Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lakers Beat Grizzlies But Lost Bynum

Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum left the game against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first quarter Saturday night with a sprained right knee. Despite that, the Lakers still beat the Grizzlies 115-98 extending Memphis losing streak to 12 games.

Kobe Bryant scored 25 points on 10-of-20 shooting, dished out seven assists, and had three steals. Pau Gasol had 24 points and eight rebounds. Derek Fisher had a very efficient shooting night making 6-of-7 including 2-of-3 beyond the 3-point line for 14 points.

Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza contributed 13 and 11 points, respectively off-the-bench.

Bynum's injury occurred at about the 7-minute mark of the first quarter under the Lakers’ basket. Kobe Bryant drove to the basket, missed the shot and crashed into Bynum’s right leg. Bynum immediately grabbed his knee.

The two were on the ground under their basket as the Grizzlies went to the other end. After Los Angeles gained possession, they called time out. Bynum, who scored 7 points and blocked a shot, was helped to the locker room with Los Angeles leading 13-11.

Last season, Bynum sustained a brief dislocation of his left kneecap in mid-January. He sat out the rest of the season, eventually undergoing surgery in May. Bynum was on a roll coming into Saturday, averaging 26.2 points, 14 rebounds and 3.2 blocked shots over his last five games.

The Lakers trailed the Grizzlies at halftime, 61-55, but unleashed a 36-point third quarter and never trailed again after taking a 91-82 lead into the fourth. Lakers reserves, led by Odom, played excellent defense to start the fourth quarter making a 9-0 run in the first six minutes of the quarter.

The Lakers held Memphis to 37 second-half points in pulling out the victory.

Rudy Gay had 23 points, while O.J. Mayo scored 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field for the Grizzlies. Mike Conley and Pau Gasol's younger brother, Marc, both had 13 points for Memphis.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Bryant and Bynum Helped Lakers Rout Timberwolves

Andrew Bynum bulled his way inside for his fifth straight double-double performance with 27 points and 15 rebounds, providing the perfect complement to Kobe Bryant's 30 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and the Lakers started a six-game road trip with a 132-119 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.

Minnesota was recently one of the hottest teams in the league having won 10 of their last 13 games for the second-best record in January. But they are no match for the Lakers.

Pau Gasol rebounded from a bad game against Charlotte where he scored only 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting. This time, Gasol had 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting and nine rebounds. Luke Walton played efficiently scoring 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 18 minutes. Derek Fisher added 10 points.

Lamar Odom and Jordan Farmar contributed 10 points each off-the-bench. Trevor Ariza was cleared to play after a CT scan and MRI test came back. Ariza left Tuesday's game against Charlotte with a concussion. He scored eight points in 23 minutes in this game.

Bynum is a big reason why the Los Angeles Lakers have the best record in the Western Conference.

"He looks very confident in there right now," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "I think this is a stepping-out point for him. He's a better player now than he was when he got hurt last year, but it's taken him this month, January, to get back and feel like, 'OK, I'm over my injury, it was a year ago, and I'm prepared to go forth and put this effort into it,' and he's done a great job."

Bynum, the reigning Western Conference player of the week, helped the Lakers make up for a frustrating double-overtime loss at home to Charlotte on Tuesday.

"We're starting to expect it from him because he's being aggressive. He's being assertive," Bryant said. "He's finding his niche and where he can operate in the offense. I like it. I like it a lot."

"Some teams don't have one guy that can post up and play the center position," Bynum said. "We actually have two that can do it pretty well. I think the game plan should always be to go inside. We know what Kobe can do. Offensively I think we've kind of figured it out and we know what's going to happen."

Al Jefferson led the way for the Timberwolves, scoring 34 points and pulling down 13 rebounds for his 25th double-double of the season. Randy Foye scored 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting. Ryan Gomes and Sebastian Telfair contributed 14 and 10 points, respectively.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lakers Can't Beat Charlotte Bobcats

The Charlotte Bobcats continued their surprising recent domination of the Lakers by beating them in double-overtime 117-110 on Tuesday night. The Lakers lost for the fifth time in the last seven and fell to 4-5 all-time against the Bobcats. They also suffered their fourth loss at home this season.

Kobe Bryant had 38 points, eight rebounds and five assists before fouling out for the first time this season in the final minute of the first overtime. It was the first time Bryant has fouled out of a game since doing so in a loss at New Orleans on March 14, 2008, and just the 21st time he has fouled out in 1,061 career games.

Andrew Bynum had 24 points and 14 rebounds and Derek Fisher scored 14 for the Lakers. Sasha Vujajic contributed 10 points off-the-bench.

Pau Gasol scored just 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting with seven rebounds. "Pau probably had the worst night he's had as a Laker," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

Boris Diaw had 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Raymond Felton played for 53 minutes and had 21 points, a career-high 11 rebounds and 9 assists. Emeka Okafor had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Raja Bell contributed 17 points while reserve Shannon Brown scored five of his 14 points in the second overtime.

"That was a heck of a win, it was a heck of a performance," Bobcats coach Larry Brown said. "Shannon had to play when Gerald [Wallace] got hurt, and he played great."

Wallace, who scored 15 points before leaving with 2:08 left in the fourth quarter after a flagrant foul by Bynum knocked him to the floor. He suffered a broken rib and partially collapsed left-lung and was taken to the hospital.

"I just think it was a terrific performance against a great team," Brown said. "I really don't know how to explain it because they are playing at such a high level."

"It's always stops," Bryant said regarding the late-game difference. "We've just got to learn from our mistakes and not let it happen again."

"It was one of those games where Kobe had kind of taken over for them," Bell said. "So when you lose that engine, I think it was more of the fact that they just didn't have that go-to guy down the stretch. It definitely didn't hurt that Kobe wasn't around. But more than anything, we continued to do what we did."

"We didn't get too high with the highs or too low with the lows. We just kept plugging away. We gave it away for a while and them we were really resilient at times. So we just stayed the course."

The game was the Lakers' first overtime contest of the season, leaving New Orleans as the only team that hasn't gone into overtime


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lakers Defense Too Much For Spurs

Kobe Bryant scored 22 points in 32 minutes, Pau Gasol added 16 points, five rebounds and four assists, and the Lakers beat the Spurs 99-85, avenging their one-point loss in their previous game on Jan. 14 in San Antonio.

This game is supposed to be a matchup of the Western Conference's best teams but it turned out to be a mismatch. The Lakers defense proved to be too much for the Spurs to overcome, holding San Antonio to 37.5 percent shooting from the field.

After a month of playing short-handed, the Los Angeles Lakers are back to full strength. Backup point guard Jordan Farmar returned after missing 18 games because of an injured left knee, and scored 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting including 2-of-3 from the 3-point range.

