Saturday, November 22, 2014
Blog Page 10

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of March 30-April 5, over their 66-year history.

March 31, 2002

The Lakers defeated the San Antonio Spurs in a 96-95 thriller at the STAPLES Center. With the Lakers trailing by one point with 15 seconds left in regulation, Derek Fisher made two clutch free throws, after a loose ball foul, to give Los Angeles the lead for good. Shaquille O’Neal then blocked a Tim Duncan jumper at the other end of the court to end the game and seal the victory for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant led the purple and gold with 31 points and nine rebounds, while O’Neal added 24 points and nine boards.

April 4, 2003

Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning buzzer-beater over Shane Battier, as the Lakers erased a 23-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Grizzlies 102-101 in Memphis. Bryant finished with 21 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. Shaquille O’Neal led Los Angeles with 33 points and 19 rebounds, on 13 of 20 shots from the field.

Reed Saxon/AP
Reed Saxon/AP

April 5, 1984

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, as he surpassed Wilt Chamberlain’s career total of 31,419 points in a 129-115 victory over the Jazz. Abdul-Jabbar’s record-clinching shot came in the form of his trademark sky-hook. To this day, Abdul-Jabbar remains the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. He finished his illustrious career with 38,387 points.

April 5, 1998

The Lakers rallied from an 18-point third-quarter deficit to defeat the Pistons 105-103 in overtime at The Palace in Detroit. Shaquille O’Neal led the way for Los Angeles, as he scored 35 points and collected 12 rebounds, while Nick Van Exel chipped in with 19 points. This victory marked the fifth straight win for the Lakers, as they completed their first four-game Eastern Conference road sweep since the 1986-87 championship-winning season.

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Photo courtesy of David Sherman, Getty Images

This game was so bad, we’ll skip the high points and head straight for the low ones.

The inability to defend combined with the inability to score – that’s what plagued the Lakers in tonight’s game (and in the 47 losses before it). In a nutshell, and in the simplest terms, that’s exactly how Minnesota led by as much as 41 points, and that’s how they won 143-107.

Defense – The Timberwolves are the highest-scoring team when it comes to the first quarter. They average about 29 ppg in the first 12 minutes of each contest. Tonight, for the second time in four meetings, Minnesota got off to a blistering 40-point romping of the Lakers (41 to be exact), led by Kevin Love, who scored 15 of his 22 points, in that first quarter. Minnesota’s shooting percentage in each quarter were as follows: 65%, 63%, 67% and for their finale in the fourth – 75% shooting from the field. 75%! No combination of players that Coach Mike D’Antoni put on the floor could muster anything that even remotely looked like defense. The T-Wolves got to the hoop and scored much too easily, collecting 66 points in the paint and earning 40 free throw attempts (33 of which they converted).

Offense – In stark contrast to Minny’s skyhigh shooting percentages, the Lakers’ quarterly production were the following: 40%, 24%, 57% and 55%. Their improvement in the second half would have had a lot more impact, had they been successful in keeping the Timberwolves at bay offensively. And the threeball, which has been this team’s indicator of success this season, failed them tonight. Just 7-25 from behind the arc, 28%. It’s no secret that the Lakers most certainly live by three, and as the saying goes, they sure die by them as well. The second half score was a close one, 69-64, Timberwolves. Most of the damage, however, had been done in the first half and the Lakers could not cover enough ground to catch up.

Rebounds – 49-26, a disparity of 23 boards. Rebounds, like defense, are all about effort, and as evidenced by the Lakers’ disheartening performance as a whole tonight, it’s not surprising they lost.

Ball Movement – The Lakers had none. Minnesota handed out 33 assists, led by Love’s 10, and the Lakers had just 22 dimes. What happened to Kendall Marshall? In 15 minutes of floor time, he went 0-6 and handed out three assists. Steve Nash, who suddenly decided right before game time that he could play, scored just four points and handed out six assists.

In a game in which they turned the ball over just eight times compared to Minnesota’s 21, the Lakers could not take advantage. They looked completely helpless and hapless, and are probably looking forward to the end of this season as much as the rest of us.

Box Score

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Photo: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Los Angeles Lakers could make a strong play for Kevin Love at this year’s NBA Draft by offering its lottery pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for the all-star power forward.

