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Five things to take from Lakers' 96-91 win over Dallas Mavericks

683066071. The Lakers made it harder than necessary in securing a 96-91 victory Wednesday over the Dallas Mavericks. They should feel happy by collecting a rare road win. But it didn't have to be this hard. Despite leading 93-86 with 1:06 remaining, the Lakers nearly squandered the game. They missed six consecutive free throws. They gave Jason Terry a wide-open three-pointer and failed to box out Dirk Nowitzki on a tip-in, plays that cut the lead to 93-91 with 29 seconds left. But the Lakers still prevailed, partly because Matt Barnes secured a rebound off Pau Gasol's second missed foul shot. Barnes then made both free throws to secure the win.

2. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum played aggressively. It's easy to psychoanalyze the reason behind Gasol's 24 points on 11-for-18 shooting  with nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. This came days after Kobe Bryant publicly blasted the front office for not providing clarity on Gasol's future. It also marked his first visit to Dallas since the Lakers' sweep by the Mavericks in the 2011 Western Conference semifinals, a series in which Gasol proved a huge factor in the Lakers' fall. Whatever it was, Gasol looked agressive right from the first possession.

He attacked the Mavericks on hook shots in the lane, turnaround jumpers and putbacks. Gasol made two crucial baskets late in the game. He tipped in Bryant's miss, tying the score, 80-80, with 6:41 to play. Gasol also converted off Bryant's jump pass to him inside, extending the Lakers' lead to 91-86 with 1:29 remaining. Despite having trouble guarding him in last year's playoffs, Gasol held Dirk Nowitzki to 25 points on nine-for-22 shooting by forcing him to take off-balance shots that even he couldn't make. He didn't avoid the brutal contact Brendan Haywood delivered with his elbow with 20 seconds left.

Gasol wasn't perfect. He committed five turnovers and missed his two free throws in the fourth quarter. But his aggressiveness, enthusiasm for greeting the bench after a hot start and high-fiving Bryant throughout the game demonstrated his sharp focus.

As for Bynum, his 19 points on six-of-10 shooting, seven free throws, 14 rebounds and one block appears more impressive than it does on paper. That's because his production mostly hinged on Bynum making himself big in the post, restablishing position after kicking out of double teams and making putbacks. The Lakers need to involve him more, but it shows Bynum's growth that he can still produce on his own.

3. Derek Fisher had a strong shooting night. Don't look now, but Fisher has put a string of performances that shows he's still capable of providing some supplementary shooting. He scored 15 points on six-for-eight shooting. He successfully advocated for an official's replay in the third quarter on an out-of-bounds call that went the Lakers' way. Fisher held possession off an inbounds pass with 27 seconds left despite facing a double team. 

It's unrealistic to think Fisher will sustain the 8.8 points on 62.5% shooting he has averaged in the last four games. But at least against the Mavericks, Fisher played with great efficiency. His shots came in rhythm and off great ball movement. That included a sequence that entailed Bryant facing a double team and feeding to Gasol at the left elbow, Gasol passing to Bynum inside and Bynum kicking the ball out at the top of the key. Fisher nailed the three-pointer to give the Lakers an 87-82 lead with 4:13 remaining. He then made a floater in the lane on the next possession, a shot Fisher usually never makes. For his strong play, Fisher played the last 5:28 of the fourth quarter. Brown usually has granted that time to Steve Blake both to rest Fisher's body and because of his shooting and defensive struggles. But against Dallas, Fisher rightfully earned the 27 minutes.

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A.C. Green admires Derek Fisher's longevity

A.C. Green

It seemed unlikely that a sinus ailment would keep Lakers guard Derek Fisher off the floor for Friday's game against the Phoenix Suns. 

Yet, many vocal Lakers fans argued that Fisher's presence would hardly make a difference anyway. Fisher in recent seasons has been criticized for being an old, slow point guard who can't guard a pick-and-roll, and doing that to Steve Nash seems burdensome. 

