Thursday, November 27, 2014
Blog Page 9

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Image: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

This morning on SportsCenter, ESPN LA’s Dave McMenamin reported that the Lakers are leaning ‘towards firing’ head coach Mike D’Antoni at the conclusion of the season.

Although it has been reported that the Lakers were leaning ‘towards keeping’ D’Antoni, McMenamin said his sources have told him otherwise and that the Lakers will not pick up the final year of his contract.

While not a complete shock, as the Lakers are currently tied for the most losses in Los Angeles Lakers history with 52, the fear amongst the Lakers’ fan base is that the team would ultimately bring back D’Antoni for the final year of his contract.

If what McMenamin says to be true, it would be the first step in getting out from under the dark cloud that has hovered over the team the last two seasons.

With just five games left in the season, this situation should be resolved fairly quickly, even as soon as the day after the season concludes for the Lakers. With exit interviews coming earlier this season and the draft lottery in May, a coaching decision should come before the team finds out where they will pick in June’s NBA Draft.

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April 6, 2014 — 12:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ABC
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers (25-51) take on the Clippers (54-23) in front of a nationally televised audience on ABC today. Yes, in case basketball fans have been stuck a cave for the past few season, the team record shows accuracy; the Clippers now currently sit in the playoff position while the Lakers seek to rebuild.

One would hope that the Lakers will not play as bad as they did during their last meeting vs. Clippers when they lost by 47 points.

Nick Young and Jodie Meeks must shoot the ball well while they are on the court for the Lakers to even have an opportunity to stay within striking distance. Without the ability to run their offense through C Pau Gasol due to his illness, the offense will definitely run through these two players who have enjoyed very successful individual numbers this season.

For basketball, today might be the game PG Steve Nash passes current Warriors Head Coach Mark Jackson for 3rd place in all-time assist leaders. A future 1st ballot hall-of-fame basketball star, Nash only needs 5 more assists to pass Jackson’s mark of 10,334 assists.

Clippers’ PF Blake Griffin will seek opportunities to wreak havoc tonight using his improved all-around post game. Griffin, scoring a career high 24.1 PPG this season, has propelled the Clippers into the 3rd seed in the Western Conference and seek to catch Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2nd seed. Griffin clearly would have won the January MVP award if it existed as he matured and became a team leader during PG Chris Paul‘s absence due to injury.

Projected Starters

PGChris Paul / Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Clippers]

SG – Darren Collison / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Lakers]

SF – Matt Barnes Kent Bazemore [Advantage: Clippers]

PFBlake Griffin / Ryan Kelly [Advantage: Clippers]

CDeAndre Jordan / Jordan Hill [Advantage: Clippers]

Notable Bench Players

Clippers: F Jared Dudley, G JJ Redick, F Glen Davis 

Lakers: PG Steve Nash, C Robert Sacre, G/F Nick Young

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Clippers: Out-G Jamal Crawford, Out-F Danny Granger, Probable-PF Blake Griffin

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G Xavier Henry,  Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-C Chris Kaman, GTD-PG Steve Nash,

Bottom Line

This seems to be a huge mismatch on paper that was scheduled on ABC due to the assumption that SG Kobe Bryant will be fully healthy at this point of this season. The Clippers seek to prepare for the playoffs, while the Lakers seek to prepare for the lottery. The only chance for the Lakers to win tonight is to play absolutely perfect defensively and hit a lot of their three-point shots. Even if they do that, difficulties still exist for the Lakers to come away with an upset due to the lack of talent compared to the Clippers.

Prediction

Clippers: 121-106

Associated Press

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 April 6-12, over their 66-year history.

April 6, 2003

Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning shot with 28.6 seconds left in overtime to lift the Lakers over the Phoenix Suns 115-113 in overtime at the STAPLES Center. Bryant also hit the game-tying shot with 14.2 seconds left in regulation. He finished with 26 points and eight rebounds for the three-time defending NBA champions. With the victory, Los Angeles clinched a spot in the 2003 NBA playoffs.