The suggestion is already in circulation that the Lakers will attempt to use their forthcoming high lottery pick in June to assemble the sort of trade package that finally convinces the Wolves to part with Love and end the uncertainty that hangs over this franchise even before the 25-year-old enters the final year of his contract.

As the report says, Love will have one more season on his contract before he can opt-out which could leave the T’Wolves without anything in return come next summer if he chose to sign with another team via free agency.

With the T’Wolves, Love has yet to make the playoffs in six seasons and this season will be no different.  His frustrations have been known over the past few seasons and it did not make things better when the T’Wolves refused to give Love a five-year extension, but later gave center Nikola Pekovic the fifth-year that Love coveted.

Heading into June’s NBA draft, it will be interesting to see what the Lakers do in regards to their pick but it will certainly be contingent  on where they land in the lottery.   If the Lakers were to land a top three pick and have a shot at prospects Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, or Joel Embiid (if they are to enter the draft), would the Lakers entertain any trade offers?

With Kobe Bryant wanting to content the last two years, it would not be a surprise to see the Lakers trade the pick in order to contend right away instead of waiting for the future.  Answers should become clearer over the next few weeks.

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Photo: Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

March 28, 2014 — 5:00 PM (PST)
Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Last night’s game truly defines the Lakers‘ (24-47) season. They could come up with an unexpected victory against the Knicks, playing the best they can, and then immediately come right back and have an ugly loss. After blowing out the Knicks on Tuesday, the Lakers lost vs. Milwaukee Bucks Thursday, by far the worst NBA team this season.

Now, the Lakers seek to get back to its winning ways by facing off vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (35-35)Based on the last 2 games, it seems like the Lakers will rely heavily on F Jordan Hill and F Nick Young. Hill had a monster game despite the loss, scoring 27 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, and actually had a double-double by the end of the first half.

Meanwhile, Young continues to bring spark off the bench, contributing 17 more points last night. Young brings an asset to the Lakers that they have been lacking throughout the month of February; a guard who can create his own shots at any point of the game.

Despite heading into another playoff-less season, Timberwolves’ PF Kevin Love still dominates his position this season. Love has turned into an NBA star, scoring 26.3 PPG and averaging 12.3 RPG this season. Love has tremendous footwork in the post, a skill he has nearly mastered throughout his NBA career while possessing the ability to shoot behind the three-point line, shooting 38.2%.

Projected Starters

PG – Ricky Rubio / Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Timberwolves]
SG – Kevin Martin / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Even]
SF – Corey Brewer / Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]
PF – Kevin Love / Jordan Hill [Advantage: Timberwolves]
C – Gorgui Dieng / Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Timberwolves: F Luc Richard M’Bah Moute, G Alexei Shved, F Dante Cunningham, G JJ Barea
Lakers: PG Steve Nash, F Nick Young C Robert SacreXavier Henry, G Kent Bazemore

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Timberwolves: Out-C Nickola Pekovic, Out-F Ronny Turiaf, Out-G AJ Price
Lakers: Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-G Kobe Bryant

Bottom Line

Fans never know which Laker product they will get at any given moment; the one that destroyed the Knicks, or the one who lost vs. Bucks. Tonight, the Lakers are playing for 2 consecutive nights on the road, so fatigue will most likely set in for tonight’s matchup. The first quarter will most likely dictate how the Lakers will play tonight.

Prediction

Timberwolves: 113-104

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Image: Jonathan Daniel | Getty Images

According to multiple sources, Lakers’ head coach Mike D’Antoni and Marshall University have a mutual interest to return D’Antoni to his alma mater.

As a result, the D’Antoni-era could be coming to an abrupt end in LakerLand. According to ESPN.com, Marshall University recently reached out to D’Antoni to gauge his interest in filling their coaching vacancy.

“I would think his days are numbered based on Kobe saying he had no interest in playing for him next year,” a source told CBSSports.com. “If he isn’t with the Lakers, I believe he will be at Marshall because there is mutual interest.”

As sources have pointed out, Kobe Bryant is no longer a fan of the run-and-gun philosophy that the Lakers have played during Mike D’Antoni’s two-year tenure in Los Angeles. Bryant instead prefers to play at a slower tempo going forward.

While it is unclear whether the Lakers had any plans to fire their coach this summer, sources close to D’Antoni say the interest between he and the Thunder Herd is mutual.

