Posted on: April 4, 2011 9:40 am
Edited on: April 4, 2011 9:59 am
Posted by Royce Young
Late in the third quarter of Sunday's loss to the Nuggets, Pau Gasol went down awkwardly and immediately grabbed his right knee. For a second, Laker fans saw their future flash before their eyes.
Gasol went to the bench and then the locker room. He ended up being OK as he returned to play 11 more minutes. The Orange County Register reported that Gasol experience some swelling and soreness in the knee so as a precaution, Gasol will have an MRI on it today.
It looked like a minor hyperextension and with the way Gasol returned and acted after the game, it doesn't sound like there's anything to really be worried about. But it is a soft reminder of how the most important part of these last two weeks of the season isn't actually catching the Spurs, but making sure you're healthy for the playoffs. An injury to a player like Gasol changes everything entirely.
Posted on: March 31, 2011 11:47 am
Edited on: March 31, 2011 11:54 am
An informal poll of the Lakers shows they're concerned about the Grizzlies and Blazers. As much as they're going to be concerned about anyone.
Posted by Matt Moore
Asking NBA players who they want to see in the first round is pointless. Why would you possibly say you want to see one team, giving them material to mount an incomparable emotional challenge based off the oldest of athlete emotions: pride? Why would you possibly indicate that you don't want to see a team in the first round, giving them a mental edge when they recognize that you're "afraid" of them? There's nothing to be won or negotiated with that question. It's better to deflect or give the standard array of non-answers everyone gives.
But the Lakers, when presented with the opportunity to give an informal poll, their answers unattributed to their name? They bit.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Based on the four players who were willing to trade their honesty in exchange for anonymity, three of them equally expressed concern about Portland and Memphis, while one other believed the Grizzlies would be the toughest opponent. Meanwhile, Lakers executive Magic Johnson spoke pretty frankly before the Lakers' 102-84 victory Sunday over New Orleans about which potential first-round opponent would give the Lakers the most trouble: Portland, because of the "hate factor," he said.via Lakers informal poll reveals their belief Portland and Memphis would give them biggest challenge in first round | Lakers Blog | Los Angeles Times.
It's surprising that the Lakers chose to answer the question. It's more surprising that they were honest. It's even more surprising that they were correct.
The Lakers are rarely if ever beasts in the first round. It takes them a few games to hit the playoff gear. But they're still good enough to overcome obstacles. Still, if you're going to upset L.A., it's going to have to be in that first round. From then on out, they're in that mode they have that that, you know, wins championships. And the only thing they hate more than getting their playoff effort in gear is having to do so against a scrappy, high-effort team, like the Blazers or Grizzlies.
The Blazers, despite a much longer rivalry and a superior record, actually suffers more in the matchup. Despite LaMarcus Aldridge's superb and All-Star-worthy season, it's Zach Randolph's gritty, ugly, "how did he do that" work down low that is particularly effective against L.A.'s enormous size and length advantage. Marc Gasol is outplayed by his brother in the stats department because Pau Gasol is very good. But it's Marc's bulk and toughness that gives the Lakers issues, along with his ability to pass from the post and high pinch post. Mike Conley slices and dices Derek Fisher, one of the few guards in the league who can't torch Conley on perimeter drives. And the Grizzlies have enough wings to throw at Kobe Bryant to at least have a puncher's chance at slowing him down.
The Blazers on the other hand have Camby and Aldridge, but struggle defensively against the Lakers in matchups, as has been evident this year. But there's no matchup that accounts for the Blazers' ability to rise to the occasion, which they've illustrated time and time again during Nate McMillan's tenure. Either team is simply going to be a major headache that could turn into a legitimate challenge for the Lakers if a few things go their opponents' way.
But then, the Lakers also know that if they play their best, execute, and focus, they're going to roll. That's what good teams do in the first round, it's really what great teams do in the first round, and it's definitely what championships do in the first round. This doesn't mean that the Lakers are afraid of the Blazers or Grizzlies, just that they recognize the dangers those teams represent.
Which of course means that the Lakers are not afraid of the New Orleans Hornets. Who they could very well see in the first round. Chances are the Hornets use that as some motivation should the two meet in the first round.
This is why you don't answer the question.
