Caught in the Web: Lakers' Christmas Day redemption against Cleveland Cavaliers
The Lakers' Christmas Day loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers still remains fresh in their minds. So much so that Lakers forward Pau Gasol wants to prove tonight against Cleveland that "we're the better team."
That's because last month's performance highlighted many disappointments.
There was of course the Staples Center crowd, not used to many losses this season, throwing foam fingers onto the court. There was the Lakers shooting 35.6% from the field. There was the team allowing Cleveland to shoot 54.3%.
Though the Lakers (32-9) rank first in the league in opponent's field goal percentage (43.5%), first in opponent's 3-point percentage (31%) and seventh in points per game allowed (96.4), performances such as the Christmas Day loss led Coach Phil Jackson to hold team meetings last week stressing the necessity to remain disciplined on defense.
"We’ve become a little bit more conscious of it and watch the energy we put out there defensively," Jackson said, "and trying to get back that understanding that defense is really a key to this game."
One person the Lakers won't have to worry about defending is Cavaliers point guard Mo Williams, who torched the Lakers on Christmas Day with a season-high 28 points. The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Brian Windhorst reported that Williams will miss an undetermined amount of games after suffering a left shoulder sprain in Tuesday's win against Toronto. The Times Broderick Turner writes that Delonte West will replace Williams in the lineup.
That still leaves the Lakers worried about LeBron James. Though Lakers forward Ron Artest limited James on the perimeter last month, Artest allowed James to score easy baskets through off-ball screens and backdoor cuts, resulting in James netting 26 points on nine of 19 shooting. But Artest said he's looking forward to the rematch against Cleveland (32-11), which slightly trails the Lakers for the league' best record.
"It’s always fun because he entertains that arena," Artest said of James. "I got to Cleveland before LeBron got there and there was nothing going on. He gets there and it’s all type of clown and circus acts around. I’ve never really been to the circus so it’s fun."
More Lakers links (after the jump)
--Lakers guard Kobe Bryant appears on Sesame Street, which is I guess a unique way of establishing street cred.
--In the latest issue of ESPN the Magazine, NBA reporter Ric Bucher has your latest tidbit on Chris Bosh-Andrew Bynum trade rumors: "Lakers center Andrew Bynum is someone the Raps think would be a good fit because he'd become an anchor inside and provide a physicality Bosh lacks. And it might not be a long shot. A Lakers source says there is a faction inside the organization that would make the deal." Bucher also reported that the Lakers contacted the New Jersey Nets about acquiring guard Devin Harris (insider subscription required).
--With the NBA All-Star starters being announced later today, Sports Illustrated unveils who its writers would have in the lineup. If the SI writers are correct, Bryant would be the lone Lakers representative in the West.
--The "LeBron-or-Kobe topic is inevitable today. Fox Sports' Randy Hill outlines a hypothetical debate between the two stars. Something tells me that having Charles Barkley as a moderator would be good for entertainment purposes. The Plain Dealer's Mike Pettica provides a statistical breakdown between James and Bryant.
--With Mamba 19 points shy of breaking 25,000 career points, ESPN's John Hollinger breaks down whether he can eventually surpass former Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league's all-time leading scorer (insider subscription required). Bryant is 15th all-time with 24,981 points and Abdul-Jabbar is first with 38,387 points.
--Forum Blue and Gold provides a well analyzed breakdown on the Lakers' "Point Guard Conundrum." They write, "Notice I did not say the Lakers are getting poor production out of Derek Fisher — the production is a problem position wide. Everyone who plays there."
--The Times' Mike Bresnahan has a reader who weirdly has had all the different injuries Mamba has experienced this season.
Tweet of the Day: "Many ask the same question re. if they read the books. The message is in the gving hopefully they will read but if they dont Phil wont stop." -- jeaniEBUSS (Lakers' executive vice president and Jackson's girlfriend Jeanie Buss on Jackson's yearly tradition to distribute books during a long trip).
Photo: After getting knocked around by Shaquille O'Neal and the Cavaliers on Christmas, Pau Gasol said he and the Lakers need to be more aggressive in Cleveland on tonight. Credit: Lori Shepler / Associated Press.