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Things the Lakers need to get out of their seven-game trip

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"Win a couple games" -- Lakers guard Kobe Bryant

That's the most obvious thing the Lakers need to do when they begin a seven-game trip Saturday with stops at New Orleans, Memphis, Boston, New York, Orlando, Charlotte and Cleveland. The Lakers (34-16) sit behind the San Antonio Spurs (42-8) by eight games and are a 1/2 game behind the Dallas Mavericks (34-15). Even if the Lakers insist that standings races don't matter until March, the Spurs' big margin shows the Lakers must think otherwise.

The Times' Mike Bresnahan makes a pretty compelling case on why it's mathematically going to be very hard for the Lakers to catch up with the Spurs: "Even if the Spurs won at only a 60% clip the rest of the way, the Lakers would have to play almost .900 ball to finish ahead of them." But that shouldn't give the Lakers an excuse to change their goal to securing second place in the Western Conference. The minute the Lakers' standards drop for the regular season, it is a red flag that they're giving in to their season-wide inconsistency.

"We had a horrible home stand here so going out on the road might do us a little bit of good," Bryant said, referring to the Lakers' road record (15-8) proving better than their play at Staples Center (19-8).

Prepare better for sub-.500 teams

It's tempting to immediately focus in on the tough opponents the Lakers will face, including the Celtics (37-12), Knicks (32-19) and Magic (32-19); a fair point considering the Lakers' 1-7 mark against teams that have a better record than them. But it's troubling Coach Phil Jackson more that the Lakers have lost several games to sub.-500 opponents, including Sacramento, Indiana, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Houston and Memphis.

It's not just that the Lakers lost to those teams, but the way they lost to them that's most troubling. Five of those six were double-digit losees, the loss to Indiana featuring Roy Hibbert exploiting the Lakers' flimsy interior defense and the Suns draining a franchise-record 22 three-pointers. That's why certain stops won't yield automatic victories, including games against the Grizzlies and Bobcats, which have beaten the Lakers in four of their last five matchups.

"New Orleans has players we're not familiar with," Jackson said. "That's what I think this team suffers from -- we look down on the list of games we lost in under .500 teams and it's about new personnel, young players, veteran players. We are not adjusting and paying attention and understanding the concepts and context of what they're playing against."

Improve execution against elite teams

Jackson's main argument for the Lakers' taking games against sub. 500 opponents seriously is that they won't be guaranteed they'll match up with elite teams, no matter how well they execute. The Lakers' 89-88 loss Thursday to the San Antonio Spurs perfectly illustrates that concept, with the team playing well with the right energy and effort only to fall flat because of a lapse in the final 22.7 seconds that involved giving up three consecutive offensive rebounds and Lamar Odom failing to box out Antonio McDyess on the game-winning putback.

But there are more troubling statistics that show how the Lakers don't fare well against elite teams. They shot 40.5% against San Antonio, featured a Bryant-heavy offense against Boston because of his teammates' lack of aggression, another Bryant-heavy offense in the first loss to the Spurs because of his trigger-happy tendencies, and little energy against Miami.

"It's going to be tough on the road," said Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who also added the Lakers must "win the majority of the games on this trip." "We have to execute. That's the only thing that's really missing. We're not running sets together we do in practice everyday. We're not doing it. We're not executing."

Bynum's knee must get healthier

All things considered, Bynum said he "felt good" against San Antonio after missing the game Tuesday against Houston because of a bone bruise in his left knee. Jackson suggested, however, that Bynum's timing remains a work in progress and the Lakers weren't effective enough in setting him up in what became a 10-point effort on four of seven shooting in 29 minutes. Aside from Bynum's presence proving largely instrumental in the Lakers' revamped defensive scheme, he'll be sorely needed in games, particularly against New York and Orlando. In the Lakers' 107-83 victory Jan. 10 against the Knicks, Bynum absolutely overwhelmed Amare Stoudemire both on offense and defense. And against the Magic, Bynum's presence will be needed to match Dwight Howard's size and give Bynum a litmus test on where he stands among the league's elite.

--Mark Medina

[email protected]

Photo: San Antonio's Manu Ginobili, right, gets an arm in the face as he tries to guard Lakers forward Ron Artest during the first half of the Lakers' 89-88 loss Thursday at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

 
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G.Money, is your name based off of G Money in New Jack City?

Thanks
PSP Intern

Posted by: Practice Season Police | February 05, 2011 at 09:42 AM

Naw, they just call me that on the golf court.

