After a win last night against the Sacramento Kings Dwight Howard performed his usual of answering reporters questions in the locker room. Howard usually does this with his shirt off which prompted a question about his current health.
Our own David Brickley tweeted about it last night:
Reporter (John Ireland) asks awkward question to Dwight Howard. Dwight's response is a must see: http://t.co/rEiXRhKI1p
Kobe Bryant is doubtful for tonight’s game against the Phoenix Suns. After sustaining his ankle injury in the last seconds of the Atlanta Hawks game he played for only a quarter of the win against the Indiana Pacers and did not dress Sunday in the win versus the Sacramento Kings. Via Twitter, Kobe announced he has the #flu alongside his ankle injury. Before Sunday nights game, coach Mike D’Antonitalked to ESPNLA reporter Dave McMenamin on when Kobe will return.
“I think the determining factor is whether he feels like he can contribute and feels like, ‘I’m good enough to play,'” D’Antoni said. “He’s been in the league a long time, he knows his body and he’ll have to make that determination.”
Speculation began to build around tonight’s game as Pau Gasol had planned on returning from his torn Plantar Fascia. However, Saturday Pau felt soreness in his foot after a 2 on 2 game at the team’s practice facility.
“It was to be expected,” Gasol said of the soreness. “As you raise the intensity in the amount of load you put on the foot, it’s going to create a little soreness. It’s a pretty normal reaction with the injury that I had.”
On Sunday Pau met with foot specialist Dr. Kenneth Jung. Those results have yet to be announced but Gasol will undergo an ultrasound on his foot Tuesday. The next possible date for Gasol’s return would be Friday against the Washington Wizards but D’Antoni doesn’t want to get his hopes up just yet.
“You just never know,” D’Antoni said. “There’s really been no contact yet or 5-on-5, he’s working out pretty hard. It’s going to be sooner rather than later. Whether it’s Friday or not, you just can’t tell.”
Gasol, who missed his 32nd game of the season Sunday, was noncommittal about when he would be back.
“I don’t want to put any date so there are no surprises or disappointments,” Gasol said before the Kings game.
Forward Jordan Hill has begun feverishly working out in hopes to return in late April or early May. Ruled out since January with hip surgery, Hill believed he was done for the season. Despite the news he will be reevaluated in April to check his progress. D’Antoni believes it would be a long stretch for Hill to return so soon as the elliptical machine is different than an NBA game.
“Even if he could come back, to get back in shape and get in the rotation, that would be tough,” D’Antoni said. “That would be a miracle.”
Even with both stars and Hill currently out for the Lakers they have begun surging as of late. With a record of 11-3 since All-Star break (2-0 without Kobe, yes Indiana does count) the Lakers are undergoing a stretch where Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, and team’s role players are finding continuity and an identity.As ESPNLA reporter Ramona Shelburne reported, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The ball moves and there are some good guys out there on the floor,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Antawn has had back-to-back 50-point games in this league. Steve Blake is starting with a good team and has played really well in this league. Steve Nash is a two-time MVP. And Dwight Howard is really good. So we don’t have to be one player dominant.
“That ball needs to move and, if it does, then we are really good.”
Ball movement early in the season was as consistent as the Lakers were inconsistent. Too many times the team had to lean on Bryant to bail them out of close calls. However with Kobe out of the lineup and shots falling, the team is making a case that without two of their best players they are still better than people perceive.
“I was talking to Metta [World Peace] and he was like, ‘Now it’s our time to finally play our style, posting up and things like that,'” Jamison said.
“You’ve got guys being accustomed to being the man or being the first and second option,” he said. “We know how to do this and play with each other. And guys are eager to show — when somebody is hurt, when my time comes — we won’t miss a beat.”
The Lakers have three players in Howard, Jamison, and World Peace, who at different points of their careers were leading scorers for NBA teams. They have Nash who once was a two-time MVP and league leader in assists. Steve Blake and Jodi Meeks both were starters for teams and averaged over 10 points per game. Earl Clark was a lottery pick who never got a real chance until this year. Coming to LA everyone knew that things were going to change and sacrifices were to be made. Yet now, they have the chance to live up to the expectations of the purple and gold standard.
“We’re just not making any excuses,” said Jamison, who finished with a game-high 27 points Sunday.
“I think once we finally had our back up against the wall and people were counting us out, that’s when we kind of went, ‘OK, we’ve got to start playing better.’ There’s no excuse for us not to turn this thing around and make it one of the best stories in sports.'”
The Lakers resume play tonight against the Phoenix Suns at 7:00 pacific time.
The Lakers’ box score tonight contains the following: K. Bryant (DND – SEVERE SPRAIN, LEFT ANKLE), P. Gasol (DND – TORN PLANTAR FASCIA, RIGHT FOOT), [Jordan] Hill (inactive). Listed are also six players in double figures, two players with double-doubles, +10 in rebounds, +7 in assists, +4 in blocks, 57% FG and a record that is four games above .500.
With three players on the injured list, the Lakers did what any team would and should do in their situation – they played the game like no one was missing. It was business as usual for the purple and gold, with the two Steves putting the ball in the right situations to score, with Dwight Howard leading the way on the defensive end, with Antawn Jamison going at it like he normally does – hard; and Metta World Peace finding his shot just in the nick of time.
