Nick Young

January 17, 2014 — 4:30PM (PST)
TD Waterhouse Garden, Boston, MA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (14-25) travel to Boston to play the Boston Celtics (14-26) tonight in a rivalry game.

The catch?

Most fans will not recognize the players who will wear the Lakers and Celtics uniform tonight; both teams have completely overhauled their team since their title runs during the last 2000′s and the early 2010′s.  The only players most fans will recognize tonight from the championship eras would be C/PF Pau Gasol and PG Rajon Rondo, who will make his season debut tonight after recovering from a Torn ACL suffered last season.

For the Lakers, team chemistry seems to be falling apart also. The NBA suspended G/F Nick Young for tonight’s game stemming from his scuffle with all 5 Suns, which included shoving Suns PG Goran Dragic‘s face, while Young’s teammates on the floor did not come to his defense, leaving Young very vulnerable.

Young clearly did not appreciate what transpired on Wednesday, calling out his teammates for not having his back.

“What I was mad about is it was one-on-five,” said Young, who has posted nine points on 4-of-8 shooting before his ejection. “If somebody had gotten in the middle, it wouldn’t have escalated that much.”

Without Young and chemistry issues starting to brew, the Lakers look to claw and fight for a much needed victory tonight, especially after losing 12 of their last 13 games.

Without Young, the Lakers seek immediate spark from SG Manny Harris, who just signed a 10-day contract with the Lakers yesterday. Harris has scored at will for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers D-League affiliate, averaging 30.6 PPG and 6.5 RPG. Harris has drawn attention from NBA scouts recently, scoring 43.0 PPG in his last 3 games.

As previously mentioned, Rondo’s return will spark some what of a buzz in what happens to be otherwise a meaningless game between 2 lackluster teams who look to find themselves in the NBA Draft lottery. The Celtics just traded away SG Jordan Crawford and SG Marshawn Brooks to the Golden State Warriors while acquiring Joel Anthony in a cost-saving move.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall / Rajon Rondo [Advantage: Celtics]
SG - Jodie Meeks / Avery Bradley [Advantage: Celtics]
SF - Wesley Johnson / Jeff Green [Advantage: Celtics]
PF - Jordan HillKris Humphries [Advantage: Celtics]
C - Pau Gasol / Jared Sullinger [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Celtics: F Brandon Bass, F Gerald Wallace, G Jerryd Bayless

Lakers: G Manny Harris, C Robert Sacre, F Ryan Kelly, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Celtics: Out-G Keith Bogans PROBABLE-PG Rajon Rondo

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-G/F Nick Young

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense: Despite scoring 114 vs. Suns on Wednesday, the Lakers defense failed them again, allowing 121 points to Suns. The Lakers have allowed 120.6 PPG during their losing streak, a liability nearly impossible to overcome to obtain a victory. Although Rondo will make his season debut tonight, even a shell of Rondo would torch this current Lakers defense by driving to the basket and creating open shots for his teammates.

Bottom Line

Both the Lakers and the Celtics have almost identical records. Despite losing 9 straight games before finally winning on Wednesday vs. Raptors, the Celtics find themselves still in the playoff hunt by accident, trailing the 8th seeded team in the Eastern Conference by 3 games. Meanwhile, the hopes for the Lakers to squeeze into the playoffs this season seems to be all but gone, especially without Kobe Bryant. If experts can predict 1 or 2 games the Lakers might have a chance to win during this Grammy’s road trip, it would be tonight. However, Rondo’s return and the surrounding pieces for the Celtics will most likely pose the Lakers too much problems and would be difficult once again for the Lakers to steal a victory tonight.

Prediction

Celtics: 123-104

A couple days after Nick Young’s ejection and criticism of fellow Laker teammates, all seems well as the team prepares to face the rival Boston Celtics.

According to LA Daily News reporter Mark Medina, the Lakers held a team meeting after Young’s post-game comments which implied his teammates did not have his back as multiple Suns’ players surrounded him after Young shoved Suns’ center Alex Len due to a hard foul.  Young was suspended without pay for Friday’s game versus Boston.

“We just talked. We’re all on the same page now. It’s just a misunderstanding,” Young said after the Lakers’ morning shootaround at TD Garden. “We all know what to do now in situations like that. Once we talked we air everything out, we’re all good.”

The teammate at the center of the controversy was guard Kendall Marshall, who responded to Young’s comments by saying that Young “wanted to see what he wanted to see” at the time.  After pictures were posted on Twitter and Instagram (which Young “liked” then “unliked” showing Marshall standing at the three point line while the altercation was occurring, he took blame for his non-actions and comments.

“I take full blame being that I was on the court and being a point guard, I should’ve been the first one over there to pull him out there with what was going on, regardless of what I thought was happening,” Marshall said. “He had every right to get upset. It’s our job as teammates to be there for each other. I went up to him, squashed it and told him it will never happen again.”

