Friday, November 28, 2014
Blog Page 66

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

Darren Collinson threw a pass and Dwight Howard jumped in, intercepted the ball and threw it over his head as he fell into the first row of seats at American Airlines Center. It resulted in a tip-in by Darius Morris, which gave the Lakers a 100-71 lead halfway through the fourth quarter. Up by almost 30-points and still playing defense – that is how you play to win.

After losing the last two games (both of which they could have and should have won), the Lakers came out with a vengeance, a plan of attack and a whole of energy in Dallas; qualities they felt short on providing in the last couple of contests. Add to that a collective team effort, and there’s no way the Lakers were going to give up this game. The Mavericks were simply outrebounded, outhustled, outsmarted and outplayed. If the final score isn’t the most impressive indication of this win, then Mike D’Antoni emptying his bench definitely is.

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Courtesy Complex Sports

He’s only three games into his job and Mike D’Antoni is already making drastic coaching choices.

In last night’s loss to the Grizzlies, D’Antoni chose to bench Pau Gasol during the closing minutes of a tight game against the Grizzlies. Gasol’s replacement was last night’s star sub Antawn Jamison. The Lakers would ultimately lose to Memphis by a score of 106-98.

Asked about his decision to bench one of his all-stars, D’Antoni gave and earnest yet blunt response:

“I was thinking ‘Boy, I’d like to win this game.’ That’s the reason.”

Gasol’s game has been sub par to his standards as of late. In last night loss, Pau tallied up six points, one assist and four rebounds.

Gasol reponded to the coaching choice:

“It’s a coaching decision, and I respect it. Antawn was playing well, and then [D’Antoni] wanted to go with a smaller lineup and catch up.”

He went on to talk about his recent struggles and offered his input on what it will take to help his game.

“All my looks are jump shots,” he said. “I would like to see something closer to the basket and not just rolling, especially when Dwight is there. But we’ll see. We’ll figure it out. We’re just starting, pretty much.”

 

 

 

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Image Credit: Lance Murphey | Associated Press
Image Credit: Lance Murphey | Associated Press

Finally.

This must be the collective sentiment of the Lakers’ fan base as a whole. Since joining the Lakers this past off-season, Antawn Jamison has been nothing short of disappointing so far this season. However, last night in the Lakers’ 106-98 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Jamison finally broke out of his slump and contributed an efficient night off the bench.

With starting power forward Pau Gasol struggling from the field (6 points on 3/8 shooting), coach Mike D’Antoni turned to Jamison off the bench. Jamison, a career 19 points per game scorer, responded for the first time this season with an efficient game on both ends of the floor. Despite fouling out towards the end of the game, Jamison finished the night with 16 points on 7/11 shooting, 7 rebounds (5 offensive) and a blocked shot. Although the 16 points were a welcomed sight, his 5 offensive rebounds were even more impressive.

Playing Jamison at the power forward position for most of the night, with Gasol on the bench, was certainly an effective call by D’Antoni. Jamison looked much more aggressive at power forward than he has in the back up small forward role. With Gasol struggling of late, don’t be surprised if you see Jamison playing more at the back up power forward position. His ability to stretch the floor (2/5 from 3-point range last night) and play at a faster tempo will be key in D’Antoni’s “run and fun” offensive scheme.

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Photo by The Commercial Appeal/ Nikki Boertman

The Lakers fell to 6 – 7 on the season as the Memphis Grizzlies bullied the Lakers all night inside the paint. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol combined for 8 rebounds in comparison to the 17 boards that Z-Bo and Pau’s little brother, Marc, got.

While this might be the only team in the NBA that can boast a better down low combination than the Lakers, it was eye opening for Lakers fans to see just how ineffective our “biggest strength” was against some competition. The Grizzlies had 40 points in the paint while the Lakers mustered up only 24. Also, way too many turnovers once again as the Lakers coughed up the ball 18 times.

