Lakers Now

Round-the-Clock Purple and Gold

Category: Post Game Wrap

Lakers 105, Nuggets 103: Ugly makes it effective

NOTE: Well, it looks like there were issues with both when this post went live, and also that some of the content was missing when it finally did.  I had a fancy intro up top, praising the Lakers for making plays down the stretch and winning a game at far less than peak effectiveness.  I wrote before Game 1 that at this time of year, there are no bad wins, ugly wins, or tainted wins.  Just wins, and they're all good.  I believe it.  Beyond that, Tuesday's 105-103 win over the Nuggets should answer questions about LA's heart and character.  The Lakers, including a bunch of dudes who otherwise may have struggled, stepped up in big moments down the stretch.  Kobe led the way, but everyone who stepped on the floor contributed something to the win.

Anyway, below is what's left of what we put together last night... and ten hours later people can actually see it.  Such is life on the web.  BK

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way off the top (think of it as a spoonful of 'tussin, tasting like *&^@^ but leading to happier moments).   The Lakers have a lot to address tomorrow at practice.  A few examples:

  • Interior defense: Denver's bigs dominated early as the Nuggets controlled the paint.  30 first half points down low, aided in part by a 6-7 opening 24 form Nene and five buckets from Kenyon MartinCarmelo Anthony dedicated himself to play in the post and did plenty of damage there... and everywhere else.  8-11 overall, for 20 first half points. 
  • Containing Melo: Credit Anthony for staying aggressive on the block and not settling for perimeter play, something that had been a bad habit for him against the Lakers over the last couple seasons.  Tonight, he was incredibly effective, with 39 points on 14-20 shooting, plus six boards and four assists.  Dude was everything the early advertisements said he'd be, and more. 
  • Offensive flow: Pau Gasol needs to be more aggressive establishing position in the post, and the Lakers need to do a better job making sure someone- could be Pau, Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant, or the kid with the mop if he happens to wander into the area- touches the ball in the post at some point in a possession.  When the Lakers got the ball inside, the offense was far smoother, whether the shot came from the paint or was kicked out to the top of the key.  Kobe in particular had great success down there, especially when he was marked by Dahntay Jones or Anthony Carter.  He'll exploit that all day.  The Lakers can't afford to settle, as they too often did, particularly in the early going.
  • Energy: Denver had more of it early, and the Lakers were lucky to stay within striking distance.  Only a solid quarter from Kobe and big triples from Sasha Vujacic and Shannon Brown kept them within eight.  

But you know what?  I'm not going to dwell.  If the Lakers had won by 15, they'd still have work to do.  At Monday's  practice, Phil Jackson said and a few players echoed the notion that the Lakers would have to gut out Game 1, since prep time and rest were limited.  That's exactly what happened.  Throughout the first half, I kept looking at the score and wondering how the Lakers were so close, but they were.  In the end, it's what's on the scoreboard that counts.

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Lakers 89, Rockets 70: Well, that wasn't such a chore, now was it?

That breeze you feel isn't the wind or an overzealous air conditioning unit, but the collective sigh of the Laker Nation.  Those hooves?  Not from a TV replay of yesterday's Preakness, but from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping back to the heavens.  All because the Lakers came out Sunday afternoon at Staples in Game 7 of their Western Conference Semifinals against the Houston Rockets, took care of business, and avoided a monumental upset.  Final score: 89-70, in a game the Lakers  dominated from start to finish.  Today's game was all about defense (see below).  LA held the Rockets scoreless until the 6:53 mark of the first quarter and allowed only 31 points at halftime.  Overall, it was the sort of focused, concentrated effort that would have ended this series a couple games earlier had the Lakers delivered. 

Trevor Ariza dunks against the Rockets So what now?

