Saturday, December 20, 2014
Blog Page 13

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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 2-8, over their 66-year history.

March 2, 2008

The Lakers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 108-104 in overtime at the STAPLES Center. Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 52 points to lead the way, including 22 in the fourth quarter and eight in overtime. This game marked the 22nd time in Bryant’s illustrious career that he hit the 50-point plateau. Pau Gasol added 17 points and 14 rebounds for Los Angeles in the win. With his 52 points, Bryant moved past Walt Bellamy into 25th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

March 3, 2004

Kobe Bryant hit a jump shot over Yao Ming with 32 seconds left in regulation to give the Lakers a one-point lead en route to an eventual 96-93 victory over the Houston Rockets. The Rockets later intentionally fouled Derek Fisher, who then hit two free throws to seal the win. Bryant, who finished with 18 points, led the way for the Lakers as they rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Bryant also added 13 assists for Los Angeles, which were two short of his career high. Houston’s Yao Ming finished with 33 points for the tough-luck losers.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

March 6, 2000

On his 28th birthday, Shaquille O’Neal scored an NBA season-high and career-high 61 points and collected 23 rebounds, as the Lakers defeated the Clippers 123-103. Shaq shot 68.6% from the field to lift the Lakers to their 16th consecutive victory. O’Neal’s previous career-high came in 1994, when he scored 53 points for the Orlando Magic against Milwaukee.

March 7, 1996

Magic Johnson dished out seven assists in a 102-89 victory over the Kings in Sacramento to become just the second NBA player in history to tally 10,000 career assists. Johnson finished his career with 10,141 assists, and currently sits in 5th place on the NBA’s all-time assists list. He holds the NBA record for most assists per game with 11.2.

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Photo courtesy of Evan Gole, Getty Images.

Outscore your opponent – that is the Mike D’Antoni way. Some nights it works; most nights it doesn’t. Tonight, it’s what finally got the Lakers to their 20th win.

Coming in with a 20-37 record, the Sacramento Kings are just as awful as the home team. Without DeMarcus Cousins, suspended for punching Houston’s Patrick Beverley and verbally abusing an official, they should have been worse off, but they ended the first half on a 13-2 run and an 11-point lead. That lead turned into a 15-point advantage to start the second half, and it appeared the Lakers had run into another one of their third quarter lulls.

With just under five minutes left in that third quarter, however, former New Jersey Nets teammates, Jordan Farmar and MarShon Brooks took over. The two went on a 21-12 run that got the Lakers within five points going into the final 12 minutes, where Farmar and Brooks led the final charge into a 126-122 victory.

High Points
Scoring Show – It was 126-122, there was nothing BUT offense. The Kings shot 51% from the field and the Lakers shot 60%. Six Lakers scored in double figures and four players scored 20 or more. They also outscored Sacramento 72-57 in the second half and 30-17 in fast break points.
Jordan Farmar and MarShon Brooks– Now considered a veteran, Farmar was a leader out there, not just vocally in huddles and timeouts, but as an example on the floor. He topped the team with his 30 points on 9-14 from the field and 8-10 from downtown. 19 of his points came in the second half and he handed out seven assists while committing just a single turnover. Right behind him was Brooks, with his 23 points on 9-13 from the field and 3-3 from behind the arc. In his post-game interview, he credited Farmar for teaching him much about the game during their time in New Jersey, and Farmar noted that he remembers where MarShon likes the ball on the floor. With Farmar’s teammate and close friend, Nick SwaggyP Young out with an injury, it appears he’s found a solid stand-in. Teamwork – Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks chipped in 22 points apiece. Gasol was 10-17, adding in five rebounds, six assists and a pair of blocks. Meeks was a perfect 8-8 from the field, 3-3 from three. Not to be left out, Wesley Johnson and Kent Bazemore contributed 12 points each, with Johnson grabbing a game leading 12 rebounds and three blocks. Ryan Kelly’s stat line isn’t much to boast about – five points on 2-2 from the field, four rebounds, one assist and two blocks, but he led the team with a +16. And Kendall Marshall, who has lost his shooting touch the last few games, still led the game with 10 of the Lakers’ 35 assists.
Threeball – The Lakers created a franchise record for threes in a regulation game tonight. They shot 19-27 from behind the arc – 70%! They had gone just 5-9 in the first half, then exploded with 14-18 in the second half. The Kings may have beaten them 66-52 in the paint, but
Block Party – 11 blocks for the Lakers in the game, led by Johnson’s three. They may not have played lockdown defense, but the effort was there.