The Sacramento Kings may only be 23-44 for the season, but they are not a team to be taken lightly. They answered almost every Laker run with a run of their own, doing their damage inside and outside. In the end, however, the Lakers were too much and the Kings added another to their loss column in a game that ended 102-113.
HIGH POINTS: “Bench” – With Bryant out, Jodie Meeks moved up to the starting line-up, so the bench contribution tonight came
from just two players, Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake. What a contribution they made! If there were a term to describe Jamison, it would be “blue collar” because he’s always one of the hardest working players on the floor. He’s not the best defender on the team, but he’s constantly shadowing his man and reaching for boards. Tonight he had nine rebounds, eight on the defensive end. On offense, he’s as crafty as they come. Aside from his 5-8 from behind the arc, James Worthy considers him the best in the league at cutting to hoop or slipping screens to get in good position for a shot. He led the game with 27 points on 8-14 from the field and led the +/- column with a +23. His fellow reserve, Blake, has been playing his best lately since becoming a Laker. His confidence on the floor, whether it’s shooting, making plays or playing some scrappy defense, is apparent. He finished the night with 16 points on 6-11 from the field, including 4-7 from downtown, eight assists, five rebounds and a steal. That the Lakers are 17-7 since his return is no coincidence. Last note: Kings Bench (3 players) = 34 points. Jamison/Blake = 43 points. Metta World Peace – 22 points on 10-13 from the field, four assists and a block. It’s odd for MWP not to have a single board, but the rest of the team gang-rebounded all night so it didn’t make much of a difference, especially since his shot appears to be returning. World Peace had been struggling since the New Year, unable to find the lucky stroke with which he began the season. But in the last few games, he’s gotten a lot more consistent, choosing to score closer to the hoop rather than jacking up threes all game long. Dwight Howard – Six shot attempts for the man in the middle is not enough, but Howard was still a happy camper in the locker room after the game. And why shouldn’t he be? He finished with his 38th double-double for the season, 12 points, 17 rebounds and added five blocks for a well-rounded game. It was his 14th straight 12+ rebound game. He also converted back-to-back lobs in the second quarter that brought Staples Center, especially his teammates, off their seats. Steve Nash – 19 points, 12 assists, four rebounds – this is the type of stat line that we expected from Nash when he was signed. Since, for whatever reason, Bryant has been assigned to be the primary ball handler, Nash has trained himself to spot up and shoot. Games like tonight is really his bread and butter. Maybe this is a reminder (see: nudge) to the Lakers’ coaching staff that they have STEVE NASH on the team and it might be a good idea to have him control the ball a little more. Let’s face it, Steve Nash = ball movement, and that has been the key to most Laker victories this season.
LOW POINTS: Jodie Meeks – Maybe he’s not accustomed to playing with the starters. Tonight Meeks chipped in just six points on 2-6 from the field, 1-5 from behind the arc after 28 minutes on the floor. He was the only player in single digits. Turnovers – 15 turnovers that turned into 17 points for Sacramento. Lead Rollercoaster – There were 11 lead changes. Each time the Lakers would make a run or take the lead (15 points being their largest advantage in the game), they’d turn the ball over or attempt bad shots and next thing they knew, the Kings were scoring on the other end and either cutting the lead down or taking the lead themselves. The Lakers have yet to learn how to babysit a lead this season. If they’re not falling behind and have to catch up, they are leading by double digits and then giving way for the other team to catch up to them.
Yes, this season has been a challenging one for the Lakers, at best. And it took more than half the season for them to look like they had control over their destiny. Many will point out that the Lakers beat a non-playoff team without Bryant and Gasol – so what? They also defeated the second best defensive team in the league two days ago IN INDIANA so what of that? In the grand scheme of things, what these last two games have done and can do further, is give this team confidence to finish a challenging season the right way.
This week brought the Lakers triumphs against the Bulls, Magic, and Pacers and a loss to the Hawks. Not to mention a sprained ankle to our fearless leader. Here’s what Twitter had to say about all that and more in our favorite Tweets of the Week.
A new, timely, LD2K video is here… because, of course. This one is a spin on the ’42’ trailer — a movie based on the life of Jackie Robinson.
ONE NUMBER WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING.
“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” The Lakers are on the verge of the playoffs after a catastrophic start to a season riddled with injuries, willed to win each night by an indomitable Kobe Bryant. Even with Kobe’s newly sprained ankle, the Lakers will rally to make noise in the post season. The Legend of the Black Mamba grows- when all is said and done, we’ll all be wearing #24.
The Lakers have never swept a back-to-back. Even tonight, given every advantage to take the game, they still couldn’t pull it off in the end. Not even when Atlanta was three injured players short of a full roster. Not even when Kobe Bryant scored 20 points in the third quarter to lift the team from the double-digit hole they’d dug at halftime. Not even when they gained a small lead in the fourth quarter. And not even when Kyle Korver, who’d made 23 free throws in a row, had missed one to keep Atlanta’s lead to just two points with about 17 seconds left in the game and the Lakers had possession.
