 858 points ahead of Kobe). Maybe by then, we can start comparing Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, right? Right?!
In any case, the Lakers have the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. The Mavericks are 1 1/2 games behind the Jazz and the Lakers so this is a very important game for both squads.
Now let’s hope the Lakers can repeat this kind of performance against Dallas. As always, I am skeptical.
But for tonight, let’s all enjoy this win.
Michael H says
Metta and Hill are out. Nash could only go a minute and a half. Kobe played 47 minutes with a bone spur and bad ankle. Pau is still trying to get his conditioning back after missing 7 weeks. Jamision is playing with a torn ligament in his shooting wrist that will require surgery after the season and Howard still is playing with the torn labrum in his shoulder that will also require surgery. I don’t know about you but for me that qualifies as a gutsy win.
I really don’t understand the no excuses attitude of some posters on many of the blogs I visit. This team has had it’s entire roster available for a whopping one game. The starters got six games together. Nash and Blake started it off by missing several months each and forcing us to use 3rd and 4th string players in the rotation.
Pau played with tendinitis in both knees and a bad foot, finally missing 7 weeks. It took Howard until the all star break to even began to look like himself. Hill went down for the season. Metta is down for the season. Jamison tore a tendon in his shooting wrist and Kobe has played through an assortment of injuries. Why is it so hard to understand why this season has been a bad one?
Turnovers have plagued this team but a lot of that has to do with the injuries. The team has never had time to gel and in basketball you need to know where a guy is going to be without even looking. Same thing on defense. It takes time together to get the rotations right.
Now I don’t pretend to know if we would be contenders if we had been healthy, no one can. But I do know that at the minimum we would be wondering if we can get a 4 seed, not if we will make the playoffs.
True indeed; let’s just enjoy the win today, who knows what tomorrow will bring.
Mamba!!! Kobe hung onto his vision of being one of the greatest to ever play the game. Even through all of the complaints about him thinking he was Michael Jordan. Seventeen years after entering the league, the skinny kid with an afro, tongue hanging out, chop slapping his hands together when he didn’t get the ball is still relevant. Fast forward to today, a day when he played 47 minutes and 38 seconds while passing Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time NBA list for 4th in scoring.
Thank you, Jerry West for recognizing magnificence in Kobe! It has been so much fun to follow no. 8 and no. 24 in his career to this point.
Harvey M says
Very well said. People are going way too far with the “no excuses” thing. The injuries have been absolutely soul destroying and for a team with so little continuity from last year and given the age of its roster, and the undeniable lack of depth, that is a killer. The only thing I can give to the “no excuses” crowd is that even with the injuries issue, there were games early in the season with not enough energy, that could have been W’s that would have been really useful now. And I will even give the Dantoni haters a bit of room, as he should have been better ready for using the size of this team with more post ups and twin horns sets. But I do think there are reasons to understand what he did, and that he deserves a bit of slack for needing a bit of time to figure this out.
To me, I even cringe when people say things about what this team is, because I think we have still only seen a fraction of what they are capable of under healthier conditions. I also feel that if given a chance with a bit better luck health wise they would have been able to manage minutes in a way that would have reduced injuries.
But to me this is still more or less a top 5 ish team with even only a reasonable number of injuries, and with upside if they can get a summer and a proper training camp, and with some key roster tweaks.
Michael H says
I agree that there were times that the energy wasn’t there. For me it’s hard to know if it was injury or attitude. Howard took a lot of heat for a perceived lack of effort. But then he was returning from major back surgery and perhaps he was giving all he could. Same with Pau. He could barley move for awhile and probably should have been rested. Instead it blew up into a Mike D doesn’t know how to use Pau thing.
Also think with good health and a few roster tweeks we could have a bounce back year. But for now, I will just enjoy efforts like tonight and hope they can make it in. Even if they lose in the 1st round I don’t want another team to end up with a lottery pick.
I full heartedly believe the Lakers will make the play offs! After seeing tonights win, who can doubt it. I don’t understand how all these haters can keep blathering their mouths with doubt. The game is rigged and it’s ours. LOL. The last three deciding plays, the no call on Tyreke’s drive, the foul sending Kobe to the line, the no call on cousins 3, cinched up the game. The NBA is professional wrestling and the lakers are Hulk Hulgan..
The Lakers 02 championship embodies an era… of the Bush presidency. That brings up a similar parallel, how nothing’s changed.