Corner J- If the Lake Show find some way to when the Trophy, I may change my ADDRESS to P&G. But as of now the South beach Crew pays the RENT.

I've been a huge critic of Odom in the past, but I've absolutely loved him this season. But, his lack of boxout on McDyess is just like game 6 of the Western Conference playoff series against the Suns. Why then Lamar, why!!??

@PSP – Thank you for the nice compliment, but I’m just one of many…like you trying to do my part. You made me think a little today so thank for that also. Were you laying a speed trap for me with the question?

@sean – You’re right, Memphis may be in that perpetual rebuilding state if they can’t hold onto to their assets like Pau and Z-Bo.

@Lakerholic – Your closing comment was your best...Keep the Faith. There's still a lot of bball to be played.


First, I want to congratulate Kareem on being cancer free. I’m sure Cap is smiling like never before. Having lived with Mrs. LakerTom through two episodes of breast cancer, I know firsthand just how bright the morning sun shines and how valuable each new day is once you’ve beaten the Big C.

Second, I’m still feeling just as good about the Lakers as I did when I posted the ten positive things to take away from the last minute loss to the Spurs. Honestly, I am not really afraid of the Spurs. Even with home court, I do not think they can beat us in a 7-game series. Know what? Neither do they. The matchups still favor the Lakers, especially inside. And without Bowen, they really do not have anybody who can stop Kobe. They won’t repeat their record in the second half of the season though they will likely win home court advantage unless one of their big three go down to injury. The truth is that they are playing over the heads right now and have snuck up on a lot of teams. The only team I really fear is the Celtics. Once the dust clears and the pretenders fall, it will be Lakers-Celtics.
……………………………….
TOM

***Repost***

LT,

Thank you. I initially had mixed feelings on the whole "practice season" concept until MVP clarified and qualified the statement. (Although I know he uses it sometimes to get under people skin...lol.) PSP really made me think my position through. Hmmm...I think he might have been trying to trip me up.

Anyway since you're a fan of Joni. Just to let you some of the next generation do know about her and try to pass along the knowledge. Janet Jackson showed Joni much love on this one by sampling "Big Yellow Taxi" I think you'll like it if you haven't seen or heard it before.

Janet Jackson - Got Til It's Gone (Joni Mitchell Never Lies)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnyqVRijCNw

Posted by: LRob | February 05, 2011 at 02:21 PM

I thought laker basketball was supposed to be entertaining. This team (except kobe) now lacks passion for the game.

I want to see hustling by all players and 7 footers throwing the ball down. I want to see scrappy defense and players fighting for the loose balls.

I really don't even care if this team makes it to the finals - it's so uninspiring to watch them. Clippers rock with the little talent they have.

I for one would absolutely love to see them trade away gasol for melo. I want to see a team hungry for more rings and play with kobe's fire and determination. Please somehow get rid of Luke Walton packaged with Gasol and get Melo. Or like others mentioned - get Noah or Love - guys who will freaking fight for the rebounds. Sick of watching our 7 footers get outplayed all the time. If Mitch can't get Melo can he please get us a fast pg who can guard and create his own shot?

Melo - Melo - Melo!!!!

Dude...if the Lakers can't play with any consistency on this trip and get some WINS. Let's not talk about Practice games, this team has some real SERIOUS problems. The tires on the bandwagon are LOW, and the sprites are a little DOWN. If they hit a bump it's subject to roll off a CLIFF with all the 27 bloggers.....may not be a BAD NEWS after all.

@LRob,
The PSP vote for you because unlike some of the other excellent bloggers, you are mostly unbiased in your posts; all the other good bloggers either leeeean to the left or leeeaaan to the right.

You were able to avoid the speed trap gracefully, sorta like a certain black swan :-). The PSP SA is currently setting up another one that should ensnare you; lol, the PSP is just yanking yer chain.