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Photo courtesy of Gary Dineen, Getty Images

After scoring a franchise record 51 points in the third quarter of Tuesday’s game against the New York Knicks, and defeating said team by upwards of 30 points, of course the Lakers would lose to the team with the very worst record just two days later. Such is the ridiculousness of their season.

It’s hard to imagine the Lakers’ 24 wins isn’t the worst in the NBA, but the Milwaukee Bucks have 14 victories after tonight’s game, and two of those were against the purple and gold. Yes, the worst team in the league swept their season series against the Lakers. It’s been that kind of season.

The Lakers started out well enough, leading by as much as nine points in the first half before the Bucks rallied in the second quarter to get within just two points heading into halftime. They tried to keep up with the home team in the second half, but couldn’t keep the ball in their possession and even worse, couldn’t keep Milwaukee from scoring. Bucks won, 108-105.

High Points
Jordan Hill – Hill had another huge night after his fine performance on Sunday against Orlando. Without his production tonight, this game might’ve been a lot worse for the Lakers. Hill was two points shy of the scoring leader of the night (Brandon Knight, 30 points on 12-21) with his 28 points on an efficient 13-17 from the field and 16 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive end.
Bench – Keeping in step with their reputation as one of the most productive benches in the league, the Laker reserves outscored Milwaukee’s 46-24, led by Nick Young’s 17 points.

Low Points
Turnovers and Defense – The Lakers outscored the Bucks in the paint (52-48) and in second chance points (23-12). They outrebounded Milwaukee 38-33 (13-9 on the offensive glass) and had more assists as well (23-15). All these would have produced a win if they a) weren’t so careless with the ball and b) if they put as much effort into the defense as they do their offense. The Lakers turned the ball over 20 times, giving away 20 points to their opponents as a result. The Bucks turned it over just as much with 19, something the Lakers could have taken advantage of if they weren’t turning the ball over. As far as the defense goes, Milwaukee had one bad quarter, the fourth, in which they shot just 37%, but their shooting percentage in the first three quarters were as follows: 57%, 69%, 65%. The way they were defending (or not defending), there was no way the Lakers were going to win this game.

Tonight’s game was the Lakers’ last against an Eastern Conference team. Next two contests are against the Minnesota Timberwolves, followed by a team who revels in beating the purple and gold – the Phoenix Suns.

Box Score

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

March 27, 2014 — 5:00 PM (PST)
Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers (24-46) surprised the national audience by dismantling the Knicks 127-96. With both teams playing in front of Phil Jackson, the Lakers outscored the Knicks 113-74 from the 2nd quarter on, including scoring 51 points in the 3rd quarter.

The Lakers now have to carry the positive momentum, winning 2 straight games, as they head off to Milwaukee to face off vs. Bucks, the worst win-loss record in the NBA. Without SG Kobe Bryant, C Pau Gasol, PG Steve Nash, and former Laker PG Steve Blake, all of whom were counted on to be floor leaders coming into this season, available, the Lakers have to play by committee by playing wel on both ends of the floor through constant communication and trusting each other. SG Xavier Henry who has decided to play through a torn ligament in his shooting wrist, was one of the players who inspired the Lakers to victory on Tuesday night, scoring 22 points.

Along with Henry, F Nick Young has picked up where he left off, scoring 22.3 PPG in his 3 games returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for almost 2 months.

The one bright spot for what is otherwise a miserable season for the Bucks is the emergence of rookie SF Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo, the youngest NBA player at 19 years old, has showed flashes of potential that he could bring to help rebuild the franchise. Although his statistics will not blow you over, averaging 7.0 PPG and 4.4 RPG,  Antetokounmpo seems to adapted much better with the NBA as this season has progressed, giving the Bucks franchise some hope for the future.

Projected Starters

PG – Brandon Knight/ Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Even]
SG – Ramon Sessions / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Lakers]
SF – Khris Middleton / Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Bucks]
PF – John Henson / Jordan Hill [Advantage: Lakers]
C – Zaza Pachulia / Chris Kaman [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Bucks: F Jeff Adrien, G OJ Mayo, G Ramon Sessions, G/F Giannis Antetokounmpo
Lakers: F Nick Young C Robert SacreXavier Henry, G Kent Bazemore

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Bucks: Out-F Ersan Ilyasova Out-F Larry Sanders, Out-G Carlos Delfino, GTD-PG Nate Wolters
Lakers: Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-G Kobe Bryant,  Doubtful-PG Steve Nash

Bottom Line

Although the Lakers showed flashes of how well they can play at any given moment, they can play as bad at any given moment due to a lack of consistency. However, they should have no problem defeating the Bucks tonight, especially with the Lakers playing very well in their last 2 games.

