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Lakers 93, Rockets 81: No creamy middles

Breakdown below...

Three Good:

  • Kobe Bryant: There are games where Kobe will go off for 47, knocking down a dazzling array of fadeaways, triples, and twisty pretzel layups that leave folks slack-jawed and drooling like teenage boys at a Victoria's Secret runway show.  Those efforts are certainly impressive and illustrate the enormity of his skills.  But Friday night, a game in which Kobe only took 11 shots and wasn't the team's leading scorer, gives a better idea of how much he understands and excels not just at the stuff that ends up on SportsCenter, but at the game.  Kobe led the team with seven dimes, and was incredibly active off the ball.  Often he's the beneficiary of pick and roll sets, but against theKobe Bryant drives on Kyle Lowry Rockets he spent a lot of time laying the screen, drawing the defense and creating open looks for his teammates.  Nothing seemed rushed.  There was a great moment in the third quarter when Kobe received the ball in the high post, and looked like he might make a move.  Instead, he patiently held the ball in anticipation of the inevitable double team.  Finally it came, and Kobe calmly delivered an accurate feed to Trevor Ariza for a three pointer.  Very simple, no flash, but a great play. 
And, of course, there were classic Kobe daggers- consecutive triples late in the fourth that pushed a five point lead to 11, and essentially clinched the game.

He didn't take the bait when questioned about the now semi-famous Michael Lewis NYT Magazine article, touting Shane Battier's ability to influence (as much as anyone can) Kobe's offensive output.  "Taking away from what he does as a defender would be completely disrespecting him  He's a very good defensive player.  I enjoy matching up with him." 
  • Derek Fisher: 15 points on 6-11 shooting helped give the Lakers a boost on a night where Kobe Derek Fisher against the Rockets wasn't a points machine and Pau Gasol struggled to find a consistent rhythm, particularly in the first half.  Fish was solid with the mid-range game, finding space a couple times thanks to the aforementioned Kobe picks.  Defensively, Fish had four steals and did a great job limiting water bug Rockets PG Aaron Brooks.  The former Oregon Duck can really fill it up, but tonight was held without a field goal, and finished with only three points.
  • Physicality, and DJ Mbenga: I think it's fair to say that four wins over Houston, two each over Boston and Cleveland, and other grind-it-out wins show that the old narrative of a brie soft Lakers squad isn't the case any more.  "That was what teams started to do.  They figured the Lakers were soft, just beat them up and we'll have a chance at beating them.  As athletes and competitors, I think we've taken that next step and accepted that approach and are willing to get out and fight and play teams like that, and beat them," said Luke Walton.  
For more on DJ, see below.  Especially the video. 

BK

One Bad:

  • Bench scoring: All in all, I don't think the bench play was a negative.  During the second and fourth quarters representing the bulk of their PT, the mob basically held serve (as opposed to recent games, where they could approach the scorer's table without sparking a 10-0 enemy run).  The closest they came to letting a lead fritter away came in the final frame when a five point advantage fell to a single point, but a quick pair of buckets from Pau Gasol and Josh Powell bumped it back to five again before Kobe and LO hit the hardwood again.   While those early season days of blowing a game wide open feel like about 1987, the bottom line is that the starters were able to get a breather without an uphill climb.  If the net result of their play is the basketball equivalent of "cat's game," fair enough. 

Having said that, their ability to connect Spalding and cord was anything but pretty.  Save DJ Mbenga (more on him later), nobody even flirted with 40% shooting, much less an efficient night hucking.  Jordan Farmar, 1-6.  Josh Powell, 2-6.  Luke Walton, 1-7.  Sasha Vujacic, 0-3.   In fact, that quartet had nearly as many shots blocked (three) as converted (five).  Like I said, this was hardly disastrous, reflective of a willingness to play tough and scrappy while overcoming issues.  But such pluck might also not have been needed with a little more proficiency.  Bottom line, thirteen points on twenty-two attempts leaves something to be desired.

