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Lakers try to grind it out before the All-Star break

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The Lakers have been banged up for quite a while now. 

There was Pau Gasol's left hamstring injury, Ron Artest's plantar fasciitis and Lamar Odom's recent sprain to his right index finger. Of course, there's also Kobe Bryant's eight-week-long fractured right index finger and his recently aggravated left ankle, though he will still suit up tonight against Denver

The Lakers are also tired, coming off an eight-game, 13-day East Coast trip that consisted of stops to Cleveland, New York, Toronto, Washington, Indiana, Philadelphia, Boston and Memphis. When asked whether the Lakers' fatigue is more mental or physical, Lakers forward Lamar Odom laughed and said, "It's both." Therefore, it's practically an understatement to say the Lakers look forward to some rest. 

Said Coach Phil Jackson, "We see that All-Star break and think that will be real good for this team."

But the Lakers will have to wait. They have four games remaining before All-Star weekend, with contests all featuring playoff-caliber opponents including a back-to-back starting tonight against Denver and Saturday at Portland. The Lakers then return home for a game Monday against San Antonio before traveling for a Wednesday game against Utah. Forward Pau Gasol describes these contests as a "very tough stretch" for reasons beyond the team's health concerns. That's because the Lakers have all lost rather handily to the aforementioned opponents this season.

Said Gasol, "We have to prove what kind of team we are and if we want to be champions again."

Forward Ron Artest ticked off a number of items the team can do to overcome the low energy level, including "eating right, taking care of your body, working out." Obviously these are only four games and the Lakers have often taken pride on their big-picture approach in not getting overly consumed with just one game or a group of games in the 82-game season. But the big picture also says this: The Lakers are 17-11 against teams above .500 records and they went only 1-3 against those teams in their latest trip. Though the Lakers (38-12) have enjoyed the best record in the Western Conference all season, the Nuggets (33-16) aren't too far behind. 

"Everybody is playing for a position," Artest said. "I’m sure everybody wants to try to get the first seed. We’re trying to hang on to the first seed. Every team is tough right now. Even us, the Lakers."

Of course, there are also areas in the Lakers' previous meetings with Denver, Portland, San Antonio and Utah that they can sharpen for the second time around.

1. Kobe Bryant's health

Bryant's health has always been an issue this season, what with his fractured right index finger, sprained elbow, back spasms and, most recently, his sprained left ankle. His severe injuries affected him significantly in games against Utah, Portland and San Antonio. 

Bryant shot only seven of 24 for 16 points Dec. 12 in the Lakers' 102-94 loss to the Utah Jazz while battling a stomach ache, a day after initially injuring his index finger. A month later, his finger remained an issue, as Bryant scored 32 points on 14-of-37 shooting in a 107-98 loss at Portland. Four days later, back spasms forced him to miss the entire fourth quarter in the Lakers' 105-85 loss at San Antonio. And then there was a game where he was just shut down defensively, with Denver holding him scoreless in the second half of the Lakers' 105-79 loss to the Nuggets.

Bryant mustered only five points on two-of-12 shooting against Charlotte while nursing an injured left ankle, but was good in feeding the post inside. We'll soon find out whether that sprained ankle yields similar results tonight against Denver.

2. A game of runs

There were several moments of lapses that eventually made these Lakers defeats too large to overcome. 

Denver changed a two-point halftime lead into a 87-64 advantage after going on a 29-8 run to end the third quarter. It was the lowest amount of points the Nuggets allowed in a quarter all season and it led to the Lakers' worst half of the organization's history. Though the Lakers never led after the first quarter against San Antonio, they erased a 22-point third-quarter deficit to six with 5:38 left in the fourth quarter. But all that offensive execution without Mamba's presence was wasted as the Spurs outscored the Lakers 25-5 the rest of the way.

Then there was Portland closing out the third quarter with a 7-0 run and a 81-71 advantage, a lead that never dipped lower than eight. And there was the Lakers opening the fourth quarter against the Jazz by missing their first seven shots.

