Tag: Paul Gasol


Lakers, Suns put on a triple-overtime show of shows


This was the most entertaining game of the season.

Not the best played, there was plenty of slop (Vince Carter’s 2-of-13 from three) and some odd decisions — Lamar Odom, why in the name of Unbreakable are you fouling a three-point shooter up three with a second to go?

But there were also amazing plays — Marcin Gortat playing point guard, Odom hitting everything — some good defense and a whole lot of made shots over good defense.

And there were overtimes. Three of them. When the dust settled the Lakers won their fifth in a row 139-137.

Only the Suns bring this kind of play out of teams, with their open style, questionable defense and the dynamic play of Steve Nash. We are going to really miss Phoenix in the playoffs this season.

Kobe Bryant dropped 42 for the night, and in the third quarter he took over and it looked like the Lakers were going to run away with this, going up 21. Kobe had 12 points of 5-of-7 shooting in the third.

Then the Suns bench started whipping the Lakers bench. Nash started the push but it was Aaron Brooks leading a 10-0 run that made it a game again, one that was nip and tuck the rest of the way. The Lakers helped that run along by falling into the Suns trap of tempo and taking jump shots, which fueled the Suns transition play.

Odom helped keep the Lakers in it — he finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds starting for Andrew Bynum (sitting out the second game of his two-game suspension). On the flip side, Gortat had 24 points and 16 rebounds. They both made huge plays in overtime.

The reason there were three overtimes was a decision made by Odom at the end of the first one. The Lakers were up three and the Suns had just 5 seconds left to tie it. The Suns Channing Frye got a look at a game-tying three and missed it — but Steve Nash tracked down the rebound and got it to Frye with a second to go, but Frye was 26 feet away with his back to the basket. So he turned and started to shoot — and Odom fouled him. The Lakers had a foul to give – fouling a guy not in the act of shooting would have been a great play. But Frye was starting his shooting motion; Odom was just late and soft with the foul.

Frye hit all three free throws and we were on to a second OT.

With a minute to go in OT numero dos the Suns were down one and the Lakers did a good job trapping Nash against the sideline — then Nash, falling out of bounds threw a perfect no-look bounce pass to Gortat at the arc. With nobody between him and the basket Gortat pretended he was a guard and attacked on the dribble, then when the defense rotated he made a perfect kick out pass to Frye for a three. Suns up two.

That might have won it, but at the other end Kobe drove baseline, got in the air, hung, then found Pau Gasol in the lane and hit him with an amazing bounce pass. Gasol attacked, was fouled, hit two free throws and there was another OT to be played. ‘

In that one, Kobe drained a pull up three over Jared Dudley (it was well defended) to put the Lakers up by one, then Artest picked Nash’s pocket and got a breakaway dunk to put the Lakers up three. After another defensive stop by the Lakers Ron Artest hit a bad shot — a running leaner off one leg. Because he’s Ron Artest. Lakers up five and while the Suns pushed that ended up being the ballgame.

All those moments were just a fraction of the show these two teams put on. It was a game of highlights and fantastic runs.

It also was a game the Suns were desperate to have. They are now three games back of the Grizzlies for the last playoff in the West. They are going to need this kind of play — except for winning in the end — if they are going to make it happen.

Lakers at Heat: Five things to watch

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers

Miami wants Christmas in March.

The Heat’s Christmas Day beat down of the Lakers was their signature win of the season. A few months later the Heat are just desperate for any win. Getting one against the Lakers would be that much more sweet.

But to the dismay of the Heat and four-year-olds everywhere, Christmas doesn’t come again in March. This is going to be very different. The weather is warmer, Santa is nowhere to be seen and these are two different teams. The Lakers have found their defensive identity, and with that look the contenders we expected. The Heat are still trying to find their identity, particularly at the end of games.

How is it going to be different? Here are five things to look for:

Miami and the midrange. Back on Christmas, Dwyane Wade abused the Laker big men on the pick-and-roll. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol would try to show out hard and cut Wade off from driving, or the Lakers would try to double and trap him. Wade just split the double and got to the hoop.

Now, the Lakers are playing their pick-and-roll defense a little differently. Los Angeles bigs are laying back off the pick, using those long arms and big bodies to clog the paint, cut off driving lanes and daring you to take the midrange jumper.

Wade and LeBron James can fall in love with the midrange. Too easily. Some games they knock that down consistently, some games they miss plenty, but keep shooting anyway. Whether the shots fall or not, know the Lakers are not going to let Wade waltz into the paint again.

Miami’s lessons from Chicago. The Lakers pick-and-roll defense now ties into their overall defensive strategy. When the ball goes to the wing they bring a big man over to the strong side early and overload. They take away penetration and defend the three point line. Again, they dare you to beat them from the midrange, the most inefficient shot in basketball.

That is pretty much what the Bulls did two weeks ago in beating the Heat. It is what the Celtics have done to Miami all season. And the Heat have struggled against those teams. The Lakers — when Andrew Bynum is healthy and they give a crap — play a similar style of defense. Bad news for the Heat — Bynum is healthy and the Lakers have been focused. Have the Heat adjusted.

Can Miami defend the paint? The Heat can play defense, too, they just haven’t done it as consistently lately. They need to again Thursday and do it like they did on Christmas Day, specifically.

