Monday, December 22, 2014
Blog Page 22

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Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images
Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images
Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images

December 31, 2013 — 7:30 PM (PST)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-18) will play the second of their 4-game home series vs. Milwaukee Bucks (6-24) tonight as they try to snap their 5-game losing streak. The Lakers suffered a very ugly loss vs. Philadelphia 76ers this Sunday as they were clearly not in sync at both the offensive and defensive ends.  G Nick Young led the Lakers, scoring 26 points including making all 12 of his free-throws. However, Young clearly showed frustrations on the court and seemed to be playing out of rhythm, which resulted in a poor 6-21 shooting night and committed 6 turnovers.

The Lakers also suffered more bad injury news as G Xavier Henry is now out for at least 7-10 days after MRI showed a bone bruise in his right knee. However, The Lakers will finally have Pau Gasol’s services available for tonight’s game after feeling better from an upper respiratory infection.  Gasol still seemed very sick and fatigued following practice, which will most likely affect the amount of minutes he can play tonight. Also, 6th Man of the Year candidate G Nick Young will replace F Wesley Johnson tonight since Johnson will miss tonight’s game due to gastroenteritis.

The Milwaukee Bucks, on the other hand, come into STAPLES Center losing 8 of their last 10 games. Like the 76ers, the Bucks’s intentions to try to receive a high pick for the 2014 NBA Draft is very clear. The Bucks are led by a very quick and talented PG Brandon Knight. Knight, who has averaged 14.0 PPG and 4.5 APG, looks to take advantage of the poor Lakers defense by driving to the basket. Since Lakers PG Jordan Farmar might  be tentative with his hamstring, Knight should have an excellent night considering the lack of defense and effort the Lakers have been playing with recently.

Projected Starters

PG – Brandon KnightJordan Farmar [Advantage: Bucks]

SG – Khris Middleton / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Even]

SF – Larry Sanders Nick Young [Advantage: Bucks]

PF – Giannis Antetokounmpo Shawne Williams [Advantage: Bucks]

C – Ersan Ilyasova Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Bucks: G OJ Mayo, SF Caron Butler, Gary Neal

Lakers:  F Wesley Johnson, F Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman, PG Kendall Marshall

Bench Advantage: Bucks

Injury List

Bucks: Out-G Carlos Delfino, C Zaza Pachulia, F John Henson, Questionable-G Gary Neal

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, PG Steve Nash, PG Steve Blake G Xavier Henry, Questionable-F Wesley Johnson, Probable-PG Jordan Farmar, C Pau Gasol

Keys for Lakers Victory

Make Open Shots: Regardless of who the Lakers play against, the Lakers will not beat anybody if they cannot shoot the ball well. Period. When the Lakers shoot the ball well especially from behind the 3-pt line, they always have a chance to compete an win. However, if they shoot poorly like they have for the majority of their last 5 games, the Lakers will not beat anyone. Lakers shooters, notably G Jodie Meeks, F Shawne Williams, and G/F Nick Young, have to start making open shots more consistently to keep themselves in the game. Once again, the Lakers are outmatched talent wise, so they have to create wide-open shots not only for themselves, but for their teammates too.

Bottom Line

If a more extreme term for a “must-win” regular season game for the Lakers exists, it would be tonight. The Bucks are by far the worst team in the NBA, so another loss will become catastrophic for the Lakers and the championship hopes. Hopefully, the Lakers will prevail and show a sense of urgency and play with not only effort, but also play efficiently and effectively. The Lakers’ effort cannot be questioned, but they have to execute better especially on the defensive end. If they continue to breakdown on defense and allow offensive rebounds, it might become a long night for the Lakers. However, the Lakers should finally snap their 5-game losing streak and come away with a victory tonight to end the 2013 year on a positive note.

Prediction

Lakers: 104-98

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Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Before every Laker fan figuratively jumps off a bridge at the sight of the title, it’s not what it sounds like.

The Cleveland Cavaliers recently suspended center Andrew Bynum for one game, and while there have been many rumors surrounding the cause for Bynum’s suspension, the Cavs GM, Chris Grant, released a statement saying the suspension was for conduct detrimental to the team. Cleveland seems to have lost patience with Bynum and is pursuing options to end their experimental run with the 26 year old center. Bynum is currently on a non-guaranteed contract worth $12.25 million that doesn’t become fully guaranteed until January 7, 2014. The Cavs are mulling over the decision to waive Bynum before that January 7 deadline, or trade him if they can find any suitors. That’s where the Lakers come in.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne reported late Monday night that a possible Pau Gasol-for-Andrew Bynum trade was being discussed. Now, again, keep calm everyone. A Gasol/Bynum swap doesn’t necessarily mean the Lakers are looking forward to reuniting with their former first round pick. Bynum’s non-guaranteed contract may be valuable to the Lakers. If the Lakers were to trade for Bynum, they can turnaround and waive him before his non-guaranteed contract becomes fully guaranteed on January 7. By swapping and dropping Gasol and Bynum, the Lakers could save over $20 million in salaries and luxury taxes, that could be beneficial in the team’s long term plans.

Shelburne tweeted that the Cavs have been pursing a trade for Pau Gasol since last summer:

The question now is if the Lakers would be willing to part ways with Pau Gasol. The Lakers were reportedly fielding offers for Gasol earlier this season, when he expressed frustration with his role in Coach D’Antoni’s offense. Gasol is in the final year of his contract and is earning $19 million this season—his future with the Lakers may be uncertain, but Shelburne reports that the Lakers may be unwilling to part ways with Gasol unless they receive some considerable value in return:

Is saving $20 million in salaries and luxury taxes enough value for the Lakers to part ways with the 4-time All-Star who helped secure back-to-back championships?

