Kobe, Lakers Win Third In A Row

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Everybody who watches basketball knows what this face means. For those who don’t, it means that it’s time for Kobe Bryant to do work. The game face was on display today, and needless to say, Kobe did work. The Lakers won their third consecutive game this afternoon after edging the Mavericks 103-99.

Despite Dirk Nowitzki playing his best game of the season, scoring 30 points and adding 13 rebounds on 58 percent shooting, Kobe played better. In 38 minutes, Bryant dropped 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists on 62 percent shooting. After scoring 40 points on Friday while shooting 60+ percent, Bryant became the oldest player in NBA history to put up these numbers on back-to-back nights.

With the Lakers and Mavericks both scrapping for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, both teams fought as if this was a playoff game. There were 39 total fouls, three technical fouls, and 21 lead changes during the game. With these circumstances, and Dwight Howard staying in foul trouble throughout the entire game, Bryant needed to have a huge game.

Bryant also had to let his play quiet the loudmouth known as Mark Cuban, who claimed just a couple days before that the Lakers should amnesty Bryant when the season was done. After getting the last laugh, Bryant was able to further bury Cuban in a tweet that read simply, “Amnesty THAT.” 

Besides Bryant’s phenomenal game, there were not many other story lines to this game. But there were a few positives for the Lakers.

Steve Nash had his highest-scoring game of the season. Not only did Steve Nash shoot 7-of-12 from the field, but he was also able to shoot four out of five from beyond the arc, including clutch threes when the game was tight.

The three point shooting was key for the Lakers. The Mavericks forced more turnovers, shot pretty much the same percentage from the field and had almost the same amount of rebounds and assists, but Los Angeles had the advantage in three-point shooting. Dallas was able to make eight threes on 44 percent shooting, but the Lakers were able to make 13 three-pointers on 52 percent shooting. Whenever the Lakers needed a big shot, either Bryant, Nash, Antawn Jamison or Jodie Meeks was able to hit a big three for the Lake Show. This proved to be more than important down the stretch.

Although it is great to see the Lakers creep to within one game of .500, they will be tested tomorrow night when they take on the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Let’s just hope that Kobe has some gas left in the tank, but at this point, should we even worry?

 

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Suns/Lakers Preview

Lakers try to put drama behind them as they return from long trip

The Lakers finished off their annual Grammys road trip on Sunday in a losing effort to the Heat. The loss brought the Lakers’ record to 4-3 on the trip, and their overall road record to an appalling 9-18 this season. 

Luckily, the Lakers are back at the Staples Center, where they are a much better 15-10. Tonight, they look to avenge their loss against the Phoenix Suns after losing 92-86 in Phoenix in the first game of their Grammys road trip.

Keys to the game: The Lakers must rebound the ball. Since Pau Gasol injured his foot in Brooklyn, the Lakers have been unable to out-rebound their opponents over the last three games, despite ranking third in the NBA in rebounding. Suns center Marcin Gortat managed to pull down 12 rebounds, including four offensive, in their last meeting. Both Earl Clark and Dwight Howard must be ready to rebound the basketball tonight.

The Lakers also need to not turn the ball over. As of today, the Lake Show ranks 25th in turnovers per game, giving the ball away over 15 times per game. This stat also proved to be crucial in their last match-up against Phoenix. Los Angeles turned the ball over 19 times while falling apart and squandering a double-digit, fourth quarter lead. Good ball handling from Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash will be crucial.

Prediction: I am confident when I say that Los Angeles will win this game tonight. Last time, they had everything going for them until the fourth quarter. The Lakers were also forced to play much of that fourth quarter without Howard, who re-aggravated his right shoulder. Despite a tumultuous fourth quarter against Miami, the Lakers were very efficient shooting the ball, while Kobe played well as both a scorer and a facilitator. The Lakers want revenge, and I think they will get it tonight. I like Los Angeles to win 112-96.

 

Pau Gasol Has Torn Plantar Fascia

 

 

 

 

 

After receiving an MRI in Boston on Wednesday, the worst was confirmed; Pau Gasol will be out for at least six weeks with a torn plantar fascia. The Lakers’ forward suffered this injury late in the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets.

This injury is significant for two reasons. First of all, the Lakers already are ailing when it comes to their big men. Center Dwight Howard has missed the last three games after re-aggravating his shoulder, and without Gasol, the Lakers are now down to three big men: Earl Clark, Antawn Jamison, and rookie Robert Sacre. Even with Gasol in the lineup, the Lakers still were out-rebounded by 17 over the last two games against the Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets.

This injury is also significant because the Lakers will not be able to move Gasol before the February 21 trade deadline. Although GM Mitch Kupchak eluded to the fact that the Lakers didn’t plan on trading Gasol, no move would come as a surprise, as they are still a sub-.500 team.

It will be interesting to see how the Lakers address this situation with the trade deadline only 15 days away. Gasol will most likely be out until the end of March or the beginning of April, and with Howard not being consistently healthy, Los Angeles may have to pick up a big man.

The Gasol-less Lakers get their first challenge Thursday night when they take on the Boston Celtics in Boston.

Lakers Edge Nets

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The Lakers were without Dwight Howard. Metta World Peace was out due to a one-game suspension. Going into Tuesday night’s game, the Lakers were the owners of a tumultuous 7-16 record on the road. Despite all of these factors, the Lakers went into Brooklyn and beat the Nets 92-83.

How did they do it?

It all started on the defensive end. The Lakers held the Nets to just under 35% shooting from the floor, including just 26% from beyond the arc. The Nets did post an exceptional 20 offensive rebounds, including seven by Brook Lopez, however the Lakers were able to slow Brooklyn’s offensive production by forcing 16 turnovers. The fact that the Lakers were able to slow down most of the Nets’ offense without having two of their best defenders was very impressive.

Earl Clark was also a huge factor on Tuesday night. His stat line shows that he played fantastic basketball. In 41 minutes, the most time spent on the floor by any Laker, Clark was able to accrue 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. In addition, he led the team in rebounding, pulling down 12 boards en route to his third consecutive double-double. These numbers along with his zero turnovers led to his most important stat; a +18 plus/minus rating. No other Laker starter had more than a +5.

Finally, the last important factor was that the Lakers could count on Kobe. He started off cold in the first half, only shooting 3-10 from the field. In the second half, we saw more of the old Kobe. He shot 6-14, a much better number, and kept the ball in his hands when the team needed somebody to come up big, including a dunk over Kris Humphries that earned him the number-one spot on Sportscenter.

The one negative to come out of Tuesday night’s win was Pau Gasol’s injury. He went down late in the fourth quarter with what is now being called a plantar fascia strain. With Howard already out due to a nagging shoulder injury, the thought of the Lakers losing Pau in addition is very worrisome.

With that being said, the Lakers have no choice but to move on and play with what they have. Los Angeles has now won six out of their last seven contests, which is tied for their best stretch of the season. The Lakers (23-26) head to Boston next to face the Celtics on Thursday night at the TD Banknorth Garden.