With the situation seemingly behind them, the Lakers are focused on moving forward and say they know how to handle any future situations like the one in Phoenix.

“You have to get in. You don’t have to fight,” Young said. “You just have to step in between. Nobody wants to fight. Nobody wants to get beat up on national TV.”

Meanwhile, Marshall threw in some humor about what would happen if Young were to get into a scuffle again.

“We’ll run over there, have 15 guys pick up Nick and carry him away.”

At 14-25 (second worst in the Western Conference), the Lakers desperately need to get back on track.  Boston (14-26) have had struggles of their own and both teams are far different than when the two teams met in the Finals a few seasons ago.  Despite that, the team continues to shed positive light on the team’s current state.

“When you’ve lost 12 of 13, if you don’t have a little adversity, something is wrong,” Marshall said. “I think it’s good for [Young] to get upset with us over that and show some passion. Maybe it will light a fire under all of us and we can build on it.”

UpdateNick Young has been suspended one game due to the punch he threw at Suns G Goran Dragic. As a result, Young will miss the Lakers’ game at the Boston Celtics on Friday.

The Lakers dropped their sixth straight game, falling to the Phoenix Suns 121-114, but the story of the night was the ejection of Nick Young and his comments following the game–calling out his teammates for the lack of the support during the scuffle that led to his ejection.

Here is the video of the altercation:

“What I was mad about is it was one-on-five,” said Young, who has posted nine points on 4-of-8 shooting before his ejection. “If somebody had gotten in the middle, it wouldn’t have escalated that much.”

It is pretty evident in the video that his teammates did nothing to come to his defense as he was immediately surrounded by five Suns’ players.

While rookie Ryan Kelly attempted to help, it was not until assistant coach Dan D’Antoni came and pulled Young away from the situation that things started to calm down.

The Lakers (14-25) chemistry has been praised since training camp, but frustrations seem to be boiling over after losing 12 out of their last 13 games.  The locker room seemed divided over the issue as Kendall Marshall disagreed with Young’s comments.

“I understand where Nick is coming from. He did get fouled hard. It wasn’t a basketball play by any means,” said Marshall, who had 10 points on only 4-of-16 shooting and 13 assists. “But at the same time, we have to understand you have to win some and lose some. I don’t know if that was the smartest play at the time.”

That same sentiment was shared by coach Mike D’Antoni.

“You don’t fight in this league,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It wouldn’t help us to lose two or three more guys. I hate that Nick feels that way, but I’m sure at the moment he’s just talking.”

Meanwhile, Pau Gasol, who finished the game with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, backed Young’s comments.  It should be noted that Gasol was on the bench at the time and any player not in the game would be suspended if they stepped on the court.

“Unfortunately we didn’t get a guy in between Nick and the three or four guys going at him,” said Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who posted 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting. “That was a first mistake or slow reaction on our part. We should’ve protected Nick there.”

Will this situation carry over past tonight? It’s hard to say.  While everyone will have an opinion on this, Young’s teammates on the court could have come and pulled him away which did not happen.

Having a teammate’s back does not mean that you have to throw punches, but it would have been good to see players attempt to help “Swaggy P”, instead new issues have poked their ugly head as the Lakers’ continue to free fall in the standings.

With a more than likely suspension looming for Nick Young and possibly Jordan Hill, who stepped onto the court slightly during the chaos, the Lakers could suit up just seven players Friday versus the Boston Celtics.

For more comments on tonight’s situation, here is Mark Medina’s article on tonight’s game.

Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images

Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images

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

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

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

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

Projected Starters

PG - Brandon KnightJordan Farmar [Advantage: Bucks]

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

SF - Larry Sanders Nick Young [Advantage: Bucks]

PF - Giannis Antetokounmpo Shawne Williams [Advantage: Bucks]

C - Ersan Ilyasova Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

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

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

Bench Advantage: Bucks

Injury List

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

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

Keys for Lakers Victory

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

Bottom Line

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

Prediction

Lakers: 104-98

Source: Lakers.com

Source: Lakers.com

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

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

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

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

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

Projected Starters

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

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

SF - Hollis Thompson Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]

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

C - Spencer Hawes Jordan Hill [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

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

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

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

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

Bottom Line

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

Prediction

Lakers: 114-97

Courtesy: Getty Images

Courtesy: Getty Images

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

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

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

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

Projected Starters

PG - Trey Burke Jordan Farmar [Advantage: Jazz]

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

SF - Richard Jefferson Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]

PF - Marvin Williams Pau Gasol [Advantage: Jazz]

C - Derrick Favors Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

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

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

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

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

Bottom Line

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

Prediction

Lakers: 99-96

Last week’s POW:  Jodie Meeks

Well Nation, this week was a rather eventful one to say the least.  Losing Kobe Bryant for another six weeks hurts and just means the Lakers will need yet another player to step up.  This past week one player stood out form the crowd and despite the strong and powerful performances by Pau Gasol it wasn’t him. The player of the week is:

Nick Young

Stephen R. Sylvanie|USA TODAY SportsNick Young played at an extremely high level this past week as he put up numbers of 21.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 1.5 APG.  The Lakers finished the week with a 2-2 record while losing Kobe Bryant on Friday.  Young came off the bench in each contest and managed to make a valuable impact on each game with his scoring and ability to pump up his teammates and the crowd with his “swaggy p” dance.

