Los Angeles Lakers: Jordan Farmar
Season recap: Farmar has had an interesting basketball journey since leaving the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent in 2010. First, there were two seasons spent with the Nets, during which he ended up backing up Devin Harris and, later, Deron Williams, even though a big reason he left L.A. in the first place was to avoid being behind Derek Fisher in the rotation. Then there were stints overseas in Israel and Turkey. The native Angeleno left millions in guaranteed money from his Turkish team, Anadolu Efes, on the table to return home last summer and accepted the veteran’s minimum from the Lakers. He has showed great growth and maturity since his first run with the team, taking on the role of a vocal leader. His game has improved as well, as he has become one of the most reliable 3-point shooters in the league (43.8 percent). However, a persistent right groin injury caused Farmar to miss half the season (41 games).
Sacramento Kings in late February, scoring 30 points while shooting 8-for-10 from 3 and also dishing out the ball for seven assists. Not to mention, he did all that in just 29 minutes of playing time.
Season lowlight: Tears in his right hamstring caused Farmar to miss stretches of 10 games, 16 games, four games and 11 games as the season wore on. He’d probably also want a do-over on the Lakers’ Christmas Day game against the Miami Heat, in which he went 1-for-7 from the field with four turnovers.
Final grade: B-
Notes: The Lakers’ point guard position was cursed this past season. Not only did Farmar miss half the season, but also Steve Nash managed to play just 15 games, Steve Blake dealt with multiple injuries before being traded and Kobe Bryant, Kent Bazemore and Xavier Henry -- who all played out of position to fill in at the point when nobody was available -- had injury problems of their own. General manager Mitch Kupchak took the blame for the injury epidemic late in the season, admitting he might have mismanaged the roster last summer and failed to bring in enough insurance to cover L.A.’s bases.
Quotable: "I’m pretty confident. This is a business, and we need to approach it as such. I love Los Angeles. I love this organization and the fans. This is definitely where my heart is." -- Farmar said after his exit interview.
What's next?: Farmar made it clear that he didn’t make a financial sacrifice to leave Turkey for just one season with his former team. The Lakers should have plenty of money available this summer to give Farmar a raise and keep him around, but there are some questions surrounding the decision. Is Farmar ready to be a full-time starter if Nash is injured again next season? Is Farmar’s body type too fragile to withstand the demands of an 82-game grind? Would L.A. be better off using its first-round draft pick on a point guard, such as Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, rather than making a big commitment to Farmar?
Some fans lingered in the stands well after the final buzzer, when you’d expect them to have bolted early in the fourth quarter once the Grizzlies took a commanding lead. Were they still processing it all? Or just trying to get a little more bang for their buck?
Pau Gasol stayed on the court signing autographs for fans waiting for him in the tunnel. If this was his last appearance in Los Angeles as a member of the Lakers, he at least wanted to let the fans know he was grateful for everything.
As they met in the locker room for perhaps the last time, Jodie Meeks turned to reserve point guard Jordan Farmar and asked if the equipment staff would collect their personal belongings from their lockers before everyone headed home for the summer. He asked Farmar ostensibly because this is his second stint with the Lakers and maybe he knew from experience.
One problem: The last time Farmar ended a season with the Lakers, they were busy winning a championship.
“I said, ‘I don’t know. I’ve never been in this position before,’” Farmar said.
No one has. No one with the Lakers, that is. The last time the franchise missed the playoffs was in 2005, the first year after they traded Shaquille O’Neal to Miami. But as ugly as that season was, it was never as desperate or disheartening as this one.
Kobe Bryant was still a young man in 2005 and you had a sense that the Lakers would be able to find a co-star to play alongside him in short order. Plus, they had talented young players like Lamar Odom and Caron Butler to build around, too.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said after shootaround Tuesday morning he will play Pau Gasol, returning from a four-game absence because of vertigo, and Chris Kaman, coming off a 28-point, 17-rebound, 6-assist performance, together in the starting lineup.
D’Antoni had been reluctant to play the two together in the past this season, believing that the skill sets of the two 7-footers overlapped one another. The coach also expressed the desire to develop younger big men Robert Sacre, Jordan Hill and Ryan Kelly rather than play Kaman major minutes and also often preferred to play either Kelly or Wesley Johnson at the stretch 4 position with the first unit.
D’Antoni explained his change of heart.
“Well, Chris played really well,” D’Antoni said, crediting Kaman’s efforts in the Lakers’ 115-99 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday. “It’s something else to look at. But it’s going to affect other people. We’ve had this discussion. Somebody is going to pay for it (with reduced playing time). So, we’ll see. We’ll see how it goes. We’re going to play two bigs and then we’re going to play Ryan and space the floor. We’ll see what works to close the game out and see what happens.”
Gasol, who lobbied for more of that lineup throughout the season, seemed satisfied with the move Tuesday.
“Let’s see how it works,” said Gasol, who admitted he was not 100 percent over his bout with vertigo. “We got to communicate to see how we’ll not be on top of each other so the spacing is still right and then just compete, utilize our size to protect the paint and hopefully control the boards. I think that will be a big plus for us.”