In that game the Lakers made a point to get the ball inside but the Heat big men — Erik Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas mostly, with a sprinkling of Chris Bosh — did a good job contesting shots at the rim. The Lakers struggled against that and missed a lot of shots close to the rim. And that fueled some easy transition points for the Heat. Miami needs to defend like that again because you can be sure the Lakers will try to establish themselves inside again.

Tempo. Miami will destroy the Lakers in transition. But pretty much every team that has played the Heat in the past two weeks has shown that if you can slow it down and make it a half-court game you can stall out the Heat offense.

Miami needs to force turnovers and missed shots, then use those to get out and run. The Lakers need take care of the ball and use their offensive rebounding — their insane length — to hit the offensive boards and thereby slow the Heat running.

Kobe Bryant, facilitator. The Lakers need to make shots and establish themselves inside. That happens when the Lakers get facilitator Kobe. Turnovers and missed shots, with the team out of position in the offense, is what you get when Kobe breaks out of the offense and goes rogue. Which Kobe shows up early will have a big say in this game.

Kobe Bryant tells Pau Gasol to be the Black Swan

Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol is a lot of things. Skilled. Spanish. Intellectual. A good guy.

But he often defers. When Kobe Bryant steps up his aggressive play, Gasol will fade back.

That’s not what Kobe wants — he wants a true partner — so he explained it to Gasol is an intellectual (or at least pseudo-intellectual) way, using the soon to be Best Picture, according to Kevin Ding at the Orange County Register.

“Even when he was in Memphis and he was the go-to guy, he was always very nice,” Bryant said of Gasol. “Very white swan. I need him to be black swan. Be an (expletive) sometimes.”

If you haven’t seen Black Swan… no way I’m going to explain it to you here. Complex movie designed to screw with your mind, plus I’d have to explain how in Swan Lake one ballerina is expected to play the innocent white swan and more devilish black swan. I guess I just did. Suffice to say that in the movie one ballerina played by Natalie Portman thrives as the soloist white swan but does not fit the other personality of being “an (expletive).”

You get the idea. Apparently so did Gasol as he played well against Houston for the most part.

It’s not time to worry about Kobe… yet

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Kobe Bryant is shooting 14.3 percent in the preseason.

Last night he said he felt better but he was 2 of 10.

You don’t need those stats or any advanced ones to tell you he is not right — just watch him. Wednesday night Kobe came down on the break with the ball in his hands against two backpedaling Kings defenders and pulled up and waited for the offense to set. Healthy Kobe just attacks that and at least draws the foul.

Continuing recovery from off-season knee surgery has taken the edge off his game right now (he said last week he was at 60 percent). He can’t explode past people, he lacks the elevation to rise above defenders and knock down jumpers. As Kevin Ding noted in the Orange County Register, when he came out after one unimpressive play Wednesday in Las Vegas and Lakers assistant (and head coach in waiting) Brian Shaw questioned him about it, he pointed down at his knee and shrugged.

Should Lakers fans be worried? No. Not yet.

True, without Kobe, the Lakers are like all the teams chasing them in the West have felt for the past three years — good but not quite good enough. The Lakers are not intimidating anyone without Kobe.

But this is still the preseason. Too early for even Lakers fans to hit the panic button.

Kobe did look a little bit better Wednesday night, he seemed to move a little more smoothly even if that movement is not up to his own standards. Phil Jackson held Kobe down to 19 minutes in the game, you can expect that or less in future games. Followed by rehab on his days off. Come Oct. 26, Kobe will be better, capable of taking on a bigger role in the offense.

Maybe not as big a role as he’d like. Probably not as big a role as he will need to play come April and May next year. But big enough for the Lakers to win — they still have Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and other guys who can put the ball in the hole. Kobe has to be a viable threat in the offense, he doesn’t need to be THE offense, for the Lakers to win consistently in the regular season.

The only question is will a slightly slowed Kobe force too much of the offense. He did that a few times against the Kings, as he did against Barcelona before. His competitive nature gets the better of him. When he does that, healthy or not, the Lakers offense can struggle.

Right now he needs to trust teammates, get in the flow. Take good, high percentage looks.

If that is what it takes to win, smart money is Kobe will do just that. Until he is healthy and ready to do whatever he wants. And the Lakers become intimidating again.

Phil Jackson is not happy about his European vacation


Thumbnail image for Jackson_Artest.jpgPersonally, a trip to London and Barcelona sounds pretty good. I could go for one of those.

Phil Jackson? Not so much. Actually he might really enjoy such a trip if it was just him and Jeannie Buss, but in the middle of training camp? This is what he told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin.

“This training camp is kind of a bust,” Jackson said. “You just have to try to do the best you can in this training camp. We’ll try to incorporate these new players, embrace them, educate them in what we do [but] we don’t anticipate in the first two weeks that we’re going to gain any ground, so to speak.”

The Lakers are one of the NBA’s showpieces. They have Kobe Bryant, a couple shiny new Larry O’Brien trophies and a huge fan base overseas. Jackson is set in his ways — Jerry Buss would host Laker training camp in Hawaii every year if he could, but Jackson is good with El Segundo and the Lakers training facility. So El Segundo it is.

Except for the stops in Barcelona (to take on Pau Gasol’s old Barcelona squad) and London this year. Which makes it all a bust. I guess. Somehow I think the Lakers will be just fine, what with a returning veteran team running the same system and all. Just a hunch.