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Lakers' 100-88 victory over New Jersey Nets concludes easier portion of schedule

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The Lakers left the court at Staples Center, Coach Phil Jackson entered the press-conference room and players either stood or sat by their lockers with the same stoic demeanors.

Their 100-88 victory Friday over the New Jersey Nets marked the team's seventh consecutive victory, the team's highest mark since its 8-0 start. Yet. the emotionless reactions afterward both reflected the Lakers' (30-11) inconsistency within that streak and the uncertainty regarding the team's current state of being as it enters the heart of its schedule. That includes matchups with possible Western Conference playoff opponents in Oklahoma City (Monday), Dallas (Wednesday), Denver (Friday) and Utah (Jan. 25). It features an archrival and possible NBA Finals opponent in the Boston Celtics (Jan. 30). And rarely is this sentence ever written, but also throw in the Lakers' Sunday matchup with the Clippers, whose 13-25 record is deceiving considering they have won eight of their last 13 games, compiled signature victories against the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat and created a buzz through improved play, youthful energy and of course, plenty of Blake Griffin highlight reels.

"You can't run away from playing good teams, just like you can't run away from playing bad teams," said Lakers forward Lamar Odom, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. "You have to play an 82 game season."

But the Lakers' effort against New Jersey truly signified the mixed picture in their seven-game winning streak. Jackson argued Kobe Bryant's 27 points on 10 of 19 shooting and four assists signified progression in both his relentless scoring mentality and ability to direct the offense. He noted Ron Artest's 14 points on five of seven shooting continued a three-game stretch where he's shot above 50%, and a rate he's capable of fulfilling during Matt Barnes' expected eight-week absence because of surgery on his lateral meniscus tear on his right knee. And Gasol ticked off several areas that's become a common thread during the seven-game winning streak. The team's improvement on the new defensive scheme that forces opponents to drive baseline, requires the backcourt to shut off the perimeter tightly and for the frontcourt to remain close to the basket. The team's ball movement. And a stronger effort.

But it's games like the Lakers' one against New Jersey that make it hard to truly read. Jackson's contention that "it took us a while to get ourselves in sync tonight" pointed to plenty of areas. Lakers center Andrew Bynum's two first-quarter fouls prompted him to play less aggressive and finish with only two points on one of five shooting ("He just never got in rhythm out there" - Jackson said about Bynum). Pau Gasol's 20 points on six of 16 shooting because he said he "couldn't get enough of a base," and was elbowed in the left eye. And the Lakers had no answer for New Jersey center Brook Lopez, whose 35 points on 13 of 19 shooting came on uncontested drives to the basket and contributed to the Nets outrebounding the Lakers 45-38. ("That center is pretty good. That was unexpcted. I dont know how many centers are as good as that in the NBA.")

And it appeared the Lakers only true emotions came with Bryant and Fisher presented former Lakers Jordan Farmar with his championship ring, several teammates hugged former Laker Sasha Vujacic in his first arrival at Staples Center since being traded a month ago for Joe Smith and when Odom picked up a technical foul with 1:06 left in the fourth quarter ("It was a disagreement," Odom said. "They were fouling me on purpose I was a little upset and they don't call it and a guy could get stitches. I was just like, Call a foul").

Bryant captured the Lakers' dichotomy pretty well in nearly contradicting assessments.

"We're playing with the right mindset," Bryant said. "We're playing by thinking about the defensive end of the floor. We're playing with the right energy. "We're getting there, but there's still areas. Tonight we blew so many coverages defensively.

At least the Lakers are a much different team when they last played the Clippers, an 87-86 victory Dec. 8 that required a Derek Fisher buzzer beater that prompted a team meeting about the team's lackluster play. They're much different since that Christmas Day loss to Miami, where Bryant took his turn in ripping apart the team's effort, only to see it continue in double-digit losses to San Antonio and Memphis. And the Lakers sharp defense against New York, record-setting effort against Cleveland and Bryant's highlight reel against Golden State provide much preferred storylines than Artest's confrontation with Jackson over him publicly criticizing him, Gasol's late arrival to a morning shootaround and continuous dissecting of poor play.