Harvey M says
I think it was a combo of the injuries to Dwight, and him playing too early, which made him play in a kind of nether land where he was stiff but still playing and trying to “calibrate his energy”. I also think that with all the injuries, the coaching change, and the normal growing pains they just got off to such a bad start (having Nash and Blake out at the same time and so early in the year was another serious killer) and with the expectations that they were just playing really tight from the outset. And Dwight’s attitude of being compromised but still needing the ball was an issue as was the Dantoni/Pau questions. The open hatred of Dantoni from so much of the fan base was also an issue, imho. So I think you had a perfect storm which then kind of fed on itself to create a sea of bad vibes/disharmony and poor play.
The Lakers’ remaining schedule:
vs New Orleans
vs Golden State
vs San Antonio
Utah’s remaining schedule:
vs New Orleans
at Golden State
vs Oklahoma City
And here is Dallas:
at New Orleans
vs New Orleans
Looking at Utah’s schedule, it is hard for me to see the Lakers getting in. There have been many bad games this year, but I think the Washington game is the one to look at right now. If they were a game up on Utah, they would be in much better shape, obviously.
Pau Gasol = PG = Point Guard.
10 assists with Nash down. Can’t wait for MDA to have him chase around Chris paul soon !
well let’s hope few last games will be winnable so lakers can secure their playoff spot…go lakers!!!
Harvey M says
Don’t know why you say it is hard to see Lakers get in. Statistically, ESPN has it as almost dead heat, more or less, with Utah at 48.5% of making playoffs and Lakers @ 45.7%. And that gives zero value to the lakers being clutch down the stretch, and any psychological advantage they may have.
Utah has at least 4 easily loseable games there (@Memph, @GSW, vs. OKC and Denver) and of the other 4, I could see them losing in Minny. So they could easily go 3-5 though probably a better bet is 4-4. That means lakers need to eke out around 6-2 to be safe, but even 5-3 has some chance of making it. They have been really good at home of late, and now face essentially 7 of 8 at home. So I am not betting the farm on this, as even more injuries can happen, and it is a tough ish sched that they face, but I don’t see it as unlikely. More like 50/50.
Bald 8, Afro 8, Cesar 8, Cesar 24 to Kobe now he’s right it has been an amazing journey. SO many great memories from him. Through the good times and bad he’s never not given his all every game he’s stepped on the floor rocking the purple and gold. To go from air balling multiple 3 pointers to #4 on the all time scoring list is amazing. Those airballs would’ve broken a lot of players but not Kobe. 17 seasons, at 34, the bar is so high for Kobe and so much is expected from him and he continues to deliver. I’m under 30 work at the docks and I’m not as driven to move up in the company as Kobe is to winning. It’s very hard to relate to that but the work he continues to put in I definitely admire as a Lakers fan. I said Lakers wouldn’t make the playoffs after Metta’s injury hopefully Kobe proves me wrong like he’s proven the doubters wrong time and time again. Happy Easter everyone..
Joe M says
So I think we reached a consensus. Lakers are not as bad as they have been during this season due to the injuries, but still would no way be elite even if they were at full strength for more of the season. There are 5 teams in the nba I consider elite which would be Heat, Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Memphis. Those are the teams we are looking up at and need to find ways to close the gap against in the years to come.
Funky Chicken says
Kind of amusing how a tough win against a bad team turned the storyline back to “good team, but too many injuries.”
Injuries have been a huge part of the season, but so, too, have a bad bench, mysterious rotations, terrible perimeter defense, multiple bad effort games, a completely misused Pau, weak coaching, and a “system” that puts Steve Nash in a spot up shooting role and gets Dwight Howard about one 4th quarter shot per game in multiple bad losses.
Injuries played a role, but it’s not reasonable to conclude that injuries were what prevented this team from succeeding.
It’s almost as if Jim Buss is writing some of these comments….
Wait, a Dawson Creek reference? Lol im stunned. The thing is that all those embarrasing early season loses against the Cavs the Raptors and all those bottom feeding teams came back to bite this team, for a while it looks like they had the 8th seed locked down but obviously the 2013 Lakers were going to choke that away too, now Utah have won 4th in a row and i have no faith this team will make it unless the win all the games that are left in a row. What are the odds of that happening?
