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Lakers have nearly perfect execution in 120-91 victory over Utah Jazz

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After their team's 120-91 victory Tuesday over the Utah Jazz, the Lakers' locker room, crowded with players and reporters alike, showed signs that the team is suddenly gelling.

Forwards Ron Artest, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter laughed out loud amid conversation about the win. Guard Kobe Bryant jokingly chided reporters for asking a "million questions" before agreeing to talk further, something that'd never happen after a rough stretch. And forward Lamar Odom openly wondered how often his successful floater before running out of bounds will be replayed on ESPN's SportsCenter ("It's up there.")

The Lakers' willingness to stay for a prolonged time to speak with the media, Bryant's teasing of Shannon Brown for bricking a fast-break dunk ("I found it funny") and Coach Phil Jackson granting the team the day off Wednesday were all reactions to what transpired on the floor.

The Lakers (33-13) extended Utah's (27-18) losing streak to five by locking in on concepts the team needs in order to three-peat:

Balanced offense: The Lakers' 62% mark and season-high 34 assists from the field reflected the engagement and attention to detail required for the likes of Bryant (21 points, six assists), Pau Gasol (20 points, nine-of-13 shooting), Andrew Bynum (19 points, six-of-nine shooting, 11 rebounds) and Lamar Odom (17 points, seven-of-eight shooting) all to reach double figures.

Defense: The Lakers holding Utah to 41.9%, forcing 17 turnovers and scoring 20 points in transition point to the team's improvement in communicating on defense, the frontline locking in on drivers to the basket and the backcourt holding the perimeter accountable.

Effort: The Lakers' ability to maintain a 17-game home winning streak against Utah without allowing the Jazz to rally from a double-digit deficit (a rarity when the two match up) is a sign the Lakers are taking regular-season games seriously.

"Obviously, we're getting deeper into the season," Gasol said. "We understand how important defense is in order to be successful as a team and to have a really good chance to win the championship."

The easy, and perhaps cliched, explanation for the Lakers' sharpness is critical comments former Lakers star and general manager Jerry West made regarding the team's age and inability to play defense. Even if the team won't admit it, The Logo's prodding has perhaps sparked some reaction. Or perhaps, as Jackson joked, he and the Lakers are trying harder because San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich has now been tapped to coach the West All-Stars, a responsibility that requires the conference's best record and that Jackson didn't want. The more valid reasons have to do with the fact that the Lakers have maintained this increased focus for the last month, albeit in bunches.

"Numbers don't lie," Bryant said.

The numbers say this: Statistically, the Lakers entered their game against the Jazz faring well in several categories, including points allowed (an 11th best 96.4 points per game), opponent's field-goal percentage (43.8%, fourth in the league) and opponent's three-point field-goal percentage (33.9%, fifth overall). The marked improvement is also partly thanks to a new defensive scheme in the last month that focuses on forcing players toward the baseline instead of into the center of the lane, closing out on shooters and keeping the post players close to the basket. 

Offensively, the Lakers have also shown improvement. Bryant has shot above 50% for the seventh consecutive game, a trend Jackson attributes to Bryant handling the ball 25% more (in his estimation) since Bynum's return to the starting lineup last month. Odom's 57.1% mark from the field marks his best statistical start in his seven seasons with the Lakers, and Jackson and Odom both point to his increased confidence with his outside shot. Gasol's decreased minutes from December to January (36.6, 35.6) have led to uptick in shooting percentage (49%, 51%). And Bynum has cracked double figures in 10 of the 12 games in January.

But that's not what's concerning the Lakers. It's consistently replicating the kind of focus displayed against the Jazz. It was there in signature wins last week against Oklahoma City and Denver but appeared absent in a loss to Dallas.

"On a night-to-night basis sometimes, we get a little bit lax," Bynum said. "But when we go out there and play hard, I think it's tough on teams."

Surely, other variables played into the Lakers' dominance against Utah, which entered the game after a 0-4 trip that Jackson believed left the Jazz "depressed." By contrast, the Lakers had the day off Saturday and two practices before hosting Utah, which now faces a second set of a back-to-back Wednesday against San Antonio.

"Live legs is the key to basketball in the NBA," Jackson said, summing up.