April 6, 2007

Kobe Bryant’s 31 second half points lifted the Lakers to a come-from-behind win against the Seattle SuperSonics, 112-109. Bryant finished with 46 points in this crucial victory for the Lakers in their playoff push, as he reached the 40-point mark for the 16th time that season. Los Angeles got 33 points from its bench, including 11 from Brian Cook and 10 from Ronny Turiaf. The Lakers would eventually make the playoffs as the seventh seed in the Western Conference.

NBAE Photos/NBAE/Getty Images
NBAE Photos/NBAE/Getty Images

April 12, 1954

The Minneapolis Lakers won the first three-peat in NBA history after defeating the Syracuse Nationals 87-80 in Game Seven of the 1954 NBA Finals. George Mikan led the Lakers to their fifth NBA title in six years after averaging 19.4 points per game and 13.2 rebounds per game in the playoffs. Mikan would retire at the end of the of the 1954 season, only to return for 37 games in 1956 before hanging up his sneakers for good.

April 10, 1962

With three seconds left in Game Three of the 1962 NBA Finals against the Celtics, Jerry West stole Sam Jones’ inbounds pass at midcourt and raced to the basket for the game-winning layup to lift the Lakers over Boston 117-115. Although Los Angeles would eventually lose the NBA Finals in seven games, West became the only player in NBA history to win the Finals MVP award on the losing team.

April 11, 1960

The Minneapolis Lakers selected Jerry West as the second overall pick in the 1960 NBA Draft. West would go on to make the All-Star team in each of his 14 NBA seasons, all spent with the Lakers. His lone NBA championship as a player was won in 1972.

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Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

So much for being player-haters, as Nick Young wanted he and his teammates to be – spoilers for playoff-bound teams. The Mavericks won last night against the Clippers and after tonight, are two-for-two on their Staples back-to-back.

The game can be simply analyzed by the following: The Mavericks do everything that winning teams do – share the ball, rebound, defend and score in the easiest ways possible. The Lakers, on the other hand, don’t. They share the ball, true, but they are lackluster rebounders, absent-minded/careless/apathetic defenders and they continue to score from spots that don’t always yield a higher percentage of scoring. It’s really that simple.

The Lakers managed to stay competitive with Dallas for three quarters, but in the final 12 minutes, the Mavericks went in for the kill, outscoring the Lakers 25-17; the Lakers clearly not prepared to face it and they lost 107-95.

HIGH POINTS
Jodie Meeks – Undoubtedly one of the brightest, if not the brightest spot in this waste of a Laker season has been Meeks. His effort is exactly the same from one game to the next, which is evident in the regularity of his production. Tonight he led the team with 25 points on 10-17 from the field, 4-10 from three and he was responsible for two of the Lakers’ 10 steals of the night.
Some Help – Jordan Hill didn’t have a career night like he did a few games ago, but he did manage a double-double with his 14 points on 5-10 shooting and 10 rebounds, four on the offensive glass. He also had a pair of blocks. Kent Bazemore chipped in 13 points and Nick Young added 14 points of his own.
Fast Break Points – The home team outscored Dallas 21-4 on the break. When they did manage to keep the Mavericks from grabbing an offensive rebound (of which they got 15), the Lakers were off and running for a dunk or layup.

LOW POINTS
Points In the Paint Allowed – The Mavericks, like so many of the Lakers’ opponents this season, were given free range in the paint; unguarded, uncontested, open season in the paint. Dallas went for 64 points in there – lobs, dunks, layins – you name it, they scored by doing it. It also didn’t help that Dirk Nowitzki poured in 27 points and Brandon Wright added 23 of his own.
Threeball – The majority of Laker games have been decided by this stat – the three. In games where the Lakers are hot from behind the arc, they manage to keep the contests close and have, on occasions, won because of it. But then they have nights like tonight, where they shot just 7-28 from downtown. They shot 51% from two-point range, but only 25% from three. With Dallas shooting just 5-21 themselves, the Lakers could have taken advantage had they had more luck from the longball.
Rebounds – There was just no excuse for the Lakers to allow the Mavericks to outrebound them 52-38. Hill’s 10 boards along with Wesley Johnson’s 11 accounted for just over half the boards. Where were the other Lakers’ on the glass?