In Pau’s defense, he didn’t play much in the second half so his rebounding total was a little skewed, but Dwight did not seem like his usual self against Marc Gasol. Here’s an eye-opening stat for you: Only three Lakers players shot free throws last night. Either our players were settling for jump shots, afraid to drive it in against the Memphis bigs, or Memphis just played some flat out spectacular defense.

Let’s hope this loss ignites the Lakers tonight against the Mavericks because Rick Carlisle will definitely have his team prepared for a fight Saturday night in Dallas. Regardless, here are the grades for last night’s L:

 

Darius Morris: B+

Darius played a great game on both ends of the floor against a strong point guard in Mike Conley. He seems to thrive in the open court on transition, it’s just a shame that none of his teammates run down the court with him.

 

Kobe Bryant: B

Kobe shot us back into this game, but he also shot us out of this game. This is the first game of the season that Kobe was forcing things, but you can’t blame him when his partner in crime, Pau, was terrified of going down low once again. I think Kobe will be most appreciative when Steve Nash comes back and is able to make things much easier for him. He is the Mamba, but it doesn’t make sense to have your 17th year shooting guard carry the team for 82 games AND the post-season.

 

Metta World Peace: B+

He played the most minutes of any Laker and he also, once again, played the hardest. Metta had the tough task of guarding Rudy Gay, a guy that releases his jump shot nearly 11 feet in the air. While Metta didn’t shut Gay down, he did do a good job of containing him throughout the game while still making him work on the defensive end as well.

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Photo Courtesy of Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

It might be improper to quote him in light of recent events, but Phil Jackson once said that there’s a lot more to winning championships than just talent and hard work. He said there’s a bit of luck that comes with it as well. In short, various circumstances have to intersect for a team to win it all in the end. Things like injuries, especially for regular rotation players, for example, provide a great deal of influence on a team’s performance. On the one hand, it can open up opportunities for little-used players to step up and contribute, perhaps earning them playing time even when injuries to teammates have subsided. On the other hand, injuries to major players can halt a team’s progress with the uncertainty and unfamiliarity that follows.

This season, still early by all accounts (just 12 games in), the Lakers have been faced with some negative situations (fired head coach, “shunned” hall-of-famer/championship proven coach, injuries to their primary point guards), but they’ve also encountered many positive circumstances (efficient play from Kobe Bryant, the rise of Metta World Peace, the 1-2 punch of big men, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, a new and respected head coach). For reasons known only by a higher power, the Lakers haven’t been able to align their positive and negative circumstances to produce a consistent string of efficiency.

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Photo Credit: LA Times

When LA traded for Steve Nash this offseason, no one expected that at this point he’d have played most of his minutes on the bench in a suit.  Nash fractured his fibula in the road game against the Portland Trailblazers on October 31.  Initially, this “small non-displaced” leg fracture was but a minor injury to keep Nash out about a week or two.  Well here it is Thanksgiving day and Nash is still out with this injury and Nash has now been downgraded to “out indefinitely”.  The Examiner claims Nash will be out until at least mid-December.  That’s an awfully long time for a Lakers team going through very drastic changes right now.

While trying to manage the PG position without the All-Star playmaker, LA has had mixed results.  Steve Blake and Darius Morris are just not of the caliber that Nash is, and therefore cannot fill the gap that Nash leaves behind.

With the Lakers recently hiring Head Coach Mike D’Antoni, Steve Nash’s presence is missed even more.  Nash was coached by D’Antoni back in Phoenix, and now that they can be reunited again, fans expect the Lakers to truly be Showtime with Nash at the helm.  Until Nash returns it is yet to be seen how the Lakers will play to their true potential, and fans everywhere hope he returns soon.

Lakers reporter Mike Trudell tweeted this regarding Nash’s injury: [blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/LakersReporter/status/271072435019857920″]

With Nash still on the bench with his injury, will the Lakers right the ship and play at the level they’re expected? Or will they continue to see struggles and truly miss Nash’s playmaking ability?  Give me your thoughts on Twitter!