Young’s excellent energy he brings to the game is something that won’t show up on stat sheets but is one of those intangibles you wish every player could bring to the court.

As long as Young keeps up these scoring numbers he may be the first Laker to repeat as player of the week, but I guess we’ll see how the games go next week!

 

Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

December 23, 2013 — 6:00 PM (PST)
US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-14) look to bounce back tonight against the Phoenix Suns (16-10) after a very disappointing loss vs. Golden State Warriors on Saturday. The Lakers’s lack of a true point guard showed last game, as they could not get any good shots, resulting in a 3-21 shooting nightmare during the 3rd quarter. C Pau Gasol looks to rejoin his team tonight after missing last game due to an upper respiratory infection. The Lakers will be led by Gasol and 6th man G/F Nick Young, who has been a constant scorer off the bench, scoring more than 10 points in 13 consecutive games

The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, come into tonight’s match up very hot, winning 7 of their last 8 games. The Suns are led by the point guard duo of PG Goran Dragic and PG Eric Bledsoe. Dragic has performed very well replacing PG Steve Nash to run the show, averaging 18.1 PPG and 5.9 APG. Bledsoe has slowly blossomed into a perrenial star in this league as he has finally gotten a chance to start for the first time in his NBA career. Bledsoe has eerily similar numbers to Dragic, but leading his team in points and assists, averaging 19.1 PPG and 6.3 APG, while causing havoc on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has decided to shuffle the starting lineup again to match up with the run and gun Suns and match up better with quick guards like Bledsoe and Dragic tonight on the defensive end. F Shawne Williams will replace F Jordan Hill to help spread the floor out and match-up with Suns F Channing Frye.

Projected Starters

PG - Goran Dragic Xavier Henry [Advantage: Suns]

SG - Eric Bledsoe / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Suns]

SF - PJ TuckerWesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]

PF - Channing Frye / Shawne Williams [Advantage: Suns]

C - Miles Plumlee / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Suns: G Gerald Green, F Markieff Morris, C Marcus Morris

Lakers: G Xavier Henry, G/F Nick Young, G/F Wesley Johnson, C/F Jordan Hill

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Defensive Rebounding: The Lakers have been struggling a lot at boxing out their players and allowing easy 2nd chance baskets. Their defense has played fairly well recently, but allowing offensive rebounds causes their defense to become very disorganized, causing them to lose their players they matched up with. The Morris twins, F Marcus Morris, and F Markieff Morris, killed the Lakers last time grabbing offensive rebounds, so anybody near them have to make sure to box these two players out by using proper fundamentals since they both possess a significant weight advantage over any players on the Lakers.
  2. Keep Guards Away From Paint: The Lakers have major problems keeping guards away from the paint, letting them get high percentage shots for themselves or an open teammate. Tonight’s match up will be their worst one, as they try to keep both Dragic and Bledsoe outside of the paint. Dragic destroyed and dissected the Lakers defense during their last meeting, which led to his career high of 31 points. The guards have to make the offensive players feel more uncomfortable while dribbling the ball and cause turnovers. Despite not having a point guard, guards like Meeks, Johnson, Nick Young, and Xavier Henry are all interchangeable skill-wise, so an excuse to play intense defense and show great communications cannot be plausible for this group.

Bottom Line

The very shorthanded Lakers will try to keep the game close and try to steal this game away from the Suns. The Lakers have to play with a lot of energy and effort, outrebounding the Suns, get easy baskets, and compete for all loose balls to grind out a victory tonight. With their Christmas game vs. Miami Heat coming up this Wednesday, the Lakers have to come away with a victory here to have positive momentum moving into Wednesday.

Prediction

Suns: 124-110

Photo Credit: "Hook" (1991) TriStar Pictures

Photo Credit: “Hook” (1991) TriStar Pictures

Watching the Lakers beat the Timberwolves in their first game since Kobe’s knee injury sidelined him, I couldn’t help but think of the Steven Spielberg film, “Hook,” detailing the adventures of an adult Peter Pan’s return to Neverland to find his youth, his children, and to lead his lost boys against Captain Hook.