Steve Nash played 18:50 minutes tonight, finishing with just four points, but handed out seven assists. The first time he checked in, the crowd applauded in support. He’s the perfect player to signify this Lakers season – hobbled, still fighting, but can’t help continually falling short.

Box Score

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April 4, 2014 — 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 return home tonight to face off vs. a Dallas Mavericks team who had a very impressive victory vs. Clippers last night in their first of two games at Staples Center.

PF Dirk Nowitzki has regained his old form after having a very poor season last year. Nowitzki, who has averaged 21.6 PPG, and 6.2 RPG, led the Mavericks last night by scoring 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to gain a crucial victory to stay alive in the playoff chase.

With PG Jose Calderon, SG Monta Ellis, and SG Vince Carter having the ability to drive to the basket and create their own shots, the Lakers have to make sure they stayed focused on the defensive end.

Meanwhile, the Lakers seem to always be short handed throughout the entire season. As this season winds down, more players will be sidelined.

C Pau Gasol and G Xavier Henry might be sidelined for the rest of this season due to Vertigo illness and a fractured wrist respectively.

Without Gasol available, C Chris Kaman and PF Jordan Hill will be counted on to fill in Gasol’s minutes.

Whenever PG Steve Nash cannot play due to his nerve issues, G Marshon Brooks might finally get some playing time at the point guard position since PG Kendall Marshall will be the only healthy point guard moving forward.

Projected Starters

PG – Jose Calderon Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Mavericks]

SG – Monta EllisJodie Meeks [Advantage: Mavericks]

SF – Shawn Marion Kent Bazemore [Advantage: Mavericks]

PF – Dirk Nowitzki Jordan Hill [Advantage: Mavericks]

C – Samuel Dalembert Chris Kaman [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Mavericks: G Vince Carter, F Brandon Wright, F Jae Crowder, PG Devin Harris

Lakers:  F Nick Young, C Robert Sacre, F Ryan Kelly, PG Steve Nash, F Wesley Johnson

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Mavericks: Out-G Gal Mekel 

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Probable-PG Steve Nash, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar , Out-C Pau Gasol

Bottom Line

The Lakers can play inspired basketball tonight knowing that they can spoil the chances of one of their Western Conference foes from making the playoffs. However, they are outmatched talent-wise, so they have got to play very well on both ends of the floor, especially shooting the ball well and boxing out their players to grab rebounds.

Prediction

Mavericks: 110-98

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Image: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

According to the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan, Pau Gasol and Xavier Henry could both miss the remainder of the season as they continue to battle the injury bug that has plagued not only them, but the entire team this year.

With seven games remaining, it is very realistic that both players could be done for the season and may have even played their last game in the purple and gold, most notably Gasol:

The team is leaning toward sitting him for its final seven games while he recovers from a severe recurrence of vertigo.  He won’t play Friday against Dallas after dizziness kept him confined at the team hotel Wednesday while the Lakers played Sacramento. He flew back on the team charter that night after missing a fifth game because of the illness.

Gasol has experienced a rough couple of seasons under coach Mike D’Antoni, who has failed to properly utilize the skill set of Gasol, while also trading barbs at one another through the media.  The 33-year old Gasol is set to become a free agent this summer and may look to finish his career elsewhere if D’Antoni remains the Lakers head coach.

Gasol is averaging 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds in 31.4 minutes a game this season.

Meanwhile, Henry continues to fight through multiple injuries and from the sound of things, his season is over:

Xavier Henry is not expected to return this season after being slowed by wrist and knee injuries. He averaged 10 points in 43 games.