It just wasn’t meant to be, which is a shame because Utah lost tonight and the Lakers could’ve pulled 1 ½ games ahead of them in the standings. But they started out slow and flat, Bryant couldn’t score, Dwight Howard was limited by early foul trouble and in the end they gave up another winnable game, 92-96.
HIGH POINTS: Kobe Bryant (3rd Quarter) – If there’s one thing we can all count on, it’s that a bad shooting stretch for Kobe Bryant doesn’t intimidate him. Yes, sometimes this can actually be a negative, but in tonight’s game, it was pure positivity in the third. Bryant just couldn’t get it going in the first half. He went 0-6 in the first quarter and 1-8 going into halftime. At that point, he had just three points from one field goal and a 1-2 trip from the free throw line. Come the third quarter, however, Bryant wasted no time. With the Lakers down by 12 points, he just went for it. A driving layup, followed by a fadeaway. After Nash got Howard going with back-to-back field goals, Bryant hit back-to-back jumpers. He scored 20 points in that quarter on 8-16 from the field and 4-4 from the free throw line to help take the lead down to just two points going into the final quarter. Metta World Peace – MWP led the game with his 12 points after the first half, and despite going just 5-12 to get his dozen, he was one of the few Laker bright spots early in the game. He finished with 20 points on 9-19 from the field, eight rebounds, and a pair of assists and steals. Dwight Howard – Howard only played about 15 minutes in the first half because he’d collected two fouls early in the game. Despite only finishing with 10 points, he still managed to grab 16 rebounds, two steals and a block; and in addition altering shots when he could. The Lakers didn’t go to Howard enough. He attempted just nine shots and converted five. Instead they jacked 29 threes and only hit eight. MWP attempted 19, Bryant 33 and Nash shot 14. Howard should have been a greater focus of the offense. The Lakers might’ve seen a different outcome had they opted for higher percentage attempts. Turnovers – Only eight turnovers in the game for the Lakers. If only they’d made use of their possessions.
LOW POINTS: Threeball – 8-29 from behind the arc, 28%. In the fourth quarter, with the Lakers up by four points, MWP, Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake missed consecutive three pointers, and just like that, with the Lakers unable to extend their advantage, Atlanta was able to take back the lead with a couple of made hoops on their end. Bad Start – The Lakers shot just 35% in the first quarter and allowed the Hawks to shoot 55%. Their defense was, well, they barely played any defense. They also got outrebounded in every quarter but the third. Yes, they were able to over huge deficits against New Orleans and Toronto to win in the end, but it can’t be something they think they can survive every time. Bad Finish – They had a chance, with a four-point lead in the fourth quarter, to make up for a badly-played first half. Instead they went 6-25 from the field, 3-12 from three. They scored just 18 points in that final quarter. Kobe Bryant Injury – With 16.9 seconds left, and a chance to tie the game, Bryant rose up from the baseline for a fadeaway jumper, but missed. When he landed, he ran into Dahtay Jones’ foot and hit the ground. He lay there for awhile and then limped to the Laker bench. As Kyle Korver shot free throws, he sat on the sideline arguing with official, Monty McCutcheon. After the game, Bryant’s injury was diagnosed as a sprained ankle and his return is said to be indefinite. This isn’t the first time Bryant has had an incident with Dahtay Jones, who played for the Denver Nuggets in 2009 and tripped Bryant during a game. Intent is not always clear, but there’s a history there that can’t be ignored.
So a loss to Atlanta and an injured Kobe Bryant. Being who he is, he may not be out for long, but the way this season has gone for the Lakers, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise for the team to be hit with another whammy after finally finding some stride. Up next is a challenging one in Indiana. With Bryant out, who will step up and lead this team? That is to be determined.
I have one question for you. How do you like us now? I mean now that we are referred to (at least momentarily) as the 8th seed. I have been a Lakers lover for a long, long time, and I must say it sounds good… and it feels even better.
Now this statement is coming from someone that years ago couldn’t have even imagined uttering a strange statement like that. Afterall, I am accustomed and even spoiled by the success of the Lakers over the years. Since I started following this team all those years ago, I have been privileged to bask in the glorious sunshine of victory. I have even conjured up in my mind the fact that this organization has always resembled that of a royal family. Now with royalty comes a certain sense of entitlement and arrogance.
As Lakers fans, we accept nothing short of division titles, conference championships, and Larry O’Brien trophies. We would never dare to think that in any given season the Lakers would be fighting for playoff seeds like kids fight for the biggest piece of cake or the largest bowl of ice cream. Except this year.
The first thing I want to talk about is my trip into Staples Center on March 3rd. In my humble opinion, this is the game that has fueled the latest run to the playoffs. It’s not just because I was in Sec 106, Row 5, Seat 11. It’s not because Ron Howard was in the house, or because I was wearing my Lakers hat.