Luke Walton played in his third game after missing nine with an injured foot, and Lamar Odom (knee) and Sasha Vujacic (back spasms) were also sidelined for brief periods.

"We missed him a lot. He makes our second unit go, he's the motor," Bryant said of Farmar. "Now that he's back, everybody falls into their natural positions and we are back clicking on all cylinders."

"It [Jordan's return] helps us a lot. Jordan obviously has attributes -- the speed and the quickness. Those are things that we missed, that tempo change in our game, " Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

Farmar entered the game late in the first quarter and played almost seven minutes in his first action since Dec. 19. He returned late in the third period and played another 10 1/2 minutes.

Andrew Bynum had 15 points, 11 rebounds, and four block shots. Reserve Trevor Ariza scored 17 points to match his season high. Odom contributed 6 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes.

Tony Parker had 19 points and six assists and Tim Duncan added 15 points and eight rebounds for the Spurs (29-14), who lost for just the fourth time in 18 games. Neither played in the fourth quarter.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bynum Dominates Again; Lakers Routed Wizards

Andrew Bynum played just 27 minutes but still had 23 points and 14 rebounds Thursday night in a 117-97 rout of the Washington Wizards, just 24 hours after he recorded a career-high 42 points and 15 boards against the Clippers.

"I'm happy for him. If Andrew can continue to have that type of presence in the middle -- no matter who the other team is -- we're going to be a much better team," Lakers point guard Derek Fisher said. "He seems to just be getting more comfortable on the court, physically. He came into the season off a serious knee surgery and really hadn't played basketball since last January."

"We went out there and moved the ball," Bynum said. "Everybody got shots. They were undermanned, and we were able to take advantage of them on the block."

Pau Gasol scored 18 points and Kobe Bryant had a quite night with just 11 points and five assists. Both of them played for less than 28 minutes as Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson kept their starters on the bench throughout the fourth quarter with the Lakers leading 97-68.

The Wizards fell to the Lakers for the fifth straight time. Los Angeles led 72-47 at halftime after outscoring the Wizards 15-5 over the final 3 1/2 minutes of the second quarter.

"It's all about how the defense is playing us," Bryant said. "We went through a stretch where teams felt like they could double on Pau, but we made them pay. Now they're trying to do the same thing with Andrew, and we're making them pay again. Teams are trying new things defensively against us to see what works."

The Lakers improved to a conference-best 22-3 at home this season and have won 13 of 16 overall. The Wizards have lost five straight against the Lakers.

Antawn Jamison scored 19 points and Caron Butler had 12 points for the woeful Wizards, who have lost eight of their last 10 games and 18 of 23 overall. Backup center JaVale McGee had 18 points and nine rebounds while former Laker, Javaris Crittenton contributed 10 points off-the-bench.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bynum Scores Career High in Lakers Win Against Clippers

Andrew Bynum scored a career-high 42 points, Kobe Bryant had his second triple-double in their last three games and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Clippers 108-97 Wednesday night.

Bryant, playing in pain two days after dislocating his right ring finger, scored 18 points, dished out 12 assists and grabbed 10 rebounds for his 16th career triple-double while Bynum had 15 rebounds and three block shots in helping the Lakers secure their 7th straight win against the Clippers and 14 of their last 15 overall.

Pau Gasol scored 10 points and Luke Walton, who returned to action after missing nine games because of an injured right foot, added 11 points. Lamar Odom contributed 19 points, nine rebounds, three block shots, off-the-bench.

Since the 1986-87 season, Bynum is the first Laker other than Shaquille O'Neal, to have a 40-point, 15-rebound game. Shaq did it seven times with Los Angeles. Bynum also became the first Lakers player to reach 40 points other than Bryant since Shaq scored 48 against Boston on March 21, 2003.

"If feels very good, to go out there and play the way I did," the 21-year-old center said. "I was able to get a lot of easy buckets. Kobe was Kobe Nash out there tonight. The ball was coming my way a lot. I was able to just get a lot of touches and get comfortable."

"I didn't know how many [points] I had, and that's just the truth," he said. "The fans were yelling for me to get 40. And then once I got the dunk, everybody was on their feet cheering."

The Lakers raised their record to a Western Conference-best 33-8 record at the halfway point of the season and earned Phil Jackson an All-Star coaching spot. He'll lead the West All-Stars on Feb. 15 in Phoenix.

The Clippers played without their four best players -- guard Baron Davis (bruised tailbone) and big men Chris Kaman (strained left arch), Zach Randolph (sore left knee) and Marcus Camby (sprained left ankle).

Rookie DeAndre Jordan, making his second career start, had career-high totals of 23 points and 12 rebounds for the injury-ravaged Clippers (9-32), who have lost 14 of 15. Al Thornton added 20 points and rookie Eric Gordon had 16 points and six assists.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Kobe Got Injured But Still Beat James And Cavaliers

Kobe Bryant, dedicated to pressuring LeBron James on defense, dislocated his right ring finger early in the game, trying to knock the ball out of LeBron's hands. Despite of that, Bryant had 20 points, six rebounds and 12 assists in 41 minutes and the Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-88 in their game at the Staples Center.

Pau Gasol led Los Angeles with 22 points on 11-of-13 shooting and 12 rebounds. Andrew Bynum and Sasha Vujacic scored 14 points each, Derek Fisher added 11 fot the Lakers and Trevor Ariza contributed 10 points and 11 steals to help snap a five-game losing streak to the Cavaliers.

"I just dove for the ball, and the finger just popped out," Bryant recalled afterward . "I was scared, I thought I was done. It felt like I had two fingers on one, it was just disgusting." Bryant, who was obviously bothered by the injury in his shooting hand, shot 9-of-22. He spoke to reporters just minutes after X-rays showed no fracture.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said, "for a while, we thought he was just going to be a playmaker tonight, but the second half, he started feeling like he could shoot it." Bryant scored 15 of his 20 points after halftime.

"It was a huge deal," Gasol said. "We didn't want to come out of this game with another loss on our home court. It was important for us to bounce back tonight. This is a significant victory for us. The defensive effort was outstanding."

James had 23 points and nine rebounds, but shot just 9-of-25. Mo Williams added 16 points, six rebounds and five assists and Sasha Pavlovic scored 12 for the Cavaliers (31-8), who absorbed their most one-sided loss of the season.

"You've got to give the Lakers credit, they played a very good basketball game," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "I thought they were the aggressors tonight. I thought they got up in us and made us play quick. You have to give Kobe Bryant credit, I thought he played a whale of a game."