Earlier this season, Henry suffered a right knee injury which caused the guard to miss two months of action.  He returned in early March, but tore ligaments in his left wrist shortly after, adding to his woes.  In four seasons, Henry has yet to play in more than 50 games due to injuries.

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Photo courtesy of Jose Luis Villegas, Getty Images

50 losses.

Let that sink in for just a moment.

The Lakers have lost a fiftieth time in 75 games. 25-50 is their record as of today – how utterly depressing is that?

Not even the Sacramento Kings, with the seventh worst record in the league (right above the Lakers) don’t have 50 losses yet, and they avoided another one by avoiding a series sweep and winning 107-102.

HIGH POINTS
Jordan Hill – Hill didn’t shoot at a high clip tonight (just 5-15 from the field), but he still managed 18 points by hitting 8-10 free throws. Add to that 15 rebounds and four blocks and he’s got another double-double.
Jodie Meeks – Continuing his season-long of production, Meeks put in 21 points on 8-15 tonight. He only converted 2-6 from downtown, but he found other spots from which to score.
Ball Movement – The Lakers handed out 26 assists on 37 made field goals, compared to Sacramento’s 16 dimes in 42 shot attempts. They really did a good job of moving the ball, committing just 10 turnovers for the game, but they missed so many shots, only hitting 37 of their 96 attempts. Kendall Marshall led the game with his 10 assists.
Fast Break Points – 32-11 – the Lakers were on the run tonight; off to the races when the opportunity arose. In one sequence, the Kings turned the ball over, Marshall heaved it down the court to Wesley Johnson, who passed it on to a streaking Ryan Kelly, who finished with a dunk.
Threeball – The Lakers hit 12 of their 28 attempts to score from downtown, led by Nick Young’s 4-8.
Rebounds – 52-47 advantage on the glass,

LOW POINTS
Offense – The Lakers’ best shooting percentage came in the third when they went 46% from the field. In the first, send and fourth quarters, however, they went 38%, 33% and 39%.
Late-Game Error – With under a minute left in the game and down by just three points, the Lakers gained possession after a missed jumper by Travis Outlaw. They had an entire possession to tie or cut the lead. Kent Bazemore, having just checked into the game (probably for defensive purposes), immediately sent a floating layup flying to the hoop and missed. Demarcus Cousins got the rebound, passed it on to Ray McCallum, who was fouled. Game over.

The Kings avoided getting swept by the Lakers, and the have only seven more games left in this long, disappointing season.

Box Score

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Image Credit: Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are set to take on the Sacramento Kings tonight with a current record of 25-49. While defeating the Kings is the primary focus of tonight, Bleacher Report columnist Kevin Ding certainly made headlines with his comments on Mike D’Antoni‘s future with the Lakers. In the column, Ding reported how D’Antoni may be around longer than most anticipate:

“D’Antoni has one more guaranteed season left on his Lakers contract, and the club is leaning toward retaining him despite some privately disgruntled players and massive public disdain. It’s not clear which way the organization will go with him.”

Financially the decision to retain D’Antoni makes sense. Going back to the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers made a huge financial commitment after firing head coach Mike Brown and consequently hiring D’Antoni days later. Until the Cavaliers signed Brown, the Lakers were due to pay the remaining salary on his contract while paying D’Antoni his salary in his three-year $12 million dollar deal. Add in the new $48 million dollar deal Kobe Bryant also signed and you can see why finances are key in this situation.

With this Lakers team being one of the few in history to not make the playoffs and have players speak out publicly about not retaining D’Antoni for next season, this could turn into a huge fault for the organization. Media, fans, and players alike have spoken out repeatedly about how a change in coaching needs to be made moving forward. Bringing D’Antoni back for another season would not only derail morale for the team but make a statement to potential free agents that seven seconds or less will lead the way in the team’s future.

