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Category: Pregame Update

Lakers vs. Pacers: There will be no surprises

After the Lakers laid an egg in their visit to Hoosier country back in early December, it will be impossible for the Pacers to sneak up on the Lakers tonight at Staples.  Or it damn well ought to be, at least, especially in the context of LA's upcoming schedule, which grows pretty damn brutal over the five games that'll follow this one.  With that, a few thoughts, slapped together:

  • At last reading, Lamar Odom is "questionable" for tonight's game because of that bone bruise in his right knee, but it's unlikely he'll play tonight, and I'm thinking the absence could easily stretch into next week.  But if there's a positive aspect to injuries, it's that they can force a team to pay extra attention to the basics.  On Wednesday against the Warriors, we saw it with LA as they steadfastly pushed the ball into the post, refusing to get caught up in the perimeter chuck fest that Don Nelson loves to promote.  While the Pacers have more size than Golden State- so do most of the teams I run with at the rec- the Lakers still can push an advantage inside, whether with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum or through penetration at the perimeter.
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Lakers vs. Sacramento: Things to do on the road

I'm not going to call the Kings craptastic, despite their 5-16 record, their lack of really good NBA players,Cowbell_2 or what I consider to be among the more unattractive uniforms the league has to offer.  No, they'll be spared because, at least against the Lakers, they always play hard.  Thus, the Sacramento Kings are not craptastic, they're scraptastic.  Same thing, with an S.  Still crappy, yes, but a better, more honorable grade of crappy. 

When last these teams met, the Lakers won in relatively convincing but wholly unappealing fashion.  Tonight?...

  • Take care of the freakin' ball.  On November 23rd, the Kings were handed 30 points off turnovers.  30.  That's just ridiculous. They've talked about playing under control, building a lead, and maintaining focus for 48 minutes.  This is a game where the Lakers should have an opportunity to do all three. 
  • Pound the lane.  Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol vs. Spencer Hawes and Brad Miller.  Advantage LAL.  Add in LO in the post (assuming he'll shoot) and it's an even larger advantage. The trio was a combined 20-31 in the first meeting.  But getting the ball into the post repeatedly requires discipline, and the Lakers tend to get away from it.  And I didn't even mention Kobe's post skills. 
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More PSA than pregame report

But just to let everyone know, the Lakers will be donating $100,000 in relief of the 2008 Wildlife fires.  Also, the proceeds from the Staples Center in-arena silent auctions over the duration of the next six November games (tonight's included) will accompany this donation.  Plus, those in attendance during tonight's game can- for a minimum five dollar donation- head down to the court after the action and get some face time and autographs with the Laker Girls.  All for a good cause, the latter two sources being funneled through the Lakers Youth Foundation.  For information about tonight's Laker Girl offering, go to the concourse level behind section 112.

Also, an exchange between a writer and Phil Jackson in regards to Vlad Radmanovic's starting status:

Writer: How entrenched is Vladdy as that fifth starter?
 
Phil Jackson: I'm not going to answer that question.
 
W: Because?
 
PJ: I don't want to answer it.  I don't want to talk about it either positively or negatively, and I don't want him to hear about it.
 
W: He doesn't read the papers. 
 
PJ: I bet he has friends that can read, though. 

In other words, Vlad isn't friends with BK. 

AK

I have a distinct feeling the Lakers will be cold tonight

Not necessarily in their play, but literally cold.  While at whatever the hell Boston's arena is called (and you thought "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" doesn't roll off the ol' tongue), an observation immediately hit me upon entering the gym.  This place is freakin' freezing!  Fuh-reezing!  I mean, like "Hockey is being played here" cold.  "Nanook of the North" cold.  Dick Cheney cold.  I was expecting David Letterman to come out and crack jokes or Carbone's frozen body to get wheeled out over the coda from "Layla." ("Goodfellas" fans will get the reference). The building is that ridiculously frigid. Luke Walton agreed the place could use an amped thermostat, but as he reminded me, it'll get pretty hot once the action on the court kicks off.

He's played there many times, so I'll take his word for it, but forgive me if I still bring a jacket.   