Okay, maybe it was because of all those reasons, but the way the Lakers played that particular Sunday afternoon was a more logical explanation. This game had everything I expected AND MORE. Numerous lead changes, clutch shooting, stellar defensive effort, oh, and did I mention Kobe went nuts? I mean at his age, doing what he is doing, at the level he is doing it is simply amazing. When he served Josh Smith that nice round piece of pumpkin pie on the slam dunk, the game winning layup, the Steve Blake steal with the game hanging in the balance. This game had all of that, and free tacos at the end. Yes, that’s right, the Lakers held the Hawks under 100 points in the game.
Sure we dropped a game to the Thunder, but the comeback efforts in the games against the Raptors and the Hornets, were of epic proportion. These are the types of battles won by kings. Not the Sacramento Kings, the kings of the royal family called the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers displayed a will to win in those games, and showed us the pride and integrity we have all come to expect from them. Then the homecoming performance from Dwight Howard last night. Are we finally seeing a glimpse of the guy we thought we were going to see all year long?
The 8 seed. Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? But don’t fret, these Lakers will not be rolling around on the ground looking for tiny morsels of food like a village peasant for long. The 8 seed will soon turn to the 7 seed, maybe even the 6 seed. Then this royal family will ride into the playoffs, and the rest of the Western Conference will take notice. Soon and very soon the guys in purple and gold will grow accustomed to hearing the opposing teams saying,
Well Nation, it has been five weeks as of yesterday that our all star forward went down with a tear to his plantar fascia on his right foot. The initial injury report said he’d be out 6-8 weeks and it’s looking like he’s going to return at the early end of that timetable. According to Kevin Ding Gasol was about 2 weeks from returning four days ago on March 9, this via BleacherReport.com.
The Lakers’ plan is for Gasol to ramp up his running gradually, and barring any setbacks, he should be running on the court next week. The plan does not include him beginning basketball activities yet, however, so he is unlikely to return to game action until at least two weeks passes.
This is great news for the Lakers as I believe Pau’s return could greatly bolster the starting lineup. With Howard playing with a renewed dominance, Kobe throwing
it back to 2000, and an overall electric surge to the Lakers chemistry, a healthy Pau Gasol can only help this Lakers roster. According to the report it appears that Gasol should return on March 25 at Golden State. Definitely a game where the Lakers could use the length of the seven foot Spaniard to combat the likes of David Lee and Andrew Bogut. However that is just an estimate and he could come back sooner or later than that date.
This am in Orlando, more drills on the court. My foot's feeling well with every step of the way, so everyday I'm closer to be back playing.
These tweets are bits of good news from Pau and give fans a glimpse of when he can possibly return to game action. It’s safe to say Pau has been struggling this season under Mike D’Antoni’s style of offense and has had his worst statistical season of his 12 year career. However, the nine previous games before he went down with his injury he had been playing some of the basketball long time fans of Pau had come to expect. Averaging 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in those nine games while shooting 55% from the field. Let’s hope those numbers can continue once he comes back and he can play at the high level he is clearly capable of.
The biggest question though, isn’t when he will come back, but how he will come back. How will he affect the offense? The defense? Will he mesh with D’Antoni’s style of play again, or flounder and end up coming off the bench once again?
I believe Pau won’t be an immediate factor to the team. It’ll take him a bit of time to shake that rust he’s accumulated over the past six weeks and once he rids himself of that he should return to form. The Lakers need Pau to be as great as he can be, they need him to dominate in the low post, grab rebounds and push the opposition out of the paint. If Pau can accomplish that, the Lakers will be a significantly better team for it.
It sounds like Pau is going to return right as the playoff push is in full swing, and his performance should rocket the Los Angeles Lakers into the 6th seed of the Western Conference playoff picture. That’s right, I said it, the 6th seed. Let’s go.
The boos were ever present – when he came out of the tunnel, when he was introduced, when he missed free throws and during a scatter of other moments during the game. The nasty signs swayed back and forth, and the offensive t-shirts danced in the stands. In the midst of a much-anticipated/feared game against his former team, all Dwight Howard could do in this circus of a homecoming was respond the only way he knows how – he smiled.
He smiled and laughed during a pre-game huddle with a group of teammates who have supported him on this awkward visit. He joked with courtside fans and ball boys during deadballs. When the Magic came at him in the paint, he challenged them. When he was constantly fouled, he knocked down his free throws. Before he left the court, he waved at the arena of fans who stayed to either berate him or applaud him. Orlando could swim in their bitterness if they wanted. Howard came back to his old city to win a game and that’s what he and the Lakers did, 106-97.