Prediction

Lakers: 112-101

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Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

Against the now-under-Phil-Jackson’s-watch Knicks, there was no telling what kind of game the night had in store. Coming into tonight’s contest, New York’s record, despite showing just three more victories than the Lakers, was also just two games away from the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With 12 games left in their season before today, the Knicks aren’t completely eliminated from the post-season yet, giving them every reason to beat the down-trodden Lakers. These Lakers, however, are playing for something as well – trying to avoid finishing with the worst record in franchise history.

After the first quarter, in which they scored just 14 points to the Knicks’ 22, the home team outscored the visitors 113-74 in the three quarters that followed, and led by as much as 33 points. The Lakers’ defense was active, the ball movement was key, and not even the absence of Pau Gasol (home with vertigo) and Jordan Farmar, not to mention the presence of Phil Jackson and Metta World Peace up in a box, could pose any obstacle or distraction that this team hasn’t already seen this season. A 127-96 victory for the purple and gold – how about that?

High Points
Bench – Without the on-again and off-again services of super vets, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, the core of this Laker team is a young one, and most of them come off the pine. Led by Xavier Henry, the Laker reserves took the reigns of this game, and, quite literally, ran off with it. Henry, despite learning that he had a torn ligament in his left (shooting) wrist, decided to play anyway, knowing that he couldn’t injure it any more than it already was. He said in a post-game interview that he just needed to warm up his wrist, and he knew it would be fine. He was more than fine, leading the team with his 22 points on 8-11 of 11 from the field, including 3-4 from downtown. In one sequence, he missed the second of two free throw attempts, grabbed the offensive board, scored, got fouled and returned to the charity stripe. Torn ligament be damned – Henry wasn’t planning on a quiet game. Just behind him was Nick Young, with 20 points on 6-10 and an efficient 5-6 from three; one three part of his sixth 4-point play of the season. Kent Bazemore, making the most of his minutes, chipped in 18 points himself on 7-14 and 2-4 from behind the arc and handed out five assists. Together, the Laker bench outscored the Knicks’ bench 82-21, accounting for 65% of the total score.
Ball Movement – 32 assists on 48 made field goals – makes those 17 turnovers seem almost irrelevant. Besides, 12 of those 17 were committed in the first half. Kendall Marshall led the way with nine dimes, followed by Ryan Kelly who handed out eight assists to go with his nine points, four rebounds and two steals.
Threeball – 18-28 three pointers for 54 points. This has been a key indicator of the Lakers’ few successes this past season. When they shoot well from behind the arc, they tend to win those games. The Lakers are fourth in the league in three-point percentage, at 38.2%. Tonight, 64.3%.
Record-Breakers – After the shame of earning the franchise’s record for worst loss in the 48-point beating by the Clippers, the Lakers created a new, more positive stat tonight. In the third quarter, which has been by far, their worst 12 minutes of play in seemingly every game, they set a new Lakers record for the most points scored in a quarter – 51 points. Yes, they gave up 31 points and 57% shooting to the Knicks, but they shot 73% from the field themselves; 6-9 from three, 7-8 from the free throw line, and 19-26 for the quarter. Their offensive efficiency was 204.0 on 91.9% True Shooting (Thank you for the stat, Forum Blue and Gold!).
Teamwork – Yes, this high point should go without saying, but there’s a lot to be said about this team. Despite a horrific season, plagued with injuries and embarrassing losses, this group of teammates still find a way to be supportive of each other and try to win, regardless of how seemingly trivial their goals have become. Chris Kaman, 13 points and nine rebounds, has lived on the bench all season long except for when Pau Gasol isn’t available, plays his rear end off when he does get a chance to play, like he did tonight. Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre led the team on the +/- column with a +24 each, and not only because of their own production, but because of what they infuse into the game when they join their teammates on the floor. Wesley Johnson didn’t do a whole lot in terms of stats, but maybe that’s because he was glued to Carmelo Anthony to start the game. In the first quarter, Anthony was 0-6 from the field.