Low Points
Defense – There was next to nothing from either side, otherwise the score wouldn’t have gone as far as it did past the century mark. After just three quarters, the score was 99-95. That looks more like final score for most NBA games.
Free throws – The Kings attempted twice as many free throws as the Lakers (32 to the Lakers’ 16), but you get that opportunity when you’re scoring in the paint. The Lakers scarcely drove the ball in to score because, well, that’s not their usual game plan. In effect, they not only lose the higher percentage points that come from inside, but the chance to shoot free throws as well.

It was appropriate that the Lakers donned their black Hollywood Nights jerseys, because this game, like many of their games this season, have a flare for the dramatics. They’re shorthanded, playing with new teammates every few months, and they fell behind by as much as 15 points tonight, and then two guards carried them to a win.. A come-from-behind effort that finally got the team to their 20th victory. It’s been a traffic season, yes, but sometimes there are nights like tonight, that happen just like Hollywood ordered.

Box Score

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Jordan Farmar
Image: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

February 28, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers will face off vs. inter-state rivals Sacramento Kings in a battle of Western Conference bottom dwellers who destine themselves for a lottery pick in this upcoming NBA Draft.

Currently suffering a 3-game losing streak, the Lakers seek to get back on a winning track and end another dismal month on a positive note by playing with high energy tonight. The Lakers could not quite finish their comeback vs. Grizzlies after falling behind by 19 in the first half.

Along with Gasol, who I will mention later, SG Jodie Meeks continues to have a career year this season, scoring 19 points while shooting 7-10 from the field vs. Grizzlies. Meeks has scored 14.4 PPG this season while shooting a very high 39.4 % from behind the 3-point line.

The Kings will be without their leader C DeMarcus Cousins tonight to serve a one-game suspension for his actions vs. Rockets. Therefore, the Kings will be led by SF Rudy Gay, an all around player who averages 20.1 PPG and 6.3 RPG. Lakers‘ F Wesley Johnson will need to lock him up tonight in order to come away with a victory tonight.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall  Isaiah Thomas [Advantage: Kings]

SG – Jodie Meeks / Ben McLemore [Advantage: Lakers]

SF – Kent Bazemore Rudy Gay [Advantage: Kings]

PF – Wesley Johnson / Jason Thompson [Advantage: Even]

C – Pau Gasol Aaron Gray  [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Kings: PG Ray McCallumReggie EvansDerrick Williams

Lakers: PG Jordan FarmarChris Kaman, Jordan Hill, G Marshon Brooks

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Kings: Out-C DeMarcus Cousins, Out-G Jason Terry

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-F/G Nick Young, Out-G Xavier Henry

Keys for Lakers Success

Feed the Bigs: Kings C Demarcus Cousins will miss tonight’s game, leaving a gaping hole in the post for the Kings that the Lakers must take full advantage of. C Pau Gasol had a successful 2nd half vs. Grizzlies by scoring 12 points while dishing out 3 assists after teammate PG Jordan Farmar insisted the team ditch the small-ball philosophy and run the entire offense through Gasol. Although the Lakers fell short vs. Grizzlies, the Gasol led Lakers out scored the Grizzlies by 15 in the 2nd half. Even if Gasol is not out on the floor, The Lakers should run their offense around C Chris Kaman, who people can argue as one of the most offensively skilled center in the NBA.

Bottom Line

Tonight, the Lakers should and will get a victory vs. the Kings. That is if they play to their strength, which means to play through Gasol and Kaman. Currently, the Lakers would do anything to win a game, whether it’s within their usual offensive system or not. Regardless of the rankings these two teams currently sit themselves in, a win vs. Kings always brings peace to the city of Los Angeles.

Prediction

Lakers: 110-103

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Photo courtesy of Joe Murphy, Getty Images

Going into halftime with a 19-point deficit staring them in the face, the Lakers looked poised for another beatdown. They’d shot just 43% in the first two quarters, while the Grizzlies went 57% from the field to help in that 65-46 advantage. They’d committed 10 turnovers already, producing 16 points for Memphis. The final two quarters were going to be a long one.

In a strange turn of events, however, the Lakers actually played a better second half. They outscored the home team by 14 points and forced turnover after turnover, fueling a run that cut a 22-lead down to just six to open the final quarter. A few three pointers got them closer and closer, but time had run out. Again, it was too little, too late and in their 58th game, the Lakers suffered their 39th loss, 108-103.

