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3 keys for Lakers to end Utah's nine-game winning streak

Team #9

Even with just one game remaining before the All-Star break, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has attached significant importance to tonight's game against the Utah Jazz. He has acknowledged that the 102-94 loss on Dec. 12 still resonates among team members. After Monday's game against San Antonio, Jackson said Utah (32-18), winner of 13 of its last 14 games, was "playing the best ball in the West right now." And then there's the probability the Lakers will play without guard Kobe Bryant (left ankle sprain) and center Andrew Bynum (right hip).

Though the Lakers (40-13) would obviously like Bryant in the lineup, they have won their last two games without him. That's a much better showing than their recent 5-3 trip, a loss to Denver and their sluggish play in a win against Charlotte. Three key points would help keep up the recent success and help the Lakers to enter the All-Star break on a good note.

1. Get everyone involved.

Lakers forward Pau Gasol has an easy theory on why the Lakers have played well the last two games without Bryant and Bynum in the lineup.

"We just played the triangle," Gasol said.

Sounds simple enough, but when you don't have a definitive go-to option. it becomes necessary to approach the game by committee. Consider the stat lines of the Lakers personnel against Portland and San Antonio compared with their season averages beforehand: Ron Artest (21 points, 18 points, 11.5 points), Shannon Brown (19 points, 8 points, 7.5 points) Derek Fisher (14 points, 13 points, 7.1 points), Jordan Farmar (12 points, 13 points), Lamar Odom (10 points and a career-high 22 rebounds, 16 points and 10 rebounds, 9.7 points and 9.6 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (13 points, 21 points, 17.1 points).

Notice not everyone had a great game in Portland and San Antonio. Brown mostly struggled against San Antonio as a starter and only went three of 13 from the field. Gasol shot only six of 14 against Portland but then rebounded with a pretty impressive stat line against San Antonio beyond his 21 points. That also included 19 rebounds, eight assists and five blocked shots.

That team balance ensured a solid outcome, regardless of anyone's individual performances.

2. Secure leads

Even if Utah is on a recent tear, the Jazz recently has displayed warning signs that another loss could be looming.

The Jazz had to overcome an 11-point third-quarter deficit Tuesday against the Clippers and struggled securing a victory Saturday against Denver, despite missing All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.

The Lakers can avoid the same fate if they secure the game early. That's something the Lakers struggled with in their Dec. 12 loss to Utah. They allowed the Jazz to put together a 20-0 fourth-quarter run, including eight consecutive points from Utah guard Deron Williams.

The fourth quarter for the Jazz was a much different story three days earlier in the Lakers' 101-77 victory. The Lakers held Utah only to two field goals in the final 12 minutes, outscored the Jazz 28-6 and forced nine turnovers, including three shot-clock violations. It became the Lakers' best effort in surrendering their fewest points in a quarter since limiting the Clippers to three in December 1999 in the second quarter of a 95-68 victory.

The Lakers put that together after trailing 59-53 in the first half after allowing the Jazz to put together 17 assists on 23 baskets.

3. Don't feel overwhelmed with a depleted lineup.

Beyond resting for the second half of the season, there are benefits for Bryant not to play hurt.

One example why includes the Lakers' earlier loss this season against Utah. A day after fracturing his right index finger, Bryant scored only 16 points on seven-of-24 shooting, including going one of nine from three-point range. The finger wasn't the only thing bothering him. Bryant had missed the morning shoot-around because of an upset stomach and needed to take intravenous fluids before the game and at halftime.

Jackson said the game planning without Bryant had become easier -- even if it involved having fewer players playing heavier minutes -- because opponents had to figure out another player to focus on defensively.

-- Mark Medina

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

Photos: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol, who finished with 21 points, 19 rebounds, eight assists and five blocked shots against San Antonio, celebrates with guards Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar after drawing a foul while making a basket in the fourth quarter Monday night. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

 
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4. Feed Lamar Odom Powerbar gummy blasts (or whatever they're called) at each time out.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

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

GO LAKERS!!!!

Perfect game for Ron Artest to showcase his talent .

WUTTUP CRUE!!!!

Not much time today to get involved in the crazy talk on here, but I firmly stand on the side of Kobe being invaluable to this team and it's title runs - this year, next year & the year after that AT LEAST. Why anyone would think otherwise is beyond me. TAKE YOUR MEDS - you're wigging out. Sheesh......