Low Points
Slow Start – The Lakers led by as much as 33 points, managed to maintain that large lead, and won the game by 31. Let’s not nitpick, but if there was a low point to note, it would be their slow first quarter. They just didn’t look all that ready to play. They shot just 28% from the field and scored only 14 points.

Set a season high in points and the franchise record for most points in a quarter? Take THAT, Team Tank!

Next up – the Milwaukee Bucks with the worst record in the league.

Box Score

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Photo courtesy of Jesse D. Garrabrant, Getty Images

March 25, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TNT
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers look to build off of their win vs. the Orlando Magic on Sunday as they face off vs. New York Knicks (29-41) tonight.

Jordan Hill  had a career night, scoring 28 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in Sunday’s win. Hill’s numbers do not come from plays getting run through him, but through effort and hustle, primarily grabbing offensive rebounds. Although the chances Hill will match his numbers from Sunday tonight seem unlikely, Hill should still be able to make an impact in tonight’s game also.

However, the Lakers chances of winning tonight will be hampered since C Pau Gasol will not play tonight. Gasol, who has been one of a few consistent Laker this season, suffered a vertigo illness that caused him to miss the 2nd half of Sunday’s game and get taken to a hospital by ambulance

Things have turned around for the Knicks franchise ever since rumors they are now only 2 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. After losing 6 straight games, Knicks Head Coach Mike Woodson decided to shake up his lineup, bringing G JR Smith and F Amar’e Stoudemire into the starting lineup. Although they lost another game after Woodson switched the starting lineup, the Knicks then went on an 8 game winning streak until losing a close game vs. Cavaliers on Sunday.

Carmelo Anthony leads the Knicks team into Staples Center tonight. Anthony, who has scored 28.1 PPG while grabbing 8.2 RPG and dishing out 3.1 APG, seemed like a sure thing to depart the Knicks a few weeks ago. Now, with the hire of Jackson and the Knicks strong push to make the playoffs, Anthony not only seems to be unsure about departing New York now and seeks to will his team into the playoffs with his strong play.

Projected Starters

PG – Raymond Felton / Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Even]
SG – JR Smith / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Even]
SF – Carmelo Anthony / Nick Young [Advantage: Knicks]
PF – Amar’e Stoudemire / Jordan Hill [Advantage: Even]
C – Tyson Chandler / Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Knicks: F Tim Hardaway Jr., G Shannon Brown, G Iman Shumpert, G Pablo Prigioni, C Cole Aldrich
Lakers: F Wesley Johnson C Robert SacreXavier Henry, G Kent Bazemore

Bench Advantage: Knicks

Injury List

Knicks: Out-F Kenyon Martin, Out-F Andrea Bargnani, GTD-G Iman Shumpert
Lakers: Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-G Kobe Bryant, Doubtful-PG Steve NashWill Play-G Xavier Henry

Bottom Line

Knowing that Phil Jackson will be in the Knicks front office have definitely given the Knicks player a major jolt that they have been lacking. Although the Lakers looked great vs. Magic on Sunday, the Knicks will play with a huge sense of urgency to sneak into the playoffs. The Lakers will have to play very smart on the defensive end to have a shot at defeating the Knicks tonight.

Prediction

Knicks: 111-99

Vince Compagnone/Los Angeles Times

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of March 23-29, over their 66-year history.

March 23, 1999

Dick Enroth, the original radio voice of the Minneapolis Lakers, died from cancer at the age of 80. Enroth was the Lakers’ radio play-by-play voice from 1947-1959, during which the team won four NBA championships. He was known as the “fastest-talking sportscaster in the Twin Cities” during his tenure with the Lakers.

March 24, 1970

Jerry West won the NBA scoring title after leading the Lakers with 2,309 points in 74 regular season games. This was the first and only time in West’s illustrious career that he won the scoring title. West averaged 31.2 points per game during the 1969-70 season.

March 26, 1972

The Lakers ended the 1971-72 regular season with the best record in NBA history after defeating Seattle 124-98. Los Angeles finished with a 69-13 record and a .841 winning percentage. Their record would hold as the best in NBA history until the 1995-96 season, when the Chicago Bulls finished the regular season with a 72-10 record and a .878 winning percentage.