It was a mixed bag of results when Kaman and Gasol appeared in the starting lineup together this year. They looked good together in the preseason, but that was cut short when Kaman came down with food poisoning on the team’s trip to China and lost his starting spot to Shawne Williams.
D’Antoni went back to the pair not long after, however.
They started together in the Lakers’ 99-98 win in Houston on Nov. 7. It was a great team win for L.A. against Dwight Howard and the Rockets, but Gasol and Kaman combined for eight points on 4-for-15 shooting, 22 rebounds and seven turnovers.
They also started together in the Lakers’ 113-90 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 10. It was one of L.A.’s worst losses of the season, as they allowed the Wolves to score 47 points in the first quarter. Also, Gasol and Kaman’s combined numbers were underwhelming as they went for 19 points on 9-for-22 shooting, 16 rebounds and seven turnovers.
“It wasn’t the greatest,” D’Antoni said. “I mean, it’s OK. The way Chris is playing right now and the way Pau is playing better, it probably makes sense. Earlier, when one out of the two wasn’t playing real well (it didn’t make sense). And we wanted to go smaller.”
The Lakers won four of their next six games after D’Antoni went away from the Gasol-Kaman combination following the Minnesota loss to bring their record to 10-9 and the coach never went back to it. Until Tuesday, that is.
“You get a sense of how you want to play and you get a sense of what looks good,” D’Antoni said. “It gave a sense that we were better with Shawne Williams back then spreading the floor and playing an uptempo game and up until the injuries, I thought our record showed it. Then when the injuries hit, I don’t care who we were playing, without a point guard it was going to be tough to win.”
Where was also a fundamental deficiency of the Gasol-Kaman pairing that didn’t sit well with D’Antoni.
“Your speed as a team is a lot lower and it doesn’t bode well in today’s game to be slow on the floor,” D’Antoni said. “So, that’s the thinking.”
Guards on the mend
Steve Nash, who sat out the Suns game because of nerve root irritation, is considered probable for Tuesday. Xavier Henry, who missed the Lakers last two games after aggravating his sore right knee against Milwaukee is also considered probable against the Blazers.
Jordan Farmar, who has been out the last seven games with a strained right groin, visited Dr. Luga Podesta on Monday and was cleared to play, according to the Lakers. Farmar plans to use this week to ramp up his conditioning and could be back in the lineup next Tuesday when the Lakers host the Houston Rockets.
Nash told reporters last week he hopes to play as much as he can before Farmar returns, because once Farmar is back in the mix, it will probably eat up the playing time available for the former two-time MVP.
“He understands the situation,” D’Antoni said of Nash. “Because Steve is a smart guy, he understands what we’re trying to do and he buys in and it makes it nice.”
Farmar said he suffered the injury at practice March 17 when he warmed up, sat down and signed autographs "for an hour" as part of a team requirement, then played again after his groin had tightened up. He was originally projected to miss a minimum of two weeks.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni even hinted Farmar could miss the rest of the regular season and lamented how the 27-year old's return to the franchise that drafted him into the league was derailed by persistent injuries. Thursday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks marked the 35th game Farmar has sat out this season. He has played in 36.
But the L.A. native and UCLA product made the most of those appearances. Farmar is averaging career highs in points (10.4) and 3-point percentage (45.7), while also putting up 4.7 assists and 2.5 rebounds in only 21.9 minutes. His 3-point accuracy is third best in the league this season, behind only Atlanta's Kyle Korver (48.6 percent) and Memphis' Mike Miller (46.2 percent).
"The best thing he does, he can get a shot any time he wants it and he can shoot it," D'Antoni said. "That's his best part of his game and the rest of it is coming on. I thought he defended well. He's smart and there's no reason why he's not a good guard in this league."
Farmar is one of 11 players on the Lakers' 15-man roster set to become a free agent this summer (that number grows to 12 if Nick Young chooses to opt out). He sacrificed more than $3 million of guaranteed money with his team in Turkey, Anadolu Efes, to rejoin the Lakers, whom he left as a free agent in the summer of 2010.
"Obviously, he wants to play in the NBA," D'Antoni said. "I've been the other way and I understand what he's going through. When you can play at home and in the NBA and still make some nice little change, I can understand that too. Sometimes, there's things in life more important than money."
"It's still a possibility," D'Antoni said Wednesday when asked if Nash could play at some point in the Lakers' final 15 games. "We have to see where he is physically. ... We'll have to see some practices and see how it goes."
The Lakers are down to one healthy point guard in Kendall Marshall, with Jordan Farmar out for a minimum of two weeks because of a strained right groin.
The 40-year-old Nash told Time Warner Cable SportsNet on Tuesday, "I feel pretty good. I feel as though I could play now at a good level. The question is could I sustain it?"
Nash has not played since Feb. 11 when he exited just before halftime against the Utah Jazz.