Posted on: March 23, 2011 2:27 am
Posted by Royce Young
You want March Madness, have you some March Madness.
The Lakers and Suns played an instant classic Tuesday night with the game going to three extra frames before Los Angeles finally prevailed, 139-137. Here's how wild this one was: Eventually it took a Ron Artest takeover in the third overtime for this thing to go to bed.
It was the type of game where it appeared to be over multiple times, but because of the Suns' ability to knock down 3s and the Lakers having Kobe Bryant, neither team would lay down. Finally the Suns ran out of gas after Artest hit a tough jumper in the lane to put the Lakers up five with a minute to go. Channing Frye drained a 3 to get it back to two, but Kobe hit a runner with 14 seconds left to put L.A. back up four. The Suns wasted too much time before Vince Carter finally hit a layup with 1.2 seconds left and all the Lakers had to do was get the ball in.
But that's just how it ended. How we got there is the interesting part.
In regulation, Grant Hill hit a corner 3 to tie the game at 112-112. Kobe missed a decent look to win and Phoenix snared the rebound. With a chance to win at the buzzer and save us all an extra hour, Carter missed wide on a 3 at the horn. On to overtime.
The Lakers looked to have it locked up leading by three and after a missed trey, Steve Nash tracked down the rebound and kicked back to Frye who was fouled on a desperation 3 by Lamar Odom. Naturally Frye drained all three free throws and we were off to another five minutes.
Phoenix had its chance in the second OT. Nash made an absolutely unreal play passing the ball behind his back as he was falling of out bounds to Marcin Gortat who steamrolled down the lane, eventually kicking to a wide open Frye who drained a 3 to put the Suns up 130-128 with 50 seconds left. The Suns got a stop, but Nash was unable to convert. The Lakers ended up with Pau Gasol knocking down a pair of free throws to knot the game at 130-130 and send us to a third overtime.
The Suns scored first and the Lakers started the third OT frame 0-6 from the field before Kobe eventually drained a deep ball. But maybe the biggest play came right before it as Grant Hill, who had defended Kobe brilliantly, picked up back-to-back which happened to be his fifth and sixth. Kobe immediately dropped the 3 to put L.A. up 133-132. Artest came up with a steal and a surprising lefty dunk, then hit the jumper that basically sealed it.
It was, quite the game.
A lot was on the line for Phoenix who are battling for eighth in the West while the Lakers are still trying to lock up the No. 2 seed. The Suns obviously need every game they're in and this one was no exception. They're three games back of the Grizzlies right now and with time running low on this season, each game is at the highest importance. Shame is, this triple-overtime game may cost them two, as they play Wednesday night at home versus the Raptors. Obviously still winnable, but it'll be interesting to see how the old bodies of Nash and Hill respond to play for three-plus hours.
Some games just don't die. Especially when you have a team as resiliant and hungry as the Suns against a team as talented and smart as the Lakers. What's funny, is that the only reason we got to three overtimes is because the Lakers blew a 15-point lead in the second half. The Suns got hot from 3, the Laker offense went cold (specifically the second unit) and Phoenix executed and hung in there. It's a bummer for the Suns to put that much in only to lose, but it was quite the effort and truly a terrific game.
Some stats from this one:
Posted on: March 21, 2011 8:31 am
Edited on: March 21, 2011 8:35 am
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant says he is proud of center Andrew Bynum's hard foul. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Over the weekend, we noted that Los Angeles Lakers big man Andrew Bynum was suspended without pay for two games by the NBA for a hard foul he delivered on Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley. Bynum met Beasley in the air, made no real attempt on the ball and sent Beasley crashing to the floor. It was a play straight out of Rick Mahorn's playbook.
That type of mindless thuggery might rub some people the wrong way, but it didn't bother Lakers star Kobe Bryant. On the contrary, reports the Los Angeles Times, Bryant was pleased to see it.
Not all the Lakers were upset with the league's decision. "I'm proud of him," Kobe Bryant said of Bynum. "He earned his stripes."Bynum is in a weird spot with the Lakers for two reasons. One: he's younger and noticeably less mature than the rest of the team's core. Two: he's almost always the biggest player on the court. That combination leaves Bynum open to all sorts of criticism from fans (and teammates) if Los Angeles gives up too many points in the paint or if the Lakers get outrebounded.