This season’s Lakers are a ragtag group of youths, outcasts of the NBA, waiting on the return of the mythical Kobe Bryant, just as the lost boys waited on Peter Pan, absent from Neverland at the start of the film.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Basketball teams take on the personality of their leader, and in Kobe’s six games with the Lakers this season, his presence was enormous. He plays a different style than the team had employed, and they were quick to try to adjust to him. Before Kobe’s first game back from injury, the Lakers introduced the other four starters, and then gave Bryant his own theme music, and announced him separately. Kobe is one of the Lakers, but he remains apart from this team. Older, wiser, more accomplished. He is a veteran and a champion, and they are young journeymen. They look up to him and follow him, even though they can never be him. With him sidelined, they must forge ahead together, and find a way to play without him.

Peter Pan leads a ragtag group of “lost boys” that play, fight, and live together. They follow Pan, but he is blessed with gifts of flight and leadership that they will never possess. He is one of them, yet always separate. They take on Pan’s quest to defeat Captain Hook, and follow him to the end, but it is Peter’s fight – not theirs. Pan leaves Neverland and forgets to fly, and the lost boys must search for a new leader and identity.

Photo Credit: "Hook" (1991) TriStar Pictures

Photo Credit: “Hook” (1991) TriStar Pictures

 

 

In Pan’s absence, the lost boys turn to a flamboyant youth named Rufio to lead them. Rufio cannot compete with the mythical Pan, but he is talented, brash, and occasionally dazzling. He allows them to have fun, and gives them a figure to rally behind. The lost boys always know that if Pan returns to form, Rufio must step aside.

After Kobe broke his knee, he exited the lineup, leaving his team with a seismic void to fill: Who will lead these lost boys of the NBA? What is their identity?

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Lakers Twitter (@Lakers)

Photo Credit: Lakers Twitter (@Lakers)

 

 

Enter Nick Young, a.k.a. “Swaggy P.” He’s flamboyant, confident, and occasionally mesmerizing, though not on the same plane as the great Kobe Bryant.With his 25 points against Minnesota, and array of “swaggy” moves, he stamped his personality all over the Kobe-less Lakers. As Coach Mike D’Antoni said, “he starts swaggin’ out there and…it gets everyone’s energy up.” Young’ exuberance is contagious to this team. In Kobe’s absence, they adopt Young’s personality.

 

 

 

Young’s Lakers run and gun, and everyone is in on the fun. Even Kobe’s old running mate Pau Gasol got swept up in the “swag” fest, nailing a three pointer and doing the “Swaggy P” dance.

Like Rufio’s lost boys, Young’s Lakers are carefree, reveling in their roles with the Lakers. The team’s analysts at Time Warner Cable, a year ago so serious in the hunt for a championship that they criticized Dwight Howard for smiling, now bask in all that is “Swaggy P.”

With Kobe out, and no point guards, this Lakers’ season is anarchy. And just like in Neverland, anarchy creates the opportunity for hijinks and fun. The lost boys in L.A. are entertaining themselves and the city, but as much fun as the boys have shooting threes and throwing lobs deep down everyone knows “Swaggy P” and company cannot reach the promised land. They are just filling time before their leader returns, bringing with him a real, daunting quest.

In “Hook,” Peter Pan returns to Neverland fat, grumpy, and unable to fly. He tries to defeat Captain Hook and save his children on his own through reason and bargaining, and fails. The boys put him through a boot camp, teach him to remember the joy of youth, and Peter slowly regains his powers – he has to in order to save his children, captives of Captain Hook.

Kobe will surely return from his knee injury, shaky and not yet ready to fly. He may try to to win his way, serious and plodding, but that will not work with this collection of lost boys. However, if he can accept the culture of this year’s fun Lakers, maybe he can add a legitimacy to the chaos that allows them to battle the fearsome pirates.

The lost boys know that Pan is the only one of them capable of defeating Hook. However, Peter needs them to get him there. The lost boys have to fight the pirates to free Pan to battle Hook mano-a-mano. They do it their own fun and offbeat way, upsetting the pirates with unpredictability.

Kobe must find a way to blend himself in with this team’s strength: Their surprising vitality. Just like Pan, he will have to lead his team from within, not without. Kobe needs his lost boys’ unconventional, frenzied talents to have a shot at accomplishing his goal. The way the Lakers are winning right now may not make any sense – and therein lies its power.

The lost boys in “Hook,” even Rufio, secretly hoped that Pan would return and lead them to bigger and better things, accomplishments that they could not sniff without him. To do so, he had to join them in their ruckus and elevate them, not confine them.

The Lakers certainly hope Kobe can regain flight and lead these lost boys to achievements beyond their wildest imagination. If not, what are they fighting for?

Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images.

Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

December 21, 2013 — 7:30 PM (PST)
Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
TV:  TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-13) shocked the national audience last night by easily dismantling the Minnesota Timberwolves after learning that G Kobe Bryant will now be out for approximately 6 weeks after suffering a fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. It was one of the few games where fans could argue that every single Laker who stepped on the floor had a solid game if not excellent.

Notably, C/PF Pau Gasol looks like the Pau Gasol of old, almost having a triple double with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists. Ever since that fiasco between Gasol and Mike D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant‘s advice for Gasol to slim down and lose mroe weight, Gasol looks much slimmer physically to the Lakers championship days. In the last 5 games, Gasol has averaged 17.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG which are very close to his career averages in those 2 categories. Unfortunately, Gasol will not be available tonight due to an upper respiratory infection. G Nick Young has proven throughout the season that he can somewhat fill in for Bryant and led the Lakers victory along with Gasol by scoring 25 points on 9-14 shooting from the field. G Xavier Henry also made a tremendous contribution as the temporary starting point guard, scoring 21 points, dishing out 4 assists, and only committing 3 turnovers, which is excellent for a player playing out of position.

However, the Lakers have to carry this momentum into Oracle Arena vs. a very hungry Golden State Warriors (14-13), who are coming off a very embarrasing loss vs. the San Antonio Spurs who played without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. They have been a disappointment so far this season considering they came into the season with their highest expectations since the “Run TMC” era in the early 1990′s. Individually, the Warriors feature the dangerous “Splash Brothers” of PG Stephen Curry and Lakers Radio Announcer Mychal Thompson’s son SG Klay Thompson. Curry and Thompson have had another great season, scoring 25.4 PPG and 19.8 PPG and shooting from behind the 3 pt line at 41.3% and 42.6% respectively. The cause for high expectations in the Bay Area for the Warriors is the acquisition of SF Andre Iguodala, who played a key part for the 2012 Team USA basketball team along with Kobe Bryant to win a gold medal. Iguodala is very comparable to the great Scottie Pippen as a very unselfish player who will always guard the opposing team’s best player and also has the ability to play all 5 positions on the floor other than Center.

Projected Starters

PG - Stephen Curry Xavier Henry [Advantage: Warriors]

SG - Klay Thompson / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Warriors]

SF - Andre Iguodala Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Warriors]

PF - David LeeJordan Hill [Advantage: Warriors]

C - Andrew Bogut Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Warriors: F Harrison Barnes, F/C Maurice SpeightsDraymond Green

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungF Shawne Williams, Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Effort: Lets face it. The Lakers cannot beat any of their opponents anytime soon by pure talent especially with Bryant and their entire point guard players out. Therefore, the Lakers have to play with a lot of energy and effort. The Lakers have to out rebound the Timberwolves, get easy baskets, and compete for all loose balls to grind out a victory tonight. Players like F Jordan HillRobert Sacre, and F Wes Johnson has to continue to get rebounds, play hard on both ends, and do the intangible things that do not show in the box score.
  2. Close Out on Shooters: The Warriors love shooting to say the least. The Lakers learned the hard way in their 1st visit to Oracle Arena, letting the Warriors take many uncontested shots, which resulted in the Warriors shooting 53.5% from the field and the Lakers losing by 31 points. When the Warriors visited Staples Center however, the Warriors were forced into more contested shoots, leading to them shooting only 41.5 % from the field, which also resulted in a Lakers victory. If the Lakers force contested shots and stay aware of where shooters, especially Curry and Thompson are, the Lakers have a chance to stay close vs. Warriors.

Bottom Line

If the San Antonio Spurs can defeat a healthy Warriors without playing their “Big 3″ in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, the Lakers can sure have a good shot at defeating them also, especially if they plated with as much energy as they did last night. Unfortunately, the Lakers will not have home court advantage tomorrow playing on the road, so they cannot rely on their home fans to energize them. Furthermore, we all know that the Warriors are furious after losing in embarrassing fashion vs. some resemblance of the Spurs in front of national TV audience. Therefore, they will play with a tremendous amount of energy, something the Lakers have to counter-attack by playing very smart on both ends of the floor. Hopefully my prediction will be wrong again, but it’s hard for me to see the Warriors lay an egg again and lose another heart breaker especially on their home floor vs. Lakers.

Prediction

Warriors: 115-106

Photo by Stephen Dunn| Getty Images

Photo by Stephen Dunn| Getty Images

December 20, 2013 — 7:30 PM (PST)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ESPN / TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (12-13) try to pick up the broken piece of glasses and battle the Minnesota Timberwolves (13-13) tonight after learning that G Kobe Bryant will now be out for approximately 6 weeks after suffering a fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. Along with Bryant, the 3 Lakers point guards, PG Steve Nash, PG Steve Blake, and PG Jordan Farmar, are still sidelined due to their injuries and not expected to return anytime soon. As a result, the Lakers signed D-League PG Kendall Marshall to a non-guaranteed contract to fill the back-up point guard position. 