Rarely have the Lakers been able to bask in the nuances of a dominating performance, with the exception of the blowout over Cleveland earlier this month. But there Jackson stood at a lectern, expressing satisfaction in splitting time to Derek Fisher (23 minutes) and Steve Blake (23 minutes), something he wants to see more often but only when he feels the bench can sustain leads. Bryant waxed nostalgic about striving for improvement, despite being a 15-year superstar. And Gasol noticed the Lakers motivated in reacting to what was happening on the floor rather than to how it affected the scoreboard. 

Just before the game, Jackson said he believed the Lakers are "very capable of being a good team." In return, the Lakers proved the message valid.

"It's a long race," Jackson said. "It's a really long run. You have to just pace it and know when it's important to turn it on and step it up another level." 

-- Mark Medina
Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: The Lakers' bench erupts in laughter after Shannon Brown misses an uncontested dunk during the second half of the Lakers' 120-91 victory over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (31)

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Where's all the Laker vs Celtics talk? I know, one game at a time, but common, everyone has Sunday circled, including the Heat.

Dude....Nice game, props to the Lake Show. Take this LOGO, get back in your ROCKING CHAIR. B.Shaw stating the team needs more MR. Mean....well they do, NICE Lakers. But Drew show a little edge at times, it'll be interesting to see Sundays game. With Shaq Daddy cracking Pau and Drew are anyone else across the HEAD coming in the paint. After that game let's revisit this conversation or chalk it up to PRACTICE SEASON.

Can't believe Perkins and 27 got the BOOT again!!! Guess they went a little OVERBOARD. I Enjoyed some of their VIEWS, NOT always CHEERLEADING like the 27bloggers. VIRTUALLY Patting each OTHERS @ss, but hey this is HOME of the LAKERHOLIC they all have POM POMS.

But a NICE game to NUT it UP, JUST SAYIN.....

Indeed! And guess who's ontop of Hollinger's rankings today:

http://espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/powerrankings

"It's a long race," Jackson said. "It's a really long run. You have to just pace it and know when it's important to turn it on and step it up another level."

So, when is it important? Sunday against the Celtics?

Andrew Bynum throwing Raja Bell to the ground: P-R-I-C-E-L-E-S-S.

thanks Drew! LOL


LAKERS ALL DAY!!!

The Lakers are showing signs of what they're capable of, and it's what every fan has been waiting for. Watch for these games to increase with frequency to judge their improvement as we move into the second half of the season.

"Bryant handling the ball in his estimation 25% more" can have an impact in a few ways:
Easier to get into a quick pick and roll with more targets (Bynum or Gasol) when the ball is already in the hands of your primary threat.
When nothing develops offensively in a timely manner, you have the best chance of making lemonade out of the lemon since he's your best at breaking down a defender quickly.
If Bryant is handling the ball more, it means a weaker player is handling the ball less.

Excellent win last night. The win means more to us than the loss means to Utah... and that's saying something. Alas, I missed the game because Mrs. DBDH wanted to watch "The Social Network" and I submitted. Nevertheless, it was good to see what a champion can do when a champion decides to show up. Great job, Lakers. I salute you.

DBDH!

I got your “old” right here! Jerry makes his comments the week we play Boston… ;-) We have had games (or stretches of the season) where we haven't played defense well. We always seem to get it back eventually. I think it is because that is how Boston beat us in ’08. Defense… Defense wins championships and defense will win on Sunday (and Saturday for that matter).

Sacramento – on any given day, any NBA team can beat any other NBA team. A few missed shots, someone starts burying threes…. It would be great to get a big lead and rest the starters.

We need to just keep playing the way we have. It seems we have found a formula for success - get the ball inside and let the big guys shoot high percentage shots, Kobe as facilitator (and always ready to give us a offensive push if needed), and… the D word. The new system of keeping our “bigs” close to the basket and funneling guys outside seems to be paying off. I think Byron is right though. Guys on other teams feel like they can drive the lanes and come away unscathed – as long as Ron is on the other side of the court… ;-) We have been hurt quite a bit by little guard guys. I saw part of a Celtic game last week and this little guard guy suddenly had the whole side of the court open to him. Shaq spun around, set himself, looked at him, and was like “go for it punk.” Needless to say, the guard reconsidered his options… ;-)

DREW - this one is on you. Byron didn’t say “Drew is too nice.” I hope you heard it anyway. It is disrespectful for guys to feel they can drive the lane against us. This is the way Shaq looked at it. If someone made the attempt, they got knocked on their ass – BY SHAQ! You just need to step up more and assert your dominance. Let Pau be Pau – you are freakin’ huge! You are getting better and better each game and it is really fun to see. I hope you are enjoying it as much as we are. Congratulations are in order for you being the top rebounder in the game last night – in three quarters!