In short, Bynum is a big, easy target for criticism. If the Lakers don't own the middle, it's his fault.
Bryant's positive reinforcement of dangerous behavior isn't really the best look, but it makes sense in context because the Lakers, like most contenders, feel that interior dominance is the key factor to playoff success. Pau Gasol is who he is: long and lean, not strong and mean. Lakers forwards Lamar Odom and Ron Artest are great at physically dominating their match-ups and getting inside opponents' heads, but they're not capable of the kind of space-eating intimidation that Bynum is.
This situation, then, becomes less about the actual foul and more about the fact that Bynum showed he was capable of delivering some pain. Had this play happened in the postseason and cost Bynum multiple playoff games, the cheerleading wouldn't be nearly as loud. The excitement today comes from the idea that Bynum, perhaps, has a reputation now.
And, like it or not, reputations can influence players' decisions and, in turn, can influence games.
Posted on: March 14, 2011 3:38 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Most everyone said it when the Thunder acquired Kendrick Perkins. He’s going to bring something different to town. He’s tough, he’s big, he’s physical and he’s not shy about speaking his mind. If Chris Bosh is a fake tough guy, Perkins is every bit of real tough guy as you can get. And in a locker room that’s mostly tight-lipped with every cliche down pat and ready to use in any situation, Perkins has a candidness that we haven’t really ever seen here.
In the newest issue of ESPN the Mag , Perkins and Kevin Durant were both asked a couple of the same questions with both having mostly differing opinions. All of it was pretty interesting, but the question, “Lakers: Team to beat or old news?” brought out the best in Perk.
“Yesterday’s news,” he said. “I don’t like Pau Gasol or Phil Jackson. Phil is arrogant. Pau is soft. Kobe tries to bring out his toughness, but he’s still soft.”
Durant’s answer? “They’re the reigning champs and still playing like it.” See the difference there? Like I said, Perk might take a little getting used to in OKC. I actually wondered to myself if these quotes were even real or if I was missing the point of some kind of fictional, made up quote piece.
Most felt when OKC got Perkins though that he was going to bring more than just defense and rebounding to the young Thunder. He was going to add toughness. Grit. And a new attitude. One of his biggest assets is the way he defends and muscles against a team like the Lakers and obviously, he's not intimidated by the defending champs a bit.
I'm sure a lot of those feelings come from the fact Perkins was formerly of the Celtics who, you know, don't like the Lakers a whole lot. Perkins has had his fill of Gasol and Jackson the past couple years, meeting the Lakers in the Finals twice in the past three seasons.
The Thunder's still waiting on Perkins' first appearance which could come as early as tonight versus the Wizards. There's some thought he might play a little before really settling into his starter's role Wednesday against the Heat. Either way, we'll be seeing Perkins in a Thunder jersey by the end of the week and it won't just be about the attitude he's bringing, but about what he adds on the floor too.
Posted on: March 11, 2011 12:28 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 12:54 am
The Heat win a big one as the entire team steps up, while Kobe Bryant shows what makes him great, and frustrating, after the game.
Posted by Matt Moore
Let's get this out the way.
While this game was one that the Lakers genuinely cared about (as evidenced by the kind of effort given by both the players and Phil Jackson, who not only actively coached, but yelled at officials standing up, and called timeouts), it does not "matter." The Heat is still unlikely to face the Lakers again this season with both Chicago (0-2) and Boston (0-2) somewhere in their spring future. Had the Lakers won, it would not be a death knell on the Heat's future. This is not a conviction of the Lakers' season.
But it was a great game, and it was one in which there were things that made zero sense, and some that made all the sense in the entire world.
What we'll remember from this game:
The Heat gave everything: We'd waited all season for them to rise to a moment, and they finally did. Wade diving on the floor for a loose ball, chucking it to James for a dunk so hard he wound up in the second row of photographers. It was effort from start to finish, and it was impressive, despite some terrible shooting performances.