Getty Images
Getty Images

March 27, 1994

Magic Johnson made his head coaching debut with the Lakers when they defeated Milwaukee 110-101 at The Forum. Los Angeles went 5-11 during Johnson’s 16 games as head coach.

March 28, 1973

Wilt Chamberlain finished his career with a then-NBA record of 1,045 consecutive games without disqualification. Chamberlain did not foul out of any games over the course of his 14 NBA seasons. His consecutive games without disqualification streak ended when Moses Malone broke the record with 1,212 straight games without fouling out.

March 28, 1982

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played in his 1,000th regular season game, when the Lakers beat the Kings 109-96 in Kansas City. Abdul-Jabbar became just the 15th player in NBA history at the time to do so.

March 29, 1952

George Mikan set a then-NBA playoff record for points when he scored 47 against the Rochester Royals in Game One of the Western Division Finals. Despite Mikan’s efforts, the Lakers lost the game 88-78.

March 29, 1962

Elgin Baylor and Jerry West became the first set of NBA teammates to each score 40 or more points in a playoff game. Baylor scored 45 and West contributed 41, but the Lakers lost a heartbreaker to Detroit in the Western Division Finals, 118-117.

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Image: Associated Press

March 23, 2014 — 6:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

In what could become the worst season in Lakers history, the Lakers will try to gain a victory tonight vs. Orlando Magic (11-32) in a dual between the two teams which lost C Dwight Howard. Both teams will be in the upper echelon of the upcoming NBA draft as they have two of the worst records in NBA this season.

The Lakers, who suffered another loss vs. Wizards on Friday, got solid contributions from a few returnees from injuries. F Nick Young returned from injury to score 21 points, leading the team in that category with SG Jodie Meeks. PG Steve Nash dropped 11 assists despite only playing in 18 minutes, while F Jordan Hill looked excellent. Although Hill was ejected for getting involved in a scuffle with Wizards C Drew Gooden, he still managed to grab 14 rebounds and be a spark plug off the bench.

Former UCLA Bruin G Aaron Afflalo leads these young group of Magic players, scoring 19.3 PPG, grabbing 3.9 RPG, and dishing out 3.5 APG. He has a very solid all around game, playing both ends of the floor well, and seeks to be one of the key players that will stay on the Magic roster after they finish rebuilding their team.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall / Victor Oladipo [Advantage: Magic]
SG – Jodie Meeks / Aaron Afflalo [Advantage: Magic]
SF – Wesley Johnson / Mo Harkless [Advantage: Even]
PF – Pau Gasol /Nikola Vucevic [Advantage: Lakers]
C –  Robert Sacre Kyle O’Quinn [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Magic: F Tobias HarrisG Doron LambG Ronnie Price, C DeWayne Dedmon

Lakers: G Nick Young, PG Steve Nash, F Jordan Hill, Kent Bazemore

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Magic: GTD-PG Jameer Nelson 

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant,  Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Doubtful-PG Steve Nash,

Bottom Line

Hard to believe the Lakers finally can match-up vs a team with as bad of a record as the Lakers over the last month. However, the Lakers received help from Hill, Young, and Nash’s return, hoping they can help salvage their season as it winds down the homestretch. The match up actually favors the Lakers tonight, so they should be able to come away with a victory tonight.

Prediction

Lakers: 115-108

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Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

Not even an ejection could fire this Laker team up.

After playing through a 21-point deficit, the Lakers got to within seven points of the lead before the fourth quarter. They’d outscored the Washington Wizards in the second and third quarters and, with a bit of momentum on their side, could have taken over the final 12 minutes. But in true Laker fashion per this season, they clammed up instead.

Nevermind the strong, consistent efforts of Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks. Nevermind the contributions of the reserves. Nevermind the return of an effective Steve Nash and Nick Young. All were gone to waste in a game tarnished by carelessness.

The Wizards took the game in D.C. the last time these two teams met, and the Lakers couldn’t return the favor in a 107-117 loss.