While I do feel there's some value for the Lakers in having been tested by a must-win Game 7, experience that could come in handy down the road, I won't say they benefit from putting themselves in this spot.  No question it would have been better to finish Houston on Thursday in Texas.  The Lakers are through to the Western Conference Finals.  It's a blank slate, a fresh start.  Spotty play against the Rockets doesn't make them less likely to beat Denver, nor does "being tested" make them better prepared.  I'm not much for carry over.

Bottom line, the Lakers still have the potential to advance to the Finals.  They should, and I think they will.  But they'll have to play better against the Nuggets to make it happen.  One thing we have seen, though, is that as challenges become larger (be they big regular season games against Boston and Cleveland, or today's do-or-die), the Lakers tend to get better.  That's a pattern Lakers fans will hang on heading forward.  Great win today. 

Breakdown below. 


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Rockets 95, Lakers 80: Utter frustration

Hyde, then Jekyll, then Hyde again. 

Apparently, the Lakers don't give a hoot about themes established through video game montages and Kobe Fish tales of my athletic past.  For that matter, they're apparently indifferent towards helping BK and me look like Nostradami on the ol' PodKast.  Although maybe it's all my fault for buying into yap about lessons learned and the need to play with continual purpose.  About how momentum from administering a 40-point beatdown doesn't carry over, so the onus is on yourself to build it up again from ground zero.  In other words, taking the bull by the horns. 

Instead, the Lakers once again messed with the bull and got the horns.  In so many uncanny ways, this 95-80 loss felt like "Mother's Day Massacre" deja vu all over again.  The whole thing felt so creepily familiar, I expected Phil Connors to conduct a sideline report.  (Sure, he's a weatherman by trade, but given how we never actually learn anything from coaches during these inane segments, he could probably wing it well enough.)

Both games featured a Trevor Ariza turnover within the opening minute.  Both games saw Kobe Bryant notch the first Laker field goal, except this contest required nearly six minutes to accomplish what felt like a Herculean feat (as opposed to merely "Mission Impossible," when half that time elapsed before Game 4's first bucket).  Both games saw Luis Scola accumulating points like he was an NBA Live version of himself, and the geek who designed the game- along with its Laker defenders- was in fact Scola himself.   Both games featured a Laker team bizarrely flat on both sides of the ball from the jump.

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Lakers 118, Rockets 78: Dear David... Take that! Sincerely, Goliath

By the way, the Staples Center crew guy screaming off camera was doing what was presumably his impression of David Lee Roth, having earlier warbled a few verses of Van Halen's "Running with the Devil."  

If he's eventually discovered by the Atomic Punks, remember, you heard it here first.

Breakdown below.

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The Lakers hate their moms, Laker fans' moms and everyone else's moms!

I'm not often one who jumps to conclusions, but how else can you explain the Lake Show's performance this afternoon, aBench watch Mother's Day crapfest that ended in a 99-87 Game 4 loss to the Houston Rockets?  I'm sorry, but nobody prioritizing homage to the lovely women raising children worldwide would have come out as flat and disorganized as the Lakers did, much less stayed that way. 

From the opening tip, the purple and gold were not only off their game, they flailed in every single aspect of it.  Take the disastrous first quarter, one that ultimately laid the foundation for an unsuccessful effort.

  • Three and a half minutes passed before getting on the board with a Kobe Bryant 18-footer, which put L.A. seven points behind Houston's pace.  Nearly another three and a half minutes in the books, and we're sitting on seven total points, all courtesy of The Mamba.  Moreover, the Lakers worked in a style most folks wouldn't label "advantageous."  Way too little ball movement or attacks of a middle left vulnerable in Yao Ming's absence.  Way too many arc-bound dribbles, quick J's, sloppy passes (when the ball did actually change hands) and generally flawed execution.   
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Lakers 108, Rockets 94: Game 3 par-tee

Even as they blew the Utah Jazz out of the first round in five games, Lakers fans have been waiting for a Kobe Bryant against Shane Battier in Game 3 statement performance from the purple and gold in the postseason.  Friday night, they got one.  LA dominated the Rockets, winning 108-94 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference Semifinals series heading into Sunday's Game 4.