The Lakers will soon need to make an official stand on D’Antoni’s future in regards to next season and potentially his fourth season as head coach. Luring free agents to Los Angeles will become increasingly difficult if they believe that not only the role players on the team are disgruntled, but star players like Bryant and Pau Gasol are too. Moving on is always something difficult to do, but in some situations it is a necessary part of life. If the Lakers are serious about reclaiming their position as one of the top franchises in the league then it is something they will have to do.

Stay tuned to LakerNation.com for more Los Angeles Lakers news and updates!

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Photo courtesy of Jose Luis Villegas, Getty Images

April 2, 2014 — 7:00 PM (PST)
Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

After a tough loss vs. the Trail Blazers, the Lakers (25-49) make a very quick trip to the state capital to face off vs. Sacramento Kings (26-48).

In last night’s loss, F Nick Young came off the bench red hot, shooting 8-8 from the field to start, ending up scoring a season-high 40 points when the game was all set and done. Despite Young’s contribution, the Lakers lacked the defensive intensity necessary to hold off the Trail Blazers.

Tonight, Young and the rest of the Lakers will have to play with much better effort on the defensive end to have a chance of winning tonight. Fortunately, the Kings do not share the ball well, averaging only 18.9 APG as a team, which is the worst in the NBA.

PG Steve Nash will likely not play tonight. Despite playing very well, scoring 10 points and dishing out 10 assists while playing limited minutes, Nash injured his ankle and reaggravated his back injury that he has been fighting for a long period of time.

Kings’ C DeMarcus Cousins comes into tonight’s game averaging a career high in points and rebounds, averaging a double-double 22.3 PPG and 11.7 RPG. Many consider Cousins to possess one of the best low-post games in the NBA. Now that he has the individual skills to become an all-star, Cousins now has to become a vocal team leader and help create a team chemistry necessary to lead the Kings back into the playoffs moving forward.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall  Isaiah Thomas [Advantage: Kings]

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

SF – Kent Bazemore Rudy Gay [Advantage: Kings]

PF – Jordan Hill / Jason Thompson [Advantage: Even]

C – Chris Kaman DeMarcus Cousins  [Advantage: Kings]

Notable Bench Players

Kings: PG Ray McCallumReggie EvansDerrick Williams

Lakers: PG Xavier Henry, Nick Young, Jordan Hill, F Ryan Kelly

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Kings: Out-G Jason Terry, Out-F Carl Landry, GTD-PG Isaiah Thomas

Lakers: Out-C Pau Gasol, GTD-C Chris Kaman, Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Doubtful-PG Steve Nash, GTD-G Xavier Henry

Bottom Line

Despite playing for the 2nd night in a row, the Lakers should stay competitive vs. Kings. Theoretically, many Lakers fans might possess uncertainty on whether or not they want the Lakers to win tonight. the Kings currently are 1 game ahead of the Lakers, which means the Lakers will have a higher possibility of winning the lottery if season ended today. Regardless, the Kings are still our rivals stemming from the early 2000’s era and any victory vs. Kings will be pleasant.

If the Lakers can cut off the passing lanes on the defensive end and play with a lot of energy, they should come away with a victory tonight.

Prediction

Lakers: 105-97

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Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

After defeating the Phoenix Suns handily on Sunday, and having previously beaten the Trailblazers up in Portland a few weeks ago, the Lakers were in for a good fight tonight to say the least. Portland had won three in a row coming into today’s game and are trying to get into good position for the post-season. They would not be overlooking the Lakers this time like they did last month.

Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Xavier Henry were all back on the active roster and starting line-up number 33 was scheduled for this game number 76. The Lakers started the game well, shooting at a good percentage in the first half, but the last two quarters were not as agreeable.

Despite the return of on-again, off-again teammates, the Lakers still couldn’t pull out a win and lost, 124-112.