HIGH POINTS: Dwight Howard – Orlando wanted Howard to fail tonight. They wanted him to be affected by their hostility. Fortunately for the Lakers, he was only focused on one thing and that was having fun in the process of winning. In almost 39 minutes of playing time, Howard had 39 points on 7-13 from the field, 25-39 (!!!) free throws, 16 rebounds, three blocks, a steal and absolutely no turnovers – zero. He played a smart defensive game, committing just three fouls, and he was efficient from the field. But the story of the night were his free throws. He started just 2-9 from the charity stripe and had attempted 19 free throws by halftime, converting just nine. In the second half, Orlando continued to foul Howard, banking on him to miss more than he made, but he punished them right back, going 16-20! Hacking a Howard isn’t that effective when all it does is help him create a free throw rhythm and forces the opposing team to use up their fouls. Maurice Harkless fouled out of the game, and five Magic players had four fouls apiece. 39 ties the NBA record for most free throw attempts in a game, and Howard has surpassed Shaquille O’Neal for most attempts as a Laker. Balance – Again, the Lakers helped each other, with six players scoring in double figures, including MWP who is slowly finding his shot again. He finished with 14 points and a pair of rebounds to go with a pair of steals. Steve Nash had 11 points, as did Kobe Bryant, who also handed out eight assists, grabbed seven rebounds and had two steals. Bench Help – The reserves didn’t contribute much in the first two quarters (just six points), but in the second half, Steve Blake, Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks went to work. They finished the game with a combined 25 points, Jamison had eight rebounds and Blake tied Kobe Bryant for a game-high eight assists. Defense – The Lakers’ defense still isn’t up to par against the most efficient offensive teams in the league, but they are making progress. Tonight, they held the Magic to just 29% shooting in the first quarter and 37% for the first half. For the game, Orlando shot just 39.8% from the field. The Magic also turned the ball over 14 times, which the Lakers converted into 17 points. Add to that, the fact that Orlando is known for their success on runouts, and tonight they were only able to collect four fast break points. Turnovers – Just 10 turnovers for the Lakers , which only led to nine points for Orlando.
LOW POINTS: Hack-A-Howard – There were 64 free throw attempts in the game, 47 were attempted by the Lakers and 39 of those 47 were attempted by Howard. The downside is, of course, game stoppage. There is no flow in a game when every other possession is marred by free throw attempts. The upside for the Lakers, Orlando seemed to take no issue in using up their fouls. Threeball – The Lakers went just 9-25 from behind the arc. Again, they may never shoot 16-32 again, but 25 is a lot of attempts from the perimeter when you’ve got a dominant center inside. Earl Clark – Aside from hitting two three pointers in the third quarter to help the Lakers take back their lead, Clark hasn’t been doing much in the last few games. He had just six points, four rebounds, a steal and one block tonight. Surely he’s due for a big night some time soon.
In the end, the performance of Howard and his new team were all that mattered to him, and that attitude is exactly why the Lakers succeeded in winning this game like they did. Howard didn’t allow the hostile atmosphere to spook him. He allowed it to strengthen him. Tonight’s game against the Magic wasn’t just for Howard to test his tenacity. It was also for his teammates to witness his commitment – to the system and, most importantly, his commitment to the team.
That’s really the only way to look back on what transpired for the Lakers this past week. The Lakers used a 4-1 record and some timely losses from all the teams in front of them (shout out to Milwaukee!) to place themselves squarely in the playoff picture.
This was definitely a week we may all be able to look at in the future and know that this was when the Lakers finally turned their season around for good.
As always, let’s take a look at some of the good, bad and downright ugly of the past week for the Lake Show.
Good – Vino.
This is starting to get ridiculous. Actually it is ridiculous, and is only becoming more and more unfathomable. Heading into last nights game against Orlando, all the Mamba was averaging was 33 points, 9 assists, and 6 boards per on 51% shooting for the week. That was good enough to be named Western Conference Player of the Week, again. We all know that the man is in his 17th NBA season, is 34-years-old, and is supposed to be getting worse and withering away, not getting better and better.
And just when you think you’ve seen it all, that he can’t possibly wow you again, he goes and does this to the Raptors. Seriously, watch all four minutes of that video and enjoy every second, especially that first three, HOW DID HE MAKE THAT SHOT!?!
Oh, that was during the second of consecutive 40+ point, 10+ assist games, becoming the oldest player in NBA history to do that twice, and he did it in back-to-back games. We all need to enjoy what Kobe Bean Bryant is doing right now. I’d call it incredible, but that might not even do him justice right now.
Bad – The First Quarter Against Toronto.
An issue that popped up in three of the five games for the Lakers this week was a total and complete collapse in at least one quarter per game. The first quarter of the Raptors was a great example of that. Toronto, who is a middle of the pack offense at best, averages a whopping 97.8 points per game. They scored more than a third of that in the opening twelve minutes against a prous, plodding Laker defense.
Granted, the Raptors do have newly-acquired Rudy Gay and the streaky DeMar DeRozan, but really 37 points? While the Lakers ultimately came back and won the game in overtime thanks to the Mamba, they spent the last three quarters and overtime catching up from a terrible defensive start against a team they really should have dominated.
Ugly – The Second Quarter Against New Orleans.
If you thought that first against the Raps was bad, take a look at what the Lakers did (or didn’t) do against the Hornets during the second quarter of last weeks game. The Lakers pretty much forgot how to play defense altogether. New Orleans jumped out to a great start, turning a 28-28 tie after one into a blowout at the half. The Hornets shot 13/22 from the field, including four long three’s, en route to a 39 point quarter.
It wasn’t only the Laker defense that was bad during that stretch. The second-unit couldn’t hit a shot to start the quarter, and that coupled with their inability to stop New Orleans from scoring resulted in the Lakers trailing by as many as 25 in the quarter and 19 at the half. Allowing 67 first-half points to a team that averages 94.4 a game is unreal. Well, at least they made up for it in the fourth quarter…
Good – A Furious Fourth-Quarter Rally.