Bad D

While the Lakers missed those shots early in the fourth quarter against the Jazz, Utah's Deron Williams opened the fourth quarter with eight consecutive points en route to a 88-71 lead. Artest had a bad 30th birthday when Denver forward Carmelo Anthony burned him for 25 points, including 18 in the second half in the Lakers' last meeting with the Nuggets.

And the Lakers just had bad days all together against Portland and San Antonio. The Trail Blazers' backcourt including Brandon Roy (32 points), Andre Miller (17 points) and Jerryd Bayless (21 points) overwhelmed the Lakers' guards, the Blazers made 32 of 39 free-throw attempts, and they shot 50.7% from the field, including a 56% clip in the first three quarters. The Spurs also did not have to put up much of a fight, shooting 57.3% and marking the eighth time in the Lakers' last nine games they yielded at least 100 points.

Injuries and fatigue may be overwhelming, but the Lakers certainly are aware they don't want to replicate the same problems they had displayed against Denver, Portland, San Antonio and Utah. And with a strong showing before the All-Star break, Odom says in the video below that the team's attitude may change for the better.

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Kobe Bryant tries to draw a foul against Charlotte's Stephen Jackson during Wednesday's game at Staples Center. Bryant made only two of 12 shots in the Lakers' 99-97 victory. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (22)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Tom D,
- - - - - - -
Once again you show you the best of the Toms. Perfectly stated accurate views of two of the greatest personalities in the history of the NBA. Bravo and thank you.
- - - - - - -
Tom

Fisher to put up 42 points tonight! Nah...

- wonder which obscure Denver player will have a career night? Some obscure player always has a career night against the Lakers so... I'm going to pick... Ty Lawson, I'll bet he puts up 20+ points and makes 5, 3 pointers.

I love how every time the Lakers play the Nuggets, the Nuggets always find it necessary to mention how much better they are than the Lakers. Last time I checked, the Lakers have beat you in every playoff series that counts, so don't kid yourselves. This team wants to act like they are not scared of the Lakers, yet they talk the most about the Lakers and how they supposedly are better. If you were so good, why would you have to talk to prove your point. Actions speak louder than words, and they will definitely speak volumes tonight.


GO LAKERS!

for the last two days i put up scintilating posts...only for there to be a new thread up as soon as i post. darn.

Hey, thanks, everybody. Y'all are too kind.

Mark G- You are too kind by far, I’m not really that profligate a song writer, it’s just a think I do from time to time, and actually I have had too little time for writing the last couple of weeks. But I do like that song, and I like the start you made with it. I say just go ahead and finish it up on your own, I would like to read it, and I’m thinking there must be enough song parody fans around here who feel that same.


Dr Substance Abuse- Hey, I think you have a unique sort of sound yourself there. Try putting that the tune of Sublimes’ what I got” and it really would sound catchy.

Wesjoe- weird and interesting

Was it Mike Nelson or Joel Hodgson who had the quote about the butter? Either way, I love me some MSTK 3000.

I actually am gonna be working relatively early tomorrow, so we'll see if I can get all the way through the game tonight. It would be nice to put this one to bed early so I can put this one to bed early as well. We'll see.

LakerTom,

you wrote: Whatever, man. Pull whatever rabbits you need from under whatever rocks to justify or validate your interpretations of what you THINK is in players’ minds. Using the Gasoft quote when you knew it was not true is just typical hobbitmage. As is imagining that you have an inside track into each player’s mind. A house built on your musings is not the same thing as a well reasoned premise.

1st. Pulling a rabbit out of my hat is better than pulling one out of my behind,
isn't it?

2nd. re: the "Gasoft" incident. If you can't accept my word on this is there
any reason why I should accept your earlier statement about not meaning
to mock me?

3rd. re: having an inside track into someone's mind & a house built on my
own musings. I have listed specific actions taken at specific times
that are verifiable by anyone one who wants to go check. I have stated
what my opinions are based upon things that people can go and look at
should they wish to. I have encouraged people to go and look at these
things and have waited for someone to show how I have mis-interpreted
them. *THAT* sir, is the basis/foundation for the "scientific method"
upon which all of modern technology exists. While you may disagree
with my opinion, you can not say that I have not provided any proof to
support a well reasoned premise. Quite the opposite actually. Unlike
yourself. Feel free to post some timestamps to a game to support any of
your arguments.