Memphis,GS, Clips, SA and Houston, plus a game at the Rose Garden, tough tough tough shedule, what is our record against those teams again? If the Lakers somehow survive this gaunlet of doom, i be impresed actually i be stunned, and i bet all those teams are gunning to put the final nail in the Lakers coffin, time to rally for the team one last time, no more negativity from this end. This is it, we need to pray…
Harvey M says
The odds of them winning 8 in a row are about the same as Utah winning 8 in a row, which is what they will need to do ONLY if Utah wins 8 in a row..And Utah still plays OKC and Denver in Utah and GSW and Memphis on the road, and we have 7 of 8 at Staples where the team is starting to play very well.
ESPN has this as a toss up, with Hollinger’s system which is completely statistically based. That means it is the odds based on the Lakers being exactly as good as 38-36 team with a .8 point scoring margin would be, and given a slight uptick in results (but not scoring margin) over the last 25% of the schedule. You all can figure out on your own, whether that is how good they are or not. While for myself I say they are better than that when healthy, and probably even better than that right now a) they are not healthy and have lost a key defensive player from a defensively challenged team and b) may never be real healthy given the make up of the team.
For myself, I see the only really untouchables being Miami and OKC, with the Spurs and Denver close behind. The clips are in a funk right now and have a bad coach and a very volatile group, and Memphis is a good match up for us, IMHO. With a break or two and some health (and possibly some roster moves) I don’t think its a huge leap to #3 in the NBA, at least come playoff time. That still requires a status quo and no drama, and either a) a healthy Gasol or b) a good trade for Gasol, that shores up weaknesses without exposing new problems. This year that can’t happen, imho, as the injury to MWP combined with everything else is the straw that breaks the camels back. But this team is, imho, way more fluid and unpredictable than any other I have seen, and are way more likely to have a ton of upside than most. whether they can challenge Miami or OKC any time soon, is not something I would want to have a lot of money on, but with some excellent roster moves you never know.
For example, we were way more confident about this team before the last week. Then there was a game where Kobe and Pau returned from pretty bad injuries, were very rusty, took a ton of minutes and missed many shots and basically lost us a very winnable and crucial game. The stench of that game carried for a few more key games and led to some very bad momentum at a very bad time of the year.
Everyone underestimated the issue of the return of Pau as the team was on a roll without him, and the big question being how will Pau and Dwight survive on the floor together in a Dantoni system, had basically been a bad result till some good signs emerged in late January, when they promptly both got injured. So that key roster/rotation issue had not been tested with the revitalized Dwight until the 69th game of the season. I for one, was not surprised to see a bump on Pau’s arrival.
The cynics will say again more excuses, and I for one disagree, but I guess time will tell. For now, we can be encouraged that with just a few games under their belts Pau/Dwight seem to be finding a very good chemistry together and answering one of the biggest roster/rotation problem of the year in an emphatically positive way.
To give people an idea of how athletic Dwight was before this season if they are too lazy to go to YouTube… He is today probably the 7th or 8th best athlete in the league at 85 percent. Just remarkable.
Tra Posted on March 30th:
As for tonight’s game: With both Kobe & Nash hobbling, the Kings coming off 2 impressive road victories against teams that we’ve recently succumbed to, the Warriors and Suns, and the fact that they always bring their A Game against us, unfortunately, I’m anticipating another L .. Hoping that they can prove me wrong.
Glad to see that I was proven wrong.
Kobe, while playing damn near the entire 48, did a masterful job of facilitating the offense. Dwight is starting to look more and more like, come next season, he’s ready to reclaim that status as a ‘Top 3 Player’ in the league. Around the 4 min mark @ the end of the 3rd is where this game was won.
Respect given to Ty’ Evans. If he continues to improve on his mid-range jumper (because he can get to the hole with ease), he’ll be a problem that opposing 2-guards won’t want to deal with.
Michael H says
It maybe amusing to you that people saw this as a good win. It’s baffling for me to see how someone couldn’t considering the circumstances. There have been some non injury related issues for sure but many of the things you pointed out are directly related to injuries. Turnovers and defensive rotations are affected when there is a lack of continuity on a squad and this team this year has had zero continuity.
You mentioned the misuse of Pau. Where you watching Pau? It was painful for me watching him barely able to move with the knee and foot issues. There seems to be this myth that if you are on the court you should be able to perform at 100%. Not really. It was also painful for me watching Nash for the first month back because of his leg issues. It was obvious that he wasn’t even close with the nerve damage. Image being on the court trying to compete and your leg goes numb. I don’t know about you but I don’t think I would be performing well under those circumstances. You also mentioned not getting Howard the ball in the 4th. Have you watched him shoot free throws? Off the top of my head I can think of 3 games we lost because he couldn’t convert his free throws. Stan Van Gundy lost his job because he went away from Dwight in the 4th and Dwight wanting to be the man didn’t like it.
