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Five things to take away from Lakers' 113-80 victory over the Sacramento Kings

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1. The Lakers ended their four-game losing streak. The significance of the Lakers' 113-80 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday at Staples Center is fairly minimal, considering that the Kings (4-13) entered the contest having lost 11 of their last 12 games and had a limited Tyreke Evans and tons of youth.

But here's where the victory is significant: It would not be healthy for the Lakers (14-6) to wait four days before playing a game after a loss. The Lakers already showed a stoic and levelheaded demeanor following their fourth loss in a row, but piling on another one would only have increased the frustration and tension. Having to then sit with that before a game Tuesday against Washington would only heighten their antsiness to get out and end that streak. After all, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson readily acknowledged that the team felt "frustrated" with losing four consecutive games for the first time since April 2007. So now instead of furthering that streak, the Lakers have a half-week stretch in which they don't have to field questions about their latest loss and they don't have to overly scrutinize their weaknesses.

Still, it's critical to consider the opponent.

"It's hard to make a judgment," Jackson said. "Have we broken free from the bonds that have held us, or are we still mired in what we're doing and we just got a weak sister in this particular time of the year?"

It's typical that Jackson gives his players a day off after a large block of games, particularly when the schedule shows a three-day cushion before the next contest. But the Lakers want center Andrew Bynum to practice as much as possible, so on Saturday, he'll take part in a half-court four-on-four scrimmage to test his surgically repaired right knee. With the Lakers' starters planning to rest, however, Jackson said he doesn't really know how valuable that practice will be. He also said he plans to keep the practice short because afterward the Lakers have their annual holiday event, sponsored by East West Bank, that entails hosting a clinic and providing gifts for underprivileged children. Jackson also said Monday's practice might be fairly limited because the Lakers have a holiday party.

(In an interesting aside, Jackson didn't seem too concerned with correct spelling when he wrote this on the white board in the locker room following the game, specifying Saturday's schedule: "11 report, Children Holiday, Joyfull ,Blessed, Gift, Xmas party, 1230ish").

Jackson's mild complaint about the Lakers adjusting their practice times based on the team's "social calendar" prompted a reporter to jokingly suggest that Jackson is exclaiming "Bah! Humbug!" a la Ebenezer Scrooge.

"It just turned December," Jackson said, smiling. "I begin celebrating Christmas on the 21st."

The Lakers certainly wouldn't have been in much of a festive spirit Saturday, however, without a win.

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2. Pau Gasol proved healthy enough to play. He had spent all Friday morning receiving treatment and stretching his strained left hamstring, but the routine almost proved pointless, considering he arrived at Staples Center 35 minutes late in connection with an undisclosed personal matter.

It turned out the team's warm-up was all Gasol needed to determine he could play, though he later said the hamstring "felt a little sore and a little tight." His 16 points on six-of-eight shooting showed he could overcome that discomfort. He displayed his usual post efficiency, such as when he saw a cutting Shannon Brown through the lane and pivoted a few steps before banking in a jumper. Gasol was in slow motion running up and down the court, but considering how efficiently the Lakers played on offense and defense, it was good enough.

I didn't push it too hard," Gasol said. "I was able to play through it."

"He looked all right," Jackson said. "I thought he moved OK, played inside the framework we were trying to do tonight. It was a real aggressive offensive game for him, but he did fine."

Most important, Gasol played only 27 minutes, after logging at least 40 minutes per game in four of the last five contests. Always eager to find a way to needle Gasol, Jackson told him he might to reenter the game after rookie Derrick Caracter picked up his fifth foul with 3:53 remaining.

Said Jackson: "He got quite animated and asked Derrick to watch his fouls. It was the most animated he was all night in a lot of ways."

Even though Gasol knew Jackson was joking, he didn't want to take his chances and told the coach, "Ron [Artest] is ready" before also offering a warning to Caracter.

"He [Gasol] just said play smart the last four minutes," Caracter said, "and don't get the last foul."

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3. The Lakers defense remained more disciplined. There are certain statistics Jackson weighs more heavily than others. Defensively, that entails how many points the team allows by quarters; on Friday, the Lakers held the Kings under 20 points through the first three quarters.

Jackson described the effort as "aggressive." Lakers guard Kobe Bryant argued that the performance "built some encouragement for the future." And Gasol added that "the overall energy was better; we just communicated from the first minute to the end."

Part of that effort entailed Lamar Odom cutting from the weakside and stuffing Evans on a drive, as Odom and Gasol each contributed with three blocks. It also included holding the Kings to seven-of-16 shooting in the first quarter. And it meant better communication on rotations, such as when Bryant helped Odom on a double-team, picked up a loose ball and finished with a fast-break dunk. It was a much improved effort, considering the team's tendency during its four-game losing streak to falter defensively after building up large leads.