The Celebrated and T-Shirted

  • DJ Mbenga: During the game, a bunch of us couldn't help but notice the first four rows in section 104 chock full of with fans donning gold T-shirts featuring "Banging With Mbenga" across the chest in purple.  As most of y'all know, I'm incapable of just shrugging my shoulders and looking the other way over such an oddity.  So after the game, I talked with their leader "Hoover," a 26-year season ticket holder and long-time advocate for the A.C. Green and Kurt Rambis types.  "The guys who did the dirty work down low in the post and don't get recognized," smiled Hoover.  "That's the part the casual basketball fan doesn't see." 
As the Lakers' resident mbanger, DJ Mbenga has naturally caught Hoover's eye.  He's been pleased with the Congolese center's "quality minutes" since Andrew Bynum's MCL gave out, and recently found himself yelling "Banging with Mbenga!" after a great play, a reaction that "just came naturally".  This ran so smoothly off the tongue, in fact, that Hoover decided to make a few dozen shirts blazing the phrase that pays.

With Yao Ming in town and Mbenga likely to get some run to battle that 7'6" girth, Hoover and the Gang decided this was an ideal night to debut the custom tee.  Mbenga had no idea these guys were in the house cheering him on, but you wouldn't have known it by the way he played.  4-7 shooting for 8 points (easily the most productive bench player in this respect), plus a pair of swats in just under ten minutes of highly energetic play.  Naturally, the night was all that and then some for Hoover, and he gave me a t-shirt to present to its namesake.  

Only one problem.  He worried that their biggest size (XL) might not fit.  And I'm guessing it won't.  But judging by Mbenga's surprised and touched reaction, that ain't an issue in the slightest.

Told about his fan club, Mbenga looked absolutely blown away, then made no secret that he wanted one of the shirts.  With that, I handed over the gift.  "Banging with Mbenga!" exclaimed DJ with a grin the size of his biceps.  "I'm so excited.  I like it!"  From there, the moment seemed to really register, and containing his emotions required some effort.  "You know what I'm going to do," noted DJ after a pause.  "I'm gonna send it to my foundation in Africa.  That's really nice.  I'm really happy to have this"   When I told Mbenga about section 104's appreciation of his hustle and balls to the walls, the pride DJ takes in grabbing their applause was evident.

"The love they give to me, it's because they see something.  And I appreciate this. As a player, you don't pay attention to what's going on, because when they call your name, you gotta be ready to do what you gotta do.  After the game, you hear about what they say, and that's when you find out about stuff like this."

Moments like these are honestly quite rewarding to be a part of.  I've expressed doubts that DJ can play this well 10-15 minutes per night on a regular basis.  Often with players of a limited skill set, increased time equals diminishing returns.  But that's also irrelevant, because I've also made no bones about how much I respect Mbenga's work ethic, attitude and the tribulations conquered to even reach the NBA, much less stick.  If anyone deserves a night like this, it's DJ.


AK

Bynum News:
Posted by Ben Taylor

The latest update on the always popular “What's the Latest with Andrew Bynum?” watch: More than an hour before the game, Bynum worked out with Kurt Rambis and Brian Shaw, performing a series of post drills with Rambis feeding him and Shaw acting as a post-defender. Bynum sported a large brace on his inured right knee.

By my estimation, the session was performed at about half-speed – nothing too physical, nothing too quick. Afterward, Drew said that “lateral movement started to feel better...it's pain free now.” He looked comfortable and executed a number of spin moves over his left shoulder. He even dunked, albeit barely, after one of them.

“It went well,” Bynum said. “We did a bunch of stuff, getting back into the triangle. Three on three started on Thursday. I haven't had difficulty with much yet.”

Bynum was in uniform for the run-through but insisted it was only “to go out with Kurt Rambis and workout before the game.” He said he still hopes to see game action before the regular season concludes April 14 against Utah. Ironically, Memphis - the opposition for Bynum's last two serious knee injuries - is the Lakers penultimate opponent on April 12. No one would blame him if he waited until the Jazz came to town to take the court.

BT

Quote:

Phil Jackson, on continuing to push for the league's best record (the Lakers are only one game back, after Cleveland lost Friday in Orlando):

"We have to make an attempt for it.  I wouldn't feel good about it, neither would these payers if we didn't.  We don't really hae to threaten our well being by doing it, I don't think.  We have some opponents that I consider dangerous and tonight when I walked in (to the locker room after the game) to talk to them I said, "dallas got beat by Memphis, Utah got beat on their home court by Minnesota, New Orleans got beat by Golden State tonight.  We have the have the Los Angeles Clippers and the Sacramento Kings coming up as our next two games, so we don't take them lightly."