I guess we’ll find out by January 7.

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Source: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

It was definitely a year to remember… 2013 brought us many Laker memories, some good, most bad. Here is my Top to Bottom: Best, and worst, Laker moments of the year 2013…

TOP

1. Lakers end season 28-12

It was a rough start to 2013. As soon as the New Year hit, the Lakers went on a season high 6 game losing streak that pushed their record to 15-21. That wasn’t the worst of it either, through the next six games, the Lakers went 2-4 bringing their record to a season low 17-25, 8 games under the .500 mark. But, after a players only meeting after a loss in Memphis, the Lakers would rally on and win 28 of the last 40 games of the season and qualify for the 7th seed in the Western Conference.

2. Lakers defeat the Rockets and clinch 7th seed

Photo: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

The 2012-2013 season went down to the stretch for the Lakers. The Lakers went into the final day of regular season games in a situation that could have left them missing the playoffs entirely. After Utah’s loss to Memphis, the Lakers had clinched playoff berth but had one final game against the Houston Rockets to determine their positioning. A Laker loss would mean 8th seed and first round matchup against the former Western Conference Champions Oklahoma City Thunder. A Laker win would mean 7th seed and a matchup against the San Antonio Spurs. The game went down to the wire, Chandler Parsons hit a buzzer beating 3 pointer to send the game into overtime. The Lakers would end up winning the game in overtime and clinch the 7th seed behind a total team effort lead by Pau Gasol’s 17 points, 20 rebounds, and 11 assists.

3. Lakers open 2013-2014 season with win over the Clippers

After a terrible summer for the Lakers, and a great one for the Clippers, everyone went into opening night expecting the Lakers to get run out of Staples Center by their hallway neighbors. I mean, how could you not? Lakers fresh off of losing Dwight Howard, and Kobe still not yet recovered from his Achilles surgery, were about to face the reloaded Clippers, now coached by former Celtic head coach Doc Rivers, who were ready for a championship run. It was supposed to be a blowout from the start, but the fresh faced Lakers surprised everyone. Led by the bench, the Lakers outscored the Clippers 41-24 in the fourth quarter to win the game 116-103.

4. Steve Blake hits last second 3 to defeat Rockets in first game vs. Dwight Howard

November 7, 2013. Dwight Howard’s first game against the Lakers after his one disappointing year wearing purple and gold. The game went down to the wire and Laker fans rejoiced when Steve Blake hit the game winning 3 pointer over Dwight himself.

5. Kobe returns from Achilles injury

8 months after every Laker fans’ heart broke, we were receiving an early Christmas present. Kobe had been practicing with the team for weeks, everyone was waiting, and finally, December 8 came. Kobe announced his return with a dramatic video on Facebook and everything was supposed to be okay again. Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba, was coming back to rescue this team and push us towards another playoff run.

BOTTOM

Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

1. Kobe Bryant tears Achilles, returns, then fractures knee

April 12, 2013. It was a tough day for us all. After an MVP worthy season and averaging over 40 minutes a game, the 2013 injury plague hits Kobe Bryant. We all watched Kobe as he did what we’ve seen him do millions of times before. His back was to the basket, head looking over his shoulder, attack. But this time Kobe ended up on the floor with a torn Achilles. A season ending injury 2 games before playoffs were set to begin. Kobe would undergo surgery the very next day and begin an 8 month rehab that took us all the way to December. His long awaited return to the lineup in the 2013-2014 season came, but went just as quick. Kobe only lasted 6 games and averaged 13.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.6 turnovers a game before hyper-extending his knee against the Memphis Grizzlies. After that game, Kobe was diagnosed with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee, the same leg in which he tore his Achilles.

 2. Spurs sweep Lakers in round 1

It was the matchup the Lakers favored the most in the playoffs. After fighting to the last second to avoid facing OKC, the Lakers happily took on the Spurs in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. They weren’t ready for what hit them next. The injury plague season extended into the playoffs when Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison, Metta World Peace, Steve Nash, and Steve Blake all fall to injuries in the first round, the Lakers are forced to go into the final 2 games of the series with a starting back court of Darrius Morris and Andrew Goudelock.  The Spurs had no issues sweeping the Lakers beating them by an average of 18.75 points a game.

 3. Dwight leaves Lakers, signs with Houston

Photo Source: nba.com/rockets

When the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard in the Summer of 2012, he was supposed to be the centerpiece of the next great Laker era. But after an ill fated year in which little went right, Dwight Howard decided that his future in Los Angeles was over. In the Summer of 2013, Howard met with officials and players from the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, and Los Angeles Lakers. He ultimately decided he wanted to continue his career in Houston and play alongside James Harden, Chandler Parsons, and for Coach Kevin McHale over Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Coach Mike D’Antoni. Howard’s decision threw a wrench in the Lakers’ future plans and left us with some uncertainty.