"There's almost no team in this league that can survive if they don't score," Jackson said. "It's a game that scoring is such an important part. if teams don't get 20 points in a quarter, it dents their effort and takes their heart out of them."

4. The Lakers' ball movement improved. Some other statistics Jackson sees as key indicators of a team's performance: points in the paint, assists and how the number of shots by a player compares with his point total. The Lakers' 68 points in the paint served as an "indicator of how penetration was going on," Jackson said, such as Gasol connecting with Brown when he cut through the lane. The team's 27 assists served as an "indicator of how well the ball moves," such as when Artest threaded the needle on a bounce pass to Bryant for the easy dunk. And the Lakers' 56.6% clip from the field showed they were effective in building a rhythm and finding quality shots, led by Bryant's 22 points on nine-of-18 shooting.

"All I'm going to say is that we played the right way," Bryant said. "It felt good to win this game, but it's more about doing the right things to be successful."

5. Caracter's heavy playing time will help accelerate his growth. With the strong likelihood Gasol may be limited because of fatigue and the strained hamstring, Jackson provided a simple message to Caracter.

"You may be playing more," Jackson said, despite concerns that an increased role could set up Caracter to fail and that he remains too inexperienced. But Friday's scenario set up Caracter to succeed. He scored a career-high 10 points on five-of-eight shooting and four rebounds in a career-high 21 minutes, a development as significant as every starter but Artest sitting out the entire fourth quarter. It's also more important than Brown's 14 points on six-of-11 shooting coming on several highlight reels and Devin Ebanks and Sasha Vujacic logging eight minutes and 34 seconds.

Although he picked up five fouls and appeared to be running all over the place, Caracter showed flashes of effective footwork, post-up moves and chemistry with his teammates.

"He's still finding his way," Jackson said of Caracter. "There's still a lot of things he's missing out on the floor. Those things are going to happen until his learning curve increases. It inhibits his ability to be out there for critical times in the game for us when we need recognition, but his effort is good. He wants to play, and his attitude is good about this game. We appreciate that and like that. But you know what I say about rookies, and it still pertains."

Underneath Jackson's criticism and zinging, it's notable that he values Caracter's attitude, because it shows the young player's willingness to improve and accept his role. It also points up an interesting comparison between Caracter, the Lakers' 58th draft pick, and DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings fifth pick. Cousins has had reported issues with Sacramento Coach Paul Westphal and fared worse than Caracter head-to-head, finishing with nine points on three-of-nine shooting and six rebounds.

"It's a dream come true," Caracter said. "This is something I always wanted to do. It's my job now. Everybody is here for a reason, and I like to believe that I'm in the same position. I'm out here as a professional basketball player. I can produce just like any guys out there. It's just about being confident and continuing to get the reps."

-- Mark Medina
Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers center Pau Gasol rips a rebound away from Kings forward Carl Landry in the first half Friday night at Staples Center. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times.

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives down the lane for a layup against the defense of Sacramento's Donte Green, left, and Samuel Dalembert in the second quarter Friday night. Credit: Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times

 

Photo: Kings forward Donte Green has to deal with Lakers forward Lamar Odom and guard Kobe Bryant on a layup in the first quarter Friday night. Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times.

 
Comments () | Archives (35)

The comments to this entry are closed.

6. It was the frickin' Queens, so it's always a grain-of-salt. Still, habits are habits, and if this win contributes to the "good" habit side of things and breaks the "bad" habit side, I'm for it. Also, a win's a win, and I was getting tired of the loses and the trolls that came with it. Bad enough to have trolls when we're winning (an odd sort of thing that; what possible joy could they get out of that), but when we lose, it's like jock itch AND athlete's foot at once.

MM - You said Pau had 22pts...instead of 16pts. I love Character attitude. Very humble.

That scrimmage didn't even rise to the level of a practice game, but at least it counts toward the regular season record for whatever that is worth in the end. If I'm a player on the Lakers, my attitude would be that we still have a 4 game losing streak. In fact, until we put together a legitimate winning streak, I would treat every game that way.

"All I'm going to say is that we played the right way," Bryant said. "It felt good to win this game, but it's more about doing the right things to be successful."
-------

What did Kobe mean by this? Was it the effort on defense? ball movement on offense?

Here’s hoping Pau will wake up with no ill effects from an excellent game. Hamstrings are to muscle pulls like high ankle sprains are to regular sprains. Personally, I wonder if Pau was subconsciously looking for a way to explain his poor recent play when he felt those little “twinges” in his hamstring.
Posted by: LakerTom | December 04, 2010 at 07:26 AM
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I think Pau was definitely hampered by the hamstring against Houston. He was really tentative that game. Last night was better, but he’s still not moving great.