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kobe Bryant Is The Lakers Lone MVP

With the NBA season near its halfway mark, and the Lakers having the best record in the Western Conference, it's about time we handout some midseason awards for the LA Lakers' strong 2008-'09 season.
For this round, I'd be giving four awards—MVP, sixth man, most-improved, and their Mythical Five. Feel free to comment and suggest other awards.

Most Valuable Player: Kobe Bryant

Even without looking at the stat sheets, I think nobody will argue that Kobe is still, and would continue to be in the next few years, the Lakers' best player. The Lakers still don't have a One-Two Punch, or a Big Three, or the Strong Five. They only have one MVP and that's Kobe Bryant! No more, no less.

But let's be objective and look at his numbers.

His stats are a bit off this season (27.2 points, 4.7 assists, 1.32 steals) compared to his last year's performance (28.3 points, 5.4 assists, 1.84 steals) that made him the league MVP. But this is attributed more to the improved performance of his teammates rather than his diminishing contributions.

He's playing less minutes this season (36.2 vs. 38.9 last season) but his performance efficiency rating (PER) improved from 24.09 to 25.06, the second best this year behind Miami's Dwayne Wade. Wait...let me check that again.

Oh, sorry. The Lakers lost in their last two games and Bryant's PER dropped to 24.97, just good for number three behind Portland's Brandon Roy.

Bryant also increased his contributions to the team this January when the level of competition increases as we approach the middle of the season and the trading deadline. He averaged 30.1 points on 49.2 percent shooting (45.9 percent from beyond the arc), 7.1 assists, and 6.0 rebounds in nine games this January.

And for those who think that Kobe shoots too much and misses a lot: Well, he has the best field goal percentage (47.8 percent) for shooting guards with PER of 20 or more (Roy is second, Wade third).

Sixth Man Award: Lamar Odom

Just by watching their games, it's not easy to see Odom's contributions to the team. He's coming off-the-bench; he plays shorter minutes; he usually doesn't score much; his rebounding is off; etc. etc.

Moreover, his stats are all off from last season. Last year, he averaged 14.2 points on 52.5 percent shooting, 3.5 assists, 10.7 rebounds in 37.9 minutes of playing time. This season, his averages dipped to 9.1 points on 47.3 percent shooting, 2.4 assists, 6.1 rebounds in 26.4 minutes of playing time.

So why am I giving this sixth man award to Lamar in spite of his seemingly diminished performance? Well, this award should go to the player who contributes the most to his team by doing the other things that bench players are supposed to be doing when they are on the court. The little things that current statistics don't track like setting screens, taking charges, drawing double teams, etc.

And that's what Odom keeps on doing.

By looking at his on-court/off-court statistics, which measures a player's contribution to the team when he's on-the-court and how the team performs when the player is on-the-bench, it's easy to realize how the Lakers could dominate their opponents when Odom is on-the-floor.

Odom's net on-court/off-court stat of +15.4 is the highest on the team. It's even better than Bryant's +8.7 and Fisher's +4.8 stats. This doesn't suggest that Lamar is more important than Kobe for the team. It's just that Odom is very good playing in his position (power forward) that he's either outscoring his counterparts or limiting their productions by his active defense.

Odom is No. 5 in the league on the net on-court/off-court performance per 100 possessions, behind New Orleans' dynamic duo, Chris Paul and David West, Miami's Dwayne Wade, and Cleveland's LeBron James.

All the top 16 players in this category are regular starters on their team except for Odom and Utah's Andrei Kirilenko (No. 10).

With this stats, you'd wonder why Phil Jackson continues to have Lamar come off-the-bench. I also do. In fact, I wrote an article last month regarding the need to have Odom return to their starting lineup.

Most Improved Player: Trevor Ariza

Trevor Ariza really improved a lot this season. Last year, he averaged 6.5 points, 1.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 24 games he played for the Lakers. Those stats are already a marked improvement over his performance in Orlando (3.3 points, 0.7 assists, 2.2 rebounds, and 0.5 steals)

This season, he raised his averages to 9.2 points, 2.1 assists, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. His PER has improved from 15.83 to 17.66 and now ranks 10th among small forwards in pure point rating. Ariza ranks second among small forwards in free-throw rate, eighth in rebound rate, and fourth in field-goal percentage.

So you wonder again why Jackson keeps Trevor coming off the bench? More on this later.

Mythical Five: Fisher-Bryant-Ariza-Odom-Gasol

This combination should be the Lakers starting lineup. It is their strongest unit producing +70 and 72.7 percent winning percentage in the rating vs. the +57 and 48.0 percent winning percentage for their current starting lineup.

But why Jackson in not putting this combination on floor to start the games? Because he feels this unit is just a minor upgrade from the lineup that was routed by the Celtics in the NBA Finals last season. Admittedly, Ariza in place of Radmanovic is a minor upgrade.

So he's really is trying to get Gasol and Bynum play together. He's very strategic-minded. If he succeed, the Twin Tower of Gasol and Bynum would be very formidable, indeed.

Jackson is trying to develop Bynum to be a defensive-minded center while Gasol, an unstoppable offensive power forward. But the problem is, the two are not getting it yet. They are taking away scoring opportunities from each other.

Pau Gasol's scoring dipped from 18.8 points per game on 58.9 percent shooting last season as a Laker to 17.6 points at 54.8 percent shooting this season. Andrew Bynum's 13.1 points on 63.6 percent shooting last year also went south with 12.6 points on 53.7 percent shooting this season.

In fairness to Gasol and Bynum, they are very good at center position. They combined to make the Lakers the third-best in that position in terms of PER difference. The best in that category is Dwight Howard's Magic. No wonder they couldn't beat Orlando.

The second-best in that category is Cleveland. And they would be playing them tonight. Watch their performance.

Gasol ranked sixth among power forwards in the league in efficiency rating at 21.77 PER. But he only plays around 50 percent of the time at that position, the other half being played by Odom. Half of the time, Gasol is playing center, which is where he's more effective.

He produces +162 net points in the rating with net48 of 12.7 with 75 win% as a center. As a power forward, he's only +76 with net48 of just 5.5 and 50 win percentage.

In contrast, Odom, playing at power forward, is +303 with net48 of 16.5 and 85 win percentage. Andrew Bynum is +183 with net48 of 8.2 and 66 win percentage.

These stats are quite complicated but it clearly shows that Odom and Gasol should be given more playing time at their natural position—that is at power forward and at center, respectively.

I'm not suggesting that Gasol and Bynum split the 48 minutes available playing time for one position. They are both too good to be playing just 24 minutes each. Sure, play Pau some minutes at forward but reduce it a bit to give more time for Lamar to be more effective.