LO's commercial is just awful LOL! Someone needed to throw a few more bucks at it. Still, I love to see LO cash in a little - where can I get me some of them candy bar thingy's? And throw in a gordita while you're at it, ok?

See y'all on the live chat tonight. Let's whip some Boo-tah behind!!!

GO LAKERS!!

Nothing but another title will suffice.

When LO dunks all over Utah im going to be screaming "GET OUT OF MY WAY SATURN!!!!"

Maybe even throw in a few 'word enhancers' in between the original phrase ;)
I can feel it...this is going to be his new slogan...

Role players generally have large home/road splits, so I'd love to see the role players - Farmar, Sasha and UPS most specifically - step up big in one of the league's toughest road venues.

Is Bynum finished as a Laker? If all you did was read the comments on this blog you would certainly think so, but if you have watched him progress as a basketball player over the last five years you would know that’s crazy talk.

Funny how so many folks around here are particularly eager to question Drew’s character and motivation, or heart as it is euphemistically called. Do y’all actually know Andrew Bynum personally? Perhaps you grew up with him or were his date to the high school prom? How exactly do people come by this type of knowledge I wonder?

“I watch him out on the court” they will say, “and I can just tell.” These people obviously have an incredible hidden talent that must have garnered them a highly-specialized job tracking serial killers for the FBI, or somesuch. Because I’ve been watching Drew out on the hardwood for his entire Lakers career and I see none of what they supposedly see.

Instead, what I see is a 22 yr old, seven-foot phenom who’s still struggling to find his way, but appears to be doing everything in his power to make himself into one of the best basketball players on the planet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get there within the next few years either. As long as he stays healthy that is, and therein lies the rub.

If he does, you can rest assured it will be in a Lakers uniform because thankfully Mitch Kupchak and PJ are both squarely in his corner, as they should be, not to mention the Buss family. Sometimes I’m not so sure about some of his teammates though...

Kobe obviously had a difficult time initially recognizing Drew’s potential, although I believe that he has thoroughly recanted his infamous “trade Bynum for Kidd” rant of several years ago. Kobe’s GM skills are questionable, to say the least. All of this trade speculation around here is more of the same. I assure you, unless the Magic is offering Superman in exchange, Drew ain’t goin’ anywheres. Even then, if could turn out to be a bad deal a few years down the road. Not that I would give you odds on that but it’s entirely possible he ends up as the best big man around, and for some time to come.

Kobe now seems to be one of the few Lakers willing to feed Drew a post-entry pass on a regular basis. That’s when he isn’t flapping his arms at Drew and telling him to get out of the way or come out and set a pick. Pau is starting to do a better job of passing to Drew down low when he’s double-teamed and Artest seems to feed him from time-to-time as well, but Luke is the only one who seems to look for him every possession. Which I assume is because Luke has a better sense of how to move the ball around in the triangle than anyone else on the team.

What I’ve seen is a young man with special skills and uncommon size working hard to do the right things on the court during the course of the game. Of course he doesn’t always succeed, no one does, but he scrambles to set picks at every opportunity and he rotates on defense every damn time some perimeter defender lets their man blow by them. He appears to be conscientious to a fault, as these activities oftentimes take him out of proper rebounding position and leave his primary defensive assignments unguarded when another teammate fails to rotate off of their man to cover his, as he did to cover another’s.

In addition, he runs the court on most every transition, except perhaps obvious break-aways, and sets more screens than anyone else on the team. His defense is a work in progress, but he does quite well down low and when he is assigned to stop other low-post players from scoring in the paint he usually does a commendable job of it. He tries like hell to defend the pick-and-roll play properly and seems to have made substantial progress in that regard. His shot blocking skills are quite good even though his timing still needs some work. His occasional foul problems seem to have more to do with not yet having earned the respect of the refs than with inexperience, both of which will be necessarily be rectified with time.

Recently, several Lakers have been critical of Kobe for not pushing the ball down into the post often enough. These included Pau, LO, Fish and even the coach, as well as other coaches and at least one former Laker great. Bynum spoke not a word that I’m aware of throughout this brouhaha, although a lot of folks around here were lumping him in with this group of complainers or as they probably prefer to be called, constructive criticizers, without a shred of evidence that I ever saw.