Dwyane Wade rose to the moment: I couldn't get over how terrible Dwyane Wade looked for the first 36 minutes of the game. He was losing balls unforced out of bounds off the dribble. He was missing wide-open spot-up threes. He was playing as he had in every big game for the Heat this year. Then suddenly, it all fell into place and Dwyane Wade, the Dwyane Wade who's an NBA champion, an MVP candidate, one of the best shooting guards in the history of the game stepped up and made the plays he needed to make to win the game. It was a definite redemption after the last three weeks of struggle, and something the Heat badly needed. James did his job, Wade did his job, capitalized on the opportunities, and perhaps most importantly, didn't settle from the outside. He attacked, and the result was shots at the rim. Wade's final eight-minute stretch? Eight points on 4-7 shooting, 2 offensive rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal, 1 turnover.
Chris Bosh shutting everyone up: Chris Bosh was supposed to struggle in the post. He was supposed to be the weak link. And he has for most of the year. But against the Lakers, he was everything he said he would be. He hit the post-turnaround over bigger defenders, he grabbed 9 boards, he worked hard at both ends, played aggressive, smart, and led the Heat in scoring. Chris Bosh was the best player for the Heat the whole night through. Who saw that coming?
Wasted Advantage Down Low: Andrew Bynum was 4-5 from the field, and 5-6 from the stripe for 13 points. That's some pretty incredible efficiency. Pau Gasol was 8-16 and 4-5 from the line. Not as stunning, but pretty good. Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, and Ron Artest were 14-37. You'd think that at some point, with the Heat trotting out Juwan Howard, Joel Anthony, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, that someone with the Lakers would say "Hey, maybe we should throw it to one of the really tall guys." It's not that their success is guaranteed, it's that it just seems like something that may have helped. The rebounding, though, that's all on the bigs. Outrebounded 46-37, with the Heat enjoying five more offensive boards. The Lakers did not bring their best efforts on the glass, worried too much about shutting down the Triad.
Support players stepping up and down: The Heat bench outscored the Lakers' 22-16, something few saw coming. Mike Miller was in effect. The Heat badly needed a role player to step up in the first quarter, and it was Mario Chalmers, with three big 3-pointers. Zydrunas Ilgauskas wound up a +16 on the night. That's just an impressive overall performance for a squad that's been mocked, derided, and questioned all seasons. Against one of the stronger units, they stepped up and were a huge part of the Heat win.
Kobe Bryant after-hours: Is there a more iconic image of Bryant? In a game that featured a terrible shooting performance from him, where he turned the ball over late, where he hoisted 35-foot 3-pointers into the air, ignoring any semblance of an offensive system, he returns an hour after the game to work on his jumper. This is Kobe Bryant, the most feared player in the NBA, determined to work on the very shots that should never have been taken, confident that if he works hard enough, they'll fall, because they've fallen before. Maybe they fell because he was younger, stronger, but he'll never approach the game that way and his fans will never want him to. They'll want him doing exactly what he did Thursday night, work on his game until his blood's run dry, even if that game isn't what Phil Jackson wants, the Lakers need, or his body requires. As for why he says he did it? "This is (his) job." He'll focus on those shots he missed, never considering that maybe he should have created, should have worked in the flow of the offense, should have been a part of the engine as opposed to the sole operator. He's won five championships because of this, he may win his sixth because of this, and he'll be simultaneously revered and reviled because of it. Some will say it's what sets him apart from LeBron James even as James got the win. Others will say it's an attention-grabbing stunt, even as he never informed media he'd be there or paid any attention to them. Kobe Bryant will always be the player we can never agree on, can never let go of. He's too determined, too stubborn, too brilliant, too frustrating. But at the end of the day, he's got his rings, and a great chance at another. For one night, however, he's got that gym, and his thoughts.
The Heat have the win.
Posted on: March 10, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 12:54 pm
Lakers travel to Miami to take on the Heat Thursday night. Here are 5 things to keep an eye out for during the battle of the hype machines.
Posted by Matt Moore
This game feels weird to look at. On the one hand, it should be a Lakers cakewalk. They're on a monstrous roll, destorying everything in their path, while the Heat are in the depths of a downright pathetic losing streak, continuously failing out of close games thanks to their own ineptitude. The Lakers have Andrew Bynum at the Heat's weakest position and Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, and Pau Gasol match up favorably with Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Pau Gasol. But the Heat won on Christmas in impressive fashion, the game is in Miami (though it's not like that's a huge homecourt advantage), and the Lakers are due to stop caring about the regular season again at any second. I'm leaning strongly towards a Lakers blowout, but that just seems too obvious. Regardless, here's five things to watch as the champs take on the hype when the Lakers meet the Heat Thursday night.