Tom Daniels,

1st. Hello.

2nd. you wrote: Kobe is different from last year as well. I actually disagree.
Kobe is injured, but his character is the same. It is his character which
drives his play. For example: His finger is busted. He busted a
different finger two years ago & he played. So. Different finger. Same
character. Same action. He plays. Has this finger affected his shooting
more? Yes.

leonardbast78,

1st. Hello.

2nd. I liked your response. Do you recall PJ's comments about the Bulls?
KB Blitz can back me up, but I believe he said: "They lusted to practice!"

3rd. re: expectations. Talent without determination is like a pretty girl
without a brain. She looks good in a dress, but do you *really* want
to introduce her to your friends? You would think that professional
athletes would be the most competitive/determined people. This is
one of the reasons I wish we had signed Tony Gaffney. I'm not saying
he had the talent, but he had determination in spades! Ya gotta cheer
for someone like that!

KB Blitz,

Hola y Gracias por sus palabras! What's really funny about this whole
conversation is that there's a NBA commercial which says almost the
exact same thing! Do you know the one I'm talkin' about? It's got KG,
Doc Rivers, Birdman, PJ & Stan Van Gundy ... I love that commercial.

Championships are not given to the team with the most talent. They are WON
by those who want it the most!

Go Kobe!
Go Lakers!!

Hobbitman, great post in the last thread, not much to add to that.

JonK, I really enjoy most of your posts especially when you stick to the team and the game and the players and let go of trying to one up a basher. Please, let them go, they have a place here just like mosquitos have their place in nature.

If we could somehow go 4-0 these next 4 games what a statement that would make, especially being banged up (Kobe, Ron) and kinda out of sorts (everyone else). We may play any of these 4 on the playoffs, maybe 2 of them for sure, and Denver will be tough tough tough. Now would be a good time to make them worry. Anyway, we cant let those nuggets get a win on the road, without melo, ugh, big confidence booster for them.

Nuggets vs Lakers is beginning to sound like the old Kings vs Lakers, those were some great games, the cowbells, PJ dissing on Sactown, Rick Fox fighting in the halls, ahh good times.

Would love to see someone put a nugget on the floor, maybe DFish will step up, he can get down and dirty if called for, but would really love to see Bynum slam somebody down even if it meant he got ejected. Bynum and Pau,
make them fear coming inside.

I think this is going to be a physical game, at least from the nuggets. Not sure if they are convinced they are better, but I do think they are convinced they are tougher than us.

Just do it you guys.

Courtesy of ESPN's;

Games Played Since 2007:

2007 Olympic Qualifying- 10
2007-08 Reg. Season- 82
2007-08 Postseason- 21
Pre-Olympic Tour- 5
Olympics- 8
2008-09 Reg. Season- 82
2008-09 Postseason- 23
2009-10 Reg. Season- 50

TOTAL- 281

OK here it is, with apologies to Sly Stone for messing with one of the greatest pop/funk tunes ever. To the melody "If You Want Me to Stay." Bass line intro


"If you want me to play, I'll tape em up today,
Though my finger maybe killing me too


I hear that Melo is out, but was there any doubt
between the 2 of us, I'm the tougher dude


They say I shoot too much, the bigs don't get their touch
But without me, where'd ya think we would be?


You know I'll be good, I only wish I could
Get the message over to you now!


With 1.5 on the clock, you know I want the rock
I guarantee you that the shot’s going in


Talk LBJ and D Wade, you know their names will fade
24 is going to be number 1


Looks like the green guys got old, and the Magic will fold
In the finals will see somebody else


Cleveland’s my guess, right now they think they're the best
But in June, I'll be dancing you’ll see ...

(fade)

I don't know what to believe anymore. Because if he is really injured and it is not just to say it to make the game more exciting, like that time at Memphis, although he was injured so badly, but still scored 44 to lose the game!!!

If he is so stubborn to take the wise action, then sombody preferably PJ (if he dares) should not play him tonight, or only few minutes. Because if he is really injured, it will get worse (god forbidden) and eventully sidelines him for the rest of the season.