So please Mr. Jackson, put Odom back to the Lakers starting lineup.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Lakers Couldn't Beat Orlando

Inspite of a spectacular night from Kobe Bryant, the LA Lakers lost to the Orlando Magic 109-103 Friday night. Bryant had a triple-double performance -- the 15th of his career and first since April 2005 -- scoring 28 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and dishing 11 assists in 41 minutes.

With the Magic leading by three, Bryant missed a 27-foot three-pointer from the right wing that could have tied the game with 8.9 seconds left in the game. Jameer Nelson, who got the offensive rebound, was quickly fouled by Pau Gasol. He made both free throws to increase the lead to five.

Bryant again tried and missed a three-point shot with 4.9 seconds to go but no effort could have saved the game with only few seconds remaining in the game and the Lakers suffered its second consecutive losses this season.

But the Lakers didn't lose the game on that last two shots of Bryant. They lost it in the third quarter where they were outscored by Orlando 30-21.

The Lakers entered the third period leading by eight points. Andrew Bynum scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the first half helping lift the Lakers to a 52-44 lead over the Magic at halftime. But he went 1-of-4 in the second half and finished with 14 points with just 3 rebounds.

In the Lakers' loss in Orlando last December, Bynum scored just three points on 1-of-4 shooting and had just a single rebound. He's a non-factor again in the second-half this time.

Pau Gasol, who scored just 11 points and seven rebounds in their previous game in Orlando, only scored 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting with 9 rebounds in 33 minutes. Their two 7-footers combined for just 27 points and 12 rebounds, 7 on the offensive end.

In contrast, Orlando's Dwight Howard scored 25 points, grabbed 20 rebounds, 8 on the offensive end, and blocked three shots. Howard had his fourth 20-20 game this season in a game against the Lakers' Twin Tower! If you're the Lakers' GM, would you trade 7-footers Gasol and Bynum for 6'11" Howard? I would...

Also, for the first time in Orlando's franchise history, the Magic sweep their season series with the Lakers. The Magic wasn't able to do that when the Lakers had a 6'11" Kwame Brown as their starting center going against Howard.

Maybe the Lakers should hire Brown as special consultant to teach the Lakers big men how to play "defense" against the likes of Howard. Too bad he's still warming the bench in Detroit!

Derek Fisher also struggled with his shots missing eight of his 11 attempts for just 9 points. In their last game, he scored 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting.

Sasha Vujacic returned after missing two games with back spasms, but he didn't score in his 13 minutes on the court. Trevor Ariza added just 7 points off-the-bench.

On the positive note, Lamar Odom had a decent game this time. He had 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting and grabbed 9 boards. In their last meeting, Odom was also a non-factor on offense with only four points on 1-of-7 shooting, although he matched the total rebounding contributions of their Twin Tower with 8 boards.

Vladimir Radmanovic added 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.

Jameer Nelson top-scored for Orlando with 28 points with 8 assists. Rashard Lewis scored 16 points with 4 steals and Hedo Turgoklu contributed 13 points. Courtney Lee added 12 points with 7 rebounds.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Spurs beat Lakers 112-111 on Mason's 3-point play

The first meeting between the Western Conference finalists last season was almost a repeat of the Lakers' win the other night in Houston. The Lakers rallied from 11 points down in the fourth quarter, taking a two-point lead when Kobe Bryant hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left.

But Roger Mason hit a jumper with 10 seconds left and made a free throw after being fouled by Derek Fisher. The Lakers had a chance to win the game, with the Spurs just leading by a point, but Trevor Ariza was called for traveling on their last possession with 0.8 seconds left in the game, and the Spurs beat the Lakers 112-111 on Wednesday night.

Kobe Bryant had a very efficient game with 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting with 10 rebounds and seven assists in 42 minutes. Pau Gasol, rebounding from two previous ineffective games, played well offensively in this game, scoring 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting but had only five rebounds and an assist in 32 minutes.

Andrew Bynum had 18 points and just three rebounds in 35 minutes. Derek Fisher added 16 points in 36 minutes.

Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom and Josh Powell contributed 10, 9, and 6 points, respectively, off-the-bench.

Manu Ginobilli topscored for the Spurs with 27 points. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker both contributed 20 points. Roger Mason scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

Already playing without their backup point guard, Jordan Farmar, the Lakers had a brief scare when Derek Fisher left with longtime trainer Garry Vitti to the locker room after a collision with San Antonio's George Hill on a drive. He missed almost 4 1/2 minutes of actual game time but emerge back with 3:37 left in the fourth quarter.

With Sasha Vujacic day-to-day because of back spasms, the Lakers were forced to use Kobe Bryant at point guard until Fisher returned.

The Spurs and Lakers have been rivals over the last 10 years. The Spurs have won four NBA championships during that span while the Lakers have won three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002.

The two teams have met in the playoffs six times in the last 10 years, with the Lakers having won the series four times, including a 4-1 series win over the Spurs in last season's Western Conference finals.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lakers beat Rockets on Kobe's clutch 3-point

Kobe Bryant scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 27 seconds left in the game to give the Lakers a road victory against a short-handed Houston Rockets 105-100 on Tuesday night.

Bryant was struggling with his shots early, making only eight of 23 shots through three quarters. But he sank five of his nine shots in the fourth quarter, including the final three-pointer that sealed the win. His 32 shot attempts is a season-high.

Vladimir Radmanovic made five of his six shots, including 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. Trevor Ariza scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and Lamar Odom added 10 points off-the-bench. Josh Powell connected on three of his four shots for six points in 12 minutes.

Pau Gasol continues to struggle offensively, taking only nine shots and making just three for 11 points with just seven rebounds in 42 minutes. Andrew Bynum only played for 27 minutes and scored 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting with just a single rebound and five fouls.

This is the Lakers' fourth straight and 14th in the last 17 games overall. The Rockets have lost four of seven games since the start of the New Year.

Von Wafer, the Lakers' second-round pick in 2005 but waived in October 2006, scored a career-high 23 points. Carl Landry contributed 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting off-the-bench. Yao Ming scored 19 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Rafer Alston added 11 points.

Both teams have three players out of their line up due to various injuries. Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest and reserve guard Luther Head didn't suit up for the Rockets in this game while Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic are in the Lakers' injury list.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Pau Gasol is the key to Lakers dominance

There is no doubt that having Kobe Bryant in their lineup makes the LA Lakers a great team. But Bryant alone can't make this team win a championship. One great player can't beat five opposing players, even with lesser talents, playing on the same hard court for 48 minutes.

Even the great Michael Jordan couldn't have won a championship without another great player, Scottie Pippen.

Let's see the great NBA duos (or trio for the Spurs and Celtics and quintet for the Pistons) in the past two decades:

Jordan had Pippen in Chicago. They made the Bulls the most dominant team in the 1990s and had six championship rings together.