Speaking of Shaq - he has been out with a “sore right hip.” Yeah right! He is taking a little time to make sure he is ready to go on Sunday. It is going to be very strange. Shaq wearing green… Playing with Paul… Kobe threw down the glove when he said he has one more than Shaq. All of these guys have more money than God. It isn’t about the money. It’s about crap like that… If it is about jumping from team to team to see how many rings you can get, Shaq has a ways to go because Robert Horry has 7.

Is it just me, or did the bench get a lot better with Luke on the floor? Barnes is great. I love his defense and energy, but Luke brings the triangle and he has been hitting shots and making plays. Part of it is Odom gelling with his crew. Also, since I decided Blake was a bust (he shot 2 for 11 over five games), he has played quite well… ;-) The bench goes in and our starters get a nice long rest while they hold or extend the lead. The way they are playing now, I think Lamar, Luke, Brown, Blake and a big guy (Pau or Drew) would beat a lot of team’s starting five.

Just a few thoughts… I type fast… ;-) I can’t help it because…

I am a Lakerholic.

I have never before seen a Jerry Sloan Utah Jazz team quit on him. But right now, and last night especially, that team is not giving anything close to a Jazz effort. What kind of defense did they play? The great Luke Walton was 4-4 for 9 points.


But it was more than Luke. Bynum had 19 on 6 shots. Kobe had 21 on 7 shots. Pau had 20 on 9 shots. Lamar had 17 on 8 shots. That is great offense, but it is also horrible defense.


Listening to Kevin McHale after the game, he talked about how much Bynum changes the Lakers. Bynum had three blocks, but, as McHale said, at least 8 or nine challenged shots as well. He is the backbone of their new, innovative slow and lazy defense.


With Kobe, Pau, Drew and Lamar, the Lakers have a Big 4, and one that plays playoff style half-court basketball. Sadly, we still have half a regular season to go.

A great game by the Lakers, but I don’t read too much into it. Utah just doesn’t match up well with the Lakers. A special shout out to Steve Blake. His passing and decision making was excellent.


I’m so glad the Lakers didn’t sign Raja Bell. Matt Barnes slashing ability and high energy is a much better compliment than Raja’s spot up shooting.


In honor of seventeen in a row at home vs. Utah…how about a little Winger.
Winger – Seventeen.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlN3oEjMpUQ

good thing i don't bet. that prediction was disgusting. convincing win, btw. lamar's flip shot got me out of my chair. so did that brown mamba missed dunk...

"Bay to LA,

Whats the historical stat on teams going to the finals for the 4th straight time to win their 3rd ring in a row?

Posted by: Magia32 | January 25, 2011 at 05:22 PM "

Haha. Good point.

Posted by: Bay to LA | January 25, 2011 at 05:27 PM
====

Excellent question, Magia32.

In 1958, the Boston Celtics lost their first chance at consecutive championships in the NBA Finals to the St. Louis Hawks (the Celtics won in 1957), and then they reeled off 6 consecutive three-peats, their first coming in 1961.

Other than that, THESE Lakers are the only team in NBA history to even be in this position. If they accomplish this feat (something that the two of you clearly doubt), where does it place this team among the NBA's dynasties? Not only would Phil's fourth three-peat be historical on many different levels and would tie the Celtics with 17 championships, but it would also put THESE Lakers in the discussion with THOSE Celtics, if for nothing more than to be only the second team in NBA history to three-peat after losing in the Finals the year before the run started. That's some pretty impressive stuff.


Posted by: KobeMVP888 | January 25, 2011 at 08:53 PM
=======

Hahaha...that was a boomerang pie in the face...

Waiting for rebuttal answer...