Yo, blog drue...LET's RIDE!!!

Marky Mark,

Man, you are prolific. Nice.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

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

GO LAKERS!!!!

I'm off to work. The game will be on. Let's get a win tonight!

LET'S GO LAKERS!!!

LET'S GO!!!

LET'S GO LAKERS!!!

LET'S GO!!!

GOOOOO LAKERS!!!!

What do we play for? RINGS!!!!

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

GO LAKERS!!!!

I remember in the past when a Laker is injured,the show goes on and the 6th player takes over while the 11th player backs up the position vacated by 6th. That is precisely the reason why there are 12 players in a team or can go as high as 15 but can suit only 12 per game. However in the case of the Lakers, we have seen 8 players throughout the year plus Luke lately. The other four are hardly used, gosh Phil must be getting older, no longer daring to challenge his bench. He can't influence Kobe to rest nor discipline his bigs in dominating the posts. If players get old so are Coaches. Well, Lakers win because we have better stars and superstars but as a Champ we're just No.2 during the season.

It would be nice tonight if we can dominate this game by playing a hard nosed defense. Two simple goals, don't let Denver reach 40th point in the first half and 90th point throughout the whole game. It is all about help defense from the guards, management of free throws, less t/o's on unnecessary gamble and high percentage shooting in the post.

Lastly, give back the fans a treat by going for 100. A dollar taco and a W are good enough driving on the rain.

I don't know, I think Melo is probably their most physical player. Last time we played them Drew dropped 19 and 15 on them. I think their physicality is overstated, at least without Melo.

The Lakers really need to beat down the Thuggets tonight, not just eke out a win on the last shot. No, not even a beat down...they need to beat the crapola out of them. I want to see Class 2 technicals. Guys being clotheslined driving to the basket. I want to see the "birdman" turned into shredded tweet. No, I'm not going to be satisfied with a win. I want at least 3 of the Denver starters in wheelchairs after this game.

Seriously. If the Lakers want to get rings this year, they have to totally hammer, humiliate, and humidorize the Thuggets tonight. And if we need Kobe to take 85 shots to do it, I'm cool with that.

LET'S RIDE!!!

Hobbitmage,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8hjWRn51Uw

Wish the next great Laker Center brought that on a consistent basis rather than saying it and not doing it 80% of the time or only play defense if they are given the ball.

Let's go Lakers....Let's go Lakers...Let's go Laker's

Hey guys...what do we play for !!!

Hey Jonny boy K, have a nice time at work !!

Hey Jon K,

I thought you are back in LA. Are you still sitting at your favorite bar stool in watching games. You should go back to Santa Monica, the home of fine skinned people. lol! bec. you have been grumpy lately as some bloggers teased you to death.

I like the famous quote of Rodney King said for all protagonists in the blog, "can we all get along?" It's nice if the elder group would let go those carefree catch phrases or no so cute name-calling of the smarts. Words can' kill us, because if they do, I would have died a hundred times with those pointed arrows thrown at me on weekly basis.

We all know that we cannot win every argument. I wonder why it is hard for others to follow the simple rule of agreeing to disagree. Must we always say the last word? Mix smile in our passions and promote laughter in the blog. Laughter is good for our health.

you know, I think that Blitz, Mage and LakerPangloss are all much much better writers than they used to be. Wonder if they ever take the time to thank each other for that.


Edwin - it does seem that the tone of the blog of the blog has gotten a nasty lately... I hope it's not some kind of sea change but nothing stays the same forever.

Corner J - that was awesome! I totally agree, we need some kind of serious beatdown... send a message around the league.

ps - Am I being a hypocrite, wanting blood on the court but not on the blog? Hmmmm.

Dear Phred:

WTF 'Bra?

Enjoyed your responses, then notice my comments last night were not posted. Weird. Calm normal stuff.

Game is starting, got to go. BTW, where do you find the time to blog off like you do. Get off the couch, put down the chips, and find a women or John K.

Lakers rule. Am I too negative yes, this so called newbe has been bloging she-ot since the beginning.

Bring on the CAPS in another language boy. I am here. That is if the moderator allows me in.

M


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