4. Injuries, injuries, and more injuries

2013 was definitely the year of Laker injuries. The year started with Steve Nash still feeling lingering effects from his fractured leg, but soon after Pau Gasol went down for five weeks with a torn plantar fascia, Dwight misses time due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Antawn Jamison sprains his wrist, Metta World Peace goes down with a knee injury, Jodie Meeks sprains his ankle in the playoffs and of course, Kobe Bryant goes down with his Achilles. As if all those injuries weren’t enough last season, the injury bug carried over into the 2013-2014 season. Steve Nash has only played a total of 6 games this year due to nerve root damage, Steve Blake went down in early December after tearing an elbow ligament, Kobe fractures his knee, Jordan Farmar sat a few weeks with a torn hamstring, Pau has missed time due to an upper respiratory infection, Chris Kaman has had back and now ankle issues, and the latest victim to injury plague has been Xavier Henry who will miss a minimum 7-10 days with a bone bruise in his knee. Gary Viti and Judy Seto have definitely had their work cut out for them in 2013.

5. Mike D’Antoni

Need I say more?

Photo by: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America
Photo by: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America

 

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Photo Credit: AP / Danny Moloshok
Photo Credit: AP / Danny Moloshok

Laker Nation thought the Lakers injury bug could not get any worse than it already has been. Unfortunately, it was wrong.

G Xavier Henry will now be out for at least 7-10 days as MRI showed that he suffered a bone bruise in his right knee during yesterday night’s game vs. Philadelphia 76ers, according to ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin. The injury occurred when he landed awkwardly trying to block a shot on a fast break without anyone touching him. McMenamin also mentioned on his Twitter page that Henry’s “right knee also revealed some cartilage damage but ‘nothing severe,'” according to his sources.

Henry has clearly revived his career with the Lakers this season, averaging a career high 10.4 PPG while playing a lot of point guard, which is not his natural position by any means. Henry showed improvement in his ball handling skills since he got forced into a point guard role due to the injuries of the rest of the Lakers point guards, PG Steve Nash, PG Steve Blake, and PG Jordan Farmar, throughout this season.

With Henry’s injury and also PG Jordan Farmar missing practice today due to tigtness in his hamstring that he tore last month leaves PG Kendall Marshall as the only healthy Lakers point guard available for tomorrow’s game vs. Milwaukee Bucks. However, Farmar is expected to play tomorrow night.

“I just landed awkwardly on my leg when I was about to plant,” Henry told the media after the game. A lot of people already assumed the worst when Henry said that “feels weird” and “a little loose,” and described the sensation of that looseness as feeling “kind of buckled”.

To make matters worse for Henry, his contract does not become non-guaranteed until January 7th. The way Henry played throughout this season would have definitely guaranteed him not only a guaranteed salary this season, but also a very solid contract this offseason, like how former Lakers F Earl Clark made $8 million signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers this offseason to a 2-year contract. Fortunately, this injury does not seem as serious as what many people feared after he left yesterday’s game.

January games are very crucial for the Lakers to determine whether or not the Lakers can make a run at a playoff berth. Unfortunately, Henry’s injury makes staying alive in a playoff chase that much more difficult.

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Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images.

My father asked if the Lakers had a game tonight.

Against Philly, I told him, with one of the worst records in the league.

Still, he responded the only way a Laker fan would these days – with a sign of the cross.

1-13 – That was the Philadelphia 76ers’ road record going into tonight’s game. They are the worst team defensively, and currently sit in the 27th spot in the standings. For some teams, they’re a dream opponent to get an easy win, but as we’ve learned this season, no such thing exists for this Laker team.

The game started out well enough for the home team. They were up 12-2 just three minutes into the first quarter. The Lakers are great at getting off to a good start. It’s everything that comes after that seems to be an issue, because nine minutes later, it’s 22-20 after an 18-10 Sixers run to end the first.

The lead toggled back and forth 11 times throughout the night, but a flurry of turnovers by the Lakers combined with their inability to score consistently to close cost them a 111-104 loss.

Adding insult to injury – Xavier Henry left after the first quarter and never returned to the game.

High Points
Jordan Hill – 18 points, 6-9 from the free throw line, 13 rebounds, one steal and one block for Hill tonight. It’s the type of game he should have every night, and for every reason known to give this Laker team any hope of winning any game. He may not have shot well from the field – just 6-14 – but he knows where his scoring opportunities lie and capitalizes on them.
Shawne Williams – Save for a three-point attempt that he missed at the end of the game, at Williams did SOMETHING tonight, which he doesn’t do often. 11 points and 10 rebounds – a double-double.
Point Guard Play – Jordan Farmar is still rounding into form after being out with the torn hamstring and Kendall Marshall is still new, but they showed how much better off this team is when there’s someone running the offense on the floor. Farmar shot just 3-11 for his eight points, but he also handed out eight assists. Marshall went 3-5 from the field, including 2-3 from behind the arc and he handed out a trio of dimes.
Nick Young – He led the game with 26 points. The field goal percentages weren’t impressive – just 2-11 from three and 6-21 overall, plus he had six turnovers – but 26 points is still 26 points, and with the Lakers shooting under 40% tonight, they needed every bit of Young’s offense to lose by just seven (how sad was that statement?).

Low Points
On Repeat – How many different ways is there to say that the Lakers turn the ball over too much, they can’t sustain their defense and they need to rebound more? They had 22 turnovers which turned into 27 Sixers points, 18 fastbreak points. The Lakers kept their opponents to just two points in the first three minutes of the game, and then allowed them to shoot 52% in the second quarter and every quarter that followed had the Sixers at a better FG% than the Lakers. They outrebounded Philadelphia 55-49 for the game and had 18 offensive rebounds, but allowed the Sixers 17 offensive boards which contributed to 16 second chance points.
Xavier Henry – Henry played just over four minutes in the first quarter, but headed to the locker room before the second quarter began and never returned to game action. He’s said to have a strained right knee and will have an MRI Monday morning to be sure.