With the Lakers mostly nondescript schedule coming to a close however, they acknowledge these games will truly reveal whether the improved albeit inconsistent habits have provided enough of a foundation.

"We know some games will be harder than others," Gasol said. "But if we put our minds 100% in it, we know we have a good chance to win."

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

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

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has his shot challenged by Nets guard Jordan Farmar in the first half Friday night. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

 
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This game did not determine much for the lakers,remember its only the Nets.Its games against Spurs,Miami and the Celtics one can truely understand the level at which the Lakers have reach so far.The Chicago Bulls under Phil Jackson never went under a long slump like the Lakers did around the Christmas holidays.By January and February the Bulls were already ahead in the competition.During games Pippen and Jordan used to get long periods of rest and it was up to the second unit to pick the pace,but this Lakers team have to work themselves harder than before.

it was the same way last year, when bynum didn't play the lakers lost quite a few games and struggled.
it took a few games for them to get adjusted to having bynum back in the lineup. hopefully he can last through the playoffs without injury if he does the lakers will be back in the finals.

Why does Sasha go by a different name than his real one?

Posted by: Diandra | January 14, 2011 at 06:52 PM
====

He prefers his feminine side. Duh. :)

Posted by: KobeMVP888 | January 14, 2011 at 06:58 PM

888-So...what are yu saying? That Sasha is SWEET....with Sugar in his SHORTS. Please do EXPLAIN.

KobeMVP888,

you wrote: Congrats! Round 1 to hobbitmage. I'll still take Bynum on my team.

my response: *I* didn't mention anything about preferring Lopez over
Bynum. Why are you bringing this up?

Phred,

you wrote: don't load too much into crowing when Bynum has a bad game- I don't think that way leads you into good territory.

my response: I think I gotta. KobeMVP888 & Staples24 *immediately* laid
into me when I suggested that this would be a good test for Bynum. It's as
if Bynum can do no wrong and nobody can say anything factually true about
him without being labeled a "basher". Furthermore, the incessant harping
about: "I played basketball and you didn't. Therefore I know what I'm
talking about and you're ignorant" is rather old and observably untrue.

And when I ask direct pertinent questions, they ignore them so they can
continue to prattle on about their "dubious" opinions.

I will say this: KobeMVP888 was man enough to say he was wrong. I give
him props for that. Now, if I could get him to give me the benefit of the doubt
instead of constantly trying to " beat me down" life would be better. I know
I have a better chance of growing another foot, but it's a nice dream isn't it?

I know I have a better chance of growing another foot, but it's a nice dream isn't it?
Posted by: hobbitmage |
================

hobbitmage,

Just curious, did you mean your dream is to grow a foot taller or have 3 feet?

Did anyone notice Sascha trying to play mind games,and talking to our guys when they went to the line?

hobbitmage

This is why the Lakers are great. They have all the pieces. What doesn't mentioned enough is that when Lamar has a solid game, the Lakers usually win. I think this applies more to seasons past than this season because Kobe and Pau were consistently solid, so when you added his play in at that high all-star level, we were unstoppable. This season, Pau, in particular has had his ups and downs, too, and when he's played sub-par basketball, it's been far from all-star level. Having said that, we're 30-11 for second best in the West and the very best of any Phil Jackson three-peat team at the midway point in the regular season. The last two (1998, 2002) were 29-12. But let's face it; the REAL midway point is about 10 games from now.

As for Bynum, your statement was accurate (that Lopez would be a "good test" for him) because he's NOT fully back from his injury and this has become evident the past two games. Despite his 14 rebounds against the Warriors, he did not play as well as the prior 4 or 5 games leading up to that game (I don't count the Cavs game for anything). He had one of those nights where he couldn't stay on the floor, which is rare these days. He did get gypped by that third foul, but that's life in the NBA.