"We'll have to see," D'Antoni said. "Again, we’re just trying to get him totally healthy. You just don't want to send him out there and play him when he's not healthy. The last time we tried, if you remember, he didn't make it through a game. We can't have him start the game and then at halftime not be able to come out. We got to look and see and maybe try it in a couple practices and see if he can get 100 percent healthy, but right now he's not there."
The two-time league MVP has averaged 7.6 points and 4.7 assists in 10 games this season while shooting just 36 percent from the field and 31.6 percent on 3-pointers -- well below his career marks of 14.3 points, 8.5 assists, 49 percent shooting and 42.8 percent from deep.
Farmar has fared better, averaging 10.4 points and 4.7 assists, and shooting 45.7 percent from 3. However, like Nash, Farmar has missed many games this season -- 31 games and counting including Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs -- because of two separate tears in his right hamstring plus his strained groin.
"It's just been tough for him," D'Antoni said of Farmar. "Freaky stuff for him. He's played really well, trying to find his footing, coming back. We'll see if he can come back. Hopefully he can but that's not for sure. He's had a great year."
"Maybe he can put the 'D' back in my name," D'Antoni said of Dwight Howard. "That would be nice. Some people have been taking that out."
This week L.A. allowed the New Orleans Pelicans to score 132 points, the Los Angeles Clippers to score 142 points and the Denver Nuggets to score 134 points. All three games were in regulation no less and all three games ended up, not surprisingly, as losses.
The Lakers have no business even dreaming of winning another game this season if they're going to keep giving up 136 points per game.
"You can't win that way," D'Antoni said after a 134-126 defeat to Denver on Friday. "We are trying everything we can do and the players are trying. Just a lot of it is that we were outrun, out-strengthened, outmuscled and out-fought a little bit. I don't know if the air is going out or we're tired or what the problem is."
D'Antoni has repeatedly said the team's best chance to win is by playing with a smaller lineup, spacing the floor and getting up and down the court, but when you don't have a ton of talent on your team, most opponents will do more with that increased amount of possessions and embarrass you with video-game numbers in the process. Ty Lawson had 30 points and 17 assists Friday. Kenneth Faried had 32 points and 13 rebounds. Those stat lines aren't even easy to get on NBA 2K14.
Playing at a more balanced pace masks the talent gap.
Just take a look at the Chicago Bulls. While they lost two of their best players this season in Derrick Rose to an injury and Luol Deng to a cost-cutting trade, they've continued to stay afloat thanks to their defense and grind-it-out style. In their past four wins, they've allowed a total of 358 points.
DENVER -- After suffering the most lopsided loss in the 67-year history of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise, coach Mike D'Antoni vowed for a change in Denver on Friday night.
"I expect a whole different team," D'Antoni said of his Lakers.
After giving up an average of 137 points in their past two home losses, turns out the only thing different about Friday was the venue.
For yet another night, the Lakers' defense proved to be about as effective as a screen door on a submarine.
Led by Ty Lawson's relentless drives and improved outside touch (the point guard had 30 points, 17 assists and shot 5-for-6 on 3-pointers), Denver did whatever it wanted to on offense and ran the Lakers off the floor.
Sure, the Lakers didn't allow the Nuggets to score 137 points, but 134 points got the job done just the same.
As disappointing as the 48-point drubbing on Thursday was, it could be accepted on some level because the Los Angeles Clippers are clearly a better team than the Lakers.
That's not the case with the Nuggets, however. Much like how the Lakers proved to be the salve that fixed the New Orleans Pelicans earlier in the week, playing sacrificial lamb to end Nola's eight-game losing streak, they also played Denver's doormat, as the Nuggets had lost 11 of 13 coming into Friday.
A popular question being asked after the Clippers game was whether the Lakers had already quit on the season with 20 games left. While the result against the Nuggets was discouraging, there was no evidence to suggest that the purple and gold are already packing it in.
There are too many individual agendas at stake. With a roster composed of 12 out of 15 players on expiring deals, there will be nights like the Nuggets game the rest of the season when a Ryan Kelly (24 points, 11 rebounds) or Xavier Henry (10 points, five rebounds, two steals) impresses, but it's just not going to translate to wins.
How it happened: Denver jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first quarter, setting the tone for another long night for L.A. The Lakers tried to get back into it in the second quarter with Jordan Farmar scoring eight of his 24 points in the period to draw L.A. within two at one point, but Denver used a 13-3 run to push the lead back to 11 at the half. The Nuggets went on to lead by as many as 23 in the second half as they coasted to victory.
What it means: For one, there is a reason Phil Jackson used to call games like Friday -- the second night of a back-to-back against a run-and-gun team -- a "scheduled loss." It wouldn't have mattered who was coaching the Lakers in a situation like this -- Jackson included -- the challenge the Nuggets presented was as tough as it gets in the NBA. In other words, an eight-point loss to the Nuggets, all things considered, is not a bad bounce-back effort from L.A.
Hits: Pau Gasol kept up his scoring ways, dropping in a team-high 27 points on 12-for-21 shooting.
Jodie Meeks scored 16.