Posted by: LEWSTRS | January 25, 2011 at 10:32 PM
=======

Lew

I can assure you that it will not be forthcoming. One of them is only interested in bashing Derek Fisher and mocking out any defense of him. The other one believes the past is the past, has little to no bearing on the future, and that THESE Lakers can only be measured by their last string of games and the current opponents in the NBA and how they are playing right now. He believes the Lakers are fraught with weaknesses and while he has not thrown in the towel, I can assure you that it is his opinion that the Lakers would not three-peat if the playoffs started tomorrow. Me? I wish they would.

IN OTHER WORDS, Magia32 posed the question mockingly and Bay to LA chimed in with a silly, mocking response because Magia nailed me! Neither one took the 2 minutes to do the research which reaped some interesting results. At least you and I thought the research was interesting, but neither one of them, nor anyone else, cared one bit. Yet, according to another self-righteous blogger on here, I don't know the "facts."

Lew, thank you for being the only one to enjoy the little bit of trivia that will only add to this team's legacy should it pull off a three-peat.

I heard someone on the radio yesterday say that the Lakers are built for the playoffs, and not the regular season. They also coupled that statement with one essentially saying that the speedy, young teams (sans OKC) that can sometimes beat the Lakers up won't even be in the playoffs anyway... so why worry? At the risk of sounding over-confident, I respectfully agree. However, tuning up some upstart team (Memphis), and the occasion potential playoff foe (Utah), serves notice to the detractors. Bring it on.

DBDH!

Great game by our P&G. Who thinks D. Will might be wanting out of Utah soon? ( The PSP don't think he is that kind of player but we'll see).

Eric Wright for sure deserved to be banned for the nonsense he kept spewing. The PSP isn't sure about 27 and S. Perkins though( unless Perkins is also Eric Wright). I mean, whatever they were dishing out there were also receiving; the archives are there for all to see.

So Mr. Medina, could you please enlighten the PSP as to why 27 and Perkins were ticketed but not the others who were also name calling?

Thanks
PSP Officer

No, No, No, Hollinger... We do better when you have us at the usual 3rd or 4th spot!!!!!!!!!!What a game,we're clicking on all cylinders and getting ready for the run. Somebody was saying the team responded more to West than Phil. I see that as somebody OTHER than Phil jerking their chain a little, and WHO BETTER than the LOGO? Just in time for a Sunday showdown with the GREEN WEINIES!!
@Laker Tom... You have to be very happy with the way "The Beast" is playing! That throw down on Raja...PRICELESS!! Not in our Freaking House! They can't overlook the Queen's on Fri nite. Lewstrs..awesome job on the Banwagon's. Be VERY worried NBA, we're baacck!

MVP – I get you! I appreciate your basketball knowledge and passion for the Lakers. Like you, I tend to look at the season from a macro perspective and am more of a Glass Half Full type of guy. However, I also enjoy Bay to LA, hobbit and Magia32 comments and perspective. I don't consider them any less of a Laker fan than me because they have a different view point on some things. Ron Ron, Matt and Luke each bring something different to the Lakers, yet they all contribute to make the team better. That is the same way it is with different bloggers that each help make the blog better.

Mighty nice win by our guys. It was fun to watch!!

All right - maintain focus so we can kick Boston's butt!

GO LAKERS!


This validates the Logo's take. They rest their old legs and dominate. Or is it complacency?

The Lakers aren't that good and the Jazz aren't that bad. The marathon season sucks the life out of all teams.

Rest, complacency figure in but even for back to back champs, there are regular season statement games. This Sunday would be one of them. No excuses.

@Lew - Funny roll call response. You dug deep for that one...haha

@MagicPhil – I just saw that “We’re Playing basketball” you posted. SWEET!

@ms – Tribe, Guru and Coleman Hawkins. Your Jazz game time selections were on point.

@GDub – Always good to give Ziggy some love.

Good, bad, or shell-shocked though the Jazz may have been, the Lakers played excellent all-around ball... which is what I looked for and enjoyed. We made more shots than normal, they made less, but even if we'd missed a few more J's (and we DID miss a few bunnies), and they'd hit a few more J's, the distribution on O, the communication and switching on D (Bell gettin' scola'd by Drew) for 48 minutes by ALL the players was all I really could ask for. We can beat anyone like this.