High Points
Gasol and Company – Pau Gasol led the team with his double-double, 17 points on 7-14 from the field, 10 rebounds, three assists and a block. But he had help from his teammates. Jodie Meeks, picking up where he left off before he had to sit out a few games due to injury, led the game with 19 points on an efficient 7-10 from the field, including 2-4 from downtown. Wesley Johnson, continuing a string of productive games, chipped in 18 points on 7-14, including 4-8 from behind the arc. His offense aside, he also grabbed five rebounds, and four blocks. It’s the kind of game the team needs from Johnson each night. The two Laker newbies, Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, chipped in 14 points apiece. Bazemore had four assists, but he also had four turnovers to cancel them out. He handled the ball more than he should have. Jordan Farmar had just five points heading into the fourth quarter, but it was then that he scored 11 of his 16 points. Farmar went 4-7 from the field , including 3-4 from behind the arc. Two of those threes, he hit within five seconds of each other towards the end of the game. Unfortunately, despite the scoring efforts of six players, it was still not enough.
Threeball – The Lakers missed six of their 18 free throw attempts, but they shot 15-28 from behind the arc, led by Johnson and Farmar who converted four apiece. Had the team taken better care of the ball and prevented the Grizzlies from controlling the glass, this game may have gone in the Lakers’ favor.
Second Half – After a first half in which they committed 10 turnovers and allowed Memphis to shoot 57% from the field, the Lakers came in after halftime with more focus and resolve. They still didn’t win the rebounding contest, but did other things to make the game competitive again. They outscored the Grizzlies 27-17 in that third quarter, and 57-43 for the entire second half. Memphis shot just 40% from the field and after committing just five turnovers in the first and second quarters, committed eight, which turned into 12 points for the Lakers. Gasol led the half, scoring 12 of his 17 points. If they’d played this way in the first half, well, you know…

Low Points
Odd Men Out – Four of the starters played over 35 minutes, three more players played over 20, but Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre played just six to seven minutes, and Ryan Kelly, who had a surge not too long ago as a starter, played just10 minutes. Ryan Kelly hit one three pointer in the fourth quarter and except for three blocks, produced another stat line filled with zeroes. Kendall Marshall, despite going 0-6, did lead the game with eight assists. His scoring has gone dormant the last few games, but at least he’s still facilitating.
Closing Issues – Yes, they fight back, but they fight back sometimes too late. The Lakers either start well early and finish badly, or play badly to start, but are unable to adjust in the latter part of the game. Sustaining a focus from tip-off to the final buzzer has been a real challenge for them, and it’s caused nothing but disjointed efforts from one part of the game to the next.

Each time the Lakers face the Grizzlies, one topic is noted regularly during radio and television broadcasts – the Pau Gasol trade back in 2008; February 2008, to be more exact. That was six years ago this month. Back then, the Lakers were looking for one piece to complete their championship puzzle, and they found it in Memphis. Since then, Gasol has helped lead the team to three straight Finals appearances and back-to-back championships. He was the missing link. Now, Gasol is no longer considered a significant piece for the Lakers’ success. He’s only a semi-valuable antique to be dangled in front of other buyers. It’s unfortunate how quickly times and team philosophies have changed.

Box Score

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February 26, 2014 — 5:00 PM (PST)
FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Closing out this short two-game road trip, the Lakers head to Memphis to face off vs. Memphis Grizzlies (31-24), who find themselves in the thick of the playoff chase.

The Lakers philosophy last night to play small in order for the Pacers to match up vs. the Lakers’ quickness backfired terribly. The Pacers grabbed 20 more rebounds than the Lakers, including 20 offensive rebounds, and the Lakers could not shoot the ball well, and shot only 34.8 % from the 3 point line.

However, Laker Nation cannot help but to feel optimistic about newly acquired G Kent Bazemore, who has shown the Lakers that he can score well when given the opportunity. In his first 3 games with the Lakers, Bazemore has surpassed his career high during each game, scoring 15, 17, and 23 points respectively.

Now, the Lakers will try to play small vs. arguably the slowest team in the NBA in the Grizzlies, who run their entire offense through their twin towers, C Marc Gasol and PF Zach Randolph.

The only real headline for the Lakers tonight lies upon the matchup of the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc. Despite scoring only 13 points vs. Pacers, C Pau Gasol has played significantly well due to shedding excess weight from the beginning of the season. Despite the Lakers losing streaks throughout the last 2 months, Gasol has shown Lakers management that he can still be a key piece in a championship run following this season. Meanwhile, Pau’s brother C Marc Gasol has had another solid season despite his mid-season injury, averaging 13.2 PPG and 6.4 RPG. We should expect to see a lot of Gasol post action throughout this game.

Gasol’s counterpart, PF Zach Randolph, who both averages 18.1 PPG and 10.8 RPG, brings a very old school low-post game. Call it what you want, Randolph might possess one of the slowest speed and quickness in the NBA and have trouble dunking the ball, but he uses his body extremely well. He backs defenders down with his tremendous strength and has the excellent ability to position his body in the correct areas of the floor to grab rebounds and get off easy shots.

