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Category: Pregame Update

Lakers vs. Grizzlies: Fans lose patience with sleepwalking champs

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Grizzlies 104, Lakers 85 (final)

Sure, the Lakers have won the last two NBA titles. But for the sellout crowd at Staples Center on Sunday, it was strictly a case of "What have you done for us lately?"

And judging from the crowd's reaction, the answer was "not much."

Even a blistering third quarter by Kobe Bryant, who scored 17 points in 10 minutes, couldn't wake the sleepwalking Lakers in their first game of 2011. And the fans registered their disappointment with boos.

Loud boos. Long boos. And lots of boos. Thankfully, perhaps, for the Lakers, not many in the crowd stayed to the final whistle, though.

The loss was the fourth in six games for the Lakers -- and all four have been by at least 15 points.

Bryant finished with 28 points on 10-of-22 shooting. But he was the only Laker with more than 10 points. The Lakers also turned the ball over 19 times -- leading to 18 Memphis points -- and never led after the first period.

The white flag came out with 4 minutes 36 seconds to play when Coach Phil Jackson emptied his bench, sending in Joe Smith, Luke Walton and Derrick Caracter.

The Grizzlies, who have beaten the Lakers twice in three meetings this season, had five players score in double figures, led by Rudy Gay with 27 and Zach Randolph with 21. Andrew Bynum had a game-high 11 rebounds for the Lakers.

RELATED: Photos of Lakers vs. Grizzlies

Grizzlies 79, Lakers 62 (end of third quarter)

After a lethargic first half, Kobe Bryant came out with his jump shot blazing in the third quarter, scoring 17 of the Lakers' first 21 points in the period. That cut the once-large Memphis lead to just a bucket several times. Bryant also did a good job getting to the line, drawing three fouls.

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Lakers vs. Miami: Lakers get beat-down by Heat on Christmas Day

Lakers16_510 Heat 96, Lakers 80 (final)

For all the hype about the Lakers and Miami Heat playing on Christmas Day, for all the talk about all the stars on the court, it was a dud.

Well, not if you are a Heat fan, of which there were only a few at Staples Center on Saturday.

The biggest stars were the Heat and its Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris  Bosh.

Not even Kobe Bryant could keep up with that threesome.

Bryant had 17 points, but he was just six-for-16 shooting from the field. Bryant finished with seven assists and six rebounds.

James had a triple-double, scoring 27 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and handing out 10 assists.

Bosh had 24 points and 13 rebounds and Wade had 18 points, six assists and five rebounds.

There was a moment in the fourth quarter when Bryant and James got into a heated exchange walking up the court. It happened right after Bryant had been called for an offensive foul.

The Lakers now have lost two straight and next play the Spurs in San Antonio on Tuesday. The Spurs are 25-4, the best record in the NBA.

When the Lakers fell behind, 84-69, the fans booed them.

But even that was light-hearted.

RELATED:

Lakers vs. Heat photos

Celebrities courtside at Staples Center

Lakers-Heat box score

Heat 75, Lakers 64 (end of third quarter)

The Lakers still didn't play very good defense, falling behind by as many as 16 points during the third.

But they continued to work at it, giving themselves a chance by pulling to within 11 points entering the fourth.

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Andrew Bynum wary of his success against the Clippers

When the Lakers square off tonight in what essentially will become a home game against the Clippers, center Andrew Bynum says he won't be thinking about last season's 42-point career-high performance against the Clips for one simple reason.

"I know that nobody cares about it," he said. "A lot of people say it was the Clippers. Every game something changes. If I can keep that up, it’s good and everybody will talk about it."

With forward Pau Gasol likely to miss his second consecutive game, Bynum will surely be talked about after each contest. But he wants the talk to ring similar to when he posted 20.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per contest during Gasol's 11-game absence because of a strained right hamstring.

Instead, Gasol's return also brought up discussion about Bynum's drop in production. By Christmas time, Bynum's numbers dipped to 12.9 points per game, and he has gone 23 consecutive games without a double double.

The past two games are a start for Bynum, whose 19 points on eight of eight shooting Sunday against Dallas made him the best Lakers shooter with at least eight attempts since Nick Van Exel was nine for nine in November 1997 against the Vancouver Grizzlies. He also scored a team-high 24 points Tuesday against Houston, Bynum's highest since Nov. 22.

That's why tonight's match-up with Clippers center Chris Kaman should be interesting. Not only has Kaman unabashedly said "we can beat the Lakers," Kaman remains among the league's highest-scoring centers with an average of 20.3 points per game. That's nearly double the 10.4-point average in his first six seasons in the league.

To be fair, Kaman's production has also gone through spurts this season. After going through a nine-game stretch with 20-plus points early this season, he shot below 50% in seven games shortly afterward, part of which he blamed on a drop of energy rooted from a deficiency in Vitamin D.