I hope we don't let down with the Queens. Also hope we play an even game against the Celtics, no letdowns, no jackin' up the 3's.

I still think Shannon should only be allowed to dribble towards or away from the basket (no side-to-side), Pau needs to continue dunking when he's at the rim, no weenie shots from there (and everyone remember: drink every time Pau screams), and Drew needs to continue getting bigger and stronger on the interior D (less reaching, more body and he'll get less ticky-tack calls by the refs). Ron's Ron; I like when he posts up a little more.

And there you have it.

The Lakers need Kobe, Fish, and Pau to all play about 20 minutes a piece against the Kings. Then its on to Boston, where Young Bynum will assert himself as the future! We are gonna see what he does against the supposed best frontline in the game. And Perkins will be there so no excuses!

and everyone remember: drink every time Pau screams

And there you have it.

Posted by: 63 Footer | January 26, 2011 at 08:18 AM

that's the only thing i read from this post. this is very interesting and will incorporate this into the laker game gatherings going forward. TY 63!

IT’S ALL ABOUT CHEMISTRY...
........................................................
Whether we’re talking about the Lakers or the LA Times Lakers Blog, success depends upon building a chemistry and creating a vibrant level of energy where the efforts and contributions of the individual players or posters create a championship synergy.
...
For the Lakers, the winning formula is obvious: play smart inside-out basketball that takes care of the rock and generates balanced scoring on offense and play aggressive team defense that controls the tempo and keeps opposing teams out of the paint.
...
For the LA Times Lakers Blog, the winning formula is equally obvious. Revere the fact that we are the back-to-back defending NBA champs and treat your blogmates with the same courtesy and respect you would expect from your brother and sister Lakers fans.
...
I’ve never liked seeing any posters get banned but when the whole intent of a blogger is simply to undermine and denigrate the dynamic camaraderie and chemistry of this blog, then I think MM is well within his rights to ban the offenders from posting.
...
What bothers me most is when these trolls disguised as bloggers try to create cliques of disrespect and disillusionment within the blog. There is only one blog-sync-think that really matters and which we all espouse with passion, which is for the Lakers to win. Like the team, that’s the only thing upon which we all need to focus our attention.
........................................................
TOM

LRob - I'm with you about "different perspectives," and I'm always wary of anyone claiming an exclusivity on opinion: "You are not a fan because..." "Those people are not human because..." "My way is the RIGHT way..." I think the "real thing" is a combination of viewpoints, and anyone who wants to talk bball is fine by me (I'll even talk with Celtics fans, knowing that they can't help their genetic flaws). Oh, and the Lakers are the "real thing":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ8d2EB435Q&feature=related

Last night's win, which was as good a win as we've seen so far this regular season, won't mean much if the Lakers are caught looking ahead to Sunday and fail to take care of business against the Kings on Friday.

MVP – I get you! I appreciate your basketball knowledge and passion for the Lakers. Like you, I tend to look at the season from a macro perspective and am more of a Glass Half Full type of guy. However, I also enjoy Bay to LA, hobbit and Magia32 comments and perspective. I don't consider them any less of a Laker fan than me because they have a different view point on some things. Ron Ron, Matt and Luke each bring something different to the Lakers, yet they all contribute to make the team better. That is the same way it is with different bloggers that each help make the blog better.

Posted by: LRob | January 26, 2011 at 08:13 AM
=====

Well, LRob, I don't have your tolerance level and I get sick of nonsense. But that's me.

would not read TOO much into last night's game. I was at the game and it was apparent during warm-ups that the Jazz were flat and not up at all to play. If gambling were legal, I would have thrown down 5Gs on the Lakers immediately.

(Recall that we as Lakers fans are completely accustomed to watching our team take the very best shot from each team we play every night -- When they come out with much less, the size and talent differential that the Lakers have over most teams is insurmountable).

That said, the Lakers looked hungry on D. Everybody seemed to have active hands and active feet. Great energy all around.

I won't be convinced though until I see the same kind of performance against teams that have the manpower to play big physical ball.