The Lakers played another game without Pau Gasol in the line-up; still suffering from an upper respiratory infection. Now Henry could be added to that list of inactive players. Next up are the worst team in the league, Milwaukee Bucks, on New Year’s Eve. There’s a loss the Lakers really don’t want going into 2014.

Box Score

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Source: Lakers.com
Source: Lakers.com
Source: Lakers.com

December 29, 2013 — 6:30 PM (PST)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-17) head back home where they will play 4 consecutive home games starting tonight vs. Philadelphia 76ers (8-21), a team destined for the lottery this season. The Lakers let a very winnable game slip from them Friday vs. Utah Jazz despite great games from G/F Nick Young and C Chris Kaman. Young scored 21 points including 13of his points in the 3rd quarter but fouled out in middle of 4th quarter, which swung the momentum to Jazz’s favor, and Kaman scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as he replaced C Pau Gasol in the starting lineup.

However, the Lakers tonight will play tonight without Gasol due to an upper respiratory infection. To make matters worse, Chris Kaman suffered a sprained ankle during Friday’s game and his availability for tonight’s game is uncertain. The Lakers will have to finish at least 3-1 during this 4-game home stretch since they should defeat these next 4 opponents. They are currently suffering a 4-game losing streak, so getting these victories are very crucial to give themselves an opportunity to make a run at a playoff berth.

Meanwhile, the 76ers basically waived the white flag before the season even began, trading all-star PG Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for C Nerlens Noel, who still is recovering from a torn ACL suffered last January at University of Kentucky. However, the 76ers can definitely still make the playoffs this season in the very abysmal Eastern Conference especially with the play of their rookie PG Michael Carter-Williams. Williams, a 4th overall pick from University of Syracuse, will win the Rookie of the Year award if he stays healthy, averaging 18.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 7.7 APG. The 76ers lost 7 straight games during the beginning of December when Carter-Williams was recovering from a freak bacterial infection in his knee.

UPDATE: Kaman will play tonight (sprained ankle), but C/F Jordan Hill will now start at the Center position.

Projected Starters

PG – Michael-Carter Williams Jordan Farmar [Advantage: 76ers]

SG – Evan Turner / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: 76ers]

SF – Hollis Thompson Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]

PF – Thaddeous Young Shawne Williams [Advantage: 76ers]

C – Spencer Hawes Jordan Hill [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

76ers: G Tony Wroten, James Anderson, Elliot Williams, C/F Lavoy Allen

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungXavier Henry, F Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Make Open Shots: The 76ers allow the 3rd highest FG % at 47.1% and the 4th highest 3pt % allowed at 38.3%. If the Lakers shooters, notably G Jodie Meeks, F Shawne Williams, and G Nick Young, can make open shots tonight, the Lakers will come away with an easy win tonight. This matchup is very advantageous for Mike D’Antoni’s fast paced offense since they should have great wide open shots especially on fast breaks. Furthermore, the 76ers have nobody who can protect the basket, so expect the Lakers, especially PG Jordan Farmar, to drive to the basket very often and attack the paint so either he can get a layup or wait until the defense collapses on him so he can kick the ball out to all the Lakers shooters.
  2. Stop Michael Carter-Williams: Since Evan Turner’s ability to play tonight at full strength is uncertain, all 5 defenders have to keep their eye on Carter-Williams. With Carter-Williams on the floor, the 76ers play much better, having a 7-10 record. The Lakers have had a lot of problems keeping guards in front of them on defense, causing big men like Kaman and Gasol to help out, leading to wide-open dunks. Since Farmar is back however, they should not have as much trouble keeping players like Carter-Williams in front of them and contain them.

Bottom Line

This game is a must win for the Lakers. Why? Because the 76ers are one of the few NBA teams that should be an easy win for the Lakers on paper. Although the 76ers have more talent than the Lakers on the starting lineup, the Lakers clearly have a much better chemistry and play better together than the 76ers. Also, PG Jordan Farmar‘s return makes the Lakers’ offense and defense much better since he’s a natural vocal floor leader for the Lakers. Lets hope that the Lakers can come away with a stress-free victory tonight to finally snap their 4-game losing streak.

Prediction

Lakers: 114-97

Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty Images
Tom Watson/NY Daily News/Getty Images
Tom Watson/NY Daily News/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 December 29-January 4, over their 66-year history.

December 30, 1971

The Lakers finished the month of December with a perfect 16-0 record after defeating the Seattle SuperSonics 122-106 in Seattle. With the victory, Los Angeles posted the best monthly record in NBA history, as well as their second straight undefeated month, in the midst of their eventual NBA record 33-game winning streak. Jim McMillian scored 34 points, while Jerry West contributed 28 in the win.

December 31, 1954

The then-Minneapolis Lakers and the Fort Wayne Pistons attempted a combined 127 free throws, which still holds as the NBA record for the most-ever attempts in a regulation game. Minneapolis won the game 103-91, as six different Lakers (Lovellette, Schnittker, M’Kelsen, Kalafat, Martin, and Skoog) scored in double-figures.

December 31, 2010

Kobe Bryant hit a go-ahead jump shot with 1:15 left in the game to lift the Lakers over the Philadelphia 76ers 102-98 at the Staples Center. With the win, Los Angeles avoided its first three-game home losing streak since March 2008. Bryant finished with 33 points, including two clutch free-throws with 1.9 seconds left in the game. Pau Gasol added 20 points and eight rebounds in the win.

Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty Images
Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty Images

January 1, 1967

The Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 111-110 on New Year’s Day. Jerry West and Elgin Baylor provided the spark for the then-struggling Lakers over the first place Celtics, scoring 35 and 30 points respectively.

January 2, 2005

Los Angeles beat the Denver Nuggets 99-91 at the Staples Center in their first game of 2005. Kobe Bryant led the scoring charge for the Lakers with 42 points, as he went 14-29 from the field in the win. This game marked the third consecutive contest during which Bryant scored at least 40 points. Despite Denver cutting the deficit to two points with under 2:30 left in the fourth quarter, Bryant scored the Lakers’ following eight points to lift them to victory.

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Photo courtesy of Melissa Majchrzak, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Melissa Majchrzak, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Melissa Majchrzak, Getty Images

They’re almost there – rock bottom. The Utah Jazz have only the second to the last worst record in the league. To really hit rock bottom, the Milwaukee Bucks will have to beat the Lakers, which they will get a chance to do on New Year’s Eve. Let’s not jump ahead, however.

After falling three games under .500, the Lakers had last three games left into 2013 to try to win so they could go into the New Year with an even record. All three games were against losing teams too – Utah Jazz, Philadelphia Sixers and Milwaukee Bucks. Unfortunately, no game this season has been easy for the Lakers to win (except maybe the first game against the Clippers, which seems so out of character at this point in time that it’s become a novelty victory).

The game was close from beginning to end, and in such games, every little stat counts. Every. Little. Stat. No quarter was won by more than two points and no lead was greater than eight. After 14 lead changes, however, Utah managed to win 105-103.

High Points
Bench – Led by Nick Young, naturally, the Laker bench showed their value again, outscoring the Jazz reserves 51-26. Three bench players scored in double figures, led by Young’s 21 points on 10-17 from the field, highlighted by his 13 points in the third quarter alone. Unfortunately, he fouled out of the game midway through the fourth quarter. It might be the first time we’ve ever seen him so upset on the bench. After helping the team shoot almost 60% in that 13-point third quarter, Young had to watch from the sidelines while the Lakers shot 42% in the deciding final minutes.
Jordan Hill – Without Young to finish out the game, Hill stepped in and scored 13 of his 16 points in that final quarter. Until then, Hill had done very little. He’d only had four rebounds until that quarter too; and he finished with nine. He even went 6-8 from the three throw line.
Chris Kaman – With Pau Gasol out with an upper respiratory infection again, Kaman was an easy pick to move up to the starting line-up, and he made use of his time on the floor. Kaman finished with 19 points on 7-11 from the field, 5-6 from the free throw line and 10 rebounds. He also had three blocks. Whether Gasol is back in the next game, there is no comprehensible reason why Kaman should be left out of the rotation. He’s a solid scorer and defender.
Jordan Farmar – Boy is he a sight for sore eyes! Farmar’s debut against Miami didn’t yield the results we’d hoped for, but his play tonight was signature. 16 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals. Farmar is moving like he’s pain-free, which is a great sign. Unfortunately, when he leaves the floor, so does the Lakers’ offensive capabilities.

Low Points
Little Things Mean A Lot – …especially when they amount to one big thing, like a victory.
Free Throws – The Lakers attempted three more free throws than the Jazz, but missed seven of them. Xavier Henry and Young were a combined 0-3. This isn’t the first time that the Lakers have lost a close game and simple things like free throws matter in the end because of it.
Three-pointer – The Lakers are 10th in the league in 3PT% and Utah is 22nd. The two teams attempted the same number of threes (23) but the Jazz converted on two more threes than the Lakers. That’s a six-point advantage. Jodie Meeks was just 3-9 from downtown tonight, but in his last five games (one win and four losses), he is a combined 11-32 from behind the arc. That’s 34%; with most attempts wide open. Wesley Johnson and Shawne Williams were no better, combining for 0-6 from three.
Fast Break Points – The Lakers had just 14 turnovers and the Jazz had 15, yet Utah scored 19 points off of those 14 giveaways compared to the Lakers’ 15. In their last few games, the Lakers have not taken advantage of their opponents’ mistakes and it’s costing them games. Moreover, the Jazz scored 25 fast break points compared to the Lakers’ 12.
Defense – The Lakers had less than 20 seconds to play defense in one of the final plays, but after Gordon Hayward missed a layup, no one was on Derrick Favors and he scored on a putback. No communication, no cover.

It was one of those games (again) where one glance at the stat sheet has you thinking, “If only they’d made three more free throws…if only they hit just one more three…if only they grabbed a few more offensive rebounds and scored.” There are a lot of those types of games for the Lakers this season, but hopefully the next two games will tell a different tale, and hopefully, there’s a win in the end.

Box Score

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Courtesy: Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images

December 27, 2013 — 6:00 PM (PST)
Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-16) travel to the Salt Lake City for a very quick trip to play Utah Jazz (8-23), who are not a very good team and seems to be preparing for a high draft pick for the 2014 NBA Draft. Like the Lakers, the Jazz will have the ability to sign high-priced free agents this off-season by making off-season trades to clear their salary cap.