All you have to look at is some of the games we played short handed. We lost 10 games without both Nash and Blake. (Note: both Morris and Duhon sucked) In those 10 losses we lost by an average of 6.8 a game, including losing by 2 to the Spurs, Rockets and the Pacers. Think Nash and Blake could have been good for the difference? By the way in 5 of those games we also didn’t have Gasol either, including a 6 point loss to OKC.
There was also a 3 game losing streak where we were without Howard, Gasol and Hill. Our entire big rotation! And we lost to the Spurs by 2. Think having any one of those guys may have helped even a little?
I can’t say if this team would have been a legit contender if it would have been healthy. When you have had your entire roster available for 1 game, your starters together for 6 and and 3 of those 5 guys playing through significant injuries, there just isn’t any point of reference one way or the other. What I can say with confidence is that we would comfortably in the play off picture, perhaps fighting for a 4th or even 3rd seed.
Funky Chicken says
Michael, the Kings are a very, very bad NBA team. Beating them is not impressive under almost any circumstances (beating the Pacers on the road without Kobe was impressive).
I have watched Pau quite a bit, and in my view he has been miscast any time he is out there at the 4 spot. He was once an excellent center, but now he is nowhere near that guy–even when healthy, and as a PF he is totally out of position.
Nash has been healthy enough to play for most of the year. When playing, he mostly defers the ball handling duties to Kobe. Seems like a misuse of one of the game’s best ever floor generals.
Health, in my view, played a small role in this team’s defensive struggles. Nash, when healthy, has never been an especially good defender. Kobe is completing one of his worst ever seasons on D. MWP is no longer able to defend quick perimeter guys and is better at muscling power forwards that handling swift wings. Pau has been a defensive liability for a while, and even in his natural center position he offers almost no rim protection. Then, the primary reserve off the bench (Jamison) comes in and does what he always has: good point production that, generally, balances out all the points he gives up on D. Moreover, the head coach didn’t earn the name Mike Antoni (cuz there’s no D) for no reason.
As for Howard, I guess you’re on board with relegating your big man and franchise player (and only good player under age 30) to essentially no 4th quarter shots, but that seems an odd concession from a guy suggesting that, if healthy, the Lakers are a top 4 team. You don’t win in the NBA with a closing unit of old guys….
For every close loss to a good team that you point out there are probably two losses to horrible teams. Lack of cohesiveness is surely an issue this year, but a healthy Laker team would have had difficulty getting out of the 2nd round this year. I see no evidence that this team, a team that squandered big leads more times than I can remember, would have been a top 3 or 4 seed if the injury bug hadn’t hit so hard. A weak bench, bad coaching, totally inappropriate system for its personnel, and very inconsistent effort would all likely have prevented a first round home court playoff advantage this year.
Funky excellent and spot on analysis. Interestingly I have said almost word for word during the season yet a few people on this site bash me for being negative. The truth is the truth and it bothers me when some people chose to view with purple colored glasses on instead of except that this team and coach is deeply flawed. You can’t be considered a contender with a bottom 10 back court on defense and turnovers, very little offensive from your forwards and with a 7 man rotation and dead wood on the bench. Add a coach not qualified to adjust the team to the personal and you have a .500 team. They are what they are and at best might have been a 7th seed if healthy.
Better to wish they were younger, more athletic with better coaching. Healthy this is still an old, slow poor defensive team.
There are 29 other teams out there trying to or thinking they have good teams. Every year only 4 or 5 are correct. This year the Lakers and Celts were wrong. But history says both will be back.
Have a good Easter all, hated to see that scary injury to Louisville Kevin Ware. Puts the game into perspective,
We beat Sac, with one of the best players ever(in some people’s opinion)
Take it elsewhere, Neil.
San Antonio has been one of the top 3 or 4 teams for the last few years, but just one injury to Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili has been enough to knock them out of contention. This Lakers team has had injuries to every single one of its starters. Then you add in Blake/Hill and you have this team that has had every one of its top 7 players miss time because of injuries. Kobe hasn’t missed much, but the ankle has slowed him considerably. Dwight, of course, has never been healthier than he is right now, but it has taken him the entire season to get here.
These aren’t excuses. These are facts. Fans that expect the team to magically overcome all of these injuries as if they haven’t happened just aren’t being realistic. After everything that has happened this year it will be a miracle if this team makes the playoffs.