Btw, didn't stay for the 4th. Went home to watch the Clips/Mavs game. Clips almost took these guys down without Eric Gordon and with Blake semi-injured (by a real dirty play by Haywood). Mavs though looked decently solid even without Caron Butler. Freaking Jason Terry killed the Clips. I think he has something against LA teams.

LRob - I'm with you about "different perspectives," and I'm always wary of anyone claiming an exclusivity on opinion: "You are not a fan because..." "Those people are not human because..." "My way is the RIGHT way..." I think the "real thing" is a combination of viewpoints, and anyone who wants to talk bball is fine by me (I'll even talk with Celtics fans, knowing that they can't help their genetic flaws). Oh, and the Lakers are the "real thing":

Posted by: 63 Footer | January 26, 2011 at 08:45 AM
====
63 Footer

If you are talking about me, it is not my intention to either impose my opinions or monopolize them. As shocking as this might sound, I actually weave criticisms in from time to time, while ALWAYS being mindful of the big picture. Journalists are paid to spew the negative day-to-day insights to create discussion and controversy. This whole business about the Lakers being too old and slow to defend, being long in the tooth, blah, blah, blah, which was taken out of context somewhat is a classic example of that. Mark heisler jumps all over that crap and then the next day he'll reverse himself. He's the journalist, so he's SUPPOSED to do that. We're supposed to be the fans.

But for Lakers fans to do NOTHING but criticize, bash and cast an air of negativity about this potentially historical team is a disgrace and I disagree with you about their level of fandom being anywhere near what it should be. You rarely hear them say anything positive and when they do, it's always with tongue in cheek ..they just want to hold the team's feet to the fire and won't be satisfied until we're hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Even then, people like Bay to LA might put another asterisk next to the championship if we don't wind up playing certain teams along the way in the playoffs. His response to last year's championship was that we never flipped the switch, lucked out with who we played, and might not have won it had we played teams that fared well against us during the practice season.

If you think that someone like that is as much as a Laker fan as someone like Lew, CCX or even yourself, I beg to differ. I submit that people like that are not fans at all because when your team wins the championship, it is EVERYTHING. There are no asterisks and I'm surprised you take this view.

@Joe_Corad

I completely agree, everyone seems to be ignoring the fact that we play the celtics on sunday, and that the Lakers are yet to put an actual threat of a team in their place. The amazingly hyped Miami game is a prime example.

The celtics this season seem even better than they did before. I am in no way a celtics fan, I eat, breath, and bleed purple&gold, but that doesn't mean that I don't acknowledge a good team.

Sunday's game is by far the most important of the regular season. Our first game vs the celtics since game 7, its going to be an intense game.

dwntwnatty,

"Blake semi-injured (by a real dirty play by Haywood."

Other teams don't like being schooled by a rookie, so they are going out of their way to injure him. The refs need to protect this kid because he's good for the NBA, but a lot of other players don't like a someone who plays as hard as he does.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

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

GO LAKERS!!!

Well, a lot of us predicted that the play would improve beginning in the second half of the season which is usually marked by the end of the ASG. Coincidence or not, NBA and Lakers fans are being treated to an early gift ever since the "Logo" went public with his comments. I’m sure PJ, the FO and Dr. Buss himself have extended their gratitude. 

Yes, I know that Utah is struggling and they have a difficult time matching up with the Lakers. DW has complete lament toward the team because Utah can never get by the Lakers in the playoffs but what was most satisfying to me is that the Lakers didn't "let up" during the onslaught. They kept playing until the final buzzer and you know what, Utah didn't complain about it!

Maybe, just maybe, Lamar and Ron realize that if they want to sell their “widgets," then they better perform and win at their primary jobs in order to bring some sort of relevance to their T.V. shows and CDs. I'd like to think that it has to do with Andrew's presence and Kobe's willingness to pass the rock that is the catalyst to ignite the passion to win in every player on the roster. Sunday can’t come soon enough! I’m not a Celtic hater (I dislike certain players in the league but not teams, except for the “Thuggets.” They just seemed to “gangsta” for my taste) because I welcome the rivalry and competition that the contest brings to the table. This has the potential to be the best game of the season so far and then they have a rubber match in early February. I LOVE THIS GAME!!

GO LAKERS & IN BUSS WE TRUST!!


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