With all the injuries, players like G Nick Young, G Xavier Henry, and SG Jodie Meeks have to cover for Bryant’s loss and perform as well as they did before Bryant’s return. Without Bryant, the Lakers will run Mike D’Antoni‘s system that involes a lot of ball movement and running up and down the floor. 

The Lakers now have to play the Minnesota Timberwolves, who visited the Lakers earlier season and won by 23 points. They are a much improved team this season, mainly due to  staying healthy as a team unlike last season. The Timberwolves are led by the duo of local UCLA product PF Kevin Love and PG Ricky Rubio, both of them being potential all-stars this season. Love has had another dominant season, averaging 25.2 PPG and 13.7 RPG. He can shoot from the perimeter while dominating in the low post at the same time, causing match up nightmares for anyone who guards him. Rubio reminds a lot of old NBA fans of the great “Pistol Pete” Maravich as a point guard who can make difficult plays look very easy using his insane craftiness. Rubio has had a solid season himself, averaging 9.4 PPG and 7.9 APG. Althought the Timberwolves have the talent in their starting lineup to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference, their lack of depth has cost them a lot of games this season.

Projected Starters

PG - Ricky Rubio Xavier Henry [Advantage: Timberwolves]

SG - Kevin Martin / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Timberwolves]

SF - Corey Brewer Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Timberwolves]

PF - Kevin LoveJordan Hill [Advantage: Timberwolves]

C - Nikola Pekovic Pau Gasol [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Grizzlies: G JJ Barea, Alexei ShvedDante Cunningham

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungF Shawne Williams, Robert Sacre

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Effort: Lets face it. The Lakers cannot beat any of their opponents anytime soon by pure talent especially with Bryant and their entire point guard players out. Therefore, the Lakers have to play with a lot of energy and effort. The Lakers have to out rebound the Timberwolves, get easy baskets, and compete for all loose balls to grind out a victory tonight. Players like F Jordan HillRobert Sacre, and F Wes Johnson has to continue to get rebounds, play hard on both ends, and do the intangible things that do not show in the box score.
  2. Swaggy P: With Bryant out, that leaves Lakers 6th man Nick Young as the only player who can create his own shots on the offensive end. Young has had a fantastic year so far, leading the Lakers in scoring at 14.9 PPG on 43.5 % shooting under Bryant’s tutelage. Young will be relied very heavily upon to score at the end of games and when the offense becomes stagnant.

Bottom Line

With Bryant’s absence, the optimism for tonight’s game is very bleak to say the least. Hopefully, the Lakers play with an inspired energy the way Bryant would want them to tonight. The Lakers also have to make their shots and not allow the Timberwolves extra possessions especially since their talent is superior to the Lakers.

Prediction

Timberwolves: 115-98

Photo by: Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images

Photo by: Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images

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:

#10:

“In the paint, we’re awful and we’ve got to get tougher. We’ve got to get a little stronger there. If we want to be a good team and if we want to get better, then that’s definitely a point of emphasis.”

Mike D’Antoni, via the L.A. Times

#9:

“It wasn’t clear what the team needed last year … It needed, maybe, an exorcism.”

Mike D’Antoni, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin

#8:

“Now that we got our closer back, it should be easier. I was trying to step up and do that for Kobe, but we got the real version.”

Nick Young, via the Daily News’ Mark Medina

#7:

“That Achilles tendon injury forces you to play on the ground as well as in the air and that means becoming more fundamentally sound. And Kobe being a fundamentally sound guy anyway, it’s going to be easy for him to make the adjustment. The fundamentals will obviously be there for Kobe, but what about his explosiveness? The explosion will be there, especially if you really rehab it and strengthen it like you should.”

Dominique Wilkins, via ESPN First Take

#6:

“I’m not jumping through the gym by any means. But I don’t need to be able to do that in order to be a great player.”

Kobe Bryant, via the L.A. Times

#5:

“Sometimes I don’t believe I’m on the court with Kobe. He has the ball so much and he demands the ball so much as Kobe Bryant and sometimes you can catch yourself watching him on the floor. We just got to be out there and go with him. Sometimes we’ll bring it up and sometimes he’ll bring it up, we can’t just defer to him every time. It’s my first time out there with him so I deferred to him a lot. I looked for him a lot because he’s out there on the court and that’s what the fans wanted. The whole thing was about Kobe tonight so I got caught up in the moment.”

Nick Young, via ESPN

#4:

“I wasn’t 100 percent but I don’t like to make excuses. I’m just going to try to play through what I have going on. A guy like that (Amir Johnson) shouldn’t have that type of night against your team. We have to do a better job individually and collectively in order so anyone won’t have a game like that.”