@ChicNstu - Love that bass singer on the Marvelows.


@MVP - I agree the Kings looked like the Freshman team. They didn't even play at a JV level. That does not bode well for Westphal. I enjoyed watching the Kings last year because they played inspired, but this season they're painful to watch.

LRob - I think Kobe's years in the "wilderness" have made him very sensitive to lack of team effort and execution. I think he's a little fed up with how most of the team is playing right now, and yet he's somewhat holding back on simply going flat out, full-goose, take it on my shoulders mode (since, a., too early in the season, b., he's still not 100%, c., he knows it won't help the team get better).

I think when the team gets back to actually playing hard, he'll be much happier and more forthcoming in what he says about them. He just wants them to do the work:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDySfmZlcr0

@63 FOOTER… Excellent observations about Phil Jackson’s coaching. Whether you’re coaching kids in a CYO league or NBA players, a critical part of the job is finding out what players can and cannot do and then putting them into game situations where they have a good chance to succeed rather than fail. Finding the right roles and opportunities for players to contribute has always been a keystone to Phil’s coaching philosophy. Unlike many NBA coaches, Phil understands that building personal confidence and developing good habits is a seasons long undertaking that requires patience and perseverance.

While Phil obviously prefers the stability and predictability you get with experienced veteran players, I think he has also shown a deft hand and judgment in developing rookies and younger players. Last night was a perfect example where he gave Derrick Caracter an opportunity to shine opposite a player in Demarcus Cousins against whom DC had previously shown the ability to match up well. The result was an outstanding performance by Caracter which not only helped the team trounce Sacramento but also gave DC a chance to show of his skills and build the critical confidence that the game requires.


And while you cannot ignore the impact on rookies and young players of playing with great mentors like Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, I credit the development of young players like Andrew Bynum and now Shannon Brown to Phil’s coaching acumen and wisdom. I think Phil sees Caracter and Ebanks as potentially valuable players for the Lakers down the road and is slowly grooming them to that goal. And while Caracter is really a power forward, he does have the body and physicality to matchup well against certain centers, as we saw last night. As with most young players, it’s all about confidence.
……………………….

TOM

@63 Footer - You're probably right was talking about just putting for the effort.


Funky like Lee Dorsey (like the Beastie Boys said)...haha!
Working in the coalmine is serious work. But here's some serious work...


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

Corrections...should have said,

Kobe was talking about just putting forth the effort.

LRob - I can listen to Sam Cooke all day and all night. One of my faves. And his gospel stuff kills me too. Died too young (like so many others).

Speaking of another player who died too young (and keeping with the chain ganging):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CK3uf5V0pDA

And while you cannot ignore the impact on rookies and young players of playing with great mentors like Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, I credit the development of young players like Andrew Bynum and now Shannon Brown to Phil’s coaching acumen and wisdom. I think Phil sees Caracter and Ebanks as potentially valuable players for the Lakers down the road and is slowly grooming them to that goal. And while Caracter is really a power forward, he does have the body and physicality to matchup well against certain centers, as we saw last night. As with most young players, it’s all about confidence.

Posted by: LakerTom | December 04, 2010 at 09:36 AM
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You can also put Ariza in that category. He showed tremendous growth from his NY and Orlando days. Of course its easier to shine when you're playing with Kobe.

Funny byte from Thriller in today's Daily News from Elliott Teaford...
http://www.dailynews.com/sports/ci_16775013?source=rss
"If his limited minutes bothered him, he wasn't sharing before the Lakers tried to break their four-game losing streak Friday against the Sacramento Kings.
If he was upset with Lakers coach Phil Jackson, he wasn't saying so publicly.
"It doesn't get frustrating," Artest said. "I just stay ready. If I play one minute, it's all about us winning. That's it. … You just play. …
"If it were tennis it would be different. I would have to play. But this isn't tennis."
I wonder if when Bynum gets back and Odom goes back to the bench, if it wouldn't be a good idea to also have Artest come off the bench in favor of Matt Barnes in the starting lineup.
A little Queensbridge Connection off the Lakers bench?...anybody with me on this?
@63footer - not quite the "chain gang"...but sort of along the same lines...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e81bhM_mEFg&feature=related

jefe - Grand Funk could do some rockin' baaaaahby!

So we've gone from work, to chain gangs, to trains, so:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPfpUv4hUOw&feature=related

Jefe - Nah I prefer to keep Ron Ron in the starting lineup. I like the energy that Barnes brings off the bench.


Man just when I was thinking about Fleetwood Mac "Chains" the subject "changed" Oh well how about the original Train Kept a Rolling...