PG Mike Conley, arguably the most underrated and improved point guard in the NBA, could have easily become an all-star this season, scoring a team leading 18.7 PPG and dishing out 6.5 APG. Grizzlies can consider Conley as the main reason the Grizzlies are in the playoff chase, keeping the team afloat while Marc Gasol missed time due to his injury.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall  Mike Conley[Advantage: Lakers]

SG – Jodie Meeks / Courtney Lee [Advantage: Grizzlies]

SF – Kent Bazemore Tayshaun Prince [Advantage: Even]

PF – Wesley Johnson / Zach Randolph[Advantage: Grizzlies]

C – Pau Gasol Marc Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Grizzlies: G Tony Allen, Mike MillerNick Calathes

Lakers: PG Jordan FarmarC Chris Kaman, F Jordan Hill, G Marshon Brooks

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Grizzlies: Out-F Quincy Pondexter

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-F/G Nick Young, Out-G Xavier Henry

Keys for Lakers Success

Defensive Rebounding: The Grizzlies play very big, using Gasol and Randolph to their advantage. Randolph is tied for 10th place in offensive rebounding, so whoever guards him has to beat him to the spot and box him out to get rebounds. The Lakers gave up 20 offensive rebounds yesterday and seem to suffer from a huge mismatch down in the paint. As Gasol said during yesterday’s post-game interview, if the Lakers decide to play small and put Johnson on Randolph, “good luck, right?”

Bottom Line

Hopefully, the Lakers limit the Grizzlies to 1 possession by rebounding the ball well. The Lakers have to play with a lot of energy as they have to use their athleticism to their advantage. If the Lakers hit their shots, the will have a good chance to beat the Grizzlies today. However, they have to get the basic fundamentals down, limiting turnovers and grabbing rebounds, to get themselves into position to win tonight’s game.

Prediction

Grizzles: 96-90

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Image: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

After the Lakers’ most recent loss, a 118-98 drubbing by the league best Indiana Pacers, Pau Gasol made sure his voice was heard post-game.

“There’s just too many individual actions right now. It’s really not a good flow and rhythm out there.”

“We got to be unselfish. If we see a teammate open, we have to make sure that guy gets the ball. Otherwise, it’s really deflating”

“When you get outrebounded by 20, I don’t care who you are and what you do, it’s not going to work and you’re not going to win.”

“I don’t think there’s a lot of discipline right now”

Gasol clearly isn’t pleased with how things are going, I don’t think anyone is for that matter.  D’Antoni decided to play small ball against the Pacers and ended up having the much smaller Wes Johnson guard the much larger David West.

“We do have guys with size who can do well.”

Tonight, Gasol played 27 minutes, Kaman played 14, Hill played 10, and Sacre played 6.  Clearly D’Antoni is favoring his smaller guys and is straying away from the bigs on the team, which is a detriment when the Lakers are playing bigger teams like the Pacers.

Gasol’s frustration hasn’t only been seen today, it reared its head back in December as well.

After Gasol openly complained about not being utilized in the post enough, D’Antoni had this to say:

“It’s also a nice excuse not to play hard, that’s a classic, ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.’ Well you don’t have trouble getting up to the pay stub line.  You know what you need to do to get your check.  You know what to do. They will.  They’ll figure it out.”

Gasol has not been happy with the way D’Antoni utilizes his bigs on his team, he would much rather play small ball with a run-n-gun style offense.  It’s unfortunate to see Gasol so upset with his usage and the overall usage of the team as he has definitely earned more respect than he is receiving from D’Antoni.

Needless to say the Lakers are going to have to choose between the two this coming off-season as Gasol most certainly doesn’t want to return to a team where he isn’t used properly.  For that matter, no big man would want to come to Los Angeles if D’Antoni is still coaching, as they would receive limited minutes and not be put in a system where they could realize their full potential.

This off-season will be telling, Laker Nation, telling indeed.

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Photo courtesy of Ron Hoskins, Getty Images

Remember when the Lakers beat the Clippers by 29 points?

Neither do I. Neither do a lot of people.

The team that got run over by the Indiana Pacers tonight in Game number 57, looks nothing like the team that played in that first game of the season. Absolutely, positively no resemblance whatsoever.

Tonight’s game played out like any other Laker game this year – give up 30 points in the first quarter, play a great second quarter to catch up, and then turn into a raging hot mess in the second half. The Lakers have been losing like clockwork, and tonight was no exception – 118-98, Pacers.

High Points
Kent Bazemore – In his third game in the purple and gold, Bazemore had a solid night. He led the game with 23 points on 8-19 from the field, adding in four rebounds, three assists and three steals. His offense came through in various ways, from jumpers to layups, a dunk here, and a three pointer there.