High Points
Guard Play – Jodie, Jodie, Jodie – saves a ball from going out of bounds in the third quarter, tweaks his ankle but manages to get in place quick enough to receive a pass to hit a three pointer. The team’s most consistent player had another good night on the floor, finishing with 21 points on 7-17, not to mention four steals. Back from injury-status, Steve Nash and Nick Young put in a solid effort despite not having played for weeks. Nash, in 18:32 minutes, scored just five points, but handed out 11 assists and racked up four rebounds and three steals. Playing in only his 11th game of the season, we saw glimpses of what could’ve been. That’s all that Nash has been to the Lakers – a “could’ve been,” an “if only,” and “what if.” Young, finishing with 21 points on 7-16 and 4-9 from three, played like he hasn’t missed any games. Getting tangled up with Drew Gooden was his most notable moment tonight. The two were fighting for position, and Gooden yanked on his interlocked arm from Young. Unlike the game against Phoenix, Young’s teammates were quick to come to his aid. Pau Gasol immediately held SwaggyP back, while Jordan Hill faced off against Marcin Gortat, who appeared to have come to Gooden’s aid. Young knocked down his two technical free throws, and Hill and Gooden were ejected.
Pau Gasol – Gasol didn’t have a great shooting night, just 6-14, but he still managed to produce a double-double, 14 points and 14 rebounds, in addition to five assists. His 2-5 from the free throw line and five turnovers are relatively uncharacteristic, but the rest of his game was productive.
Bench – No matter how bad the Lakers as a whole have been this season, the bench has managed to shine through, win or lose. Tonight they outscored Washington’s reserves 54-36, led by Young’s 21 points.
Ball Movement – 32 assists on 43 made baskets. Funny what happens when Steve Nash is on the floor.
Points in the Paint – 58-40, in the Lakers’ favor. This has been a sore spot for the Lakers this season, but tonight they scored on higher percentage shots.
Rebounds – Both teams grabbed 44 rebounds, but on this rare night, the Lakers had more offensive rebounds (11) than their opponents (9).

Low Points
Turnovers – Despite so many highlights in their favor, the Lakers couldn’t get this win and one reason is their carelessness. The Wizards racked up 20 turnovers, which the Lakers could have taken advantage of. Instead, they produced 21 turnovers of their own, giving 24 points to their opponents as a result.
Free Throws – 14-23 from the charity stripe tonight, 61%.
Defense – For the season, the Lakers are giving up an average of 108.7 ppg, good enough for second to the worst in the league, with only the Philadelphia 76ers who have lost their last 23 games. In their last 10 games, the Lakers’ opponents have averaged 23.8 ppg.

In order to avoid being the worst team in franchise history, the Lakers have to go 9-6 in their final 15 games. After tonight’s loss, they’re 0-1 so far. 9-5 over the final 14 – it doesn’t seem like a tall order, until we look at some stats.

To put this 9-5 goal into perspective, a few facts: The team’s last nine wins were spread out between January 3 and March 9, in which they played 30 games. This means that, on average, for every three games they won, they had seven losses. Anything can happen, true, but the way this season has gone, even 9-5 seems improbable.

Box Score

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

March 21, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Stuck in a mud of another losing streak, the Lakers seek to snap their 3-game losing streak tonight as they face off vs. Washington Wizards. After competing hard vs. Spurs on Wednesday night, the Lakers simply ran out of gas, suffering a 109-125 loss.

However, help is on its way for the Lakers at least for tonight. PG Steve Nash, F Nick Young, and F Jordan Hill, will all return tonight after they were recovering from their various injuries. Nash, who has not played in 5 weeks from nagging nerve issues, will come off the bench tonight and be on a minutes restriction, according to Head Coach Mike D’Antoni.

Young, who was one of front-runners to win the 6th man award this season before suffering a knee injury, seek to jump start the Lakers who have not won consistently since December.  However, F Wesley Johnson will sit out tonight’s game due to illness

Meanwhile, the Wizards seek their first playoff appearance since the 2007-2008 season, seem to be on their way after years of rebuilding and developing their roster. All-Star PG John Wall has stepped up as the team leader, scoring a career high 19.8 PPG and dishing out a career high 8.8 APG. Wall has tremendous athleticism and seems to have controlled it very well this season, becoming a much efficient player.

However, the Wizards might will be without their top 2 post players tonight. Former Nuggets C Nene will be out tonight trying to recover from a Sprained MCL he suffered last month, while C Marcin Gortat is currently a game time decision due to back issues.