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Photo: Cary Edmondson, US Presswire

The Lakers were flat out dominated in the second half of last night’s brutal loss to the Sacramento Kings, with a final score of 113 – 97. Our biggest strength is supposed to be our two big men down low, but they looked putrid against the Kings’ combo of Cousins, Thompson, and Hayes.

The Lakers looked lethargic, tired, and unmotivated against the worst team in the Western Conference. As usual, the only two starters that came to play and gave maximum effort throughout the game were Kobe and Metta. The Lakers’ second unit, aside from a nice Jodie Meeks 4th quarter, played like garbage and because of their continued poor play the starters are playing just under 40 minutes a game.

Things will not get easier for Gasol and Howard as they face arguably the best down low tag-team in the NBA when the Lakers travel to Memphis Friday night and face Marc Gasol and Z-Bo a.k.a. Zach Randolph. Friday night will be a true test as to how much this Lakers team really wants to be great against an opponent in the Grizzlies that has been winning statement games all season and looks to make another one against the Lakers. Regardless, here are the grades for last night’s loss:

Darius Morris: C-

Way too many turnovers and not nearly enough assists. Morris showed why the Lakers desperately need the Steve’s back by not showing poise when needed. If the pressure of playing in Arco Arena got to him, wait until he sees what it’s like in OKC, San Antonio, and Boston.

Kobe Bryant: A-

One of the only Lakers players to show up and give maximum effort all night. 7 turnovers will not get it done, but what do you expect when the guy has to carry his lazy team the entire second half? Games like this really emphasize the importance of having a true point guard floor general like Steve Nash, or even Steve Blake for that matter. Kobe showed why he’s a true champion tonight, because he has heart and refuses to be punked by anybody, unlike some of the other Lakers players.

Metta World Peace: B

Metta showed up as usual tonight, but it just wasn’t enough. On a night where half your team seems like they don’t give a damn, it’s nice to know that you will always have a guy like Metta who refuses to look sorry.

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Photo courtesy of Ezra Shaw, Getty Images

Just when you thought it was safe to get excited…the Lakers lose to a sub-.500 team. It’s a familiar scenario, yes? No matter who the Lakers are coached by and no matter who is on the roster, when the time comes to play a bottom-dwelling team, that team somehow finds their inner beast and makes it a point to play better, try harder. The Sacramento Kings were 3-7 going into tonight’s game. The Lakers defeated them in the last meeting (in which they played without a suspended Demarcus Cousins), but tonight they exacted some revenge, and the Lakers have only themselves to blame.

It doesn’t bode well for the visitors when the their two big men follow a 40-point and 26-rebound effort with a night in which they had no positive impact on a game. It’s also not a good sign when Kobe Bryant must shoulder the bulk of the scoring (more than one-third). And when the turnovers rear their ugly heads, it’s hard to do anything good.

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Courtesy of Getty Images

It is common knowledge that every team in the league plays their best against the Los Angeles Lakers. On the other hand, it would also make common sense that you would score more points in the paint when you have Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in your starting lineup. In the Bizarro world that the Lakers play in when they face lesser teams, it seems that they always find a way to work away from their strengths and play to their weaknesses.

 

 

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Photo Credit: Kirby Lee, US Presswire

The Los Angeles Lakers are now doing what we all expected at the start of the season: winning.

Mike Brown is gone, and Phil Jackson is not coming. D’Antoni may be limping, but the Lakers are winning. The last few games in the post Mike Brown-era have the Lakers looking like a totally different team…

Correction: the starters looks like a totally different team. As for the bench, they have to step up in order for the Lakers to have championship success this season. Along with Jordan Hill, the starting five is playing masterfully, but with four of the five starters (with Steve Nash starting) being up there in age, they cannot carry the load alone the entire season. At this pace, along with the ineffectiveness of Antwan Jamison, Jodie Meeks, and Steve Blake in particular, the starters are risking running out of gas by season’s end.