HIGH POINTS
Nick Young – Near perfect – that’s what Young was in the first half. Before the break he already racked up 21 points on an uber efficient 8-9 from the field and 3-4 from downtown. He finished the evening with a whopping 40 points to lead the game, on 15-26 from the field. That’s just three points shy of his career high, 43 points. He did all that in 32 minutes of playing time. He probably could’ve played a lot more, especially in the third quarter when the Trailblazers started pulling away.
Kent Bazemore – Continuing his consistent play, the young former Warrior chipped in 17 points on 6-10 from the field.
Steve Nash – He played just under 22 minutes, but in the process earned himself a double-double with his 10 points and 10 assists. Unfortunately, he didn’t last too long in the first half, having to go to the locker room even before halftime after he turned his ankle. He played another 11 minutes in the second half, but was reported to be in some pain after the game. It’s unfortunate, a player of Nash’s caliber, injured for the last two seasons.
First Half – Most of the good things that happened to the Lakers in tonight’s game happened in the first and second quarters. They shot 52% and kept the Blazers under 40% shooting. They shot 7-13 from three to Portland’s 5-12. They had 19 assists on 24 made field goals, five more dimes than the Blazers. They also had seven blocks. The most glaring black mark in the first half was the free throw disparity – 17 attempts for the Blazers and only eight for the Lakers.

LOW POINTS
Gasol-Kaman Experiment – I know Mike D’Antoni wants to say it. I told you so. Not since the beginning of the season in November have we seen Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman together on the floor, especially as starters. A tandem big men, worked for us before right? Well, today, not so much. The two played about 30 minutes each, and in that time scored just 21 points on 10-25 from the field, 10 rebounds and five blocks. Maybe they’re just rusty since they haven’t played together in so long. Gasol was a -18 and Kaman a -19 for the night.
Second Half – Compared to their first two quarters, the second half was a lost one. The Lakers shot just 37% from the field, and allowed the Trailblazers to shoot 54%. They also hit four more three pointers and led by as much as 23 points. They outscored the Lakers 20-10 in second chance points and 44-34 in points in the paint. Portland let the Lakers have it, led by Damien Lillard’s 34 points and eight assists, not to mention Lamarcus Aldridge’s 31 points and 15 rebounds.
Where’s Hill?! – After huge games last week against the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic, Hill should be on the floor for a good part of the game. Yes, the Lakers had minutes to spread for Kaman and Gasol, but Robert Sacre is no Jordan Hill, especially of late.
Meeks and Marshall – When Jodie Meeks is hot, he’s hot! When he’s not, he’s 2-7 from the field with four points. And Kendall Marshall, still as streaky as ever the last couple of months, hasn’t learned to play with another point in the wings.

So much for player hatin’. Next up, the Lakers travel to Sacramento to play the Kings, who they defeated back in February.

Box Score

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Photo courtesy of Harry How, Getty Images

April 1, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers come off a very impressive win vs. Phoenix Suns this Sunday to end a 2-game winning streak. Now, they seek to carry Sunday’s momentum into tonight’s matchup vs. Portland Trail Blazers, a team the Lakers defeated in their last meeting.

Pau Gasol seeks to return to tonight’s matchup after dealing with a scary vertigo illness that caused him to miss this past week. Gasol, scoring 17.5 PPG and grabbing 9.8 RPG this season, highly desires to play the last 9 games alongside C Chris Kaman to finish the rest of this season, according to LATimes.com’s Eric Pincus.

Kaman, who Head Coach Mike D’Antoni has thrown to the end of the bench throughout this season for reasons unknown to any Laker fans, dominated the Suns Sunday night by scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. Kaman and Gasol showed that they could play well alongside eachother throughout the pre-season, but the twin-tower combination has barely stepped on the floor together this season.

The all- duo of F/C LaMarcus Aldridge and PG Damian Lillard lead the Trail Blazers into STAPLES Center tonight.  Aldridge, who has reached the prime of his career, comes into tonight’s game averaging a career high 23.2 PPG and 11.1 RPG by fully developing his all-around game.