VIDEO:

Kobe on the win:


DJ, on the t-shirts:

 
Comments () | Archives (38)

The comments to this entry are closed.

The two teams that worry me are Portland and Utah. They are the only teams who have played successful against the Lakers and can be the darkhouses from the West. Personally, I'd prefer them to be knocked out in the first round, but I doubt it will happen.

Never,

I accidentally deleted one of your comments. Nothing was wrong with it. Just a mistake. Sorry about that.

AK

guys,

it was not a perfect game but surely moments were relished especially dj's shots and activity. he's a nice person and he deserves those tee..
bk/ak, will u suggest the tee with "rock dj mbenga" on it.

see you monday (here)


steel chairs or wheel chairs nothing gonna stop us this year.

I wonder if fox sports (Randy Hill) is writing "cav's have flaws" articles. And the losing is all because of labron...right?

I think the battle for home court comes down to 3 games for each team:

Cleveland: Spurs at home, at 76ers, Boston at home
Lakers: Denver at home, at Portland, Utah at home

I think both teams win all the rest of their games. So, we need to have them lose at least one of the above while we win all three OR have them lose 2 ofthe above (unlikely) and us only lose 1.

I think we will win against Denver and Utah for sure. I think they could lose against SA at home depending on how bad SA wants to win or 76ers on road.

THE POWER OF THE LUCKY BARSTOOL COMPELS YOU!

33-1, baby.

33-1.

I had to stand there for an hour and a half to get that seat, lording the whole time over the poor soul trying to finish his drink as the Cavs got the snot kicked out of them.

While I am perfectly aware of the absolute irrational madness associated with my obsession with the lucky barstool, still...

We're 33-1 when the game is on and I sit on the lucky barstool.

Who's taking chances? Not me!

Onwards to victory!

What do we play for? RINGS!!!!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!

DJ "The Banger" Mbenga's improvement is probably the Lakers #1 "feel-good" story of the year.

GO BANGER!

What do we play for? RINGS!!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!

Good morning blog fam!

Now that was a great game!! I loved the hustle, the urgency, the fact that we were playing defense - it won the game for us.

Kobe was incredible with those back to back threes. It never ceases to amaze me, even though I know that's just who he is.

Crabron's team lost! BIG time. That was a great game to watch! Down by 39 at one point. MVP my butt.

GO LAKERS!!!!
I LOVE LA!!!!!!!!!!!!!
WE LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks K Bros. Love this positive reporting/blogging. I was getting tired of reading and hearing all the doom and gloom these last few days about the Lakers around the media.

Upbeat reporting and podKasting sprinkled in sometimes can't hurt the masses too much.

Lakers have 60 wins!

One of our best shots at regaining the league's best overall record will be tomorrow, Sun, when we play the Clippers and the Cavs play the Spurs.

Come on Spurs. We can do this.

Wes

Hear hear for DJ.

BK,

That was a nice chat with DJ about the T-shirt, and about those fans appreciating his hard work. Clearly, it meant a lot for DJ. Indeed a nice gesture of you to let him know that we as fans doesn't overlook anyone especially when they putting such work ethics and commitment, on or off the court.

For Mbenga, I'd care more to see a "Hey You Guys!" shirt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jwSjgEWp78

It was awesome to see the Mbenga Crew on TV last night...

I personally would have gone with the Mbenga Mblock Party

Any way on the game....It was a quality win over a good team.
With the Crabaliers getting mugged last night The Lakers have a real good chance at winning out and bringing home the leagues best record.


Kobe and Fish are playoff ready. Total efficiency for Kobe and Fish put the D back in D Fish.

They're both sportin' a bunker mentality. It's on.

Having said that, maybe we should just miss the plane to Portland. Rest up, get some things done around the house...

DJ represents everything that, as a fan, I appreciate in sports. I wish him great success. Can you post any info on his foundation?
Thanks

The Mbenga bit was awesome, guys. One thing bothered me, though - why didn't the shirts say "Mbanging with Mbenga"??