Kendall Marshall broke out of his slump ever so slightly with eight points (on 3-for-9 shooting) and 16 assists.
Misses: As good as Lawson was, Kenneth Faried might have been even better, finishing with 32 points on 14-for-20 shooting and 13 rebounds.
The Lakers were outscored 64-50 in the paint by the Nuggets.
Stat of the game: 14-for-24. The Nuggets shot better from the 3-point line (58.3 percent) than they did on free throws, going 12-for-21 (57.1 percent).
Up next: What's the Lakers' reward after playing four games in five nights? How about a pair of games -- one at home Sunday, followed by one on the road Thursday -- against the No. 1 team in the Western Conference in the Oklahoma City Thunder? No rest for the weary.
After the Lakers’ 132-125 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, a game in which Jordan Farmar had 20 points and eight assists in 26 minutes while starting the second half at point guard over Marshall, D’Antoni said he was considering a lineup change, but ultimately decided to stand pat.
“[Farmar] will probably finish the [Clippers] game, maybe, we’ll watch it,” D’Antoni said after shootaround Thursday. “But we’re good.”
Marshall has gone scoreless in four out of the Lakers’ last five games, going 3-for-24 (12.5 percent) overall during that span.
“He has to get out of his slump, mini-slump, and we think the best way to get out of it is to play out of it,” said D’Antoni. “You got to be careful with peoples’ egos. It’s a tough position anyway, and just because somebody is in a little bit of a slump you don’t want to exacerbate the problem. That’s one. And Kendall is good about distributing the ball, getting it up and throwing the ball up and getting everybody involved.”
Marshall was the last player on the Lakers’ practice court Thursday, getting up extra shot attempts.
“You miss shots,” Marshall said. “You can’t expect to shoot 100 percent all the time. It’s a part of the game. You’re going to miss shots, you’re going to go through a slump, but you got to find a way to get out of it.”
Marshall, who has averaged 9.4 points, 11.0 assists and 34.3 minutes in 24 games as a starter with L.A. and 7.2 points, 5.3 assists and 21.0 minutes in nine games off the bench, said that he tries not to worry about a starting role.
“It’s all about what you do when you’re on the court,” Marshall said. “Whether that’s six minutes, 20 minutes or 40 minutes, you got to make the most of that time. Jordan has been playing great for us, we’ve played well when he’s on the court and he’s a great teammate.”
Despite Marshall’s shot being off lately, he has still dished out double-digit assists in each of the last three games. It is a rare feat by the second-year player. While Marshall totaled zero points and 10-plus assists in two of the last three games, the rest of the league combined has just three games like that all season, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
“Obviously I’m still able to get my teammates involved,” Marshall said. “So, as long as I’m doing that, the scoring is a bonus. But the main thing for me, what I strive in, is getting teammates involved.”
Perhaps the matchup with the Clippers’ Chris Paul will motivate Marshall. Paul, who Marshall said was the best point guard in the league, has become a bit of a mentor to the fellow ACC product (Paul went to Wake Forest, Marshall went to North Carolina) and Marshall even participated in Paul’s camp when he was younger.
“He’s kind of been like a big brother to me, honestly,” Marshall said. “From my time late in high school to throughout college, he was always giving me a word of advice and this summer, even when I went through being waived and stuff, he was there talking to me and everything. So, he’s been great for me and he’s a guy that I really look up to.”
Paul has helped Marshall’s confidence grow during his unconventional path in the NBA, from being traded by the team that drafted him (Phoenix) after just one season, to being waived by the Washington Wizards to being called up from the Delaware 87ers of the D-League by the Lakers.
“Just telling me that I am a player in this league and guys are going to go through these types of things all the time,” Marshall said of Paul’s advice. “You just have to find a way to fight through it.”
If Marshall doesn’t retain his starting spot moving forward, he could soon find himself competing with Xavier Henry for back-up point guard minutes. Henry, back on the court this week for the first time since a bone bruise in his right knee sidelined him in late December, will get a chance to run point also.
“We could go bigger which helps a lot of the mismatches,” D’Antoni said. “Yes, it’s something we want to try. I don’t know if we’re quite ready yet. But it’s something we want to look at in the last 20 games.”
Lakers forward Jordan Hill will not play against the Clippers and is considered day to day because of a sore right knee. Hill had already found himself out of D’Antoni’s rotation, collecting two straight Did Not Play – Coach’s Decisions in the Lakers’ last two games.
LOS ANGELES -- Confidence was high coming into the night for the Los Angeles Lakers. As bad as this season has been, they actually had something to smile about for the first time in forever and were hoping to keep it up with a little celebrating of their own as they hosted the New Orleans Pelicans.
L.A. was coming off its most impressive win of the season in Portland on Monday and had the chance to tie its longest win streak of the season at three as long as it took care of the struggling Pelicans who limped into Staples Center, losers of eight straight.
"They never quit trying," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game, asked to reflect how his team was finally turning it around. "Sometimes things click and guys play good together at the right time and that gives you confidence.