I think this an indication of one of the things Drew has been learning this year, which is when to keep his mouth shut. He did earn some well deserved criticism for his comments on not making the All-Star team this season. Hopefully, he’s now learned not to talk to the media about his personal goals going into a new regular season slog. Any previous complaints he may have had regarding coaching, coaches or teammates seem to have been mooted this time around.

As to the accusations that he didn’t work on his game during the off-season, all I can say is that’s not what I’ve read. From what I can gather he worked on both his conditioning and game over the summer and I think it showed at the beginning of the season when he obviously came ready to play, and played well. The thing is, young guys are inconsistent, especially young bigs, that’s just the way basketball works these days. If you don’t think Drew is improving as a player then just look at his numbers and you’ll see a continuous progression from year-to-year.

When did Kobe stop improving as a basketball player? Same as it ever was, experience breeds a continuous progression of skills. I haven’t seen any indication that Drew is regressing, quite the contrary. This is a guy that played very little basketball in high school and none in college, what he needs most right now is more time on the court.

Which is why his major goal for this year should be simply to remain injury-free and log some serious game time before the playoffs start. His production is pure gravy. The Lakers are loaded with talent and the only time they really require Bynum’s presence is
when they are facing an especially physical team. From what I’ve seen he’s making the most of his opportunities to learn the nuances of the game and refine his particular skill set. Sure, he’s still got plenty to learn but he’s shown a basketball acumen and a willingness to adjust to whatever circumstances present themselves to him during the course of a game.

As far as not working with Kareem, well I think Kareem has enough on his mind right now with his illness and all, and I can only assume that this was a mutual agreement to give both of them some time and space. I haven’t heard anything about this relationship being permanently discontinued but I can well imagine that Kareem’s got more important things to deal with right now. However, I would not assume that these two aren’t continuing to communicate until I hear otherwise from some reliable source.

As to supposed attitude problems, sulking and immaturity, I don’t see anything that I believe to be excessive in a 22 year-old athlete. Sure, he doesn’t have the same game as Ron Artest or Kobe. You won’t often see him diving on the floor for a loose ball, although I have seen him get down and dirty a few times this season. However, there are quite a few other great Lakers who have played with a seeming aloofness. Here I am thinking particularly of Kareem and Silk. You don’t always have to look like your putting out your maximum effort to actually be doing it. Folks should not necessarily conflate activity with effort, or results for that matter.

As Kareem has been his mentor, it’s not surprising that he seems to have the same type of demeanor on the floor. We all know that Kareem got unfairly attacked for his attitude over the years as well, as we now know just how misguided most of those attacks were. Let this be a lesson to those who chastise Bynum. As he hopefully blossoms into a great player in the next few years, your misguided criticisms may come back to haunt you and fill you with regret. At least give the kid the benefit of a doubt and try to see the positive contributions he makes, and will make, to the team, ‘cause he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

GASOL IS TREADING THIN ICE:

"We just played the triangle," Gasol said.

Sounds like a message to Kobe....

So LO went to the moon by way of Saturn? Dang, that's some detour.

Uh... 32-10?
I think you'll find Utah are 32-18.

They're good... but they're not THAT good.

aztronut-

very good.

Benjamin - Good catch. I fixed it.

MM

Todd,

That's like saying the Michael Jordan was a ball hog and making his team worst, Lebron making his teammates worst because he is so ball dominant, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo makes his team worst. You have no idea what you are talking about.

Kobe's fault for the Lakers losses? The moment your credibility was ruined here when you declared Jordan Farmar the best PG in the league.

Guess you love the early 1990's huh with Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones. Sure they played "team ball" but they were just a 1st or 2nd round team. Not until Shaq and Kobe came did the Lakers win. I wonder if you are (I miss Nick Van Exel/Eddie Jones). ICause you sure seem like it.

This team is to win TITLES. Name one team that won without a Superstar. No Detroit doesn't count since Chauncey Billups was there superstar (look what happened to Detroit after he left hmmm?). 2000-2002 was Shaq and Kobe. 2003/2005 was Tim Duncan. 2004 was Chauncey Billups. 2006 Dwyane Wade. 2008 Paul Pierce. 2009 yes yes Kobe BRYANT (I bet you thought Jordan Farmar was the real finals MVP). 2007 was the ONLY time a non superstar led his team and no disrespect to Tony Parker but he wouldn't have won that without Tim.