However, Jazz can cause the Lakers’s defense a lot of problems. Regardless of who plays on the Lakers, the Jazz have always marked the Lakers on their calendar and we should expect them to play with a lot of passion and energy. Jazz rookie PG Trey Burke has played exceptionally well after missing the first 12 games recovering from a broken finger, averaging 13.5 PPG and 4.9 APG. Also, the Jazz have F Gordan Hayward, who has the skills to shoot over smaller defenders and drive to the basket, has averaged a very solid 15.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 4.7 APG. Hayward will become a free-agent following the season, and I expect a lot of NBA teams offer him a long-term contract.

The Lakers are coming off a very tough loss vs. Miami Heat after playing with a very good spirit and a lot of energy to stay close. G/F Nick Young has led the way for most of the season coming off the bench by having the ability to create his own shot and has averaged a very solid 15.7 PPG, which leads all NBA 6th man, this season. However, the Lakers will be without the services of C Pau Gasol tonight due to an upper respiratory infection that has still caused him problems stemming from last Saturday. Gasol will definitely be missed by the Lakers tonight after playing very solidly recently, becoming more aggressive and looking much slimmer compared to the beginning of the season. Look for C Robert Sacre and C Chris Kaman to fill in Gasol’s role tonight despite Head Coach Mike D’Antoni proclamation that Ryan Kelly will take both of their minutes to spread the floor even more.

Projected Starters

PG – Trey Burke Jordan Farmar [Advantage: Jazz]

SG – Gordon Hayward / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Jazz]

SF – Richard Jefferson Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]

PF – Marvin Williams Pau Gasol [Advantage: Jazz]

C – Derrick Favors Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Jazz: G Alec Burks, Jeremy EvansPG John Lucas III, Enes Kanter

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungXavier Henry, F Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Keep Guards out of the Paint: Although it might seem like kicking a dead horse at this point, the Lakers need to stop letting opposing guards drive to the basket without any resistance and let them get high percentage shots for themselves or an open teammate. Tonight’s match up will not be much easier, as they try to keep both Burke and Hayward outside of the paint. The guards have to make the offensive players feel more uncomfortable while dribbling the ball and cause turnovers. This is also the main cause for opposing post players to have career highs vs. Lakers continuously this season.
  2. Do Not Allow 2nd Chance PossessionsThe Lakers have been struggling a lot at boxing out their players and allowing easy 2nd chance baskets. Their defense has played fairly well recently, but allowing offensive rebounds causes their defense to become very disorganized, causing them to lose their players they matched up with. This is another factor that results in career high performances from non-superstar players from opposing teams. With D’Antoni sitting out their post players like Kaman and Sacre and prioritizing 3-point shooting more, proper fundamentals to box out opposing players like C/F Derrick Favors and C Enes Kanter becomes a high priority since they both possess a significant weight advantage over whoever the Lakers will put out on the floor tonight.

Bottom Line

The Lakers have to have their head on straight and play with good fundamentals and high energy tonight to defeat the Jazz. Once again, the opposing team has more talent than the Lakers at least in the starting lineup, so the Lakers cannot rely on talent and play complacent to win tonight. However, PG Jordan Farmar‘s return should once again stabilize the Lakers’ offense and defensive ends as a vocal floor leader for the Lakers. If they play with as much energy and passion as their last game, Laker Nation should be in a good mood after tonight’s victory.

Prediction

Lakers: 99-96

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Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Still battling the upper respiratory infection that kept him out versus the Golden State Warriors last week, Pau Gasol will not travel with the team today as the Lakers prepare for their Friday night matchup versus the Utah Jazz.

It is unknown whether Gasol will play as he is listed as day-to-day, but at the very least will not be with the team when they land in Utah later this evening.

It’s disappointing news for the Lakers as they look to snap a three game losing streak.  Battling an array of injuries and inconsistent play, the purple and gold are 4-8 in December.  We’ll have more news on Gasol’s status for tomorrow as we receive it.

 

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Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images

Christmas Day, the Lakers took on the defending champion Miami Heat in a close, hard fought match-up. While the game turned out better than most predicated, lost in the Christmas frenzy was the return of reserve guard Jordan Farmar. Farmar had been out of the lineup since Dec. 1st with a torn left hamstring. While his presence is certainly good for then point guard less Lakers, Kendall Marshall has not played enough nor knows the system well enough to qualify just yet, Farmar, will still need time to recover as he noticeably would not explode off his left hamstring during the game.

Photo Credit: WCB Sports

Los Angeles Times reporter Melissa Rohlin spoke to Farmar about his comeback,

“I felt like I didn’t play basketball for a month, just the timing, everything just felt a little off,” Farmar said.

Like previously mentioned, Farmar did not look like his normal self. Sitting out for almost a month and then coming back to play against the Heat certainly did not help but one has to appreciate how much Farmar wanted to be on the court to help contribute. When asked about his performance he held no gripes in mentioning how he does not fully trust his left hamstring just yet.

“Just knowing that it kept me out for a month, and not wanting to make that explosive move that might set me back,” he said. “I’ll gain more and more confidence, and then hopefully it’ll get out of my mind and I’ll just be able to play.”

Farmar played almost 33 minutes on Wednesday, while recording three points (he shot one for seven from the field), five rebounds, two assist, and four turnovers. While those numbers are not his averages they certainly are acceptable for someone coming back so soon after being out and not being able to do many basketball related activities.

“I haven’t even played five-on-five since I got hurt, so this is the first time I’ve really played basketball,” he said.