"It's just taken awhile."
The same could be said about Tuesday night's game, a 132-125 loss.
The Lakers trailed by 12 points after the first quarter and by as many as 21 in the third before mounting a comeback. They had the deficit cut to 10 heading into the fourth and all the way down to four only a couple of minutes into the final quarter after a MarShon Brooks basket, but the Pelicans quickly doubled their lead back to eight.
The margin stayed in that range before the Lakers got five straight points from Jordan Farmar to cut it to five with 3:38 left.
The Lakers' small-ball lineup worked in spurts, giving the team a chance to score in bunches in the open court when it created stops with its activity on the other end.
The problem was, as it has often been this season, there was no consistency to their effectiveness on defense, which put a lot of pressure on their offense to perform at peak levels to have a chance.
So even though L.A. scored in the 120s, ultimately two missed 3-pointers from Kent Bazemore and Farmar in the final minutes ended up doing the Lakers in because, of course, they also allowed the Pelicans to score in the 130s.
They fought to get back into it against New Orleans, but it proved too little, too late, as the Lakers fell to 21-40.
How it happened: Pau Gasol scored the first 13 points of the game for the Lakers but was still outscored by Anthony Davis 17-15 after the opening quarter. It was an omen of what was to come, as L.A.'s offensive power just couldn't match its defensive shortcomings.
What it means: This one is sure to take some wind out of the Lakers' sails. Even though L.A. was on the second night of a back-to-back, the Pelicans were on the last day of an eight-day trip and should have been ripe for the picking.
Hits: Gasol scored a season-high 29 points on 10-for-15 shooting to go with 12 rebounds and four assists.
Farmar started the second half at shooting guard and finished with 20 points and eight assists.
Xavier Henry looked a bit like his old self in his second game back from his right knee injury, scoring 12 points in 14 minutes to go with two assists and an impressive open-floor dunk.
Bazemore tied his career high with 23 points, including 13 in the third when L.A. tried to get back in the game.
Jodie Meeks scored 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting.
Misses: L.A.'s defense allowed New Orleans to shoot 46-for-77 (59.7 percent).
The Lakers had 14 turnovers leading to 18 points for the Pelicans and were outrebounded 39-30.
Stat of the game: 24. The Pelicans had three players score 24 points or more in Tyreke Evans (24), Eric Gordon (28) and Davis (28).
Up next: The Lakers get the day off Wednesday before another back-to-back set, at home on Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers and on the road Friday against the Denver Nuggets.
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Maybe the Rose Garden by any other name really isn’t still the Rose Garden when it comes to giving the Los Angeles Lakers fits.
The Lakers played for the first time in the re-named Moda Center on Monday and looked nothing like the team that routinely made the 960-mile trip up the West Coast only to get their doors blown off by the Trail Blazers, even in their good years.
This season wouldn’t classify as good, or even decent. More like dreadful. But Monday’s game was an escape from all that.
For the second straight game, the Lakers came out hitting on all cylinders on offense and all the scoring fueled their effort on defense. It wasn’t quite the season-high 126 points they scored against the Sacramento Kings or a franchise record 19 made 3-pointers. Then again, this game was against a Portland team that came into the night with the third-best record in the Western Conference, including a 23-7 home mark.
“As long as they’re fighting and as long as they’re competitive and they’re playing together and showing a good spirit, then we’ll be in most games and we’ll surprise some people,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said before his team's 107-106 victory.
Surprise, not shock. With 22 games left in the season, even D’Antoni conceded at shootaround in Portland “we’re not making the playoffs.”
But what once seemed to be a death march in store for the Lakers the rest of the way -- especially with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant’s returns this campaign looking less and less likely -- is now turning into a bit of a late rebirth for the Lakers.
How it happened: The Lakers led by as many as 15 points in the first half and took a seven-point lead into intermission by improbably controlling the boards 26-23 through the first two quarters and outscoring Portland 22-4 in fast-break points and 32-18 in points in the paint. L.A. kept its cushion for most of the third quarter before it got sloppy with the ball, leading to back-to-back 3-pointers by Dorell Wright to cut the Lakers’ lead from nine to three with 1:55 remaining.
The Lakers’ lead stood at the start of the fourth quarter. But things seemed to be slipping away when Jodie Meeks was called for a five-second violation for not inbounding the ball to Jordan Farmar in time from the sidelines. Farmar pounded the ball on the floor in frustration and had a few sharp words for Meeks for not passing it in sooner. But on the very next possession, the Lakers forced a turnover and it was Meeks and Farmar running the two-on-one break with Farmar finding Meeks for a 3 that put L.A. up by eight.
Portland got it back down to six thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge scoring two of his 21 points, but L.A. surged right back with a 5-0 run thanks to a 3-point play by Meeks and a Robert Sacre deuce, giving the Lakers an 11-point advantage.