Low Points
Kendall Marshall – 0 points on 0-3 from the field, four assists and four turnovers.
Not Enough – Five Lakers scored in double figures, but only Bazemore broke the 20+ points mark. Wes Johnson’s 15, Pau Gasol and Jodie Meek’s 13 apiece and Marshon Brooks’ 11 were no match against the seven Pacers who scored 10 points or more and the two who scored nine points each.
Rebounds – Offense aside, the Lakers were blown out of the water (yet again) on the glass. Indiana grabbed 20 more rebounds than their visitors, including a 21-10 advantage on the offensive boards. They outscored the Lakers 21-10 in second chance points.
Runaway Train – The Pacers led by as much as 12 points in the first quarter, but a steal by Jordan Farmar in the second quarter fueled a run that got the lead down to a single point, and just three points going into halftime. It was 57-54 after the break, but by the time the end of the third quarter, the lead was up to 21. The Pacers shot 58% in the third, while the Lakers could only muster up 6-18 from the field. They were outscored 34-16. It just got progressively worse in the final 12 minutes, where Indiana’s lead ballooned to 33 points. Despite the Lakers shooting a slightly better percentage in the fourth, and winning the quarter by one, too much damage had already been done. Too little, too late – that’s one of the many depressing themes for the Lakers this season.

It was a near-impossible task, to say the least, to go into Bankers Life Fieldhouse and even think of pulling out a win against a 43-13 team. In their last meeting just a few weeks ago, the Lakers actually challenged Indiana at Staples, only to fall short towards the end. Tonight, however, on the road, the gap between the two teams widened even further, and there’s no telling when/if the Lakers will ever bridge that abysmal divide.

Box Score

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February 25, 2014 — 4:00 PM (PST)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers take the show on the road as they take a quick road trip as they play vs. one of the Eastern Conference favorites, the Indiana Pacers (42-13)

The Lakers, cannot get away from injuries. F/G Nick Young, who returned Sunday to play his first game in 3 weeks, will sit out during this 2-game road trip as he felt some soreness in his knee that caused him to sit out.

Pau Gasol played very well Sunday, racking up another double-double by scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Meanwhile, newly acquired G Kent Bazemore has taken full advantage of Mike D’Antoni‘s offensive system, which has given him the green light on the offensive end for the first time in his career. Bazemore has surpassed his career high in points, scoring 15 and 17 points respectively in his first 2 games.

The Pacers currently follow “the rich get richer” motto. When the rest of NBA did not think the Pacers could improve their roster any further, the Pacers shocked everyone by acquiring 76ers best player, G Evan Turner and also C/F Lavoy Allen in a trade for F Danny Granger. 

Turner, who will make his Pacers debut tonight along with Allen, has had his best season so far this season for the 76ers, scoring a career-high 17.4 PPG, while grabbing 6.0 APG and dishing out 3.7 APG. Turner’s brings scoring firepower off the bench when he gives George and G Lance Stephenson a break.

With Turner’s acquisition, the Pacers won’t lose any scoring powers in the Shooting Guard and Small Forward position.

Pacers F Paul George has blossomed into a bonafide NBA Superstar. George plays both ends of the floor significantly well, scoring 22.7 PPG, grabbing 6.4 RPG, dishing out 3.4 APG, and take 1.8 SPG from his opponent which ranks him 8th in the league.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall / George Hill [Advantage: Pacers]
SG – Kent Bazemore / Lance Stephenson [Advantage: Pacers]
SF – Jodie Meeks / Paul George [Advantage: Pacers]
PF – Wesley Johnson / David West [Advantage: Pacers]
C – Pau Gasol / Roy Hibbert [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Pacers: F Evan TurnerF Luis ScolaG CJ Watson, C/F Lavoy Allen

Lakers: C Chris Kaman, F Jordan Hill, Marshon Brooks, PG Jordan Farmar

Bench Advantage: Pacers

Injury List

Pacers: Out-C Andrew Bynum

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-F/G Nick Young, Out-G Xavier Henry

Keys for Lakers Victory

Out-run the Pacers: Sounds very crazy thinking turning this game into a track meet with Pacers’ having young athletic players like George, Stephenson, and Turner. However, the Pacers do work best when they slow the game down and utilize F David West All-Star C Roy Hibbert. If the Lakers control the tempo of this game by playing they way that D’Antoni likes to, maybe they can catch the Pacers off-guard and make this game somehow competitive.

Bottom Line

The Lakers have to play almost perfect and the Pacers have to play very uninspired basketball for the Lakers to put themselves in position to win tonight’s game. The Lakers have to get off to an excellent start and hit their 3 pt. shots. Otherwise, this will be a very ugly game for the Lakers versus a team that views this season as their best opportunity to win a championship.