The dynamic is likely to produce a good match-up tonight. Bynum wants more touches so he can put up All-Star numbers, but he plays on a team that boasts several of them. Kaman has consistently produced while the Clippers are waiting for Blake Griffin's debut, but there's a thinking within the organization that his All-Star type numbers haven't been heavily noticed.

Clips guard Baron Davis recently said tonight's game will come down to "heart," and that surely rings true with the Kaman-Bynum match-up.

--Mark Medina

Andrew Bynum: Jammed right ankle, day to day

Pau Gasol's return to the court was a good one Thursday night at Staples- 24 points, 13 rebounds- as the Lakers (wait for it...) ran the Bulls (ha!) by a final score of 108-93. The only sour note? Andrew Bynum left the game midway through the third quarter and didn't return, suffering what was called a jammed right ankle. He's officially listed as day-to-day.

"I'm gonna see how it feels in the morning," he said, "but I should be okay. No treatment, just ice. I'll be ready for Sunday."

Bynum indicated that not re-entering the game was based less on worries of serious injury and more on the score- with the Lakers up big, there was no reason to screw around. We'll learn more at practice Friday afternoon, but for now there doesn't seem to be overwhelming reason for concern.

More on the game to come.

BK

Phil Jackson on Pau Gasol, practice habits

Nuggets from Phil Jackson's pregame press conference:

Pau Gasol will travel with the team this week, but playing is a different story. Asked if they're going to wait until Pau is totally healthy to get him back on the floor, PJ's response was interesting: "No, this isn't something you have to be (100% back). You can't be 100% on this unless you take forever and ever to let it heal. I think that's one of the things that is the issue right now is that probably his initial diagnosis was the fact that it takes six weeks for a hamstring to heal. We don't have six weeks. Right now, it'll be three weeks as of tomorrow. So that's half the time, supposedly. We just have to figure it out, and there are ways to come through this without having to jeopardize him. But he still has to have some security that he's not going to go out there and hurt himself." 

After Friday's loss to Dallas, PJ made a point to note how Thursday's practice leading into the game was poor. I asked if the team responded better Saturday afternoon. "I talked to the coaches, we didn't feel 100% about the practice but we felt better about it. The effort was there, but the lack of enthusiasm bothered us more than anything else."

What accounts for that?

"I don't know," he said. "We talked a little bit about it, where we lost a little bit of our enthusiasm for playing ball and getting it out there, and going after it. Some of it is just the malaise coming out. The ring ceremony is a high energy night, and then we come out Friday and there's no energy in the building and everybody's talking about something else other than basketball. There's the World Series going on, whatever. Whatever else is coming up. We just weren't focused to take care of our business."

They don't let us watch practice, so I don't know exactly how well things went. To some extent, we might find out based on Sunday's result against the Hawks. Either way, it's a public reminder to his team that focus and energy aren't givens, that the team must put in the work with an attention to detail to get where they're going. 

BK

This week's 710 ESPN.com Podkast, and Game 3 thoughts

On the docket for this week's 710 ESPN.com Lakers poddy: Thoughts on LA's trip to Utah, what the Pau Gasol drives past Carlos Boozer Lakers need to improve on against the Jazz and down the road, Jordan Farmar's future (or, potentially, lack thereof) in purple and gold, and a little bit on Andrew Bynum's social life.  That, and talk of the Wonder Twins

Click on it.  It's good for you, and is environmentally friendly.  Just like 710's postgame show, which we'll be on for an hour following the game.   

Now on to Game 3.  Some thoughts:

  • If you see the scruffy bearded man at the right of the page, please pass him the ball.  Pau Gasol was 7-11 in Game 1, 9-11 in Game 2 (that's a tidy 73%), and is a mismatch for any player the Jazz can put up against him.  Carlos Boozer?  Paul Millsap?  Jarron Collins?  Doesn't matter.  But, as has been the case for much of the year, after pounding teams down low early, the Lakers tend to get away from the post as games go on.  Not tonight.  Given Utah's strength on their home court, ball control and offensive efficiency will be huge.  One phenomenal way to accomplish that is to make sure the guy making nearly three of every four shots he takes gets a few more touches. 
  • With that in mind, Gasol needs to be more careful with the ball.  Five TOs in Game 2?  Way too many.  Gasol needs to stand up to the pressure he'll get from the Jazz and make decisive choices either with his shot or the pass. 
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Live from Staples: Lakers vs. Rockets

UPDATE: Heard from Drew before the game.  Sort of.  The kid mumbles, and was short on pith, so we'll have to review the recording to get super-exacts.  But I can report that he's feeling no pain right now, including with lateral movement and the like.  Still no return date, but everything seems hunky dory.