Portland responded, cutting it back down to two after Wes Matthews stripped Farmar of the ball and passed it back down court to a wide-open Nicolas Batum for a 3 with 3:37 to go. Portland had a chance to tie it a couple minutes later, but Damian Lillard was called for a travel after dragging his pivot foot with 1:35 remaining, giving L.A. new life. Pau Gasol missed a shot, however, opening the door for Matthews to tie it up with a fadeaway jumper with 1:10 remaining.
The Blazers finally broke through on their next possession, with Lillard going 1-for-2 from the free throw line to give the Blazers their first lead since the first quarter and corralling the ball after he missed the second one, to boot. Matthews missed a shot from the corner after a Portland timeout, leading to Kent Bazemore streaking up the floor with a chance to get L.A. the lead back, but he lost it out of bounds.
At least that was the call on the floor. The referees went to the video monitor to check the replay after it was unclear if Matthews had hit the ball out of Bazemore’s hands clean or Bazemore touched it last. The call was overturned and L.A. got the ball back with 7.1 seconds left leading to an excellent play call -- Bazemore finding Wesley Johnson with a lob at the rim to give the Lakers a 107-106 edge with 6.4 seconds remaining.
Portland went to their Mr. Everything on their final possession, but Lillard was defended well by Meeks and his shot fell short at the buzzer.
What it means: The Lakers have some fight in them yet. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing for a team with a first-round pick in June’s upcoming draft.
Hits: Johnson had 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, two blocks and the game winner.
Bazemore hit a career-high four 3-pointers en route to 14 points.
That dunk Meeks had on Batum in the second quarter.
Gasol chipped in 22 points, Meeks had 21.
Farmar and Kendall Marshall combined for 16 points and 17 assists playing the point jointly.
Misses: That dunk Robin Lopez had on Robert Sacre in the second quarter.
Stat of the game: 0.7. The amount of time that went off the clock from the time Bazemore threw the ball in with 7.1 seconds left to the time Johnson put in the winning layup with 6.4 seconds remaining.
Up next: The Lakers play the second night of a back-to-back Tuesday at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. They follow that up with another back-to-back this week by hosting the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, then traveling to Denver to play the Nuggets on Friday.
LOS ANGELES -- When Jordan Farmar left the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent close to four years ago, perhaps the biggest determining factor was him wanting to escape his lot as a young, up-and-coming point guard feeling stifled while having to play backup to the older, more established Derek Fisher.
With that in mind, it was awfully striking to hear Farmar's response Friday night after the six-year veteran scored a career-high 30 points in a 126-122 win over the Sacramento Kings when asked if he had any thought about continuing to play backup point guard for Lakers the second time around.
"I don't care," Farmar said. "I don't care, man. It's just trying to play good basketball when I'm in there, have fun with whoever is out there on the floor with me."
By Farmar, 27, accepting his role backing up the 22-year-old Kendall Marshall, not only is he helping out Marshall -- who is 1-for-15 from the field in his last four starts -- from losing whatever confidence he has left by being benched, he's thrusting the newly acquired MarShon Brooks into a thriving role.
"I like playing with MarShon," Farmar said. "I know he's a great kid. He can really play. I want to see him do well."
Maybe it's a little odd for Farmar to call someone only two years his junior a "kid." Then again, he and Brooks go back to when Farmar left L.A. for the grass-is-greener New Jersey Nets.
Farmar was in the process of starting all over. Brooks was just getting started in the NBA as a rookie.
When Brooks was traded from the Golden State Warriors to the Lakers at the deadline, he said his mind immediately thought of his former teammate, even though it was Kobe Bryant whom Brooks grew up modeling his game after.
"Right away," Brooks said when asked how long it took for it to dawn on him that he'd be reunited with Farmar. "Promise you, right away. Because it had nothing to do with basketball, really. It was just a good guy. We joked, played around even when we was on the Nets. He sat next to me on the plane. He was one of the guys I was close with."
Brooks said the two fell out of touch once Farmar went to play overseas in Israel and then Turkey, but he kept tabs on his old teammate by following him on Instagram.
Yet when they found themselves sharing a basketball court again?
"As soon as I seen him," Brooks said, "it's like we never left each other."
MarShon Brooks and Farmar played together with the Nets and have combined again recently in the Lakers backcourt to fine levels of success.
"He trusts me that I make the right play with the ball," Brooks said. "And that's the main thing from a point guard, just having that trust. Because he's running the show. When you get the ball as a shooting guard, he's like, 'OK, I'm going to give it to you. Don't settle. Make something happen.'
"And when you can trust the point guard, that's huge."
And as long as Farmar is taking care of Brooks, Brooks is taking care of Farmar.
"On the break, the first thing I'm looking for, I'm looking for Jordan and then I'm kind of looking for myself," Brooks said. "Especially if he's on that wing, or in that corner. He's pretty much wet."
With 23 games left in the season and 12 players on the team looking for new contracts, one could conceive that alliances are being formed like on an elimination-style reality show.
As if Farmar is looking out for Pau Gasol, the guy with whom he won two championships. Or he's looking out for his boyhood friend, Nick Young, if and when Young ever gets back on the court. And now he's looking out for Brooks, too, saving him a seat at the table.