David Robinson had Tim Duncan earlier and Duncan had Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker later in San Antonio. And they made the Spurs one of the best teams of the 2000s in winning four championships between them.

Shaq had Kobe in LA Lakers, previous edition. And they made the Lakers the most dominant team early in this decade by winning three consecutive titles.

Chauncey Billups had four other Pistons in Detroit. And they won a championship together.

Dywane Wade had Shaq for one championship ring beating a good Dallas Mavericks team featuring just one MVP player, Dirk Nowitski.

Last year, Paul Pierce had Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, and the "big three" won the championship last year beating a Lakers team with one great player and another all-star material who played very well in sweeping through the Western Conference playoffs but seemed to got "lost in Spanish translation" in the NBA Finals.

And Kobe?

He had Caron Butler in 2004 and they failed to make it to the playoffs.

He had Lamar Odom, Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, and young Andrew Bynum. They made the playoffs but lost in the first round for two years.

Last year, he had Pau Gasol for half of the season. And immediately, the Lakers made it to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, they lost to Boston's "big three."

Now that Gasol would be playing a full season with the Lakers, the team is expected to achieve what it failed to accomplish last season--win that elusive NBA title!

But they can't do that while Gasol is playing just a sidekick or an afterthought to Kobe. He has to dominate the same way, or at least close to the way, Kobe is dominating in his position.

Gasol is a very good player specially now that he's playing mostly at forward position in a very balanced Lakers team. But he doesn't always play aggressively.

This season, Gasol averages 17.8 points on 55.4% shooting, 9.4 rebounds, and 12.1 field goal attempts per game. For comparative purposes, Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, averages 20.4 points on 51.6% shooting, 10.1 rebounds and 15.5 field goal attempts.

Duncan is attempting more shots despite having two other stars in Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. In San Antonio, you wouldn't know which of their three stars is their first, second or third option on offense--all of them are good, reliable and aggressive.

Of course, the Lakers have more wins than the Spurs. But can they win important games against championship-caliber teams while Gasol is playing just a "second option" to Bryant?

Their records show they can't!

To be a championship-caliber team, the Lakers need more offensive contribution from Gasol. He shouldn't defer to Kobe specially on close games. Their recent victory against Golden State showed how Gasol can be dominating if he stays aggressive specially in closing out games.

He needs to be as aggressive as Duncan and take more than 15 attempts per game. The Lakers haven't lost a game this season with Gasol taking more than 15 shot attempts.

In their six losses this season, Gasol took less shots (10.8 on average) than his tally this season while Bryant is taking the slack by shooting five more shots (25.5 per game) than his average (20.1) this season.

This is not indicative of "Bryant shooting too much to the detriment of his team." In fact, he scored more than his average (32.2 in losses vs. 27.0 average this season) in the Lakers' six losses while Gasol scored less in losses (15.7 average) than in wins (18.3)

Can you blame Bryant for scoring 39 points on 14-of-22 field goal shooting while Gasol only had 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting in their last loss against a New Orleans team that featured a shorter frontcourt?

Clearly, it's Pau Gasol that needs to be more consistent to provide the Lakers a "one-two punch combination" that Shaquille O'Neil was so proud of during his three-peat with Bryant. It was Shaq looking at Kobe as the "two" in his boxing analogy and claiming the Lakers to be "his team" that ended their run.

The Lakers are already dominant with Kobe Bryant, probably the best player in this generation. But it takes more than one great player to make a championship team!

If you still don't believe that, ask LeBron James and Dirk Nowitski, who both went to the NBA Finals but lost to better teams featuring more than one great player.

Miami's one-two punch of Wade-and-O'Neil vs. Nowitski's Mavericks in 2006 NBA Finals...

And San Antonio's big three of Duncan-Parker-Ginobili vs. James' Cavaliers in 2007...

It both instances, one is less than two or three...


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bynum Helped Lakers Defeat Miami

Andrew Bynum scored a season-high 24 points including a go-ahead follow shot with 18.5 seconds remaining and the Lakers beat the Miami Heat 108-105 to become the first Western Conference team to reach 30 victories.

Both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol have below-par shooting night in their second meeting against the Heat this season. Bryant went 5-of-14 from the field for 19 points with 7 assists. Gasol missed 11 of his 15 shots for just 14 points but grabbed 18 rebounds to match his career high.

Vladimir Radmanovic added a season-high 18 points while Derek Fisher had 13 points and a season-high 11 assists. Sasha Vujacic added 10 points off-the-bench.

Bryant's sub-par performance on offense was probably affected by his work at the defensive end, where he guarded Dwyane Wade. Bryant showed that he is one of the best on-ball defenders in the game in his match up with Wade.

Wade scored 27 points--more than half while Bryant is sitting on the bench--and had nine assists.

Bryant limited Wade to just six points in the opening quarter and just seven points the next three quarters. In the second quarter, Wade scored seven points in less than a minute while Bryant was on the bench. Bryant came back in and held Wade to two more points until halftime.

Wade also made a mini-spree in the fourth quarter with another minute-long seven-point outburst while Bryant is on the bench. Once Bryant returned, Wade didn't score again in the final seven minutes.

The two bumped heads when Bryant reached in to knock the ball away from a driving Wade late in the fourth quarter. Bryant needed four stitches to close a cut over his right eye while Wade also had a gash on his head. It was indicative of just how intense this matchup was.

Michael Beasley scored 23 points, Daequan Cook contributed 17 off-the-bench, and Shawn Marion had 12 points and 8 rebounds in the Heat's fourth straight loss to the Lakers at the Staples Center.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Kobe takes over down stretch to beat Indiana 121-119

Kobe Bryant's turnaround jumpshot with 3 seconds remaining gave the Lakers a 121-119 victory over the stubborn Indiana Pacers. It also game them their 21st win in 23 home game this season and avenged their one-point loss last Dec. 2 in Indianapolis.

Bryant finished with 36 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds and made 15 of his 17 free-throw attempts, marking just the second time he's had at least 30 points and 13 assists in his career.

For a second straight game after their lackluster performance in the Lakers loss against New Orleans, both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum both had notable performances.

Gasol scored 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds. Bynum made 8 of his 10 field goal attempts for 20 points in just 31 minutes of playing time. But their contributions might not have been enough to score a win if not for Bryant taking over late in the game.

Gasol had not made a field goal in the fourth quarter, scoring just a single point on a free-throw. Bynum only only made one field-goal attempt and another free-throw for three points.

Even Bryant's shooting was off early in the final quarter, missing his first three shot attempts, but he kept putting the ball up. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Bryant remained patient and determined down the stretch. Even when he struggled a bit on his shots early in the fourth quarter, "He stayed with it and made some plays for us down the stretch," Jackson said.