As bad as the second quarter against New Orleans was for the Lakers, the fourth quarter was a total and complete opposite. The Lakers absolutely locked the Hornets down, limiting New Orleans to 4/23 shooting and a whopping 9 points. The soon-to-be Pelicans scored exactly 0 points in the final 6:47 of the game, allowing the Lakers to close it out with a 20-0 run and a huge rally in a 108-102 win.
While the Lakers as a unit played unbelievably in the fourth, there were three guys who really keyed the rally. Jodie Meeks hit four huge 3-pointers that were crucial to the Laker rally. And for the first time all season, we were able to see what the Lakers can do with Kobe controlling the offense and Dwight Howard dominating on defense. Kobe had 15 of his game-high 42 during that 20-0 Laker run, and assisted on many of Meeks big shots in the fourth as well. In fact, Kobe and Jodie (Jobe?) were the only Lakers to hit a field goal in the fourth.
Perhaps the best part of the whole fourth quarter was seeing what Dwight can do on defense when he is dedicated to shutting down the other team. He had a flashback to pre-surgery Dwight when he swatted Robin Lopez on a tying dunk-attempt in the final 30 seconds, and really dominated the quarter defensively. More on Dwight in a bit.
Ugly – Falling Flat in OKC.
First things first, the Lakers showed a lot of heart in this game after falling behind big. Kobe was hurt early but came back to try and push the Lakers to a huge road-win. Los Angeles put in the effort and even got within five points in the fourth quarter, but a Thunder 12-0 run to close out the game made sure that they never got any closer.
While it would have been great to see the Lakers win in OKC, the fact is that this game showed us all a few things. First, the Thunder are a much better team than the Lakers right now, no matter how well LA is playing. There is still a long way to go for the Purple and Gold if they want to truly compete with OKC this season.
Second, the Lakers are still nto a team that has shown they can win on the road against a top-tier opponent. With the way the season has gone, the Lakers are going to have to win at least one road game against a great opponent to win a playoff series, so this has to be a major concern.
Bad – Stopping Opposing PG’s.
Ahh, there’s that problem which never seems to go away for the Lake Show. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before; the Lakers are getting torched by opposing point guards. Yes? Of course you have because this has been an issue for the Lakers since, oh I don’t know, 1996? We knew bringing in Steve Nash would help on offense and hurt on defense, but look at the numbers of the starting point guards the Lakers faced last week:
Sure, Wesbtrook kills everyone, and yeah Vasquez has been doing great passing the ball this season, so those numbers aren’t too bad. Except Lowry has been so bad this year that the Raptors tried to trade him five months after acquiring him. Nate Robinson is a shoot-first, pass-never point guard who racked up eight assists on the Lakers while also being the only Bulls player to score consistently all game.
Those are all pretty bad, but my biggest concern are Westbrook’s numbers. While he is impossible for anyone to realyl stop, he has absolutely murdered the Lakers this season. That’s not a good sign, especially with all roads to the Finals leading through OKC. Raphael Westbrook isn’t a problem that will be going away any time soon.
Ugly- Jodie Meeks D.
Meeks was an integral part of the Laker come back in New Orleans, and he helps stretch the floor which in turn makes life easier for Kobe and Dwight down the stretch.
But have you seen Jodie play defense? Me neither. Unfortunately for Meeks, he’s the guy that teams pick on at crunch time. I mean his defense is so bad I considered making a Joie Meeks joke right here but thought better of it.
Friday night against the Raptors, Toronto kept going to Alan Anderson (I know, me neither.) down the stretch, who scored at will on Meeks. I get Mike D’Antoni wants offense in the game, but when he isn’t hitting 3’s he certainly isn’t contributing on defense. Kobe’s heroics are incredible to watch, but Meeks defense is part of the reason those crazy shots are even neccessary.
Good – Dwight’s Back.
See what I did there?
Heading into his return to Orlando, a lot of people wondered if Dwight would be able to handle the backlash he was about to face. Howard was introduced to a chorus of boo’s louder than anything he’d ever experienced, and we were all curious to see whether he would come out and dominate or fade into the background in the face of adversity. 39 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks later, we have an emphatic answer from Dwight and the hope that the problems that plagued the big man this season are all gone. Howard also tied his own NBA record with 39 free-throw attempts, and set the Lakers record by making 25 for the game, including eight straight to close it out.
Howard also was a force in the other four contests the Lakers had this past week. This was clear on the defensive end of the floor, where Howard is flat-out dominating the paint recently. Many Lakers have taken notice of his improved play, including coach Mike D’Antoni.
Dwight is just feeling better, you can see it all over the place. His back is better, he’s in rhythm, whatever it is, he’s a monster defensively.
Which sums up exactly what the Lakers expected from Howard when they acquired him last summer.
So is Dwight officially back? Well if his past two games are any type of evidence, it seems he is pretty darn close. On Sunday he was especially impressive against Chicago putting up 16 points, 21 boards and 4 blocks going against Joakim Noah. You might have heard some “experts” proclaiming Noah to be the best center in the league right now. Dwight sure looked like he’d heard the chatter, dominating Noah on both ends of the court to put that argument to rest.