But this seems more altruistic than that. Farmar is one of those guys facing free agency, but he is also taking his responsibility as a point guard to heart. Fundamentally, a point guard is supposed to put others' needs above his own.
"I think he's definitely a more mature point guard and player," Gasol said of the difference in Farmar now in his second stint with the team. "He's got great poise. Too bad that he had the hamstring issues this season, that it didn't really give him a lot of continuity, because I think it would have been great if he would have been able to stay healthy."
And there's the rub. You can't tell Farmar's story without mentioning that he has missed more than 30 games this season because of multiple tears in his left hamstring. He walked away from $3 million in guaranteed money overseas to slog through this season, too. Talk about adding insult to injury.
But he's doing his duty as a point guard. Eternally trying to spread some sunshine, even on a rainy night in downtown L.A.
"Just trying to have fun, man," Farmar said. "It's been a really tough year and trying to find some joy in the game and give us something to be proud and positive about -- and the fans, as well."
It might not have been the way he would have scripted it, but Farmar is finally becoming the player he left L.A. in the first place to become.
"We have a very young group, and he's not one of the young ones anymore," Gasol said. "So, he feels like being a point guard and being somewhat of a veteran; he feels comfortable to be able to speak up and the guys will listen."
LOS ANGELES -- A common refrain from Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni this season has been that if his team spent half the amount of energy caring about its defense as it cared about its offense, it could end up being a half-decent team.
And even though D'Antoni's reputation in his decade-plus in the league with Denver, Phoenix, New York and now Los Angeles is that his mind works the same way -- prioritizing offense over defense -- the coach claimed when asked about his practice plans last week that 75 percent of the team sessions are spent on the defensive end.
Which brings us to Friday, where the Lakers faced an equally inept Sacramento Kings team that came into the night with 20 wins to L.A.'s 19. It was almost as if both teams gave one another a wink-wink before tipoff that defense never made an appearance at Staples Center.
What fans did witness was some entertaining basketball from two teams that came into the night a combined 37 games under .500, which should be considered an accomplishment in itself.
An evening that began with injured guard Nick Young ruminating about the state of his team stating, "Some games you see it and you feel like it’s all individuals," turned into a full-on display of L.A. clicking like clockwork on the offensive end.
Young wasn't the only one whose pregame disposition belied what was about to occur.
"I don’t think you’re ever as a coach you’re like, ‘Oh boy, we got all 15 guys really happy,'" D'Antoni said. "There’s always a couple guys that use the old, ‘I don’t know my role.’ Well, OK. That’s kind of a cop out. What do you mean you don’t know your role?
"You play hard and then when the coach tells you to go in, you go in. That’s your role."
And then the Lakers went out and seemingly every player was on a roll.
It was a good win for a team that needed something to feel good about.
How it happened: The Lakers closed the third quarter on a 16-6 run to cut an 11-point halftime deficit that had grown down to four. What was already a high-scoring night for both teams exploded in the third, when L.A. outscored Sacramento 41-34. The Lakers erased the rest of the Kings' cushion as they stayed hot with 31 points in the fourth to snap a three-game losing streak.
What it means: That halftime talk between Pau Gasol and Jordan Farmar in Memphis seems to have paid off. The former championship teammates led the way together against the Kings, with Farmar scoring a career-high 30 points and Gasol doing a bit of everything, with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds.
Now the question begs: Just how many of these final 23 games will the Lakers win if they keep it up?
Hits: Jodie Meeks scored 22 points on 8-for-8 shooting.
MarShon Brooks had 23 points off the bench, including a couple of banked-in layups in the game's final minutes to seal the deal.
Ryan Kelly only had five points in the scoring extravaganza but contributed a big block late, when Sacramento was threatening.
Wesley Johnson had 12 points and 12 rebounds as he continues to adapt to playing the stretch 4 role.
Kendall Marshall had 10 assists.
Misses: L.A. allowed the Kings to score 122 points. Can't ignore that.
The Lakers had 17 turnovers leading to 25 points for Sacramento.
Stat of the game: 8-for-10. That was Farmar's line from deep. His eight made 3-pointers also were a career high.
Up next: The Lakers have no games the rest of the weekend, gearing up for a pair of back-to-backs next week: Monday in Portland followed by Tuesday at home against New Orleans and then Thursday at home against the Clippers followed by Friday on the road in Denver.
Lakers catch fire from 3 in Memphis:
The Lakers were sleepwalking in Memphis for the first two quarters of their game Wednesday, falling down by 19 at the half before Jordan Farmar, Pau Gasol and 3-point shooting sparked a turnaround. Farmar suggested to his teammates at halftime that they started going through Gasol in the post and having the offense flow from the inside out. Once Gasol started scoring down low (12 points in the second half), the double teams started coming his way, leading to Gasol finding wide-open teammates on the perimeter. L.A. shot 10-for-16 from deep after the change, cutting the Grizzlies’ lead all the way down to three before falling by five.