Pau Gasol, following the Lakers loss to the Toronto Raptors, via the Daily News

#3:

“It was really weird. I think the last time I had eight months off I was still in the womb.”

Kobe Bryant, after returning to action against the Raptors, via USA Today

#2:

“I think calmer heads kind of prevailed and thought let’s not risk this kind of yo-yo season. Because that might be the case. I might not be able to play anymore. I might have to yo-yo it or I might be able to play the rest of the way. I think right now we want to see if I can play the rest of the way. (…) It’s been just an obviously pretty horrible 13 months for me. It’s really hard. It’s been a really hard 12 months, 13 months and it’s been in particularly even more hard the last six months, seven months since (the nerve issues) happened in April where I just could never quite get over the hump. It’s been . . . It’s a battle every day.”

Steve Nash, via ESPN

#1:

“As tough as ever to find that balance of where my mind needed to be. As soon as the injury happened, I had doubts whether this night would ever happen. And then, I kicked it into the full gear and fought myself to not think about the end result – just think about every single day of work it would take for me to get back again. I found out that I had another gear, a gear that I never knew was there. It’s one thing to push yourself when everyone expects you to be dominant, to perform at the highest level. I had a motivation to do that. But it was something else all together to find a motivation when there was no end goal in sight, when I literally couldn’t walk. I had to sit there and think about coming out and performing, months and months from now, but I didn’t really know when that time was going to be. And you keep going and you keep working and you find out, yes, I can get there… And I got there.”

Kobe Bryant, via Yahoo Sports

 

What is your favorite one? Do you think any quotations got snubbed? Let us know in the comment section below!

Kobe Bryant

Source: Kobe Bryant | Facebook

December 8, 2013 — 6:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / NBATV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

He’s back.

Lakers superstar G Kobe Bryant makes his season debut for the Los Angeles Lakers (10-9) against the Toronto Raptors (6-12) tonight in front of a home crowd. Bryant, who returns from a devasating left achilles tear from the April 12th game vs. Golden State Warriors, provides the Lakers with a game-changer and team leader on the floor. Despite playing without Bryant, the Lakers have surprised many NBA experts this season by playing very well as a team,  winning 6 out of their last 8 games to maintain a .500 winning percentage. According to Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, he expects to see Kobe play in the 20-25 minute range tonight.

The Lakers come off of a solid win versus the Sacramento Kings, where G Jodie Meeks and G/F Wesley Johnson led the way for the Lakers. Meeks scored 19 points by shooting 5-6 from the 3 pt line, including 2 huge 3-pointers to defeat the Kings, while Johnson locked down defensively by having 5 steals. Also, the emergence of C Robert Sacre has been a pleasant surprise for the Lakers. As a surprise starter vs. Kings last game, Sacre held his own against a very talented C DeMarcus Cousins, scoring 11 points, and getting key stops towards the end of the game.

The Raptors, on the other hand, just made news for themselves. According to Yahoo! Sports Marc Spears’ and Adrian Wojnarowski’s sources, the Raptors just traded SF Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray, and F Quincy Acy to the Sacramento Kings for F John Salmons, PG Greivis Vasquez, F Chuck Hayes, F Patrick Patterson, all who will obviously not be available for the Raptors tonight. Therefore, the Raptors will be led by G Demar Derozan. Derozan, a local product out of USC and Compton High School, has seemed to finally use his raw athleticism efficiently, leading the Raptors in scoring at a career high 21.3 PPG.

Projected Starters

PG - Kyle LowrySteve Blake [Advantage: Even]

SGDemar Derozan / Kobe Bryant [Advantage: Lakers]

SF - Terrence RossWesley Johnson [Advantage: Lakers]

PF - Jonas Valanciunus / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

C - Amir Johnson / Robert Sacre [Advantage: Raptors]

X-Factors

Raptors: F Steve Novak - Arguably one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, Novak can cause the Lakers defense a lot of problems if he can get wide open shots. Novak, who is one of many players who thrived in Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system during his days with the New York Knicks, is currently shooting at 37.7% from the 3-pt line after the Raptors acquired him this offseason for F Andrea Bargnani. Novak is the only offensive spark the Raptors have from the bench, so if the Lakers can shut him down with athletic defenders like Johnson or F Shawne Williams, the Lakers bench should outscore the Raptors’s bench by a significant margin tonight.

Lakers: Rest of the Lakers - With Bryant returning to the lineup, the Lakers coaching staff has a major question mark moving forward: how will the rest of the Lakers play with Bryant back. In the past, the Lakers would tend to stand around on offense, waiting for Bryant to save them every time. Hopefully with the rest of the Lakers gaining their own confidence offensively in Bryant’s absence, they can continue to stay aggressive towards the basket and not be hesitant to shoot the ball. Notably, players like Meeks, Johnson, G Xavier Henry, and G/F Nick Young have thrived in Bryant’s absence for the first 19 games, playing very well on both ends of the floor. In order for the Lakers to not only win tonight’s game, but also make some noise in the playoffs, the rest of the Lakers have to continue to move around without the ball and not stand around hoping Bryant will bail them out every possession, especially towards the end of the game.

