Towards the end of December the Lakers were arguably playing their worst basketball during the Pau Gasol era.
During the stretch they lost four of six, by an average of 17 points.
Including a 19-point loss against the Milwaukee Bucks who were playing without their best player (Brandon Jennings), and a 16-point embarrassment on Christmas Day against the Heat, in what was marketed as the NBA’s “Game of the Year”.
Pau Gasol looked wore down, the three point shots weren’t falling like they were early in the season, Bynum’s return created more problems then positives, the bench was non-existent, and the panic set in.
Lamar Odom, although a lot of his post-game comments contain “Umm, (long sigh), we….(pause)…have to….umm…(long sigh)” Said something to me in the locker room last season that resonated.
Last night, the Lakers sprinted to a victory, stepping on the dejected bodies of the Cleveland Cavaliers on their way to a win. Tonight, they were faced with an uphill challenge; each 10-foot ascent followed by a 5-foot drop. Yet they refused to let up, no matter how quickly the younger climbers seemed to pass them by. These young Golden State Warriors are runners. They beat their opponents with their own carelessness, and then score time and again with their speed. But these veteran Lakers know a thing or two about patience and pace, and while they waited (maybe a little too long) to sprint over the final stretch, the Warriors just plain wore themselves out trying to outrun the old guys.
And the Lakers did look a step slow, especially compared to these young Warriors who live on fastbreak points and transition threes. At the heart of Golden State’s offensive engine is Monta Ellis, who burned the Lakers for 38 points on 15-26 (4-7 3PT). The man couldn’t be stopped. He shot over and around every purple uniform he met and played like he was all alone on the court. It didn’t matter who or how many defenders the Lakers threw at Ellis because, truth be told, they were invisible to him. The downside, however, is that he played all 48 minutes of the game. After scoring 31 points in the first three quarters, how much gas could he have in the tank, especially when he has to guard Mr. 4th Quarter, Kobe Bryant?
The (28-11) Los Angeles Lakers are in Oakland for a back-to-back run against the (15-22) Golden State Warriors. Tonight’s game is the third of the four game series with their division rivals from the north. The Lakers won the first two games outscoring the Warriors by 52-points combined.
The Lakers demolished the Cavaliers last night in record setting fashion. The Purple and Gold came out energized, focused and displayed the killer mentality, leading to a rout that The Lakers Nation was waiting to see. The 57-points the Lakers held the Cavaliers to was a franchise record for fewest points allowed since the shot-clock era began in 1954-55. The double-nickel margin of victory was the third largest in franchise history.
When Lebron James left for South Beach, he not only took his talents from the Cavaliers, he also robbed them blind of their spirit and pride. It’s incredible to think that just a season ago, this Cleveland team held the best record in the NBA and tonight, they could barely put the ball in the hoop to save their dignity.
12,13,16,16 – These were Cleveland’s point totals for each quarter. After the first 12 minutes, the Lakers led by 15 points. After one half, they led by 32. After the third, the lead had ballooned to 51 points. And by the final buzzer, it was a 55 point win for the home team. It had gotten so unbelievably ugly for the visiting team that the crowd at Staples Center began to cheer when the Cavs got their 29th point.
It’s hard to say how the Cavs might have played if Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson and Anderson Varejao were on the floor. It might’ve been a much closer contest than tonight’s embarrassing display. As much as missing personnel can affect a team’s performance, however, so too can the opposing team’s imposing will, and the Lakers had a lot of it tonight.
While we were busy wondering what was wrong with the Lakers, the rest of the league was busy fearing them.
One of our favorite tweeters, Kevin Ding (O.C. Register), wrote this morning that according to an S.I. poll conducted during December, 69% of NBA players polled picked the Lakers to celebrate a third consecutive title in June.
We’re not gonna’ say the guys who play the game know best… but the guys who play the game know best.
The (27-11) Los Angeles Lakers continue their home stand hosting the NBA’s worst (8-29) Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Lakers displayed a revamped defense and cooled off the streaking Knicks on Sunday by holding the league’s highest scoring team to 87 points. They made a much-needed defensive adjustment, chasing opponents off the three-point line and funneling them inside to Andrew Bynum since he’s been doing an excellent job as a rim protector by blocking and changing shots.
The new defensive scheme has paid dividends; the Lakers have won four straight games, six of seven since Andrew Bynum’s return.
In the next six days, the Purple and Gold play against four teams that have a combined record of 45-102.
The Cleveland Cavaliers has used 14 different starting lineups this season. The bad news for the them, they have lost ten games in a row and are steaming toward the first pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The good news, their head coach and former Laker Byron Scott will be back home in front of The Lakers Nation.
According to sources (e.g. Stephen A. Smith on the Dan Patrick Show), Rasheed Wallace is planning to come out of retirement and return to the C’s because (and we quote) “He wants another shot at the Lakers in the Finals.” Our friends over at SLAM Magazine have the write up.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but here’s what I’m most interested in…
League spokesman, Tim Frank, said the NBA rescinded the 2nd technical foul Andrew Bynum received against the New York Knicks on Sunday night.