After a good week for the Lakers, the team has two more tough road games and a home date remaining this week. They face a revenge-hungry Hawks squad in the second of a back-to-back, then head to Indy to take on the defensive-minded, dangerous Pacers. After the mini-trip, the Lakers return home to face a Kings squad that seems to always give them trouble. By Sunday night, this Laker squad has a chance to really launch themselves up the standings in the West.
The Los Angeles Lakers walk into the Amway Center tonight winners of four out of their last five games and tied with the Utah Jazz currently for the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs race. However, with all due respect to the attention that the story line have received, it fails in comparison to what will take place tonight. ESPN First Take correspondent Stephen A. Smith said Orlando Magic front office personnel Nick Anderson stated in relation:
“Dwight Howard has no idea what he is in for.”
Today’s game against the Magic marks the return of Dwight Howard to his former residence of eight years. After a tumultuous last season in Orlando and demands to go to Brooklyn he returns as the Lakers new centerpiece with playoff aspirations on his mind. Orlando Sentinel writer Brian Schmitz has already named the buzz around his return to the arena the “Dwightmosphere” as all eyes are on Howard and how he will react to the fans, media, and his former teammates. When originally asked the question, via Mike Bresnahan and Eric Pincus of the LA Times, Dwight responded,
“I’ve thought about it. I think it’s going to be crazy,” said Howard, who played his first eight NBA seasons with the Magic. “I don’t know how I’m going to handle it.
“I remember the situation with LeBron [James] when he went to Cleveland for the first time. After the game, those guys were talking about how they were just trying to be there for him because they know how emotional it was. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be very emotional for me. Even just to talk about it just brings back a lot of emotion, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Yet as the day got closer Dwight began to approach the question in all seriousness.
“I’m just looking forward to being back in Orlando. It’s a place where I spent my life up until now,” said Howard, who played his first eight NBA seasons there. “It’s going to be difficult to see things, but I’m happy that I’m in a better place now than I was the beginning of the season.”
Dwight is doing all he can to prepare for the game. He’s even stated that he will “listen to boo tapes” so that he is not too bothered by the reception he will receive. Yet Howard’s teammates have noticed a change in him. Earlier today Steve Nash joked with the media and Dwight about his preparation for the game.
Steve Nash yells out to media: "This is the longest Dwight's worked on his game after practice."
Recently Howard has taken heavy criticism from the Orlando media and his former teammates after he shared his views about his time as a Magic player. Dwight was known as the big fish in a small pond back then and discussed how he took pride among his teammates not being the best.
Howard inadvertently provided the prologue for Tuesday with a recent TV interview in which he said his teams in Orlando were “full of people nobody wanted.”
Howard quickly sought to clarify his comments, saying he merely meant to call his former teammates “underdogs.”
“Everybody overlooked us for the whole time I was there in Orlando and I hated that,” he said.
His former teammates did not take too kindly to those words as they responded hastily. Schmitz reported that Jameer Nelson, drafted the same year as Dwight and a center piece of the Magic franchise said,
“At some point, when are you [Dwight] gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?” Nelson told the Sentinel after Wednesday’s shooatround in Miami.
Glen Davis even chimed in saying he was “shocked” by his friend’s quote:
Davis responded: “I’m really, really shocked. You know, amazed how he’s approaching this. I would think [it’d be best for] him to focus on his team and what he’s doing. You know, I’m going to let Dwight be Dwight. Everybody sees what he’s going through and how he’s feeling. I’m an Orlando Magic, and I love my guys that I play with, and that’s what I focus on. So, you let his comments be his comments, but his comments speak for itself.”
“Just go out there and bust their [rear]. Show them what they’re missing. Save the emotional [stuff] for when you retire. Please”
The Orlando Magic are towards the depths of the eastern conference with a record of 18-46 and no real playoff hope. This game has been circled on their calendar all season long as this is the closest to the “playoff atmosphere” as they will get. The Magic have no true NBA star but have a very balanced offensive attack as four of their starters average double digit numbers.
With the hype surrounding the game the Lakers need to stay focused and take care of business. The playoffs are already looming and having confirmed that they are “scoreboard watching” a loss to Orlando will let the air out of the team and only cause for a tougher fight for the eight playoff seed. The Lakers have an easier schedule ahead of them in comparison to the Jazz, who own the tiebreaker between the teams. Post Orlando, they face a majority of opponents whom are below .500 while the Jazz must face a number of the NBA’s elite. Outside of Utah, the Lakers are also battling with the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are 1 game ahead of both teams for the seventh seed in the playoffs and also face an easier schedule while trying to retain their position.
Dwight Howard can assert his dominance as he will be matched up against second year player Nikola Vucevic for majority of the night. It’s been speculated and widely assumed that he will receive a lot of early touches to get into a good rhythm offensively. There’s no telling how Dwight will react once the game begins. Regardless of the outcome, Dwight is a Laker and will have to put all the baggage behind him.
“All that stuff is over with now,” Howard said. “Today is a new day. Whatever happened in the past, I”m going to leave it behind me. Like I said, I have nothing but love for the fans here. They treated me well. It didn’t end right. It didn’t end the way we all wanted it to end, but I’m in a better place and everybody has to move on.”