In all seriousness, it's great to see some love for the more unappreciated members of the squad. I think Tacos is a worthy recipient of section 104's support.

Great work, guys!

Any thoughts on Boston "resting" their team when they play the Crabs....Havn't studied the ramifications about their placement and a loss, but that would be a jab at the Lakers to come in with the 2nd best record, and not have home court against the crabs. Who does Boston hate more? LA or Cleveland?....Just a thought. Every win the last month has been a grinder for the Lakes, it's gotta be taking its toll or it's putting them into playoff mode early.....

It's all good. Anyway 6 more games to go! This stretch would be the equivalent of the last 2-3 miles of a marathon. I believe Cleveland has the more difficult schedule, but the Lakers do have Portland, Denver, and Utah. We all know Portland thinks they have a rivalry with the Lakers and will be looking to have a big game against us.

I say we go to their place and ride these fools at their own barbecue!

Do you have any problem with Pau Gasol? Maybe reading some of your colleagues' reviews of the same game would show you what I mean.

Our STARTERS were GREAT. But this W was special in more ways than one. I was able to appreciate the way the Mamba orchestrated his game and that was something beyond Grandeur!!!

He's always been our MVP and makes the BIG shots when we need them but yesterday he was extremely patient and encouraged all his teammates to participate. The one that made the most of it was our now internationally famous DJ Mbenga. I Iove his GAME and HIS ENERGY. I just hope this is contagious and the rest of our bench mob get bitten by the same bug.

At this point in time and due to our recent performance, I am concerned about ALL of our opponents and our team should take none for granted. Just play SMART DEFENSE, BE PATIENT, let the game come to you and STAY HEALTHY.

GOOOOOOOOOLAKERS!!!!

Kobe pokes fun at lebron's website:

"[The MVP is] not the thing that crosses my mind," Bryant said. "I really, really, really, really, really, really want that championship."

LOL! He's said it again and again, he really wants that ring.For me though, the MVP has always been a completely overrated award. Was I happy that Kobe won it last year? Sure. Does it say anything about him as a player? No, not really.

I hate, hate, hate MVP debates. Who cares who wins? Honestly, its an award chosen by members of the media. In my mind, Kobe will always be the MVP, he's the best and no one's going to change my oppinion.

So what if people think otherwise? No doubt you have to be great to win the MVP, but it really doesn't matter, it doesn't define greatness.

Those banging with mbenga ts were awesome, it was nice to see DJ's reaction and great that he could have a good game for his fans.

GO LAKERS!

LG

Jon K,

It is not irrational. Trust me. Keep doing what you're doing.

humanomal - that's a great comment about Boston. I dunno, they're in a race for 2nd, would they rather face Detroit or Miami in the fisrt round? My guess is that they'd rather face Detroit but I certainly wouldn't put it past them to sandbag the Cleveland game, just to hurt the Lakers.

MBenga T Shirt section?

It moved Mbenga to near tears after Friday’s game when he learned that a group of season-ticket holders in Section 104 all wore yellow T-shirts in his honor with the slogan “Banging with Mbenga” written in purple on the front.

“That’s the love they show me,” Mbenga said. “I need this T-shirt. I want to ‘Bang with Mbenga.’ ”

Handed one of the T-shirts in the locker room moments later, the Congo native held it up for the cameras and promised to send it to his foundation in Africa.

Lakers Plus Exclusive!!

And now, for a limited time, you can purchase this T Shirt from Lakers Plus. Be the FIRST to own this one of kind T Shirt.

“Banging with MBenga!”

Wear it to work and let it vault you to new heights as you impress your employer.

Show your boss, you are determined to be the best, as you knock down employee competition, fly swat away verbal jabs from inferior workmates, and step on the throats of employee newcomers.

Guaranteed to get you that raise you need or make the boss 'cut' or ‘layoff’ the other guy.

Banging with MBenga T Shirt - $49.95
Shipping and Handling - $23.99
Processing Fee - $15.00
Administrative Fee - $7.50
Lakers Plus ‘ Save the Whales Fouindation’ Fee - $10.00

And now you can buy this remarkable, inspiring shirt AND help MBenga’s Congo Foundation. A small, undisclosed portion of the purchase price will be donated to the MBenga Foundation.