Bynum was whistled for a foul with just over a minute gone by in the 4th quarter but Bynum (obviously upset with the call) argued with the official, asking him if he was serious about the call. He was immediately given a technical foul but Bynum stayed persistent on getting his message across and didn’t let the matter go which lead to a 2nd technical foul being called, automatically ejecting him from the game.
He finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in 24 minutes of court time.
The Knicks are relevant again. That seems to be the catchphrase for New York’s storied franchise this season. With Amar’e Stoudemire playing like an MVP, and a revamped supporting cast filling in some cracks, Mike D’Antoni’s finally got a roster that works (well, except for Eddy Curry. Can’t remember the last time he did any “work”). The most prolific scoring team in the league at 108.1 points per game, the Knicks sure know how to put the ball in the hoop…until they run into a couple of seven-footers.
After collecting seven turnovers in the first quarter alone, the Lakers appeared destined to succumb to the Knicks’ running game, which was rewarded with each Laker mistake. But after those seven first quarter mistakes, the Lakers straightened up and turned it over just six more times over the final 36 minutes. By taking better care of the ball and refusing to let the Knicks run off a flurry of fast break points, the home smothered New York with their length instead.
The (26-11) Los Angeles Lakers will don their white jerseys at Staples Center tonight to host the streaking (21-14) New York Knicks.
The Lakers are riding a three-game winning streak themselves; winning five of the their last six games after beating the New Orleans Hornets 101-97.
A mixture of both good and bad things happened to the Lakers in the process of beating the Hornets for the second time in ten days. Kobe Bryant achieved another milestone, he moved into the NBA’s top 10 by surpassing “The Big O”, Oscar Robertson, to move into ninth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. It has been great to see Kobe climb the ladder of the leagues best scorers.
As great as Kobe Bryant’s career has been, looking back, no one could have imagined how special the ride would be for the Lakers, the basketball world, the city of Los Angeles and the kid drafted right out of Lower Merion High School in 1996.
We wish Matt the best of luck on a speedy recovery.
O.C. Register: Matt Barnes was diagnosed Saturday with a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee — add him to the list with Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant of Lakers dealing with surgery to that right knee — and will be out more than a month, perhaps two months.
The Lakers are not setting a timetable on Barnes’ return until after he has surgery early next week, but general estimates for that procedure are more than a month.
Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum stood on the sidelines after the game, their arms around each other as they chatted. There were some smiles, a quick laugh, and then they were off into the tunnel, extending their arms to shake hands with fans on the way. Were they going over their win? Perhaps sharing an inside joke? In any case, we’re glad they’re here…in uniform…together.
Maybe a three-game winning streak isn’t so impressive when compared to other teams in the league who have rattled off double-digit victory runs. But for a Laker team that’s got its starting line-up and reserve rotation finally straightened out, the games of late have been quite the big deal, with Andrew Bynum moving and playing like the talented big man that he is. In just over 31 minutes, Bynum scored 17 points on 7-13, had five rebounds and three blocks, showing off an array of offensive moves; backing down his guard and then hitting a turnaround hook, under the hoop reverse dunks, short jumpers. Defensively, Bynum has also come into his own, alert and ready to fight for boards, not to mention ready to block shots.
Happiest about Andrew Bynum’s return to the line-up is Pau Gasol. The Spaniard scored 21 points on an efficient 6-8 from the field; he took showing off his offensive arsenal. Once Gasol receives a pass standing in the mid-range, and he fires off his high-arcing jumper, it’s as good as gone for the opposing team. With his 13 rebounds, Gasol was on glass-watch, especially on the Hornets’ side, collecting nine defensive boards. With seven assists to add to his constantly-filled stat line, we’re reminded just how valuable Gasol’s touches are. He sent an interior bounce pass to a cutting Shannon Brown, rewarded an open Kobe Bryant in the corner, and then in one sequence, the ball went from Ron Artest in the corner, to Gasol at the top of the key, to Andew Bynum by the hoop for two points – a true triangle offensive set executed to perfection at the hands of the point guard wannabe big man.
We can now say Kobe has cemented his legacy. Congrats to the Mamba!
NBC: Hollywood wants to honor Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant in a big way.
NBCLA has exclusively learned that a request has been made to immortalize Bryant’s hands and footprints during a ceremony at the world famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.
NBCLA has also confirmed that the Manns Theater chain, which owns Grauman’s, has given the OK for the ceremony to take place close to the Feb. 20 All-Star Game, which is at Staples Center.
“We were approached by someone to carryout the ceremony during the All-Star Game week in February,” said a theater spokesperson. “However, the city of Los Angeles still needs to sign off on the request and approve the proper permits.”
This could be the first time that Grauman’s will honor an athlete with the high-profile hand and footprints ceremony. Normally, such honors are reserved for movie stars.
“It would be a mock ceremony of sorts,” adds the Grauman’s Theater spokesperson. “I don’t know where Bryant’s hand and footprints will eventually be on display, but they will not be in the forecourt outside the theater.”
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.