Bottom Line

Since the atmosphere at Staples tonight will be electric due to Bryant’s return, the Lakers will have to channel their emotions tonight to execute both offensively and defensively. Although the Raptors have a lot of talent in their starting lineup, they are very thin on the bench, something the Lakers bench can thrive off of, especially with Meeks joining the bench unit. Once again, the Lakers do not have a healthy point guard. Without PG Steve Nash and PG Jordan Farmar available for tonight’s game, look for Bryant to play point guard quite often whenever PG Steve Blake, who is currently battling a hyper extended right elbow, needs a rest tonight. If the Lakers continue to play as a team and stay focused especially defensively for the entire 48 minutes of the game, look for the Lakers to get a solid victory in Bryant’s debut.

Prediction

Lakers: 104-95

Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

Add this game to the top of disheartening losses this season. What a game.

The Portland Trail Blazers came into Staples Center with the second best record in the Western Conference. Naturally, the Lakers were not favored to win tonight and it appeared to be an easy game to call when the home team fell behind by 17 points halfway through the first quarter. The Lakers managed to catch up, however, going into halftime just three points down. It looked like the home team was giving themselves a chance to win…and then the third quarter came.

The Blazers outscored the Lakers 41-24. Again, it looked like they’d be taking this game all the way when they led by as much as 20 points. The Lakers, however, continued to fight, getting to within a single point with still under three minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, They couldn’t stop Portland from scoring and the single-digit deficit became more than the Lakers could overcome with so little time left, so they took the loss, 114-108.

High Points
Backcourt Brothers – The Laker guards really took this game and put it over their shoulders tonight, and it started with Xavier Henry. He contributed 27 points on 9-12 from the field and was the focal point of the Lakers’ two big runs tonight. In the first quarter, he chipped in nine points that helped fuel the come from 17 points down run. In the fourth quarter, he put in 11 points to help the team catch up from a 20-point deficit, highlighted by his four-point play. He’s so good at getting himself to the free throw line where he went 7-11 tonight, and he’s fearless at getting to the rim no matter how much traffic there is to barrel through. He finished the evening with a game-high +23. Jodie Meeks, the team’s leading scorer, put in 20 points of his own. Nick Young was the other bench player who fueled the first scoring run that got the team over the 17-point hole. He finished with 17 points on 7-14 from the field. And of course, there’s Steve Blake, who had to put in double-duty tonight when Jordan Farmar left the game in the first quarter. He finished with 13 points and nine assists.
Attitude – It would have been so easy for the Lakers to just roll over and let Portland have their way with them, but they wouldn’t let up. They came up from being behind by double digits twice in one game. It’s hard to consider moral victories, but this game really showed a lot of grit from this Lakers’ team. It’s an attitude that surely their captain, Kobe Bryant, would appreciate.

Low Points
Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill – The Blazers and the Lakers shot at about the same percentage. They had close to the same number of assists, the turnovers weren’t out of control for either team and the Lakers even blocked seven shots to the Blazers’ one. The glaring stat disparity? Rebounds. Portland outrebounded the Lakers 52-41, 15-9 on the offensive glass. While rebounding should be a team effort, the Lakers’ leading rebounders didn’t do much to help their situation, combining for just 11 boards for the whole game. Their struggles tonight may be due in large part to a sprained ankle, which each player is nursing.
Spotty Defense – Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. And it’s hard to tell when the Lakers will decide to play any. One quarter, they’re allowing Portland to score 41 points. The next quarter, they go on a 24-5 run. Sustaining their efforts on either end of the court is this team’s weakness so far this season, and it’s cost them a lot of close, winnable games.
Chris Kaman – It’s nice to see Robert Sacre on the floor playing some significant minutes, and he was productive tonight with his 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks, but Kaman has been available to play for some time now and hasn’t seen the floor in a couple weeks. It’s not something that’s been given much attention, but with Jordan Hill playing with a sprained ankle, seems logical to bring Kaman in.
Jordan Farmar – After playing for only 56 seconds, Farmar had to leave the floor and was later diagnosed with a left hamstring strain. He left in the first quarter and never returned. Hopefully the next four days off will aid in a quick recovery.

The Lakers’ next game isn’t until Friday against the Sacramento Kings. After a weeklong road trip, it may just be what they need to recoup. Kobe Bryant is scheduled to practice with the team this week and there’s a possibility he’ll play against the Kings if the practices don’t cause any pain. Here’s hoping!

Box Score

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