Meanwhile, Lillard has become a star in only his 2nd NBA season. An example of a player who benefitted from playing in college for all 4 years, Lillard has become a household NBA name, averaging 20.9 PPG and 5.5 APG throughout this season.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall  Damian Lillard [Advantage: Trail Blazers]
SG – Jodie Meeks / Wesley Matthews [Advantage: Trail Blazers]
SF – Wesley Johnson Nicholas Batum [Advantage: Trail Blazers]
PF – Chris Kaman / LaMarcus Aldridge [Advantage: Trail Blazers]
C – Pau Gasol Robin Lopez  [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Blazers: G Mo WilliamsDorrell WrightCJ McCollum, Thomas Robinson

Lakers: SG Kent Bazemore, PF Jordan Hill, Nick Young, G Xavier Henry

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Blazers: Out-C Joel Freeland

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, GTD-PG Steve Nash, GTD-C Pau Gasol, GTD-G Xavier Henry

Bottom Line

The Lakers have been a very mysterious team this season, winning vs. teams like TrailBlazers and Thunder, while getting swept by very bad teams like the Milwaukee Bucks this season. On April Fools Day, lets see if the Lakers can fool NBA fans and upset the TrailBlazers tonight. For that to happen, the Lakers have to play very good team defense and make a lot of their shots, similar to how well they shot vs. Knicks last Tuesday to blow them out.

Prediction

Trail Blazers: 117-104

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Image: Garrett Ellwood/ Getty Images

With many questions regarding the Lakers needing to be answered this offseason, it looks like two point guards will continue to don the purple and gold next season while the head coach’s future in Los Angeles remains a mystery.

According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, both Steve Nash and Kendall Marshall will both be brought back by the team.

For financial reasons, the Lakers currently plan to keep (Nash) next season, The Times has learned, eating the remainder of his contract ($9.7 million) in one swoop instead of waiving him and spreading the money out over three years…  They also plan to keep Marshall, the 13th selection in the 2012 draft, whom they signed as a free agent a little more than three months ago.

A few months ago, it seemed as if it were going to be a foregone conclusion the Lakers would waive Nash using the stretch provision, but now it seems as if the team would rather wait and allow all of Nash’s salary to come off the books next summer, opposed to paying his contract over the next three years.

Marshall has a non-guaranteed option worth $915,243, so it makes sense to bring him back regardless of his role moving forward.   Marshall does average 8.9 assists, but his shooting ability has declined every month since joining the team in December.

As for Mike D’Antoni, his future will reportedly be decided immediately after the season ends in April:

The Lakers have a dilemma with D’Antoni, who coached the Suns for five successful seasons. They still owe him $4million next season and don’t want to look like a franchise with a coaching turnstile.  But Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol don’t support his small-ball offense and Lakers fans don’t support him, period.  So the team will decide fairly quickly after the April 16 regular-season finale — pay him to not coach the team, just like Mike Brown, or try to make it work next season….

Despite the injuries, it is very difficult to see the team bringing back D’Antoni after one of the worst seasons in Lakers history. His poor game-management, troubled relationships with veteran players, and lack of defensive system are just some of the reasons working against the coach.

His job security was in question even before reports of Kobe being against retaining the coach due to offensive system preference and as Bresnahan says, the fans are not very fond of him either.

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Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns came into tonight’s game with an opportunity to sweep their season series with the Lakers. With the way the last week has been for the purple and gold, all arrows pointed to another easy win for the Suns and another disappointing loss for Lakers. Funny thing about these Lakers, though – they’re completely unpredictable from game to game. They can’t even lose when we expect them to do so. It’s hard to know which team will show up each night. Luckily, tonight they decided to be a team that did more good than bad.

Behind the great performances of Chris Kaman and Jodie Meeks, the Lakers moved the ball and kept their opponent under 100 points.