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci4EQDD4CqA

WOOOOOOOOOOOO!

The skid is over!

Kobe was marvelous last night- only took a few il-advised shots.

Pau got back to being Pau. I think he's taken some pages from Kobe's book- playing well while not 100%.

lets keep the 70s rock rollin:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbdptuf9-yU

LRob - Tiny Bradshaw is a name I keep in my back pocket to win drink bets. No one knows who he is or that he did Train Kept A Rollin'. But you and me do (great jump blues)!

Yeah, I like Ron Ron in the starting 5. He's just going through his mental thang at the moment (when Barnes got early recognition in the season, I saw that this might happen). Ron's a sensitive guy, and plays better when the stakes are higher (shots under pressure and off-balance, rather than the wide-open look, etc., big name guys to guard, that sort of thing). I think he'll get his head on straight again, and he and Kobe'll start having more fun on the D end.

mclyne - Foghat, a forgotten (lately) band that could rock as heavy as anyone.

Kobe HAS to take difficult shots sometime; it's his role. Gotta cut him a little slack on that, as no one else on the team can do it with any consistency. It helps demand the double & triple teams.

70's heavy rockers, eh: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZEcNpcTwUM

I agree with the comments on caracter from above

I also see that through his controlled minutes he has a value for pt...that is special. Caracter sppears to be content with a few minutes pt after the hours of practice and preparation....his maturity for these few minutes is amazing...
he is aware that his situation is as a rookie in PHils system...minutes are few and fare between.

A comparison of last nights matchup with the rookie Cousins showed the maturity,

anyway, due to the Laker coaching staff, our #58 pick is passing the #5 cousins, in the foundationary skills and technique of the league

hats off to our coaching staff, and phils patience

Gonna come back with this one, since this is the version I grew up with:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2urpAl081kY&feature=related

Perry's licks on this one are EXCELLENT!

I have no doubt that Ron will pull it together- I'm predicting right around the return of Bynum for him to come out of his shell on the offensive end. So far, I give him a "B" on his defensive intesnsity and a "D" for his offensive flow.

mclyne - so many good versions of that song (I actually commissioned a great instrumental version for a pitch piece I shot; much fun).

I think it won't be till after the All Star break that Ron gets back on O, but his D will come back shortly (maybe Bynum time like you said). Our offense is almost unstoppable when he and Fish are hitting the open looks on the perimeter after Kobe gets the double team.

Last night Phil told the reporters they could ask Pau what his personal matter was that made him late to the game. He left his house after the time he was supposed to be at Staples.

Did anyone ask?

D Coleman - thanks for bringing that up. I wondered as well but forgot.

Who's got the dope on that?

Just got back from the barber, and all i heard was Leprincess talk..barf!

Train, Train. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBP15lRprPs&feature=related

Ahhhh love me some Mississippi Queen!

The real life Spinal Tap:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YwSBWwhTAY

Chic - nice call on the Blackfoot! Haven't heard that in a month of Mondays.

mclyne when did we leave the 80's? No one tells me anything!

Steve Marriott, greatest writer of drug-themed songs evah!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CNzC3-Lv9g

Oops, meant to say when did we leave the "70's?"

mclyne - you're gonna get some LRob with the Motor City Madman.

Just felt like throwin in some Anvil because I really feel for their eternal struggles and they were born out of the 70s rock and wanted to carry the torch throughout the 80s. Their documentary, or should I say rockumentary, is a must see!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRjGX3jYFYk&feature=related

mclyne - always liked Stranglehold.

Here's one from the distant past: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4o--q6xuvs&feature=related

it was great to get a WIN, even if it was against the lowly sac queens. what i'd like to continue to see AND what's been successful when L.A. wins......is BALL MOVEMENT! didn't see the game, but only the highlights on espn/nba channel. BUT what they show is unselfish play on the Lakers.....ball movement is the key to the Lakers success. plus, it was good to get a blowout and rest kobe, pau, l.o., dfish and ron ron. it was great to see sasha out there along with caracter, ebanks and luke. NOT to mention solid performances from "downtown" brown, blake and matt. enjoy the rest L.A. let's hope this losing "funk" is behind us. hopefully, "drew's workout goes well today! need him back in a BIG way.

MR. MEDINA GREAT ARTICLE EXCEPT THAT MR. WESTHEAD, I BELIEVE IS COACHING WOMANS COLLEGE BASKETBALL SOMEWHERE IN THE PACIFIC NORTH -WEST. CLOSET CLIPPER FANS- STAY IN THE CLOSET , LOCK IT AND DON'T COME OUT FOR ANOTHER 2-3 YEARS. CLIPPERS S---, ALWAYS HAVE, ALWAYS WILL- LAKERS BY 12!!


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