Please allow 6-8 months for delivery. Inquiries for the status of non-delivered shirts will cost you $20.00 and will be added to your credit card charge.

Can you afford NOT to have this amazing shirt in these dark economic times?

Note: Kids using parents credit cards without there knowledge. Please be sure to include the expiration date and the security code located on the back of card. Charge will appear on statement as: Fatty’s Offshore Trinidad and Tobago Account.

Congo Cash!!!!!!!!

My attitude towards him has totally changed from his days of blessing my man Chris Mihm with elbows to the grill in practice.

He was so stoked to get one of those 'MBenging with MBenga" T-Shirts after the game. He said he was going to send it to his charity in Africa.

Props to you big man!!!!!!

hog

Yeah, it would have been better to have the "M" in front of the "Banging" part, but it's still cool. Love his reaction to his fans. He deserves all the kudos from the crowd. He's earned it.

We can win all of our games, even the one in Portland. That whole "rivalry" thing with Portland still makes me scratch my head. They can hate us all they want but I feel nothing but ambivalence towards them. I mean, what is the basis for this rivalry? It's just a real head scratcher. The only thing I hate in Portland are its announcers.

We can still steal HCA with great play and some luck on our part! GO LAKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Link to the Mbenga Foundation:

http://tinyurl.com/dmr5fv

Jon K.

Your fandom is very respectable. Keep up the good work.

You can't argue with long term results!

We really need you there for the next 7 games.

We get home court, I'm giving you credit.

Kudos.


And as for DJ. Just a really nice thing to catch. Couldn't happen to a more deserving cat.


AK

I'm assuming you were there for the Fox interview of the Mbenga Bangers?

Great call on actually procuring a Tshirt for DJ. You gave it a dimension that was missing from the TV take. You could see DJ was pleased on camera, but it went deeper.

Viva the written word and our blog hosts.

Thanks for the info about the t-shirts. If anyone deserves that is DJ. Last year he didn't have any kind of shot, and barely dunked. Now he have a jump shot and some basic basketball skills, and still improving. Looking him making efforts and being better basketball player, makes me think about the "gifted" players we have (Luke, Farmar and in a less degree, Sasha), why they can't make improvements like DJ? why they don't focus in at least one ability and improve it?
Luke is the same Luke of the last year, and the other years.
Farmar is getting worse, and worse, and worse each day.
Sasha is horrible now, but at least we see him trying to make something happen.

Why?

For the comment about Portland and Utah worrying you yeah they worry everyone because lakers have trouble with their athleticism. But both Portland and Utah are horrible road teams. I mean real bad road teams. So if the lakers play them the worst that will happen is game 7 at staples so I'll take the lakers chances.

But if lakers can win out they'll have home court in the finals. Cleveland will lose one of the games against boston, san antonio or philly. Most likely philly because its in philly.

Jon K,

What bar exactly last this lucky barstool? Im going to Cleveland for the next 2 weeks!! lol

WINNING SUPERSTITIONS?

Jon K has his bar stool.

Over here in Redondo Beach we have a peice of the sacred Fabulous Forum Hardwood. We don't us it too often, but when the going really gets tough we bring it out. The men all kiss it and take a shot, the women rub it on their chests (yes even the middle aged Mom's have to do it), and it has only failed once.

We didn't use it last year because I went to all the playoff games and it resides in my bar. I wish I had brought it with me for the "Collapse" game against Boston. I know it would have made a difference.

Anybody else have any winning superstitions?

SCinRB,
Sometimes i start watching a game after it started... and usually happens that the Lakers start losing the leads. Then i just stop watching, and check the game after some time in the NBA page... just to see they are wining again!!
Irrational, yes, but it works for me XD

GO LAKERS!!!

zen,

If you must know, it is Kepner's Tavern in Hudson, Ohio.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!

Wooowww
I am so happy to see DJ getting some PT this year and showing his improvement.
For you VMan, I was actually sitting next to DJ's trainer who I didn't know at all....very nice guy by the way....he was telling me that DJ spends hours working on his jump shot....like everything else, looks like hard work pays off.....


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