I will reiterate my position on Bynum since I started posting in here. Although I am viewed by many as someone who puts Bynum on some Shaq-like plateau, I have repeatedly said that he's a role player on this team. He can be dominant at times, which is a bonus, but his biggest role on this team is defending the rim which he is one of the very best at in the NBA. I also believe that he has the potential to be a consistent dominant center, but I believe that it will happen when he is between 25-30 years old, if he avoids further serious injuries. And yes, without him I don't believe we would have won the last 2 championships and if he gets injured again this season and misses the playoffs, you can kiss a three-peat goodbye. Oh, and I have always liked Brook Lopez even at Stanford (I thought he had Tim Duncan potential and I was shocked that he dropped to #10 in the 2008 draft), but I would still take Bynum over him for this Lakers team, especially in a 7 game series. Like I said yesterday, he's more of a hybrid 4-5 like Pau, not a true center like Bynum.

888-So...what are yu saying? That Sasha is SWEET....with Sugar in his SHORTS. Please do EXPLAIN.

Posted by: G.money | January 15, 2011 at 05:53 AM
=====

LOL! No, Sasha is a male name, but more often a female name (I think; like the porn star, Sasha Grey). Sasha's real name is Aleksandar. He chose to have a female nickname, and the way he wears his hair, well .. oh never mind. I was KIDDING! Look who he's engaged to. Me oh my.

hobbit - i also have to give you props on Lopez...

You wrote that this would be a good test for Bynum...I responded this would be a good test for Lopez...

Well Lopez had a career game, (his 2nd most output this year)...

Too bad the 2 hantom fouls called on AB, in the 1rst half, benched him for most of the game, and he never got in sync...

I did see Lopez put a move on AB that resulted in an and1...but I wish I could have watched more of them going heads up...

Well Andrew will have more tests coming up, including Boston at the end of the month...

I will be curious to see what your predictions are game by game...

Well, the Lakers did what they had to again last night. This has been a soft stretch of schedule. But taking care of business in games like these has been an issue this year, and even going to back to the Shaq/Kobes days. So some credit has to be given for staying focused and beating the teams they are supposed to beat.

@Mamba24....Geesh!!!I'm gone for the an afternoon and who makes an appearance? Was about to file a missing person report and then "The Head of the Mamba Clan" shows up!! A much better vibe to the blog since you and UTZ are back...just at the right time too, with our Beast of a schedule coming up! Go Bears kick some Packer BUTT!!!

Open Letter to Mitch Kupchak,

Mitch, as I am sure you are aware, our fellow poster hobbitimage declared this game a test for Andrew Bynum. and Andrew failed the test. He got into early foul trouble, never got any rhythm going, missed some shots by more than a foot, and generally accomplished very little. This on a night when Brook Lopez went off on anybody who guarded him and clearly outplayed Drew by miles.


Since this was declared a test by hobbitimage, I have no choice but to insist that you trade Drew. I know, you will argue it was just one game. You will point to how well Drew has played recently and how much better the Lakers have been since he returned to the starting lineup. You may say all you can get is a player who is smaller than Drew, older than Drew, and less impactful than Drew.


That is all well and good. But this was a test. A pre-declared test. And Drew failed, maybe because he could not handle the pressure of hobbitimage's challenge. There is no choice here. The kid has to go.


Thank you.


Tom Daniels

I will say this: KobeMVP888 was man enough to say he was wrong. I give
him props for that. Now, if I could get him to give me the benefit of the doubt
instead of constantly trying to " beat me down" life would be better. I know
I have a better chance of growing another foot, but it's a nice dream isn't it?