The Lakers play for TITLES. Not pacific division crap or western conference crap the LARRY FREAKING O'BRIEN. That's what you play for huh? No Kobe is our best chance to win this title. *YOU* play for Jordan Farmar and Andrew Bynum. Mamba fans play for RINGS.

Staples 24,

Just less than 2 weeks ago you said "Bynum, Kobe=physical championships" now you say trade Kobe and yet stated earlier to trade Pau for Chris Bosh.

Bandwagon fool.

Thanks phred.

Wow, didn't realize what a Bynum aadvocate aztronut is.
After painfully reading through another one his long post in which he uses the old "Do you know him" and if you don't know him personally 'how can you judge" theme, I interject with... Since few of us "personally know" anyone and I doubt that you know Mitch Kupchak, PJ, Kobe, or the Buss family, we should just stop posting making assumptions, criticisms, and praises.
aztronut powers of observation do not coincide with others. Where he saw a well conditioned Bynum come into the new season, many saw a player who could seldom run down the court, get off the ground, and move laterally.
But of course you said he looked fit at the beginning of the year.
Riddle me this Batman, how does a player lose stamina during the course of a season? People are talking about how Pau is just rounding into form after his injuries. If Bynum lacks conditioning now, it is rather obvious he was not in condition at the beginning of the season.
But I don't know him personally so why should I be writing my observations.
The opinion that since Kareem was working with him he has taken on his personality is another baseless opinion. Unless of course you know Andrew.
since I doubt you don't, I will continue to voice my opinions and observations as i know you will, but without the arrogance that my opinion is more accurate than yours.

Troll Man,

TROLL-BE-GONE!* Pssssssssssssssssst...

Just picked some up at the hardware store and thought I'd try it out. I won't even bother to try and have a serious dialog with you, as it doesn't appear possible. Good luck living in Troll Man Fantasyland...


* Recommended by the Billy Goat's Gruff

great take "aztronut" but I would still take a swap with Bosh anyday.
Bynum may be dominant someday, but Kobe isn't getting any younger, and if we were to get very lucky again and land Bosh, we would DOMINATE anyone and everyone for the next five years.

mclyne,

Thanks for reading it. To each his own. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. G'day!

Nasa's latest space craft that reached Saturn was the Cassini mission. Maybe, LO is an extra terrestrial that landed in Queens, NY. When he talks, he's always high and moves his head like the rings on Satun.

I think what the lakers need is a good physical, high basketball IQ and good defender player to replace Andrew Bynum, he also must have good shooting. And that player has a name, and he is young, he is just perfect, his name is Marc Gasol, he is more physical than his brother, and damn effective, and he improves every year, be is serious and he has a big sense of team-play(completely opposite to Bynum), he has awsome passing, and awsome footwork, he even has more fire in blood than his brother Pau. Lakers should try to get him at any cost, gasol brothers could be magic combo, can you imagine the impact gasol brothers playing together in the lakers?they could be leyend a perfect connection for the media, and a perfect connection for the team.

Troll Man:

Excellent rebuttal on aztronut's post.

You is "Out Freakin Standing" Now Stop Stop already!! LOL

Nice to see a different perspective.

Wife who put husband in doghouse soon find him in cat house.

Edwin Gueco:

I actually witnessed the Discovery lunch on March 12, 2008. I was closer than the VIPS, closest one can get and just far enough from being incinerated. It was an awesome experience.

No more space shuttle as we are going back to old ways the one still used by Russians. These space shuttles are very expensive to launch and maintain.

Peace brother!!

aztronut: good job with a lot of effort in defending Bynum. Unfortunately I'm still not convinced!

Somebody should tell Andrew that he's not Kareem nor is he Pau Gasol. Never was and never will be. He is definitely NOT destined to be a finesse player in that mold. OTH, with just a little bit of work he can be the next Shaq.