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Samurai Ronny

I mentioned yesterday (as perhaps the only major outlet to break this news, I might add) that Ronny Turiaf practiced with his hair out and wild, a decision I thought he made simply to let his braided hair breathe.  As it turns out, there was a method to his madness.  The do is braided again, but pulled into a pony tail Samurai style, which Ronny  felt was "appropriate for today," given the close-out opportunity in front of them.  Like many athletes, Turiaf is on the superstitious side, so I was surprised he would change horses (or hair styles) in midstream.  But the stakes tonight are big enough that Ronny, clad in a button down shirt with Epaulettes on the shoulder and a majestic bird on the back, was willing to mess with routine in order to help set a tone.  "We have to be warriors."

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Tumbleweeds

The big news, the only news, really, is that Trevor Ariza will indeed be in uniform tonight.  How much he'll actually play remains to be seen, but at the very least he'll play as much as Ira Newble, the guy he's replacing on the active roster.  PJ said he's capable guarding little fellas or guys with more size, but given the length of his absence it's doubtful (at least according to Jackson) that Ariza would get tossed out for long stretches against someone like Manu Ginobili.  "I'm not so sure that's something I would go with right away.  My original thought would be to do something else," he said.

Best pregame moment: Ronny Turiaf emerges from the training room, sees TNT's Craig Sager standing nearby, and nearly bugs his eyes out at the canary yellow pant/belt/shoe combination he's sporting tonight.  I have trouble imagining what jacket and tie would best match, and apparently so did Ronny as he walked past the media throng and mouthed "Woah!".  As in, "Damn, who I didn't even know that color could be created by human hands."   

Good stuff. 

BK

I can't imagine any Laker fan unhappy with the following sentiment

"It's the most important game of my life.  Every game from here on out is the most important game of my life."

- Lamar Odom, on whether tonight was the most important game of the season.

And there you have it.

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Luke Walton: U.R.I.

And by "U.R.I.," we're referring to the dreaded "upper respiratory infection," the ailment currently making Walton feel sick. I didn't see him in the locker room at all, but I was told by another writer that he didn't look too hot yesterday at practice. Phil Jackson said he'll suit up for action, but how much he'll play (and how effectively) remains up in the air. I have no idea if he's battling the same sickness Ronny Turiaf just shook, but the thought did cross my mind.

Beyond that, not too much in the way of news. Phil emphasized again that he's expecting a very physical series and that his players seem properly geared up for such an environment. When asked about differences he foresees playing against Utah vs. Denver, he noted the sharp discrepancy in the amount of shots attempted against Denver vs. how many Utah took against Houston (PJ estimated around 10 fewer). To put it in metaphorical terms, the speed limit will be honored more often in Round 2. Not that Utah, can't or hates to run, mind you. But the Rockets looked to put the kibosh on that whenever possible, and the Lakers will look to follow suit.

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Game 2: Electric Boogaloo

The big news before the game?  Ronny Turiaf is not in the building.  He's just that sick.  So rather than have him hanging around and germing up the locker room, Ronny's at home. Given that he barely played in Game 1 and the Nuggets don't throw a cavalcade of bigs at the opposition, for Ronny to be unavailable doesn't necessarily mean a fundamental change in how the Lakers do business tonight.   But if Pau Gasol finds foul trouble or the Lakers, for whatever reasons, need to go bigger, the backup center roles will be manned by DJ Mbenga and Chris Mihm.  LA has enough versatility built into the roster to go with a variety of lineups, but don't be surprised to see either one get a little bit of run. 

Beyond that, the goal is to continue doing those things the Lakers felt they did well on Sunday- ball movement and inside play, to name two- while shoring up those things they didn't like, most of which revolved around issues of defensive consistency.  Jackson reiterated that they considered the result of Game 1 to be positive, but not necessarily the performance. 

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If Phil's correct, these Lakers have gotten their proper 8 hours of sleep

The amount of players hanging in front of their lockers before the game was considerably fewer than normal, so there's not much to report in the way of Laker roster folk news.  Save a brief convo with Trevor Ariza (who'll be getting another update about his foot's status on Friday), didn't really see anyone around for more than a brief hey.  I guess they put on their "game faces" on in the back rooms during the postseason.  But Phil Jackson did his usual pregame chat with us scribe types and as usual, he wasn't hurting for one liners.  When asked about his past observation that these Laker squads don't play well in early games, Phil quickly responded with, "No, Shaq's in Phoenix now."

Cue laughter.

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