Troy Murphy had 24 points for Indiana and Danny Granger finished with 28. Mike Dunleavy added 22 points off-the-bench.

The Pacers have lost 11 straight games in Staples Center against the Lakers.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Twin Tower Bounced Back in Lakers Win vs. Warriors

Pau Gasol bounced back from a bad game just 24 hours earlier. Gasol had 33 points and a career-high 18 rebounds in their come from behind victory over the Golden State Warriors 114-106 on Wednesday night.

Andrew Bynum also rebounded from a bad game against New Orleans. He had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, whose home loss to the Hornets on Tuesday snapped a six-game winning streak for the Western Conference leaders.

Kobe Bryant added 21 points to secure their seventh victory in eight games. Trevor Ariza, who played for 34 minutes to make up for the absence of injured Lamar Odom, contributed 17 points and 9 rebounds.

In their loss to New Orleans the previous night, Gasol made only 3 of his 8 field goal attempts for 10 points. He also grab just 8 boards and didn't block any shots. In their win tonight, he was 12-of-21, 8 offensive boards and 2 blocks. He's also hit a perfect 9-of-9 from the free throw line.

Bynum only scored 7 points on 2-of-7 shooting with only 8 rebounds in their loss last night. This time he connected on 7 of his 12 attempts, had 4 of his 11 rebounds on the offensive end, and blocked 2 shots.

Jamal Crawford scored went 10-of-26 for 25 points with 9 assists but had 5 turnovers. Corey Maggette added 19 points and Marco Binelli 14.

Andris Beidrins contributed 12 points 3 block shots and 17 rebounds, all in the defensive end. Kelenna Azubuike added 15 points off-the-bench.


Lakers' Twin Tower Is No Match To Hornets' David And Paul

The New Orleans Hornets made the improbable. They pulled an upset and won over the Lakers 116-105 in their Jan. 6 game at the Staples Center behind double-double performance from David West (40 points, 11 rebounds) and Chris Paul (32 points, 15 assists).

Kobe Bryant scored 39 points on 14-of-22 field goal shooting with 7 assists in 42 minutes. Derek Fisher had 19 points and 6 assists.

Lamar Odom would have had a spectacular game, scoring 12 points on 4-of-7 field goal shooting and dishing 3 assists despite playing for only 13 minutes, but he was injured late in the second quarter with a hyper-extended right knee.

The Lakers' Twin Towers were ineffective in this game with Pau Gasol scoring only 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting in 42 minutes with 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 fouls. Andrew Bynum missed 5 of his 7 field goal attempts for a seven-point eight-rebound effort.

The Lakers' loss was the first in three games against the Hornets this season. They won their first meeting in New Orleans on Nov. 12 behind a very balanced scoring from their best players.

Bryant had 20 points and 6 assists in that game. Fisher also scored 20 points on 7-of-11 field goal shooting (4-of-6 from 3-point area) while Gasol and Bynum contributed 14 points each.

The Lakers also won their last game in New Orleans on Dec. 23, two days before their Christmas day match-up with the Celtics. Bryant, Gasol, and Bynum combined for 59 points on 49% field goal shooting with 20 total rebounds. They scored 26, 20, 13 respectively.

In their game at the Staples last night, the three combined for 56 points on 51% on the field--slightly better than their performance in their last game.

But that's just because of Bryant shooting 64% from the field. Only Bryant and Odom shot better than 50% from the field in this game. The team shot 42% from the field overall but only 32% if you take out Bryant's and Odom's numbers.

Too bad Odom was injured in the first half. They could have won the game had he stayed on the floor a little longer.

But was it really Odom not playing in the second half that cost them the game?

Well, Odom's scoring was also a non-factor in their two wins in New Orleans--just 2 points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first game and 8 points on 3-of-9 shooting in the second game.

Was it Bryant "trying to do too much?"

Nope! If fact, this game was Bryant's most efficient game against the Hornets this season although he scored only two in the fourth quarter, shooting 1-of-6 after going 13-of-16, including 6-of-6 from 3-point range in the first three quarters.

New Orleans really turned on their defense, especially on Bryant, in the last quarter and relied on dominating plays by West, who had 15 of his 40 points in the final period and outscored the whole Lakers team by himself.

The whole team was 5-of-21 from the field, including 3-of-11 from 3-point range while being outscored 27-13 in the fourth quarter.

Not to take anything away from the Hornets, who played a very good game especially in the last quarter, but the Lakers lost this game because their Twin Towers played like Two of the Seven Dwarfs!

C'mon Pau and Andrew! You made the 6'9" David West looked like 9'6" the way he dominated your 7-feet ceilings inside and outside! What happened to your vaunted wing spans that made the Lakers one of the best shot blocking teams in the league?

If you two play like this in your game tonight against the Golden State Warriors, expect another upset in Oakland! The Warriors are bigger, or at least they play bigger, than the one that blown you team out in your home court.

Good luck!


Monday, January 5, 2009

It's Official - Lakers Are Now The Best

With their win against the Portland Trail Blazers after the Celtics lost at New York and Cavaliers lost at Washington Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers claim the top spot with a league-best 27-5 record. Boston (29-6) and Cleveland (27-6) are now looking up to the Lakers' best record in the league.

Kobe Bryant played for 33 minutes and scored 26 points, Pau Gasol added 19 points in 28 minutes and Los Angeles beat the Portland Trail Blazers 100-86 Sunday night for its sixth consecutive victory and 15th straight at home.

Earlier, Paul Pierce played 42 minutes and scored 31 points, Ray Allen contributed 16 points in 37 minutes but Boston suffered another loss to a sub-.500 team, the New York Knicks (13-19) 88-100.

On the same night, the Cleveland Cavaliers, for the first time this season, lost to a team with a losing record. Lebron James played for 41 minutes and scored 30 points in a 77-80 loss to the Washington Wizards (7-25).

Cleveland and Boston are really trying hard to win regular-season games by playing their MVPs playoff-level minutes. In spite of James playing 41 minutes and Pierce 42 minutes, they both lost their game against their respective opponents last Sunday.

And the Lakers? Kobe only played 33 minutes and they won by 12 points!

So which team is the best now? The Lakers best record of 27 wins with only 5 losses says it all.

The Lakers might have won more games had Phil Jackson allowed Kobe Bryant to play the kind of minutes that Lebron and Pierce are playing. Remember their 1-point loss in Indiana? It was a won game that was lost when Kobe was resting on the bench.

Even Jackson admitted it was a coaching mistake, he should've put Bryant back at least two minutes earlier in the fourth quarter. He vowed he'd play Kobe more in the fourth quarters of their succeeding games.