Unfortunately for the Lakers, their failure to upgrade at point guard has put Fisher in a tough position. He's being routinely set up to fail, which makes his toughness and leadership skills seem mute. Yet amid all this, Fisher's absence from Thursday's practice provided another reminder of his longevity. 

Fisher has appeared in 524 consecutive regular-season games since April 15, 2005. He has started in 402 consecutive games since Jan. 15, 2007. Both are highest among active NBA players. And there's one player who can truly appreciate what that means. 

"He's the ironman," former Laker A.C. Green said.

Actually, that title still belongs to Green. He holds the all-time NBA record for consecutive games played with 1,192, dating from Nov. 19, 1986, to April 18, 2001, while playing for the Lakers, Suns, Mavericks and Heat. The two players will remain a rich part of the Lakers' history for most of the same reasons. Green carved out a niche by leading the Showtime Lakers in rebounding six of his eight seasons, playing on two NBA championship teams in that span. He also provided leadership as a reserve for the Lakers' 1999-2000 championship team. Fisher was a valuable role player and clutch shooter during the Kobe-Shaq era en route to three consecutive titles. He remains a critical piece to this day for both his experience and relationship with Bryant. 

"He's the ultimate professional," Green said of Fisher. "He goes out there and does what he needs to do every single night. More importantly, he does it in practice and his pre-game rituals. He just knows how to prepare himself. That's really a lesson in life where you have to find a game plan. You can't have your plan like someone else. You have to have your own plan."

Green's plan involved living by the motto, "If I can breathe, I can play." So much so that he even played in a game a day after having an emergency root canal. Fisher's plan involved in recent seasons staying away from competitive basketball during the offseason and devoting time to off-court workouts. While his legs stayed fresh, Fisher's week often entailed two 90-minute sessions for three consecutive days, emphasizing endurance, core, balance and stability in the morning, and strength in the afternoon. That gave him enough strength to absorb a sprained left elbow last season in regular-season game against Charlotte. 

It hardly sounds glamorous. But it's something fans surely should appreciate. 

"You have to have some help," Green said. "You have to have good trainers, you have to eat right and keep your mind on the right things and find a balance on how to rest. It's a combination of things. You have to have help from the man above. It's nothing easy or magical about it because that's a long time. At the same time, it's fun." 

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Derek Fisher misses practice due to sinus infection

Derek Fisher still slowed by limited off-season workouts

--Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Derek Fisher misses practice due to sinus infection

Derek FisherMost Lakers arrived for practice Thursday feeling fresh from a day off.

Except for one.

Lakers guard Derek Fisher was sent home from practice because of a sinus infection, but the team lists him as day-to-day and he is expected to play Friday against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. Fisher has appeared in 524 consecutive regular-season games since April 15, 2005. He started in 402 consecutive games since Jan. 15, 2007. Both are highest among active NBA players.

Former Laker A.C. Green still holds the all-time NBA record for consecutive games played with 1,192, dating from Nov. 19, 1986, to April 18, 2001, while playing for the Lakers, Suns, Mavericks and Heat. 

"If [trainer] Gary Vitti says that his minutes will be affected, then it will," Brown said regarding Fisher. "But I don't think so. Nobody said anything to me to suggest it will be affected."

 --Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected] 

Photo: Lakers guard Derek Fisher, right, puts up a shot in front of Atlanta guard Jeff Teague during the first half of Tuesday's game. Credit: Michael Nelson / EPA / February 14, 2012

Five things to take from Lakers' 93-89 win in Denver

Lakers31. An important road win against a conference playoff contender. Let's start with the biggest positive of the night: a quality win on the road against a conference opponent. So it wasn't pretty, but the Lakers still went on the road to beat the Nuggets, 93-89. When they want to know whether you won or lost, they ask how many, not how well you played. The Nuggets (15-8) have proven to be a formidable opponent since the departure of Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks as well as Kenyon Martin (now of the Clippers) and J.R. Smith to China. Just as impressive, the Lakers (14-9) overcame some controversial calls, or non-calls, to earn the victory and move up in the Western Conference standings.