Projected Starters

PG – John Wall/ Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Wizards]
SG – Bradley Beal / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Wizards]
SF – Trevor Ariza /  Kent Bazemore [Advantage: Wizards]
PF – Trevor Booker / Ryan Kelly [Advantage: Even]
C – Kevin Seraphin / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Wizards: F Martell Webster, G Andre Miller, C Drew Gooden, F Chris Singleton
Lakers: PG STEVE NASH, G Nick Young, C Robert SacreXavier Henry

Bench Advantage: Wizards

Injury List

Wizards: Out-C Nene, Out-F Glen Rice Jr, GTD-C Marcin Gortat
Lakers: Out-F Wesley Johnson, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-G Kobe Bryant,   Probable-F Jordan Hill, Probable-F Nick Young, Will Play-PG Steve Nash,

Bottom Line

With uncertainties existing for the Wizards front-court rotation, the Lakers have to utilize C Pau Gasol throughout the entire game. The Wizards currently have nobody who could match-up well with Gasol, so the Lakers best chance to win will be to run their offense through him. The Lakers actually match-up decently vs. the Wizards back-court so they can definitely come away with a win tonight if they stay focused.

Prediction

Wizards: 113-111

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Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

With 16 games left in the season (including tonight’s loss), there isn’t a lot the Lakers are playing for. If anything, individuals are playing for the sake of their future seasons, be it in purple and gold jerseys, or otherwise. After getting whomped in San Antonio, there was no reason to believe the Lakers would play any differently today, but they did…at least for three quarters.

The Spurs got to an 11-point lead to start the game, which was no surprise, but the home team actually fought back, tied and scored ahead of their opponents in spots. Coach Greg Popovich even called some angry timeouts as a result of his team’s performance.

In the final 12 minutes, however, the Spurs went back to being mighty, and the Lakers went back to being miserable, giving up their 45th loss of the season, 125-109.

High Points
Xavier Henry (first half) – After missing two-months’ worth of games, Henry returned to the floor as expected – rusty. He was 8-31 in his last four games, but tonight he finally found his groove, flying high for a fadeaway here, driving into the lane to get a layup there, even hitting a three. He scored 19 of his 24 points in the first half, on 8-14 from the field. Henry was a bright spot on this roster when the season began, injecting energy whether he began in the starting line-up or came off the bench, and he reminded everyone of that tonight.
Pau Gasol – Gasol’s found a real consistency to his game these last few weeks, win or lose. Tonight he had 22 points on a not-so-efficient 8-18, but did hit 6-8 from the free throw line. Add to that 10 rebounds for a double-double, and a game-leading four blocks.
Quarters 1-3 – For three quarters, the Lakers really competed with the Spurs. They climbed out of a double-digit deficit, shot just a percent and a half less than San Antonio, rebounded just as much (36 boards apiece), had the same points in the paint (44), similar second chance points because they worked the glass, and only gave up 10 points off their nine turnovers. Other than the three-point shot, the two teams were basically neck-and-neck going into the final 12 minutes.

Low Points
Xavier Henry (second half) – Just 1-8 from the field and 2 points to his name in the 17 minutes and change that Henry played in the final two quarters. Whatever gave him that surge in the first half, quickly disappeared in the second.
4th Quarter – The Spurs finally decided to bear down in the fourth quarter to finish the Lakers. They shot a blistering 63% from the field, to the Laker’s 21. The Lakers were outrebounded 16-10, and despite San Antonio committing twice as many turnovers as they, they could only turn it into four points. The Spurs led by as many as 17 points.
Ball Movement – With Jordan Farmar out again for the next two weeks, Kendall Marshall was the sole point guard in a Laker uniform. In the most recent past when he has been the only point guard available, Marshall flourished offensively; not only by setting up teammates, but scoring in bunches himself. Against one of the leagues finest floor generals in Tony Parker, Marshall needed to bring his A-game, but could only muster a B. Yes, he scored 10 points on 4-7 from the field, but he also had just three assists. In 23 minutes of playing time, that is nowhere near enough. In effect, the Lakers handed out just 19 assists on 39 made field goals, while the Spurs had 34 assists in 50 of their made shots.

It’s going to be a long 15 games ahead. Having to let go of the dream that Phil Jackson would return is gone, the future of this team is unbeknownst to everyone (it appears, some would say, to even the front office) and the potential of more disappointment is just plain sad. Next up are the Washington Wizards, who defeated the Lakers in their last meeting in Washington, DC.

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