HIGH POINTS
Chris Kaman – Kaman has been on record saying that this has been the most challenging season of his career and that he can’t wait for it to be over. He’s too good of a player to receive “DNP-Coach’s Decision” as often as he did this season, and tonight he showed how big of a mistake those game-statuses were. With Pau Gasol missing another game, Kaman started and had a double-double in the first half with his 18 points and 10 rebounds. He finished the game with 28 points on an efficient 13-19 from the field, led the game with 17 rebound and even handed out six assists. Each time he received the ball in his hands, he was scoring or helping someone else score. He led the game in the +/- column with a +31.
Jodie Meeks – How did Meeks scored 22 points on just 6-9 from the field? He hit 9-10 from the free throw line, that’s how; two free throws of which were completed 3-point plays. It can’t be said enough how much Meeks has contributed to the team this season. In all the disappointment and shame in their losses, Meeks has been the exception. He really has been the most consistent performer on the team.
Ryan Kelly – Kelly’s stat line is solid – 17 points on 6-12 from the field, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks – but he does so much more than his box score can show. It’s his constant effort on both ends that help this team. Yes, he can score from various spots on the court, but his energy on the defensive end is there as well. Tonight, he stole the ball from Marc Morris and scored on a dunk early in the fourth quarter. And then, with just under four minutes left in the game and the Lakers trying to hold on to a lead, Kelly deflected an inbounds pass from Morris (again) and scored on a dunk to put the Lakers up by 15.
Kendall Marshall – It’s been so long, too long, since Marshall had a good all around game. Despite continuing to keep hjs teammates involved on the floor, his scoring has dropped tremendously. Today, however, he found his groove with a double-double to go along with Kaman’s. He scored 13 points on 6-6 from the field, handed out 11 assists, had three steals and even a block.
Defense – The Lakers held the Suns to just 15 points on 25% shooting in the first quarter, and just 39% for the game. Their energy on the other end of the floor was high and it helped them win the game.
Keep On Shooting – Despite such a dismal showing from downtown, the Lakers still shot 53% for the night, leading by as much as 26 points and much of that can be attributed to their work inside. They outscored the Suns 56-44 in points in the paint and 22-17 in fastbreak points. Six players scored in double figures, including Kent Bazemore, who has been a regular contributor since his arrival. Despite getting accidentally elbowed, and bleeding as a result, below his right eye by Goran Dragic, Bazemore scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds, handed out five assists, had two steals and one block.

LOW POINTS
Threeball – 5-18 from behind the arc – yikes! Without Kelly’s 2-3 from downtown, the Lakers would’ve been 3-15.
Lost lead – The Lakers had a 13-point lead early in the game, but lost it and even fell behind for a few minutes. Maintaining a lead has been such a challenge for them season. Most times, they don’t recover, but tonight they matched Phoenix’s run with one of their own to retake the lead until the end.
Wesley Johnson – The season has been one of peaks and valleys for Johnson. His production has been streaky at best, having games in which he can’t miss from the floor and defends his man well; to games like tonight where he only plays 11 minutes and goes 0-4.

They beat OKC three weeks ago, and then lost four games in a row. Then they won versus the Magic, completely ran over the New York Knicks, and then dropped a game to the league-worst Bucks and got humiliated by the Timberwolves. Tonight, after losing their three previous games to Phoenix, they led the Suns by as much as 26 points before defeating them 115-99.

It doesn’t make any sense, but then again, what part of this season has?

Box Score

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Photo courtesy of Christian Petersen, Getty Images

March 30, 2014 — 5:00 PM (PST)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Projected Starters

PG – Goran Dragic/ Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Suns]
SG – Eric Bledsoe / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Suns]
SF – PJ Tucker / Nick Young [Advantage: Lakers]
PF – Channing Frye / Jordan Hill [Advantage: Even]
C – Miles Plumlee / Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Suns: G Gerald Green, F Marcus Morris, F Markief Morris
Lakers: F Wesley Johnson C Robert Sacre, G Kent Bazemore

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Suns: Out-C Emeka Okafor, Out-G Leandro Barbosa
Lakers: Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-G Kobe Bryant,  Doubtful-PG Steve Nash

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