2. Broken record: The Lakers need to execute better on offense. Once again, the Lakers continued to have breakdowns in running their offensive sets, often resulting in poor-quality possessions that ended with rushed shots at the end of the 24-second clock. And with Andrew Bynum running hot, how can he end the game with only 13 shots? The Lakers continually failed to get him the ball when he had great post position. A couple of scenarios in the game included the Lakers' two most veteran players -- guards Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant -- failing to get Bynum the ball when he had established himself on the block. Bryant ended up driving wildly into the lane and hoisting an off-balance shot on more than one occasion.

3. Broken record II: The Lakers need to improve their transition defense. Too many times the Nuggets were able to get down the court for easy layups. And that included big men Nene and Timofey Mozgov as well as the speedy Ty Lawson and other perimeter players. The Nuggets are primarily a young and athletic team, and they're not the only one in the West that will torch teams in transition if defenses aren't paying attention. Think Thunder, Clippers, Blazers, Jazz, Warriors, etc.

PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Nuggets

4. Broken record III: Kobe Bryant needs to know when to defer to the big men. Bynum made 10 of 13 shots for 22 points while collecting 10 rebounds and Pau Gasol was five of 10 from the field for 13 points while pulling down 17 rebounds. It became obvious as the game unfolded that the Lakers had the advantage on the front line. When your two big men are shooting better than 65% combined, they need to take more than 23 shots in the game.

5. Andrew Goudelock continues to impress. The rookie guard made six of 10 shots, including one of three from three-point range, for 13 points, his fourth double-digit effort in the last five games. When Steve Blake returns to the lineup, the Lakers' backcourt will have more weapons and depth, plus the ability to give more rest to Fisher and Bryant.

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--Dan Loumena

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives the baseline for a reverse layup in front of the rim against the Nuggets in the second half Friday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Credit: Jack Dempsey / Associated Press

Lakers grind out second consecutive road victory with 93-89 triumph over Denver

Lakers1_350Just when it seemed as if the Lakers were on the verge of an epic fourth-quarter meltdown, they pulled out a 93-89 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night at the Pepsi Center.

Kobe Bryant scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol each logged double-doubles and rookie guard Andrew Goudelock continued to impress with 13 points off the bench.

And still, it almost wasn't enough. After trailing by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, Denver had a chance to win before Al Harrington's step-back three-pointer missed, with Matt Barnes grabbiong the rebound and getting fouled with two-tenths of a second left, securing the Lakers' second consecutive road victory.

PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Nuggets

The Lakers helped the Nuggets rally by being called for a pair of fourth-quarter technical fouls, one on Bynum and another on Barnes. Gasol also committed a late turnover on a behind-the-back pass that eventually led to a dunk by Nene that pulled the Nuggets to within 91-89.

Bynum was involved in another controversial play when he missed a layup with 12 seconds left but indicated he was fouled by Nene. Video replays appeared to show Nene hitting Bynum on the arm without touching the ball, which went out of bounds to the Nuggets, setting up their final play.

"We made it tough on ourselves down the stretch," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. "The missed call [on Nene] was tough to swallow. We didnt' execute well, but we got a clean dunk but didn't get the call."

Said Bynum: "I can just let it go. It really wasn't that bad."

In his first game since becoming an All-Star for the first time, Bynum had 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting to go with 10 rebounds. Gasol finished with 13 points and a season-high 17 rebounds. Derek Fisher also was clutch for the Lakers, making a jumper to give them a 91-87 lead and making a steal in the final minute.

Goudelock made six of 10 shots and has averaged 11.8 points in his last six games.

"He's found his niche," Bryant said. "He comes in off the bench and he lights it up."

The Lakers improved to 3-7 on the road and will go for a third consecutive road win on Saturday against Utah in Salt Lake City, where they pulled out a triumph in overtime last month.