Prediction

Pacers: 109-96

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The NBA trade deadline has passed and with it any semblance of the Lakers making any kind of big personnel moves this season. This year has been a tough season for Laker fans as their team and its superstar have been hobbled by countless injuries. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though. The Lakers go into this offseason with enough cap room to acquire a big name free agent. They did not trade Pau before the deadline, so the Lakers will either have a lot of cap room from Pau’s contract coming off the books, or they will be able to convince Pau to stay with the team for less money. That may seem like a long shot, but Pau loves the Lakers, he loves Kobe and he may also love their next head coach *wink wink*. They also have a first round draft pick that, given their abysmal record, will most likely be a top-5 pick. That means the Lakers will be able to sport a squad next season consisting of a Kobe, Pau, Big Name Free Agent X and Talented Draft Pick X core. That may not be enough to win a title next year, but it will absolutely be a contender if healthy and under the supervision of a new head coach. With all that said, here are some questions from LakerNation fans:

Q: Are we going to re-sign Nick Young next year?

- Jacob

A: If the Lakers are serious about contending immediately, they must re-sign Nick Young. Swaggy P has been one of the few bright spots this year for the Lakers as he earned the respect of Kobe and the rest of Laker Nation by competing every night. There are very few teams in this league that have a 6th man as effective as Nick Young. He is instant offense and his ability to draw foul calls on 3-pointers is uncanny. Young has always been capable of scoring, but he has an added intensity in his game since joining the Lakers this season. He knows what it takes to deliver for the Purple and Gold.

 

Q: How do you feel about the Lakers landing a big name free agent, this off-season with D’Antoni as the head coach?

- Jermaine

A: I feel very strongly about this issue, but I will do my best to keep it PG. THERE IS NO FREAKING WAY ANY BIG NAME FREE AGENT WANTS TO COME PLAY FOR A COACH THAT DOESN’T CARE ABOUT DEFENSE.  With the myriad of issues I have with Mike D’Antoni, the two I just mentioned take the cake. The man obviously doesn’t give a damn about defense when his team gives up an average of 105.9 PPG. That’s the 2nd worst in the entire NBA. Only the Philadelphia 76ers give up more points than us and they’re trying to lose every game this year! Let that sink in for a moment. D’Antoni may be a great offensive mind, but that does not make him a good head coach. I guarantee if Tom Thibodeau were coaching the Lakers, they would not be in the bottom half of the NBA in terms of defense. You want to talk about injuries? Look at the Chicago Bulls and their injuries. They rank 2nd overall in the league in terms of defense. Injuries are not an excuse for a lack of defense and effort. If the Lakers really want to land big name free agents this summer, Mike D’Antoni must be fired at the end of this season.

 

Q: Can we still get Love? Or Melo or even Deng? Please get them.

- Alexis

A: When you talk about Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and even Luol Deng, those guys want to win now. They don’t want to play for a coach with the same philosophies as Mike D’Antoni. Getting the right head coach will be step one. The second step will be finding out if Kobe is still Kobe. Make no mistake about it, if the Lakers didn’t have Kobe Bryant on their team, none of these free agents (except maybe Love) would even consider coming to the Lakers. Kobe must show that he is still one of the best basketball players in the world after coming off two of the worst injuries in his career.

 

Q: My question is, will the LA Lakers make it to the playoffs this season or next season, yes or no?

- Eyrika

A: I stated in my preseason article that the Lakers would not make the playoffs this season and that remains true. As for next season, it truly depends on a number of outcomes and possibilities. Who will be the new head coach? Will the Lakers land a top-5 draft pick this year? If so, who will they select? What free agents will be brought in? Which current players will stay with the Lakers? And, of course, what will the status of Kobe Bryant be? If Kobe is still Kobe, which I assume will be true, the Lakers will always have a shot. If the Lakers bring in one of the earlier mentioned big name free agents, that shot increases tenfold. My gut tells me the Lakers will get a new head coach, a lottery pick, land a big name free agent and the most underrated move they will make will be re-signing Pau Gasol. With that scenario, I believe the Lakers will be instant contenders next season and in the future. All things will be right in Los Angeles as the Lakers are at the top once again.

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Image: Timothy A. Clary | Getty Images

According to Mike Bresnahan and Eric Pincus of the LA Times, the Lakers’ plan back to prominence is slowly becoming clearer, but fans might need to wait one more season until that plan starts to take shape.

“The Lakers are not interested in possible free agent Carmelo Anthony, who claims he won’t break the New York Knicks’ bank to stay with them.”

The summer of 2014 was supposed to when the Lakers made a big splash in their attempt to become an NBA title contender again, but from the sound things, it is possible the team will look to 2015 to get the ball rolling.

But there is one scenario where the Lakers could make an impact this summer and that is if LeBron James opts-out of his contract and decides to enter free agency.