Coach D’Antoni spoke on Farmar’s performance and said “his next game will be better,” and “and a week from now he’ll be rolling.” That is great news for the Lakers since Farmar’s aggressiveness and lead guard abilities have been sorely missed. Jordan will need time to heal and slowly integrate back into his old form as the explosion off that left hamstring will be needed time and time again throughout this season. With just he and Kendall Marshall to play point for the Lakers, Xavier Henry too until Steve Blake is back, the team will count on him on every game as he will undoubtedly have some tough match-ups ahead. Farmar’s injury is just one of many for this Lakers team so far but the commitment he has to even return so soon to help make this club better is something special and will go a long way.

 

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Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

Bah-humbug! On a day most people spend celebrating the joy of Christmas, Laker fans were teased with a good start against a good team, only to be disappointed in the end.

With Jordan Farmar back in the lineup after missing a few weeks due to a torn hamstring, the team look energized to start, getting off to a 10-point lead in the first quarter. The second quarter, however, saw them produce just 19 points to the Heat’s 30.

The second half was a close game, with Miami outscoring the Lakers by just a point. Nick Young single-handedly kept his team in contention in the final two quarters, but they just couldn’t close and lost 101-95.

High Points
Bench – Led by none other than SwaggyP himself, the reserves were (and have been all season) the team’s backbone. Without Nick Young’s hot shooting in the second half, where he scored 17 of his 20 points, this game might’ve been the blowout that many predicted. Yet there he was in the third quarter, going one on one with Lebron James; hitting a three over the self-proclaimed Chosen One, and getting fouled to complete a four-point play. He hit another three to end the third quarter, cutting the lead to two points going into the final 12 minute. Right behind Young was Xavier Henry, who finished with 14 points on 5-8 from the field.
Jodie Meeks – There have been talks about Meeks getting traded for Jerryd Bayless, but ever the professional, the Laker guard put in a hard day’s work, playing almost 38 minutes (the most on the team), chipping in 17 points on 50% shooting, grabbed four rebounds, handed out three assists and had two steals.
Pau Gasol – It was a double-double night for the Spaniard, 13 points and 13 rebounds. He should have had a bigger night, but like he’s done so often this season, Gasol settled for jumpers when he could have just rammed himself to the hoop for a higher percentage shot and possibly a foul.

Low Points
Shawne Williams – Three points on 1-4 from the field, in addition to five rebounds, in 16 minutes. The majority of Williams’ stat lines this season look like this. He does so little for a team who needs a lot. He’s a streaky shooter, a less than average rebounder and defender and it’s unfortunate he gets (so much more) playing time over productive players like Chris Kaman and Robert Sacre, both of whom received DNP-Coach’s Decision lines today.
Ball Movement – They had just 15 assists compared to Miami’s 29. The Lakers also had 17 turnovers, which, in looking at their assists, isn’t surprising. There was a lot of helter-skelter at the ends of shot clocks. Passing the ball with so little intention other than to pass it on.
Lead Maintenance – A double-digit lead for the Lakers in any quarter other than the fourth (with a minute left in the game) produces one foregone conclusion – they’re probably going to lose it. After leading 27-17 with less than a minute left in the first quarter, Miami manages to tie it four and a half minutes into the second quarter. It was missed three after missed three, followed by turnovers. That 10-point lead never had a chance with the Lakers getting as careless as they did.
Points In The Paint – The difference in paint points says it all – 58-26. It’s the reason Miami shot 51% to the Lakers’ 42%. In the second quarter, 18 of the Heat’s 30 points were scored in the painted area and they shot 63%. The Lakers went 2-12 from behind the arc, and scored just eight points inside. They shot 35% in that quarter. Gasol went head-to-head against Chris Bosh, who won the battle 13-4. Gasol went just 2-2, rarely taking Bosh to the hoop where he is the most successful.
Free Throws – The Lakers attempted 26 free throws to Miami’s 17. The Heat went just 10-17 and the Lakers shot just 15-26 from the charity stripe. In a game that was as close as this was, every single point counted and had the Lakers converted at least six or seven of those nine missed free throws, this game might’ve ended differently, perhaps with a victory.

The Lakers fought, no doubt about that. But they’re still a hobbled team trying to get by. Unfortunately, they’re three games below .500, as a result.

Despite this loss, we hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas Day!

Box Score

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Carmelo Anthony
Credit: USATSI
Carmelo Anthony
Credit: USATSI

It is well-known throughout the NBA that the Lakers will have a nice amount of cap space this upcoming offseason even with the new $48.5 million contract of Kobe Bryant on the books.  What is unclear is the direction the team may be looking to go in.

Will the Lakers attempt to make a splash by adding a big name free agent such as Carmelo Anthony?  In previous weeks, the Lakers and the 29-year-old small forward have been linked, saying it was an obvious pairing, but yesterday Steve Kyler of HOOPSWORLD noted that the interest from the Lakers may not be as high as originally thought.

“For weeks its been Anthony and the LA Lakers talked about as a likely pairing, however insiders doubted that the Lakers would make Anthony a max-level contract offer.”

While Anthony is the most likely big name free agent to come to the Lakers, I can see why the team may not want to head in that direction.  Pairing a soon to be 30-year-old Anthony along with a 36-year-old Kobe may not exactly scream championship with a lack of financial ability to add more quality pieces around those two.  Anthony has an opt out clause after this season but there is a chance he could opt in if traded during this season.