1. Chris Bosh Like A Low-Post Virgin: Chris Bosh says he needs more touches in the low-post. We've gone over why this is a bad idea. But it should be mentioned that Bosh had a lot of inside looks in the Christmas Day game, and played very well, while Andrew Bynum had 18 ineffective minutes. So it's possible Bosh could be on to something, particularly when it comes to this game, in regards to giving him a shot in the low-post. Forgive us if we're a bit skeptical about his ability to take on a healthy Bynum and Gasol when fully engaged, especially when he's in one of the worst slumps of his career. The big question will be if the Heat actually adopt such a strategy, placing their trust in the third best of the Triad to make the plays necessary on offense to control the game. Somehow it's hard to see LeBron James or Dwyane Wade getting fewer perimeter possessions so that Bosh can go to work in the block. But at this point, is there anything not worth trying?
3. Empty Bench Syndrome: The Lakers are going to get production out of their bench. They just are. Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, even Steve Blake and Matt Barnes will get some level of production. The Heat are going to lose the bench scoring match, there's no question on that. But how much is the issue. If Mario Chalmers can come in and provide a decent amount of scoring, just double digits, it will help a lot. Mike Miller needs to come out of his shooting slump, but that doesn't seem likely, especially if he's guarded by either Artest, Bryant, or Lamar Odom (who will eat him alive, physically). In the first matchup, Zydrunas Ilgauskas did a good job of spreading the floor. He could help things Thursday by knocking down a few mid-range jumpers to get the pressure off Bosh inside and open up the lanes a bit.
4. Dynamite by Bynum: See how I didn't go for the "Bynum-ite" joke there? That's professional, baby. Anyway, in this case it's more than just a rhyming phrase. Bynum can literally blow up the Heat defensively if he goes to work. They have no one that can guard him, in any way, shape, or form, and if he get active and gets room and trust to work, he could destroy that team deep in the post. There's no one to keep him off the offensive glass, and he's going to have great matchups to get his hooks and jumpers going. This could be a huge night for Bynum, if the Lakers decide to go to him early and often, and provided his knee is feeling up to par.
5. Desperate measures: This has to be considered a must-win game for the Heat. It's imperative that they win this game, just to get themselves some breathing room from the media and their own fans. But that means they have to play like it. The biggest issue for the Heat this year has been playing with urgency and cohesion. They've played without energy, without passion, and without focus in the moments they've needed it most. We have no reason to suspect they'll have it Thursday night against the Lakers, but that's really theire only chance to get this game, to want it more than the Lakers. Someone on that team is going to have to step up and lead. Will anyone?
Posted on: March 4, 2011 11:33 am
Edited on: March 4, 2011 11:46 am
Pau Gasol says his first option would be familiar FC Barcelona.
Posted by Matt Moore
There's a flood of confirmations coming from players that in the event of a lockout (which is a near-certainty at this point) that they'll be playing overseas, but none have singled out a team. Pau Gasol's the first in that event and it's no shocker. Gasol told Spanish radio that were he to head overseas, he'd be looking to go somewhere familiar.
"It's an option, no doubt... If it happens, you're going to play to another place, and if I have to play in Europe my first option would be Barcelona, of course," Gasol said.
Gasol's referring to FC Barcelona, which he played for when he was a youngster from 1999-2001. His brother Marc played there, as well as his close friend Juan Carlos Navarro, who still plays there, and his Spanish national teammate Ricky Rubio. He's familiar with all the players, is a god among men in Spain, a national hero, and would get to play with close friends. So it's pretty much like LeBron going to Miami in a lot of ways. This is pretty much a no-brainer, and something he might even genuinely enjoy. Marc Gasol's also expressed interest in going overseas, and you'd have to think he'd also look to join Barcelona. The result would be a seismic shift in Europe as Barcelona would be as strong as it's ever been, essentially having the national team in place. They'd also be one of the most fun teams to watch online when you're desperate for basketball next year.
(HT: Sport.es via Hoopsyhpe)