Phil Jackson is more concerned about preparing his team as a potent group for the playoffs than boosting his best player's statistics. He's probably the only coach in the league who gets a bit frustrated when his best player scored 40 points in just 31 minutes saying that Bryant “tried to do too much” in the fourth quarter in their “win” against the Utah Jazz on their first game this year.

Wow! Can you imagine Mike Brown or Doc Rivers saying things like that about their best players? Only the highest paid NBA coach can do that!

James averages 36.8 minutes per game this season compared to 36.4 for Pierce, 35.7 for Allen and 35.3 for Kobe. Not much, you'd say. But the disparity in their playing times is more prominent in their crucial games.

Lebron had 10 games where he played 40 minutes or more including a 46-minute game in a loss in Atlanta and 43 minutes each in back-to-back games against Miami. He even played for 43 minutes in Oklahoma!

Yes, that's right! Forty-three big minutes against 4-and-30 Thunder! What was it with the Thunder that made Mike Brown so nervous that he wouldn't take Lebron out of the game even when his team was leading by 14 points in the last 2 minutes?

The Celtics are even worse. Or better if you feel that grinding it out in the regular season is more important than preparing your team for the playoffs and risk losing some games by giving playing time to your supporting casts.

Paul Pierce had played a staggering 15 games in which he played 40 minutes or more including a four-game stretch against Toronto, Atlanta, Denver (a loss) at home and in Milwaukee. And another three-game stretch in home games vs. New Orleans and Utah and a road win in Atlanta.

Oh, I thought Boston didn't have one MVP--they've got three!

Well, the other MVP, Ray Allen, played nine 40+ minute games including a three-game stretch in a loss to Denver (yes, the same game where Pierce played 41 minutes), a road game against the Bucks, and home game against the Knicks.

Boston even had a game where all of their “big three” played more than 40 minutes--a narrow 122-117 win in Indiana. Pierce played for 44 minutes, Garnett for 42, and Allen for 41 in avenging their 16-point road loss early in the season.

No wonder they won that game!

In stark contrast, Kobe Bryant only played four 40+ minute games. One of those games, of course, was their Christmas day match up against the Celtics where he played 43 minutes.

Of course, everybody knows who won that game.

He also played 41 minutes in a close game vs. the Knicks and 40 minutes in a 7-point win against the Mavericks.

The Lakers only loss when Kobe played 40 minutes or more was their game in Orlando. Bryant scored 41 points in 43 minutes in that game but they still lost by three points!

Could they have won that game if Kobe played a few more minutes? Maybe!

But you know, Phil Jackson wouldn't want that. He'd do everything to keep Bryant from “trying to do too much...”

So what do you think is more impressive?

The Lakers achieving their best record without burning out the reigning MVP...

Or the playoff-level minutes being played by Boston's big three...

Or maybe the unstoppable force in Cleveland who stays on the floor even on blowout games to dominate video highlight plays on TV and YouTube...

You pick! I already made mine...


Friday, January 2, 2009

The Lakers Are Now The Best in NBA

With another impressive win against a quality opponent, the Utah Jazz (19-15), the Los Angeles Lakers have now secured their status as the NBA's best team.

The Lakers beat the Jazz 113-100 Friday night for their fifth straight win and 17th in 18 home games, while the other top two teams in the league also won their home games on the same day.

The Celtics won in Boston over the 6-25 Wizards, 108-83, while the Cavaliers defeated the 14-19 Chicago Bulls, 117-92 in Cleveland.

Of the top three teams in the current NBA's standings, the Lakers (26-5) have the better record against the Boston Celtics (29-5) and Cleveland Cavaliers (27-5) in terms of quality of wins.

Of the Cavaliers' 27 wins, only seven are against winning teams. Of the seven, only two were road wins (Dallas and Denver).

All five Cleveland losses are against winning teams (Boston, New Orleans, Detroit, Atlanta, and Miami).

Their perfect record at home is mainly due to the fact that they've only played five quality opponents at home. We'll see on Jan. 9 when they host the Celtics in Cleveland if they can still keep their home-record clean.

The following is the list of their wins against teams with winning records:

  1. Nov. 3 @ Dallas 100-81
  2. Nov. 13 vs. Denver 110-99
  3. Nov. 15 vs. Utah 105-93
  4. Dec. 19 @ Denver 105-88
  5. Nov. 22 vs. Atlanta 110-96
  6. Dec. 23 vs. Houston 99-90
  7. Dec. 28 vs. Miami 93-86

The Celtics have seven home wins and three on the road (Houston, Detroit, and Atlanta) against quality opponents.

They've lost to two opponents with losing records (Indiana and Golden State) and three against teams with winning records (Denver at home, LA Lakers, and Portland).

The list of Celtics wins against quality opponents is as follows:

  1. Oct. 28 vs. Cleveland 90-85
  2. Nov. 4 @ Houston 103-99
  3. Nov. 9 @ Detroit 88-76
  4. Nov. 12 vs. Atlanta 103-102
  5. Nov. 20 vs. Detroit 98-80
  6. Dec. 1 vs. Orlando 107-88
  7. Dec. 5 vs. Portland 93-78
  8. Dec. 12 vs. New Orleans 94-82
  9. Dec. 17 @ Atlanta 88-85
  10. Dec. 15 vs. Utah 100-91

The Lakers, on the other hand, have already won 12 games against winning teams, five on the road (Denver, Dallas, Phoenix, and New Orleans twice). Two of their losses are against losing teams (Indiana and Sacramento).

Three are against teams with winning records (Detroit at home, Miami, and Orlando). The following is the list of their wins against teams with winning records:

  1. Oct. 28 vs. Portland 96-76
  2. Nov. 1 @ Denver 104-97
  3. Nov. 9 vs. Houston 111-82
  4. Nov. 11 @ Dallas 106-99
  5. Nov. 12 @ New Orleans 93-86
  6. Nov. 21 vs. Denver 104-90
  7. Nov. 20 @ Phoenix 105-92
  8. Nov. 28 vs. Dallas 114-107
  9. Dec. 10 vs. Phoenix 115-110
  10. Dec. 23 @ New Orleans 100-87
  11. Dec. 25 vs. Boston 92-83
  12. Jan. 2, 2009, vs. Utah 113-100

ESPN's Hollinger Power Ranking currently ranks the Lakers at No. 4, even below the 26-7 Orlando Magic, and I can't understand why.

Maybe it's about time that John Hollinger modifies his computer program to make its forecast more accurate. It failed in its prediction about the Utah Jazz last season, right?

Anyway, as John pointed out, it's an entirely automated ranking, so certain "human" factors are missing. So Marc Stein's Power Ranking should be more accurate, as he now ranks the Lakers as the best team in the NBA.

No doubt about that!