Best of all, at least for Lakers fans, is that just like the buffet at the Bellagio, there was a lot of great looking stuff and plenty for everyone to enjoy.  The Lakers didn't simply ride a hot shooting night from Kobe Bryant, but played a great team game and were particularly impressive defending their own bucket.  It was a focused, balanced effort in which nearly everyone who stepped on the floor made important contributions.  Exactly what was needed to beat a solid team by 14 points on their home floor.

A sampling:

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Rockets 100, Lakers 92: Houston, they caused some problems

Well, as Pau Gasol told the media after the game, "Nobody said it would be easy."***

Breakdown below.

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Lakers 107, Jazz 96: Second round, second guessing?

Breakdown below...

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Lakers 108, Jazz 94: Kiss it, Chicken Little

Lakers 108, Jazz 94.  Happiness is (among other things)...

  • 16-24 for Kobe Bryant, en route to 38 points.  Ronnie Brewer would rather see Freddie Krueger in his sleep tonight than 24.  After Game 3's 5-24 performance, Kobe had a simple prescription for fixing his game.  Hit more shots.  Done and done, because man alive, did he put on a jumpshooting clinic Saturday night.
  • 10/15/6 for Lamar Odom.  Starting in place of Andrew Bynum, Odom was big on the glass, moved the rock and made some strong plays defensively (two blocks).  Kobe was the star, but Odom played the type of glue game the Lakers need.
  • 30 points for the bench.  Outside a monumentally bad play from Luke Walton to end the first half, it was a very solid night for the reserves.  Shannon Brown: 10 points, two steals, and nice work against Deron Williams.  Walton: Nine points, five boards (including three big offensive rebounds), three dimes, three steals.  Sasha Vujacic didn't have a great line, but hit two big threes in the second quarter to help LA begin pulling away from the Jazz.  As well as Kobe played, the Lakers should draw confidence from how they performed while Bryant was on the bench, too.
  • Holding a lead.  The Jazz made it to within three a few ticks into the third, but from there the Lakers dropped the hammer.  28-16 LAL in the third, including some stellar defensive work.  Utah shot 5-24 from the field.  Carlos Boozer and Williams combined for four points.  In the fourth, the Jazz never threatened, allowing Lakers fans to get some rest without taking extra blood pressure medication.

More to come tomorrow.  A huge night from Kobe, a great night from the Lakers, who go up 3-1 after stomping the Jazz in a brutally tough building in which to play.  More to come tomorrow.


Jazz 88, Lakers 86: Put that fork down for the time being

Before the series started, the predominant prediction for this series between the Lakers and Jazz was LA in five.  That's what I had, too.  And, of course, that means the Jazz end up on the right end of one box score, unpleasant as it is for Lakers fans to digest.  Well, hopefully Thursday's 88-86 Utah win over LA at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City represents their One Shining Moment, though there wasn't a lot of sparkle for either squad in what was a herky-jerky, disjointed, muck-in-the-mud type game. 

You know, exactly what you'd expect for a playoff game in Utah. 

Listening to the postgame interviews on the telly, the Lakers didn't seem too concerned with tonight's result, and I can't really blame them.  They lost, but nothing fundamentally changes in how the teams match up.  LA is still a superior squad, and it'll take a monumental collapse for them to lose the series.  Even tonight, the Jazz needed a clutch step-back jumper from Deron Williams over the long arm of Lamar Odom to pull out a win.  This despite:

  • A 5-24 night from Kobe Bryant.
  • Seven minutes of burn for a foul-laden Andrew Bynum.
  • Six FGs between Trevor Ariza and Derek Fisher.
  • Two field goals from reserves not named "Lamar" or "Odom."
  • A 37.6% shooting night from the Lakers, which actually represented an improvement over their 30% figure at the half. 

You catching the theme, yet? 

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