Assuming they haven't forgotten how to find the arena, the Lakers ought to get a boost playing in front of their home crowd for what feels like the first time since Eisenhower left office.  They'll need it, because the Rockets are a good team playing with motivation in a tightly bunched Western Conference playoff ladder.  The last time they met, March 11th in Houston, the Lakers used a strong second half to overcome a nine point deficit at the break, led by Kobe Bryant's scoring/invasion of Ron Artest's gray matter.

Looking over the ol' DVR recording, a few things stuck out about those final 24 minutes:

  • The Lakers were extremely aggressive on the offensive boards. The Rockets may be undersized, but they rebound well.  The Lakers need to make Houston work to secure boards on their end. 
  • Artest is talented, but will take shots that make Kobe seem conservative and judicious by comparison. High Volume Ron is a good Ron or LA.  The more time Artest spends dribbling and creating, the better off the Lakers will be.
  • The Lakers did a great job pressuring Yao on the block with double teams to force the ball from his hands.  Yao averages over 13 shots a night.  That game he had only nine.  Generally speaking, the Lakers were effective in making the Rockets shoot jumpers to try and beat them.

Keep in mind that in Houston, LO was serving a one-game suspension for leaving the bench in Portland.  With Odom back, the dynamic defensively for Houston changes.  Probably more Battier on 24 than Ron Ron.  More reading: Forum Blue and Gold's game preview, likewise from The Dream Shake.

Chat box below.

BK


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Lakers vs. Blazers nuggets of knowledge

This one should be fun.  The Blazers are a top shelf team at home (26-5), where their splits show they'reKobe Bryant slams vs. Portland stronger in virtually every meaningful statistical category.  Bottom line, don't expect to see the same Portland team the Lakers beat by 20 on Oct. 28 or 14 on Jan. 4 when the teams hit the floor tonight at the Rose Garden. 

And, of course, we all know about the six straight losses for LA up Oregon way, just in case the opposition wasn't problem enough.

A few thoughts, and some good pregame reading:

  • Pace is going to be an interesting factor, as each team tries to nudge the other from its comfort zone.  The Lakers are the fifth fastest team by pace factor in the NBA, but for all their youth and athleticism, the Blazers are 30th.  Out of 30, in case there was confusion.  Don't mistake slow with inefficient or ineffective.  Portland is second only to the Lakers in offensive efficiency, producing 113.3 points per 100 trips.  (LA is at 114.)  With two teams that produce points so proficiently, holding on to the ball is more important than normal.  Interestingly enough, both teams produce turnovers from the opposition at almost identical rates.
 
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Lakers vs. Spurs: A few thoughts

Pee_wee_at_the_alamo I always enjoy watching the Spurs, and things are no different this year.  Whether they're struggling with injuries as they did opening the season or playing well as they currently are- San Antonio is 18-6 since a 6-6 start, and 8-2 over their last 10- Gregg Popovich's crew always provides a test.  They're like the Terminator.  Or the Energizer Bunny.  Or death and taxes.  Or whatever comparison to something that is steady, consistent, and relatively hard to kill that you prefer.  While they're generally not the most athletic or dynamic team, they're always smart, fundamentally sound, play to their strengths, and most importantly, San Antonio doesn't do the opposition's work for them

With that in mind, some thoughts about tonight's game:

  • SA's frontcourt combination provides an interesting matchup for the Lakers.  Power forward Tim Duncan spends more time near the basket, while center Matt Bonner loves to bomb from the outside, taking three triples a game and shooting nearly 50% from beyond the arc.  It's a similar setup to the Jazz, with Boozer/Millsap and Okur. Look for Bynum to play Duncan, Gasol on Bonner.  On the other end, as Kurt from Forum Blue and Gold points out, whoever gets Bonner needs to take advantage.
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A smattering of Lakers/Heat thoughts

Until the Lakers get some players back in the lineup there are no sure things.  Not even if you threw John Cusack in there*.  But that doesn't mean the Lakers shouldn't win, especially given their massive size advantage.  It'll be interesting to see if Miami defends Pau and Bynum as they did a few weeks back.  Writes Kurt at Forum Blue and Gold:

"...There are a lot of teams that are smaller than the Lakers, but the Heat have been the only team whose coach had the guts to front the Lakers bigs and try to force turnovers... If and when the Heat front the Lakers bigs in the post, the weak-side post must flash to the free throw line and create a high-low game that can expose the Heat (with Pau and the ball at the free throw line he can lob to Drew, attack the rim or just bury the jumper)..."

Good ball movement helps there as well, as the bigs can seal their fronting defenders and accept passes from better angles for almost automatic points.  If the Lakers don't force the issue, they ought to find plenty of opportunities to exploit Miami's lack of size.  I've been impressed with how the Lakers have, in the absence of three ball movers and with a slumping Vlad Rad, continued to stay dedicated to inside play.  Much credit should go to Kobe, who has helped grease the team's wheels and is playing incredibly efficient basketball these days (even by his lofty standards)

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