Although, I would not call this situation dead in any sense.  Anthony considers Kobe to be an older brother and mentor entering the league.  The relationship could ultimately drive the Lakers to add Anthony this offseason which would bring excitement back to Staples Center for the purple and gold and give the team a dynamic scoring duo.  One other question that needs to be asked, what is the relationship between Anthony and coach Mike D’Antoni?  It was reportedly anything but good in New York and that could play a big factor in any decision moving forward.

The other direction the team could go in is to use the money on quality role players that would allow them to go into the 2015 offseason with a chance of adding a player like Kevin Love, if he decides to opt out of his respective contract. While there are many options this offseason, Alex Kennedy of HOOPSWORLD wondered if soon-to be free agent Luol Deng would consider the Lakers this offseason and even posed the question to Deng to which he responded:

“When the summer comes, I can probably answer that,” Deng told HOOPSWORLD. “To be honest with you I’ve done my best – I’ve been in a contract situation before when I was young and it affected me. This year, during the summer, I told myself that no matter what, I’m just going to be in the gym working. … I don’t know what it’s like in any other locker room or any other organization — maybe it’s better, maybe it’s not. I have no complaints with how blessed and how lucky I’ve been to be in such an organization for 10 years. Not a lot people could say that. I don’t know if the grass is greener. Maybe it is, but my grass is green enough.”

Deng would be a nice piece to the puzzle for the Lakers and wouldn’t command a max contract on the market. In his career, the Sudan born forward has averaged 16.1 ppg and 6.4 rpg while also playing excellent perimeter defense.  The concern with Deng is his history of injuries over recent seasons although that could help the Lakers in negotiations if it gets to that point.

There will be plenty of names linked to the Lakers over the next two seasons.  As we get closer to the end of the season, the plan for the Lakers to return to relevancy in the NBA will be clearer.   How the Lakers execute the plan will be the interesting part but as we’ve seen in the past, this franchise will find a way.

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Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Photo by Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

December 25, 2013 — 2:00 PM (PST)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ABC
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-15) look to shock the world today as they face the reigning back-to-back NBA Champions, the Miami HEAT (21-6) in another Christmas Day matchup. The Lakers are coming off another very disappointing loss vs. the Phoenix Suns, a game in which fans had to witness C Miles Plumlee score 22 points and grab a career-high 20 rebounds while Gerald Green also scored 22 points and made 6 wide open 3-pointers. Lakers Mike D’Antoni got so frustrated after the game that he made an ill-advised comment, obviously taken out of context stating that “if [Lakers fans are] discouraged, find another team to root for” while trying to defend his players. D’Antoni apologized for that comment, explaining that it came out of frustration after yesterday’s practice.

However, the Lakers finally got some great news; they finally have a point guard. PG Jordan Farmar has fully recovered from a torn left hamstring and will start for the Lakers tomorrow. Farmar, who has shown a great improvement from his first stint with the Lakers, has shown he can effectively be a team leader both on and off the floor. Farmar has averaged a solid 9.2 PPG and 4.4 APG in only 18.9 MPG, all statistics that will greatly increase since the Lakers will depend heavily on him without another true point guard other than the newly acquired PG Kendall Marshall.

The Heat are on their way to another top seed in the playoffs in their quest to win a 3rd straight NBA Championship. Reigning MVP F LeBron James, has blossomed into a true all-around player, which came mainly from greatly improving his post game, which now leaves smaller players who used to be able to guard James very vulnerable in the post. A back injury has slowed James statistically so far this season, who averages 25.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 6.6 APG, which are not up to his high standards. Heat G Dwyane Wade has played very well so far this season while avoiding injuries, averaging 19.9 PPG and 4.8 APG while shooting a career-high 54.1% so far this season. Although Wake has scored a career-low in terms of points per game, his high field goal shooting percentage has shown that he is still having a very great season. For the Heat however, regular season statistics are irrelevant as long as they are fully healthy once playoffs begin.

Projected Starters

PG – Mario Chalmers Jordan Farmar [Advantage: Even]

SG – Dwyane Wade / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Heat]

SF – Shane Battier Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Heat]

PF – LeBron James Shawne Williams [Advantage: Heat]

C – Chris Bosh Pau Gasol [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

HEAT: F Udonis Haslem, F/G Michael BeasleyRay Allen, PG Norris Cole, C Chris Andersen

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungG Xavier Henry, F Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Feed the Bigs: The Lakers have one asset that the Heat do not have: Multiple post players who can score. Although the Lakers are a run and gun team, it will be up to Mike D’Antoni to delve away from his usual style of play to take advantage of Gasol and Kaman’s ability to score. The Heat lack size in the post, playing undersized big men like Bosh and Haslem as centers. If the Lakers slow the game down and use their advantage over the Heat, they could have a fair chance at making the game competitive.
  2. Keep James and Wade out of the Paint: James and Wade will be impossible to stop if the Lakers defense lets them drive to the basket. Both superstars are able to finish very strong inside the paint while finding shooters like Allen and Battier. Although both players, especially James, have greatly improved their jump shooting skills, the only chance the Lakers have at keeping the game close is to force both players to settle for contested jump shots. Otherwise, they will run circles around the Lakers defense like how Dragic and Bledsoe did during the Lakers last game.

Bottom Line

For the Lakers to have a chance of winning tonight’s game, everything would have to go right for them and for everything to go wrong for the Heat. If the Heat’s jump shots are off and if the Lakers can keep the heat away from drives to the basket, maybe the Lakers can keep this game close. Although I expect the Lakers to play inspired basketball today, the Heat’s talent and skills will most likely be too much to come away with a victory.

Prediction

HEAT: 117-98

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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.