Somebody should tell Andrew that he's got a good chance to be the next Shaq instead. That is, put on rock hard weight into his frame as well as a serious scowl into his face instead of the usual sheepish grin. Put on a serious attitude most of all and put a chip on his shoulder. Bynum is not expected to be the "Beast" by Laker fans for no reason. He should be a loose cannon, a loose bull in a china shop whenever he plays in the paint. He should be pushing, shoving, elbowing, bullying and intimidating his opponents. He will know he has done a good job when opposing fans accuse him of being a thug! That is the ultimate compliment to a player when he shows that he so despises losing that he is willing to win-at-all-cost.

Somebody should tell Bynum to cut out those cutesie little shots or layups already. When was the last time we saw Shaq attempted a layup within 3 feet of the basket? For Bynum it should be one Tomahawk dunk after another whenever the basket is within his reach. There is a very good reason for this: after a while opponents will stop trying to contest or block him but instead just scatter and concede the dunk so as not to be posterized nor getting hurt. Shaq understood this. Bynum has not.

That's what I'm talking about. Whether he is unable or unwilling, his casual way of playing the game makes us question his heart and/or hustle.

Bynum, please live up to your moniker "The Beast" or else let Marc Gasol take your place in the Laker team. Funny somebody should mention it because not too long ago I also said in another post that I probably wouldn't mind a trade of Bynum for Gasol as even better than one of Bynum for Bosch.

psycorp,

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my work. I too would like to see Bynum develop into a more aggressive player and I believe that he will given some time.

However, I still think that the most important thing he can do this year is to show that he can get through an entire season without suffering another devastating injury. I believe the thought of being injury prone is still holding him back a bit. Not so much in running the court or rotating on defense but more in regards to battling underneath the basket for rebounds and blocking shots. In short, he's sometimes hesitant to jump, or perhaps leap would be a better word to use here, when he's around a crowd of other players.

I think this will all come back as he gains more confidence in his body, which will give him the strength to be aggressive in spirit. Let's not forget what we've seen from him already in spurts of greatness over the last three seasons. He just needs to develop the consistency that most 22 year-olds in this league lack and that will come with experience.

I still think all of this trade speculation is just crazy talk, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

REPOST:
----------------------------------


hobbitmage,

Thank you for pointing out the obvious that all these Kobe/Bynum bashers have been conveniently glossing over. What we are seeing is the result of a bunch of high-paid grown men who have been spending more than half of a season coasting along and depending on Kobe to bail them out.

**RANT**
Why?

Because only Kobe came out of training camp ready to play, that's why. These guys have been dogging it since DAY ONE.

I was the guy who told the whole blog just how quick and athletic Farmar is when he first came to the Lakers. That was ME! So, while everyone else is wondering where he suddenly got all these "extra gears" that allow him to get to the rack with impunity, he's always had them. Why did FARMAR wait half a season to show up? His comments were a Freudian slip, I think. He just ratted himself out on that one.

What we are seeing is the degree to which these guys have been dogging it. Now, they are forced to play, or get embarrassed. What was Kobe to do? Tank the first few games of the season just to make everyone else step up?

That isn't Kobe. What he decided was to let the Mamba out. And on his back (until he got hurt, and even a few games into that period) he led the Lakers to the best record in the League.

We know Kobe can play with this team, and I'm getting SICK and TIRED of people continuing with the "IF Kobe can play with this NEW mindset" type of crap.

IT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED!!!!!!

Did anyone watch the playoffs last year?!?!?!

The question has never been "IF". The question has always been "WHEN". WAKE UP PEOPLE!

I have been saying for almost 50 games now that "WHEN" would be after the All-Star break. As it has always been EVERY SINGLE SEASON since PJ has been our coach. My, how soon we forget...

When are we seeing the newly resurgent Lakers "scrubs" as some are still calling them? Would this time of year not be the ALL STAR BREAK? Is this some sort of cosmic coincidence? Or will we not finally admit that this is going just as PJ has planned it, once again? Hmmmm.....

Maybe he actually earned those 10 rings. You think!?

Heck! You can set your watch to when Lamar plays like an All-World All-Star. It is ALWAYS in the games immediately following the announcement of the All-Star invitees. Every season, no matter what team he plays for. His entire career.

He will go down as the greatest player never to be an All-Star because of it.

Trust me.

The rest of the season, we are going to see this "New Kobe", which isn't the New Kobe at all, but the "OLD FREAKIN' KOBE"!!!

OKAY!?
**/RANT**

hobbitmage, you da' man. Keep the sanity coming.

--FEARless


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