In last night’s win against the Brooklyn Nets, the bench mustered up a total of 10 points. Yep, 10 points. The starters accounted for the other 85 points. In Sunday’s night win over the Rockets, the bench wasn’t much better (25 total points). The Lakers need their bench to be consistent… but not consistently bad, like they have been.

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Getty Images

Make no mistake about it, this was a big win for the Lakers last night as they improved their record to 6-5 while handing the Brooklyn Nets only their 3rd loss on the year.

With Coach D making his sideline debut, the Lakers came out with a ton of energy to start the game and even had a 10-0 lead at one point. That’s when Brooklyn started to warm up, show some fight, and eventually turn this into a tough, physical contest.

This was one of those games that will help propel this Lakers team down the road because the game was tight in the 4th quarter as the Lakers had to claw their way back with great execution and stingy defense. Let’s see how this nice victory will translate into the upcoming road trip with games in Sacramento, Memphis, and Dallas. Regardless, here are the grades for last night’s W:

Darius Morris: B-

Guarding Deron Williams is no easy task for any point guard, let alone a second year 3rd string point guard. Interesting to see how much playing time Darius will get once the Steve’s return after seeing how well he plays in transition.

Kobe Bryant: A-

Did anyone really think Kobe would miss any of those last minute free throws, especially after Gerald Wallace made the fatal mistake of trash talking the Mamba? Teams can’t employ the “Hack-a-Dwight” in the last two minutes of a game so it’s nice to have someone like Kobe, and Nash when he returns, that are almost automatic in those late game pressure situations.

Metta World Peace: A-

Great game on both sides of the floor for Metta as he was everywhere tonight (even rubbing Avery Johnson’s head) when it came to hustling for loose balls, something this team missed dearly from him last year as he was injured/out of shape. If Metta continues to hit his 3’s like he has been, this team will thrive when Nash returns.

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Let’s stop skirting around the issue, & address the big purple and gold clad elephant in the room shall we? With Christmas right around the corner, & the jewelry store commercials coming at us faster than the Wizards are losing games, it’s time to talk turkey. Not the kind we will be eating on Thursday, but cold hard factoids about the Lakers.

As I write this, we are staring at a .500 team. One that has played the majority of their games at home I might add. Generally that means a team is average, at best. But we at Laker Nation know better than that. This is not an average collection of talent. There are several franchises in the league you can say that about, but not our Lakers. So what gets these guys to the finals this year? It surely can’t be the win one lose one theory. That rarely works. They squeaked by the Nets last night, but how about reeling off some quality wins on the road? That would be what I would call a good start. Consistency is a trait. We need to see some of it over the next month or so.

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Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

When the Lakers started with a 10-0 advantage, the assumption for another high-scoring contest was a safe one…until the Brooklyn Nets came out of a timeout with an 8-0 run. There was no mistaking at that point that tonight was the Lakers’ first real test under Mike D’Antoni’s guidance.

Waving to the Staples Center crowd as he was introduced for the first time as the Lakers’ head coach, D’Antoni limped slightly, but commanded thoroughly. He paced the sidelines when necessary, and called out to his players on the floor occasionally. Asked in the post-game presser if he felt any differently actually coaching out on the court, he replied, “I’ve felt differently for two weeks now.” D’Antoni was ready to coach his new team, and his team was ready to be coached by him – that much was crystal clear tonight.

With a 6-2 record, the Nets are no longer the NBA laughing stock (shoutout to the winless Washington Wizards). They are the sixth best defensive team in the league (allowing just 92.5 ppg), led by a premier floor general in Deron Williams, newly acquired scorer, Joe Johnson, and a couple of other players who habitually make things hard for the purple and gold; namely Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez.

With 16 ties and 12 lead changes, this game would not and could not be won with offensive weapons alone, especially where free throws are concerned. Tonight the Lakers needed to exercise their defensive acumen and, in the waning minutes of the game, that made all the difference.

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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.