“If LeBron James opts out of his contract, they’ll make a phone call, but it’s a longshot he’ll leave Miami for the Lakers.”

If that scenario does not happen, why would the Lakers look to 2015?

“They do like Cleveland forward Luol Deng but don’t want to overpay for him this summer, meaning their eyes are firmly on Kevin Love in July 2015 and Kevin Durant in 2016.”

In 2015, Love has the ability to opt-out of his contract and become a free agent.   If that happens, he will be the premier target for the Lakers, which is not a surprise after the two have been linked over the past few seasons. 

In 2016, the Lakers, and really every other team with the ability to do, will pursue Kevin Durant, who could be a free agent that summer if he does not sign an extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder.  The intriguing part of Durant’s potential free agency is that will more than likely be Kobe Bryant’s final season, opening up a nice chunk of cap space to potentially sign one of the best players in the league today.

There is still plenty of time before Love and Durant become realistic options for the Lakers, but it is always fun to speculate and talk about.

With this news, it is going to be a very interesting off season for the Lakers.  If no big moves are made, is the team looking at a similar season to the one they are currently experiencing?  If that is the case, will the fans accept another year of below average results?  Does D’Antoni keep his job if next season is just a bridge to the following summer?  Many questions will need to be answered.  Answers that could come in April once the Lakers regular season concludes.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak mentioned a few days ago that the Lakers plan could extend past one summer, so this news would not be shocking:

“I don’t think that we’ll use our cap money to patch together a team for next year. We’re looking to bring something [big] to Los Angeles,” he said. “May take more than one year to build, I don’t know. But because we have a lot of money this summer doesn’t mean we’ll spend it all. We’ll spend it wisely.”

The difference between this year and next year, the Lakers has its 2014 first round pick in the draft.  Next year though, their first round pick will belong to the Phoenix Suns unless the Lakers end up in the lottery again with a top five pick.

While it is fun to think about Love and Durant in the purple and gold, I can’t help but have some concerns.  This does seem like an all or nothing plan and if both players were to sign extensions with their respective teams or go elsewhere during free agency, where does that leave the Lakers after the Kobe era comes to a close?  One thing is for certain, fans expect results and are historically impatient.

Progress needs to be made this summer.  At the very least, this team needs to become a playoff team again because back-to-back years of missing the playoffs just does not happen to this franchise.  It is up to the front office to make sure that does not happen.

Stay with LakerNation.com for all the latest news and rumors regarding the Los Angeles Lakers!

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Image: Maddie Meyer | Getty Images

February 23, 2014 — 6:00PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers enter tonight’s game riding some momentum and optimism for its on-court product for the first time in months.

The bench carried team to victory in its Friday’s victory vs. Celtics in similar fashion that got them off to a great start this season.

Now, their biggest ammunition from the bench, F/G Nick Young, will return to the floor for the first time in 3 weeks. Young, who suffered a non-displaced fracture of the patella, has arguably been the most consistent Laker this season, bringing instant scoring off the bench and a player who can close out games in absence of SG Kobe Bryant. Scoring 16.9 PPG this season, many voters would have highly considered Young as the front-runner to win the 6th Man of the Year award if the Lakers had more success this season.

Newcomers G Kent Bazemore and G Marshon Brooks, who the Lakers acquired in the PG Steve Blake trade, energized the crowd Friday night by playing with a lot of effort especially on the defensive end. Bazemore, who scored a career high 15 pts. in Friday’s win, will get the start tonight as the Lakers will play small tonight. G Jodie Meeks will slide to the Small Forward position while F Wesley Johnson will start at the Power Forward position.

The Brooklyn Nets are now a much different team since the last time Lakers and Nets played each other in November. The Nets now find themselves in the 8th seed as former Celtics F Paul Pierce and F Kevin Garnett have learned to adapt their game to the rest of the lineup.

Joe Johnson as lead the Nets to skyrocket up the NBA standings after getting off to a historically slow start that drew a lot of concerns throughout Brooklyn. Johnson can score at will at any point in the game, scoring 15.3 PPG on 43.9 % shooting.

Potential History-Making

Fans who watch tonight’s game might be witness to a monumental history tonight. C Jason Collins, who announced he is gay during last offseason, signed with the Brooklyn Nets earlier today on a 10-day contract. A 13-year NBA veteran, Collins will bring another asset that will help with team chemistry and still possesses the ability to guard and rebound the ball well whenever Head Coach Jason Kidd calls his number.