The Lakers are a part of history against the Brooklyn Nets:
The 2013-14 season will rather not be remembered by Lakers fans who can always fall back on the memories from 16 championship campaigns, but even in another forgettable loss, there was a moment that should be celebrated forever. Last Sunday, the Brooklyn Nets signed Jason Collins to a 10-day contract and when he checked into the game against the Lakers later that night, Collins became the first openly gay player to appear in a game in one of the four major professional sports in U.S. history. It was an event that will prove much more significant over time than the outcome of the game.
Xavier Henry does a stint in the D-League:
With time ticking away on the season and Xavier Henry set to become a free agent this summer, the pressure was starting to mount on the four-year vet who has been sidelined since Dec. 29 with a bone bruise in his right knee. Obviously, he did not want to return too soon and make his knee worse, but at the same time, it was paramount he get back on the court and prove that his solid start to the season for the Lakers wasn’t an aberration and that he is deserving of a new deal come July 1. With Henry, who had ramped up his workouts in recent weeks, needing a final on-court test before returning, the decision was made to have him play a game with the L.A. D-Fenders, the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, while the Lakers had the day off. The choice worked out. Henry had 15 points and four steals in 23 minutes, opening the door for his return to the varsity squad.
Nick Young’s return from knee injury is short-lived:
Young declared that it was a “miracle” that he was ready to return to the court less than three weeks after suffering a non-displaced fracture in his left knee, as well as a bone bruise and added, “You can’t keep the swag down.” His exuberance didn’t last long, however. Young played 20 minutes against Brooklyn after sitting out six straight games and showed flashes of “Swaggy P,” particularly in being able to draw a foul on baseline fadeaway jumper as well as on a 3-point attempt, but experienced pain and swelling in the knee after scoring just 10 points against the Nets. After the game, Young admitted that he was partly motivated to rush his return because of the sudden glut of shooting guards on the Lakers roster after they acquired Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks. He went back to rehabbing the knee while the Lakers were on their two-game road trip through Indiana and Memphis.
Second half dooms the Lakers against the Pacers:
The Lakers came into Bankers Life Fieldhouse and hung around with the league-leading Pacers for the first half Tuesday, before reckless play robbed them of any chance of a victory over the final two quarters. Indiana outscored L.A. by 17 after halftime and while Bazemore’s career-high 23 points might seem like a bright spot from the game, he actually shot just 4-for-11 in the second half, prompting Gasol to go on a post-game rant criticizing the Lakers’ selfish play and lack of discipline.
His Los Angeles Lakers had already dug themselves a 19-point hole through the first two quarters to the Memphis Grizzlies -- a night after being outscored by 17 in the final two quarters at Indiana, meaning Farmar and the rest of the guys had been through a full game's worth of blowout city up to that point.
This season is not what he signed up for when he left more than $3 million on the table in Turkey this past summer to return to his hometown team.
A rash of injuries, mounting losses and a roster made up primarily of players -- himself included -- on one-year deals, had created a caustic environment.
So when Farmar went searching for some kind of savior on a cold night in Memphis, his eyes settled on the guy he knew has what it takes to be a winner: Pau Gasol.
Like Farmar, Gasol had resisted simply accepting what has happened to the once-proud Lakers franchise this season. He spoke up about it Tuesday, calling out coach Mike D'Antoni for not creating accountability in the locker room through discipline and calling out his teammates for being selfish in the way they played the game.
So, Farmar had an idea: Forget small ball. Forget pick-and-rolls. Let's go through Gasol and let the chips fall where they may.
"I suggested it at halftime," Farmar said. "He's our best player by far. He's a many-time All-Star. He's one of the best players in the NBA. We have to use him to his strengths. We can't just expect him to just play through the motions and figure it out. So, playing through him, he's a willing passer and once he starts going to work, guys start doubling, guys get open shots, open driving angles and things like that. So, I suggested it, we did it and it worked out for us for a while."
No matter what happens in the final 29 games of 2013-14 for the Lakers, this group already set a franchise record for futility with Thursday's 107-103 defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was their seventh straight loss at home, the worst home stretch in team history.
Even the good news on the horizon -- the prospect of Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks and Pau Gasol all being available for the Lakers' first game after the break Wednesday at home against the Houston Rockets -- can be just as easily construed as a discouraging development.
The Lakers, at 18-35, are 13 games behind the Golden State Warriors for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. They're only nine games behind the 9-43 Milwaukee Bucks for the worst record in the league and the best shot at the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Losses will do more good for the future of the franchise than current wins will.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak declared again Thursday that the team will not actively engage in tanking down the stretch run of the season.
"Winning is never a bad thing," Kupchak said. "If you try to manipulate the draft, my experience -- I'm not a karma guy -- but if you try to manipulate this thing, it never works out the way you think it's going to work out. You're better off doing what you know is the right thing to do and whatever happens, happens for the right reason. And that's our approach."
But stripping down the roster even further -- trading Gasol to Phoenix for an injured Emeka Okafor and a future draft pick, for instance -- would be a way to aid the tank's path without the karmic repercussions.