The NBA world isn’t just about what you do on the court. We scoured the web for Lakers-related quotations to provide you with the 10 best quotes from the past seven days:
I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole NBA career. I’ve put in a lot of work in my career. For people to notice that I can play, and to get my teammates’ and coaches’ trust and for (General Manager) Mitch Kupchak to (notice) … it’s great. It’s all I ever wanted, just a role on this team, which I got, and I think I’m doing a good job of providing energy, guarding the opponent’s best player and rebounding.
In my mind [there is a plan], but it never works out, so we’ll see how that goes. You can’t predict anything. When he comes back, obviously he’ll be a big part of what we do and getting back to the level that he was at when he got hurt. If he does that, he’s going to help a heck of a lot.
Some guys look at my stats and they don’t see extra defensive player of the years and extra All-Stars because I’ve been in trouble my whole career. So sometimes I lead by example and make big shots and gain these guys’ respect. Everybody leads in different ways. We have a lot of different leaders.
Looking back on it, I could have sat out the whole season until now and starting playing now, but I just felt like we had such a great opportunity. Some of these guys, their windows for winning is very small and I just wanted to get back and try to do whatever I can to help this team, knowing that I wasn’t in great shape. My body wasn’t all the way there yet.
He’s just a determined guy. He’s got a big heart, he’s playing hard, so, he’s unbelievable. I would like to have the luxury of being able to sit him more. You know what, I say that, but he won’t let me do it. He wants to play and he’s going to play so he’ll battle through it. It doesn’t matter.
Mike D’Antoni on Kobe Bryant, after the Lakers win over the Raptors, via NBA.com
We’re certainly much tougher now than we were at the beginning of the season. Adversity does that. It can do one of two things. It can break you; if you have a weaker mind it will break you. But, if you decide to let it build you up, make you stronger, that’s what happens. Games like this really strengthen the bond between us players. And that’s really what the playoffs are about: When you have adversity, it’s about who’s going to stick together and who’s not going to break. Even though we played a team that has not the best record in the world, I think this type of win really strengthens our bond.
If you come from a situation where you got a lot of touches to where you’re not getting a lot of touches, of course it’s a shock. But there are still ways that I can control the game, and I can’t allow that situation to allow me to check out of a game. For what I can bring to any team, it doesn’t show up on a stat sheet. I can control a game by scoring five points or 30 points. It’s about how you affect the game on both ends. Defense and rebounding comes easy. But in order for us to succeed, I have to evolve offensively. And as a big, when we are fed, when we get those shots, when we get going, it just changes everything about us. It makes us tick when we get a couple shots early in the game, when we get a couple dunks. I’m blocking more shots, I’m rebounding, and I feel like I’m a part of what’s going on.
The Lakers finish their week going 3-1 losing only to the Oklahoma City Thunder. This week put the Lakers back into playoff contention at the 8th seed and the Lakers found themselves 2 games above the .500 mark for the first time this season. Here are this week’s top to bottom:
3. Steve Nash
Nash recently said his biggest adjustment this year was having to transition his game from shooting off the dribble to becoming a spot up shooter, with Kobe stealing all of Nash’s assists he has only averaged 2.75 assists a game this week but with the drop in his passing he has seen a rise in his scoring, Nash averaged 15.75 points which is up from his season average of 12.4. Nash also hit the game tying 3 pointer that helped the Lakers defeat the Raptors in overtime.
2. Dwight Howard
This is how we expected Dwight Howard to play. Dwight found his game this week and played alongside Kobe in the way we all wished he played since the beginning of the year. In the comeback games against New Orleans, Dwight took charge and lead the team in defense where they were able to hold New Orleans to just 9 fourth quarter points. He also had a victory sealing block against Robin Lopez with about 30 seconds left to play. Dwight averaged 16.5 points and and 16.25 rebounds this week.
1. Kobe Bryant
Is it even a question who tops the top list? Vino took over games against New Orleans and Toronto and forced this team to win. Kobe was named the Western Conference Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks and averaged 33 points, 8.75 assists, and 5.75 rebounds in 4 games this week. He also became the first person to score 40+ points and have 10+ assists in consecutive games since Micheal Jordan did it in the 80’s.
3. Metta World Peace
Just like Kobe on my top list, MWP remains on my bottom list. While Metta had a good game against the Bulls with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocks… he also went 0-6 from beyond the arch that game and finished the week shooting only 37% from the field. Metta also continues to make poor decisions on offense holding the ball for far too long or making a poor decision taking a shot.
2. Antawn Jamison
After two straight weeks being part of the top list, Jamison saw a decrease in minutes and in turn a decrease in productivity. The sixth man averaged only 7.25 points and 5.25 rebounds in about 20 minutes a game.
1. Earl Clark
Earl Clark topped my bottom list last week and he remains in the same spot. Clark averaged only 7.75 points and 5 rebounds while shooting only 32% from the field this past week. He also lead the team in the minus category in three of this week’s four games. Has Eazy reached his limit or is he just in a slump?
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.