Lakers-Jazz: Bryant scores 40 points in Lakers’ win

By BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP)—Sure, Kobe Bryant scored 40 points, but it was Trevor Ariza’s quick hands that saved the Los Angeles Lakers.

Ariza came up with two of his season-high five steals in the last 2:22 and scored two fast-break baskets to help the Lakers beat the Utah Jazz 113-100 Friday night for their fifth straight win and 17th in 18 home games.

“Two plays in a row Trevor changed the game,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “He anticipates well. He’s a cobra out there and he just strikes.”

Ariza had a dazzling 19-second stretch in which he swiped the ball, scored on a fast-break driving layup, got fouled, got another steal and scored on a layup. With 34 seconds left, he dunked on a fast break off a pass from Pau Gasol.



Thursday, January 1, 2009

Celtics Struggling Against Top Offensive Teams

With Boston Celtics' loss to the Trail Blazers and the Cleveland Cavaliers' (26-5) loss to Miami on Dec. 30, the two top Eastern Conference teams now have the same number of losses as the Los Angeles Lakers (25-5).

The Celtics' five losses are hardly surprising. Although Boston (28-5) is still a top defensive team, leading the league in limiting its opponents' field-goal shooting (41.9 percent) and second in the NBA in opponents' points allowed (90.8 per game), the C's really struggle against the best offensive teams in the NBA.

Let's break down their losses:

Loss No. 1: Pacers (10-21)
Nov. 1, 2008 at Indiana, 95-79

Indiana is a good offensive team, averaging 102.3 points per game, good for sixth best in the league. They are fourth best when playing at home, averaging 106.6 points per contest. Indiana's offensive superiority was really evident in their game, as the Pacers led by as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter.

They also made hustle plays that forced 24 Celtics turnovers, which the Pacers converted to 19 points. Boston is the worst team in the NBA in that department, averaging 15.9 turnovers per game. The Pacers also had 20 assists compared to 15 for Boston. Indiana averages 22.4 assists per game (third best in the league).

Loss No. 2: Nuggets (21-12)
Nov. 14, 2008 vs. Denver, 95-85

Boston's only home loss so far was against the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets average 102.7 points-per-game (fifth in the league). With the arrival of Chauncey Billups, they've become a top defensive team also, limiting their opponents to 43.6 percent field goal shooting (fourth in the league).

They're also one of the best Western teams in matching up against Eastern teams. They are 8-3 in their games against teams in the Eastern Conference and are undefeated (5-0) in their games against Atlantic Division rivals.

In their game, Denver hit 48.8 percent from the field, well above the 41.9 percent the Celtics allow opponents to score against them, with six Nuggets scoring in double-figures. The Celtics only shot 39.7 percent from the field. Denver also won the rebounding battle, with 43 vs. 37 and Carmelo Anthony leading the way with 13 boards.

Loss No. 3: Lakers (25-5)
Dec. 25, 2008 at LA Lakers, 92-83

The LA Lakers lead the league in scoring, averaging 107.3 points per game. And their scoring average at home is even better at 109.4 points per contest. The Lakers are also underrated defenders. They actually limit their opponents to 44 percent field goal shooting, for sixth best in the league. They are also top rebounders, with 44.8 boards per game (second in the NBA) and the second best passing team in the league, with 23.3 assists per game.

The Lakers shot 46.2 percent from the field (it would have been 50 percent if not for Derek Fisher's 2-of-10 field goal shooting) and hit 8-of-20 from beyond the three-point line in their Christmas Day matchup against the defending champions.

They had 27 assists against 22 for the Celtics and blocked nine shots (vs. three for Boston). The Celtics also had 18 turnovers (vs. 11 for the Lakers) that were converted into 22 points.

Loss No. 4: Warriors (10-24)
Dec. 26, 2008 at Golden State, 99-89

This game was the second game of the Celtics' back-to-back against the top two offensive teams in the league. The Warriors are the second best offensive team in the league, averaging 105.2 point-per-game behind the Lakers' 107.3 average. They are No. 1 when playing at their home court, at 109.5. (The Lakers are second.)

Despite the Warriors' undersized frontcourt, they are the best shot-blocking team in the NBA, with Ronny Turiaf averaging 2.2 blocks per game. They also average 13 offensive rebounds per game (third in the league).

For two straight nights, the Celtics' turnovers proved too costly for them. Boston had 23 turnovers that were converted into 27 points by the Warriors. Golden State shot 45.8 percent from the field and was only 10-of-27 from beyond the arc but used a 35-17 fourth quarter run to seal the win.

Loss No. 5: Trail Blazers (20-12)
Dec. 30, 2008 at Portland, 91-86

Portland is just an average offensive team, scoring less than 100 points per game. But the Trail Blazers are getting 103.5 points per contest when playing at home (ninth in the league). They are also the best Western team matching up with their Eastern counterparts. They are 10-2 against teams in the Eastern Conference and 4-1 against Atlantic Division rivals.

Portland is the most defense-oriented of the five teams that beat Boston. Its record against defense-oriented East teams shows this orientation. But they are just 10-10 against offense-oriented West teams.

Portland limits its opponents to 75.9 field goal attempts per game (third best in the league). The Blazers are one of the top offensive rebounding with 13.2 per contest (second in the NBA).

In their last game, the Blazers shot 45.2 percent from the field, hitting 6-of-15 attempts from beyond the arc while Boston was 3-of-14 from beyond the three-point line and 27-of-67 overall for 40.3 percent. The teams' rebounding disparity was more prominent with Portland getting 44 rebounds (13 in the offensive end) to Boston's 24 (just five offensive boards).


With the exception of its last game against the Trail Blazers, Boston's losses are against top offensive teams in the league. The Celtics' current record against seven of the top offensive teams in the NBA is as follows. (Boston owns the eighth best mark, at 101 points per game.):

1. LA Lakers: 1 road loss, next game at home on Feb. 5
2. Golden State: 1 home win, 1 road loss
3. New York: 2 home wins, next game on the road, Jan. 4
4. Phoenix: 0 games played, next game at home on Jan. 19
5. Denver: 1 home loss, next game at home on Feb. 23
6. Indiana: 1 road loss, 1 home win, 1 road win, next game on the road, Feb. 27
7. Cleveland: 1 home win, next game on the road, Jan. 9

Are the Boston Celtics really struggling against the top offensive teams in the NBA? We'll see this month, when they face New York, Cleveland, and Orlando (the ninth best offensive team) on the road and play against Phoenix in Boston. They might already be a nine-loss team before they meet the Pistons in Detroit on Jan. 30.

By then we can say whether they can match up with the best offensive teams in the league and beat the Los Angeles Lakers in their next game in Boston on Feb. 5


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