If Collins plays tonight, he will become the first openly gay player to ever play an NBA game.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall / Deron Williams [Advantage: Nets]
SG – Kent Bazemore Joe Johnson [Advantage: Nets]
SF – Jodie Meeks / Paul Pierce  [Advantage: Nets]
PF – Wesley Johnson / Andrei Kirilenko [Advantage: Nets]
C – Pau Gasol / Mason Plumlee [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Nets: F Andray Blatche, F Mirza Teletovic, G Alan Anderson, C JASON COLLINS

Lakers: G/F NICK YOUNG, PG Jordan Farmar, G Marshon Brooks, C Chris Kaman, F Ryan Kelly

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Nets: Out-C Brook Lopez, Out-F/C Kevin Garnett, Out-C Shaun Livingston, Out-G Marcus Thornton

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

Keys for Lakers Victory

Spark from Bench: The Lakers’ entire bench stepped up Friday, closing out the Celtics by playing the entire 4th quarter. Brooks and Bazemore definitely brought energy to a team that lacked any inspiration, engaging fans to the game as they showed appreciation to the newcomers. Although Bazemore will be inserted into the starting lineup tonight, the bench has to contribute as well as they did Friday. Young’s return will instantly boost the Lakers bench, who now have enough healthy bodies to put out on the court.

Bottom Line

If the Lakers stay relatively healthy for once and play with the same effort they did on Friday, they possess the ability and skills to close the rest of this season on a positive note in what fans otherwise call a “lost season”. Whether or Laker Nation wants the Lakers to not play well in order to receive a high lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft is up for debate.

For tonight, the Lakers definitely have the potential of coming away with another home victory.

Prediction

Nets: 105-101

NOTE: Tonight’s game will be a 6:00 PM start instead of its usual 6:30 Sunday start.

Ezra Shaw/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 February 23-March 1, over their 66-year history.

February 23, 2007

The Lakers ousted the reeling Celtics 122-96, behind 38 points from Kobe Bryant at the Staples Center. Bryant, who added nine assists, scored 22 points in the first quarter, going 9 for 12 from the field. This game marked the second largest regular-season margin of victory in the history of the Los Angeles-Boston rivalry.

February 23, 2010

Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning three-pointer over Rudy Gay with 4.3 seconds left in regulation to lift the Lakers over the Grizzlies 99-98 in Memphis. Bryant’s game-winner occurred during his first time back on the hardwood after missing five straight games due to an ankle injury. He scored a team-high 32 points, including the Lakers’ final nine points of the game. Pau Gasol finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers in the win.

February 28, 1987

Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn broadcasted his 2,000th straight game for Los Angeles in a 107-100 loss to the Utah Jazz. His unprecedented streak spanned 3,338 consecutive Lakers games over 36 years.

Allen Einstein/Getty Images
Allen Einstein/Getty Images

February 28, 2008

Los Angeles won its tenth straight game with a 106-88 victory over the Miami Heat. Jordan Farmar led a balanced attack for the Lakers, as he scored a career-high 24 points. Kobe Bryant added 21 points, while Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol chipped in for the first place Lakers with 13 points apiece. This win marked the 23rd double-digit winning streak in franchise history.

February 29, 2000

The Lakers defeated the Portland Trailblazers 90-87 in Oregon. Going into the game, both teams had records of 45-11, as well as 11-game winning streaks. Shaquille O’Neal led the way for the purple and gold with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Kobe Bryant added 22. This victory marked the twelfth straight Los Angeles win, en route to an eventual 19-game winning streak.

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Image: Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images

In what could potentially be the biggest setback for Kobe Bryant, it was announced that he will be re-evaluated in another three weeks as his pain and swelling in his left knee has not subsided.

With the news and timetable, the question becomes louder as to if Kobe will return this season.  While fans would love to see the Black Mamba return to the court, one has to wonder if the risk is worth it in a lost season.

For those wondering why the news is significant, three weeks will put his injury evaluation on March 14 which could possibly only result in Kobe being cleared for more activity, not necessarily for game action.

The best case scenario is for him to be cleared to play on that date, but even then it would take another two or three weeks for conditioning and practice, allowing Kobe to return with possibly 10 or less games in the season.

In other injury news, Nick Young has been cleared to play Sunday versus the Brooklyn Nets.  Young suffered a non-displaced fracture of the left patella back on Feb. 5 versus the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Meanwhile, Xavier Henry was also cleared to practice, but still cannot participate in 5-on-5 full contact activities.   Henry injured his right knee back on Dec. 29 versus the Philadelphia 76ers and was originally expected to miss 7-10 days.

All three players were examined by Lakers’ team doctor Steve Lombardo during the Lakers 101-92 victory over the Boston Celtics.

 

 

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With the Lakers off to a poor start, trade rumors have begun to swirl around Kobe Bryant, leading many to speculate if he'll leave for greener pastures. Kobe puts those rumors to rest in his interview with Yahoo Sports.