@G Money,
Ok the PSP wondered, New Jack City is a movie the PSP like to play on the office 102 inch plasma a lot. Hope your golf game is better than your smack talk! :-)

Thanks
PSP Intern [ what time is it? ]


@LROB… Joni will always be my favorite songstresses and song writers. I especially love her Mingus fueled Jazz phase. Best albums: Blue and Hissing of Summer Lawns. Best Song: A Case of You. I also think you’re right about the Saturday game. I was surprised when I saw Larry’s Roll Call. And thanks for the JJ link (very nice, JJ is so smoooooth) where she honors Joni. I also love the cover of Big Yellow Taxi by Adam Duritz and the Counting Crows.
…………………………
@MM… Nice piece on Pau Gasol. I especially loved the insight you showed in quoting the kid about how Pau misses when he is tired. I’ve always been a fan of brief comments that capture the essence of complicated situations. Nicely done. You do have to be prolific as a blogger but you do a great job keeping your journalistic and professional standards extremely high. You deserve more credit than you get for your top notch analysis and incisive writing. I look forward to what you have to say more than any of the Times writers or national columnists on ESPN or the other networks.
…………………………
@SEAN… The praise should go to LRob. My bad for not making it clearer with quotes that I was reposting his post because I thought it needed to read again by every blogger.
…………………………
TOM

"A couple of wins..."
OK
The Lakers do play the Cavs and the Bobcats.
Maybe they can beat the 'Cats this time around.


First, I want to congratulate Kareem on being cancer free. I’m sure Cap is smiling like never before. Having lived with Mrs. LakerTom through two episodes of breast cancer, I know firsthand just how bright the morning sun shines and how valuable each new day is once you’ve beaten the Big C.

Second, I’m still feeling just as good about the Lakers as I did when I posted the ten positive things to take away from the last minute loss to the Spurs. Honestly, I am not really afraid of the Spurs. Even with home court, I do not think they can beat us in a 7-game series. Know what? Neither do they. The matchups still favor the Lakers, especially inside. And without Bowen, they really do not have anybody who can stop Kobe. They won’t repeat their record in the second half of the season though they will likely win home court advantage unless one of their big three go down to injury. The truth is that they are playing over the heads right now and have snuck up on a lot of teams. The only team I really fear is the Celtics. Once the dust clears and the pretenders fall, it will be Lakers-Celtics.
……………………………….
TOM

We're #2!!
We're #2!!
We're #2!!
We're #2!!
We're #2!!

@LRob,
The PSP vote for you because unlike some of the other excellent bloggers, you are mostly unbiased in your posts; all the other good bloggers either leeeean to the left or leeeaaan to the right.

Posted by: Practice Season Police | February 05, 2011 at 02:42 PM

I agree. I double double triple that.

outro.

The only team I really fear is the Celtics. Once the dust clears and the pretenders fall, it will be Lakers-Celtics.

Posted by: LakerTom | February 05, 2011 at 02:34 PM


The Green Jerseys are very formidable. I really, really, really, wouldn't look past Chicago, Tom, they're a scary team when Noah comes back, they're a nightmare for 99% of the teams on matchups alone. Not to mention they have a defensive guru running the show.

Chicago can take out Boston for several reasons;

As much as people want to talk up Rondo for his D. Derrick Rose lit him up in that 7 game series, and he's older and smarter since that series.

Carlos Boozer, while a perenially 20/10, is there for half court offense when things stall, and he's perfect for that system, especially when the Playoffs come around.

Joakim Noah, while criticized, often taunted, guy's a beast, his motor had the off switch broken off, sometime in his teens. He's the difference maker in a Bulls-Celtics series. Rebounding, 50/50 balls, hustle plays, intelligence.

I will make a case for the Bulls. (If they happen to play one another) Bulls in 7.


@SEAN… I have to agree that you make an excellent case for the Bulls. I especially agree with you on Rose versus Rondo and on Noah’s motor. Thank God the guy cannot shoot If you could transplant his motor into Drew, you would have a Hall of Fame player for sure. Or Kobe’s motor. But you could probably say the same about most of the talented players who for whatever reason – temperament, personality, character – including Pau. Bottom line, though, I still like Boston.
..
It’s what I am trying to teach my grandson and his teammates on their 5th grade CYO basketball team: to go all out all the time rather than taking off plays or just cruising. Find out what you really are made of and make the most of your talent and ability by playing harder and smarter.
……………………………….
TOM

Hey tonight lets get a win and go on to have a successful road trip, say 5-2 that should help.

Go Lakers!

Sean, I agree. The Bulls, NOT the Celtics are coming out of the East to face our Lakers. Rose has completely transformed that team. Once Noah returns, they're going to be the team to beat in the East.

G.Money, I expect to see you in "Purple Mesh" and marching with us on Figueroa Avenue in June, after we beat the Bulls (who will have beaten the Celts). Next year, dude, you'll be in mamba24's GameDay rollcalls.


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