Posted by: hobbitmage | January 15, 2011 at 06:41 AM
====

Yeah, I think your chances of growing another foot are better. We fundamentally disagree on too much, especially the use of statistics. Even last night, Bynum altered about a half a dozen shots that my eyes saw in his short stint on the floor, but you steer away from that conversation. You have stated that stats tell the story of the game; I believe it is only PART of that story, especially when there aren't any stats kept for things like "hockey" assists, altered shots, players dissuaded from shooting in the paint, selling moving screens and the most important invisible statistic of all, solid team defense. Yes, the result of solid team defense is either a stop, the expiration of the 24 second clock or a turnover. That credits the Lakers for causing a turnover and a rebound for the stop on a missed shot for one player, but otherwise doesn't properly credit individual players for what took place on that play. That's why the most important defensive statistic that people point to is opposing team's field goal percentage, even more so than points allowed. That is because of the up tempo styles of play with these teams that like to jack it up in "7 seconds or less" which naturally causes more possessions per team during the game and inflates and distorts statistics like assists, rebounds and even turnovers. It's a steroidal effect.

I hope that better explains where I'm coming from and why I can't come close to accepting your view of things for myself. Of course you are entitled to your point of view, but admittedly it frustrates me when you just brush aside the points that I make like the points I make in the paragraph above. As for Bynum, the Lakers fan base is pretty evenly divided on him and whether the Lakers should trade him, and I'm talking about fans outside the blogs who I talk to at the games or in general. Even that bleep Plaschke thinks the Lakers should trade him while he's healthy (which comforts me because I don't value his opinion). Whatever happens, I defer to Mitch Kupchak.

KobeMVP888
[You have stated that stats tell the story of the game; I believe it is only PART of that story, especially when there aren't any stats kept for things like "hockey" assists, altered shots, players dissuaded from shooting in the paint, selling moving screens and the most important invisible statistic of all, solid team defense.]

Really dude? Ain't u d same guy with all the stats on how Kobe will never be MJ or is my memory serving me wrong?

Haven't been watching the games, but like most centers I think Bynum gets a pass for just being big. He's definitely played a role in us winning championships but I'd take Kobe, Pau, Lamar, Fish, Ron first before I spend mulla 2 keep Bynum.

And oh yeah I'd give him up for Lopez in a heartbeat, same way I'd have pulled the trigger on the Bosh trade. Bottom line it comes down to those knees. With all em braces, it's kinda hard to c d beast within him. Like on d real u take Bosh outta Miami and plug in Lopez and u still got headaches, u plug in Bynum instead and I'm already cringing in my head at the multitude of injuries he'd be susceptible to if he were made the man in the post. Dude should be buying Gasol lunch daily for being there to the the bulk of the dirty work @ center.

@Mamba24....Geesh!!!I'm gone for the an afternoon and who makes an appearance? Was about to file a missing person report and then "The Head of the Mamba Clan" shows up!! A much better vibe to the blog since you and UTZ are back...just at the right time too, with our Beast of a schedule coming up! Go Bears kick some Packer BUTT!!! Posted by: NewMexicoLakerLifer | January 15, 2011 at 08:29 AM
*
LOL!! Good morning NewMexicoLL how are you this fine Morning after a Laker Victory? But since you are a Lakerholic, I don't even need to ask. By the way a slight correction. The Fabulous Justanothermambafan is and always will be the Head of the Mamba Clan. LOL! I was just on vacation I announced it on New Years Eve but I guess everyone was so busy celebrating they failed to see it. Yes I hope the Bears kick some Packers butt...but first the Packers have to beat Atlanta today and the Bears have to beat Seattle tommorrow. Thanks for all the encouraging words while I was gone. So time to get ready for the crazy schedule of games coming up but, I have this funny feeling that right after the ASG the Lakers will have the best record and coast on into the playoffs.

Preach Sheriff, Preach!!! Lol! Happy New Year my brother! How the heck you been? Looks like our boy Kobe is rounding back into shape. Now Sheriff you got to give my boy Bynum some play sir. This year in the playoffs, he will be the difference between 3-Peat and Defeat. Every team has upgraded, I think Bynum has upgraded his game mentally and as soon as the physical catches up....WATCH OUT!!!! Good talking to you my brother.

Laker bigs looked very, very weak.

Laker bigs looked very, very weak. Posted by: God | January 15, 2011 at 09:58 AM
*
But god, god!!! Laker win looked...very, very, GOOD!!!! Yes! And it Counts!!!!


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