"I've been telling everybody we're going to be fine," Bryant said. "I mean, it's the start of the year and it's tough to kind of get out on the road. We've had some very tough opponents to start the season on the road. We're kind of getting used to everything with no practices. We're going to be A-OK."

ALSO:

Caught in the web: Lakers start trip with a win

Mitch Kupchak remains positive despite road woes

Five things to take from Lakers' 93-89 victory over the Nuggets

--Ben Bolch in Denver

Photo: Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov tries to cut off the drive of Lakers power forward Pau Gasol in the first half Friday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Credit: Jack Dempsey / Associated Press

Shoe ads differ between Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher

Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher aren't as dissimilar as it might seem, even when they initially appear to be polar opposites.

Everyone obviously knows about the differences in talent, leadership styles and personalities. The common thread Bryant and Fisher share in work ethic and toughness is well documented. Mix all those ingredients and it's apparent why they've won all five of their NBA championships together. But it's apparent that their respective styles have also translated into their recent shoe ads.

In Fisher's recent Adidas ad, he touts the adizero Crazy Light Low shoes debuting Feb. 1 in a straightforward and comprehensive manner. In Bryant's recent Nike ads, he touts the Kobe System in a short series of commercials featuring numerous celebrities and Bryant's biting sarcasm in 30-second bursts. Plenty will prefer Bryant's ads for those reasons. But Fisher's ad is just as effective simply because it also captures his persona in a nutshell. 

The ad features what Fisher puts in his gym bag, and the items go beyond what a typical athlete brings. Oh, there's the practice gear, basketball, cellphones and MP3 player. But no one except for Fisher would pack along a notebook on the NBA's collective bargaining agreement. Few would bring their iPad for the main purpose of tracking their calendar. And even when you overlook the obvious promotional plug, few would bring along their autobiography.

But that's Fisher. He's not the most talented or the most flashy, yet he usually gets the job done.

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Derek Fisher overcomes early-season struggles with game-winner

Derek Fisher still slowed by limited off-season workouts

How Kobe Bryant might explain Kobe System to Metta World Peace

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Luke Walton needles Derek Fisher, Fisher jabs Mike Brown [Video]

Clad in sharp clothes while sitting on a stage at a recent event at Staples Center, the Lakers were quick to dish out loving jabs at one another. No one was immune from the joking, not even the team captain and the coach.

It began when Luke Walton was asked what music was on his iPod. The forward immediately named singer Adele.

"That was your first thought?" Fisher asked jokingly.

Said Walton: "I'm going in alphabetical order."

Walton then shot back at his teammate, saying that he's also been listening to Fisher's single.

"It went platinum in Bosnia, didn't it?" Barnes added.

The ensuing laughter prompted Lakers legend A.C. Green to ask Fisher to give a live performance. Fisher refused, claiming that he has a wife and children now.

"Don't forget who the captain is," Fisher said.

Lakers Coach Mike Brown was the next target.

When asked what TV shows he likes watching, Fisher interjected.

"Defensive clip No. 17, offensive clip No. 12," Fisher said.

Said Brown: "Are the film sessions that bad?"

"They're not that good, though," Barnes replied with a laugh.

The Lakers off-court chemistry is palpable. Let's see if it can translate to the hardwood when the team plays the Clippers at Staples Center on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

— Melissa Rohlin

Lakers have plenty of issues to deal with on offense

 

The TImes' Ben Bolch explains why Lakers forward Pau Gasol wants to work more in the post

 

--The Times' Ben Bolch explains why Lakers forward Pau Gasol wants to work more in the post. 

--The Orange County Register's Janis Carr notes Derek Fisher's hope that the Lakers maintain a determined attitude through their three-game losing streak. 

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy Kamenetzky explains why it's unlikely the Lakers will make any minor changes to their roster. 

--Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe says he loves it when Gasol runs the fast break. 

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford notes that the Lakers took the day off on Monday. 

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell analyzes the Lakers through 18 games. 

--Silver Screen and Roll's wondahbap credits Kobe Bryant as the player of the week.

--Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano breaks down the Lakers' offense. 

--Lakers Nation's Nadya Avakian argues that the Lakers lack an offensive identity.

Tweet of the Day: "Just saying: Pau spent a lot of time outside the paint yesterday during a 2Q stint with both Bynum and Kobe on the bench." -- ZachLowe_SI (Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "This is the dilemma ... having a nice guy like Pau avoids friction with the alpha male ... but nice guys rarely demand the ball in the post aggresively ... I don't think Kobe will refuse those who demand the ball as long they make the play ... on the other hand having team mate like westbrook in OKC could create potential frictions ..." -- Binsar Sitorus

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Pau Gasol is fouled by Denver Nuggets center Chris Andersen while receiving a pass during a game at Staples Center last month. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Lakers lament late-game breakdowns against Indiana Pacers

Out of nowhere, Lakers guard Derek Fisher swiped the ball from Darren Collison's hands and the Lakers appeared ready to draw up a game-winning play.

Instead, the Lakers improvised with disastrous results. After encountering multiple defenders, Kobe Bryant made a baseline pass to Pau Gasol, who immediately gave it back to Bryant as he cut to the right wing. Bryant beat another double team by sending the ball up to Fisher.

"I didn't want their defense to get set," Brown said of not calling a timeout. "I started to call it and then I pulled back. Obviously in hindsight, I should've called it whether Kobe had the ball or not."

The result: Fisher drove into the lane and appeared to air ball a floating shot in the lane that went out of bounds, denying the Lakers a potentially game-winning play in their 98-96 loss Sunday to the Indiana Pacers. In reality, the play was actually a lob to Bynum, who like everyone else thought Fisher was putting up a shot.

"I probably should've looked to try to finish it," Fisher said, "and then maybe allow [Bynum] the opportunity to get an offensive rebound."

That didn't happen, and it represented one of many late-game miscues that shows the Lakers (10-8) have problems beyond their three-game losing streak. They still don't know how to execute on the court.

After Collison's free throws on the ensuing possession gave the Pacers a 97-94 lead with 8.7 seconds remaining, the Lakers blew another late-game play. Gasol dumped off a pass to Bryant as he curled to the top of the key. With no one else appearing open behind the perimeter, Bryant launched a long three-pointer from straight away. But the shot hit back iron.

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Five things to take away from Lakers' 98-96 loss to Indiana Pacers

Lakers3_600
1. The Lakers suffered late-game miscues in their 98-96 loss Sunday to the Indiana Pacers. There's lot of plays that the Lakers could've executed better at the end of the game. Matt Barnes' missed three-pointer could've given the Lakers a definitive lead in the final minute. Pacers center Roy Hibbert grabbed a late-game rebound and made a shot over Andrew Bynum. Derek Fisher air-balled a floater and Bynum let the loose ball slip through his hands. Lakers Coach Mike Brown didn't call a timeout on that sequence. Kobe Bryant missed a long three-pointer that would've tied the score with 2.4 seconds left.

2. Pau Gasol is playing too much of a facilitator. Credit Gasol's versatility and ability to adapt. With Bynum an increased role in the post, Gasol has relied on his his play-making abilities and mid-range jumper to remain relevant. The former quality proved to be magnificant as Gasol dropped 10 assists, and could've had 11 if his Bynum converted off his one-timed behind-the-head pass. But his eight points on four for 12 shooting left a lot to be desired because most of them came off mid-range jumpers. It appears Gasol's losing his aggressiveness to score, while relying too heavily on his ability to facilitate. 

3. Where's the Lakers' perimeter defense? This game wouldn't be close if the Lakers defended the perimeter. The Pacers stayed in contention, thanks to a 10-of-18 mark from three-point range. That included Indiana scoring 35 points in the second quarter and going on an 18-12 run after most of the starters entered the lineup at the 6:13 mark. While the Lakers' defensive communication and help looked sharp in the paint, they remained inconsistent on closing out. 

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