Kenny T says
Michael H…great comments at the start of this thread. Agree wholeheartedly.
Pau played well. Dwight played well. But I have to agree with Funky that Pau hasn’t worked (and is most likely not going to work) at the 4. Even with solid games by both, Paul and Dwight were -10 while on the floor together in a little over 27 minutes of shared floor time. And this was not just the bad first quarter. They were -5 in the 1st quarter, -3 in the 2nd quarter, -1 in the 3rd and -1 in the 4th quarter. That means that in the little less than 21 minutes when Pau and Dwight weren’t on the floor together, the team was +15.
Bulls without DRose, Celtcs without Rondo, Pacers without Granger, Spurs without Manu or Parker or Duncan.
Where are all now?! Did they won rings?! Even the Spurs last year was expected to win the WCF. If one of your starter is out, chemistry, offense, defense, ball movement, communication and defense matters. Spurs won the championship back in mid 2000 without barring injuries in the playoffs, Lakers won despite an injured Bynum playing for 2 years. Dallas won in 2011 healthy and Miami won fully healthy with role players stepping up big.
Now, tell me injuries is just a small part why this team is a mess right now. Where are all those teams with injuries?! All gone in the lottery teams, can’t beat the best team, Miami, in the playoffs.
We’ve been a fan in the NBA for how many years and we should’ve known that winning a championship takes time. A full healthy squad, a good chemistry among players, coaches. Excellent communication on offense and defense and most especially PATIENCE for the entire season.
Now, just tell me again, where are all those teams suffering major injuries right now?!
Answer is, GONE!!! won nothing..
Harvey M says
“Injuries” are a pretty amorphous thing. Most would agree that losing Derek Rose costs the Bulls at least 10 regular season victories if not more, but losing Rondo may not have cost the Celtics that much, at least in the regular season. So a lot depends on who is injured and what the make up of the team sustaining the injury is. With a team like the Spurs who are very deep, they can sustain a lot of injuries.
With the lakers who were definitely not deep, injuries were much more problematic. You could argue that the cumulative effect of all of these injuries was comparable to losing a Derek Rose type. But here, the other big issue is that with no continuity from last year, and with such big changes to the style of play (at least theoretically) with the arrival of Nash and Dantoni, then injuries are key, as they rob the team of the opportunity to develop the requisite on court chemistry. Nash hardly saw a high pick from Dwight, the key to his whole game and the cornerstone of Dantoni’s system till the all star break.
The other key thing is that, with an admittedly older and slower roster, it was essential that this team play with excellent on court chemistry to overcome some of the issues with athleticism. They were robbed of that by the rotating door to the infirmary.
Then you have the actual players injured. Perhaps the biggest injury was the one to Dwight who didn’t lose that many games. We are seeing in just the last few games, but generally since the all star break, how much having a 100% Dwight would have done to the make up of this team. I am thinking that alone adds 5-7 w’s to the win column. The other big injury was losing Nash and then Blake right from the outset. Having at least one of them would have made a big difference in November/December. Also it was very bad to lose all their bigs for the few games in January. By contrast the recent injury to Pau may have been a blessing in disguise while he was gone, but it probably hurt their scoring margin, and I think a few games were just lost when they had to re introduce him to a rotation that was working fairly well without him. Losing MWP right now, paradoxically may be a big loss as you are subtracting a defensive player from a team whose biggest issues are defence.
Overall, I think you could make a case that all of this cost the team around 8-10 wins, even accounting for a normal but not excessive amount of injuries, enough to be solidly in the playoffs, and fighting for top 4 ish spot, but not enough to challenge the top 2-3 teams. But that is really where many targeted the team from the outset. Around 52 wins, but with a lot of upside in the playoffs when rotations are shorter and an older roster, that is not deep is not as disadvantaged, and a star heavy team can have the biggest impact. While we are all focusing on the regular season W/L stats (which have a lot to do with depth, the lakers biggest deficiency), in the playoffs, I don’t see that big of a difference between this laker team truly functioning at full capacity and anyone but possibly OKC and Miami.
We can analize the team woes until we get nose bleeds, that dead horse have been beaten, buried, unburied and beat again, what we should focus now is how this team is going to run the gaunlet it has coming its way, starting with a golden opportunity to bury the Mavs basically for good, then we have a lot of tough games ahead its is too late for this team to mesh? We have 9 games and hanging by a thread this team needs to figure it now and fast.