Los Angeles Lakers: Sacramento Kings

Jordan Farmar now comfortable in his role

March, 1, 2014
Mar 1
12:05
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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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.

[+] EnlargeJordan Farmar
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesLakers point guard Jordan Farmar enjoyed career highs with 30 points and eight 3-pointers against the Kings, all while making those around him shine.

Brooks scored 23 against the Kings, with 11 of those points coming in the fourth quarter when he and Farmar played all 12 minutes together in the backcourt to close out the game. Brooks finished the game 3-for-3 on 3-pointers, Farmar set a career high from deep by going 8-for-10, and the Lakers as a team set a franchise record for most 3s made in a regulation game, going 19-for-27 (70.4 percent).

"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."

[+] EnlargeMarShon Brooks
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

MarShon Brooks and Farmar played together with the Nets and have combined again recently in the Lakers backcourt to fine levels of success.

Friday was the second straight game that the two fed off each other, coming a couple of nights after they combined for 30 points and six assists in Memphis as the Lakers nearly upset the Grizzlies on the road.

"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."

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 126, Kings 122

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
10:12
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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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.

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 106, Kings 100

December, 6, 2013
12/06/13
9:33
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- If Friday was the final dress rehearsal before the fully realized, Kobe Bryant-included version of the 2013-14 Los Angeles Lakers debuts, Jodie Meeks sure made a case for not just disappearing from the rotation as Bryant’s understudy.

Meeks, who has not only been L.A.’s most improved player this season, but somebody who should warrant consideration for the league’s annual award, caught fire with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including a 5-for-6 mark from 3 in the Lakers' 106-100 win over the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena.

The win lifted L.A.’s record to 10-9 in Bryant’s absence, something very few could have imagined.

How it happened: The Lakers fell down by 10 late in the third quarter after back-to-back Ben McLemore 3-pointers but went on an 11-0 run to close the third and open the fourth to get back in it. The Kings regained control, taking a four-point lead into the final minutes before L.A. hit four jumpers to spark an 11-0 run: Meeks hit a 3 to cut it to one, Pau Gasol hit one from the top of the key to put L.A. up by one, Meeks hit another triple from the corner to put the Lakers up four with 1:09 to go and Nick Young capped it with a pull-up from midrange to increase L.A.’s lead to six with 30.1 seconds remaining.

What it means: The Lakers clearly have momentum, winners of six of their past eight games. Now they face the prospect of reintegrating Bryant into the lineup, which is a good problem to have.

Hits: Gasol had 19 points and seven rebounds.

Steve Blake had 13 points and 10 assists.

Robert Sacre followed up his career-high 12 points against Portland with 11 points in 17 minutes.

Wes Johnson’s chase-down block on Isaiah Thomas and stripped steal of McLemore in the fourth quarter turned the tide of the game.

Misses: L.A. was outrebounded 51-36.

Stat of the game: All five Lakers starters scored in double digits.

Up next: Bryant's long-awaited return Sunday at home against the Toronto Raptors. Getcha popcorn ready.

Lakers’ win streak sparked by improving defense

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
11:56
PM PT
Buha By Jovan Buha
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- It sounds insane, but this season's Los Angeles Lakers might just be a good defensive team after all.

For the fifth time in their past six games, the Lakers (7-7) held their opponent to less than 100 points, defeating the Sacramento Kings 100-86 on Sunday night.

[+] EnlargeWesley Johnson
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillThe Lakers' coaches have told Wesley Johnson they want him to "mess the game up" by using his athleticism and length to disrupt the ball.
The Lakers have now won three games in a row, and four of their past six, in large part because of their improved and increased defensive effort.

“We are sticking to our principles a lot,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I think they’re getting to the point where they’re not thinking about things and reacting and sticking to what we are doing. They’re just following the game plan really well. The last part is their effort. They want to do it.

“I think because you share the ball on offense and everyone feels good about how they are playing that it transfers on to the defensive end and [you] get more team energy. I think it has shown in the last three games.”

Following Sunday’s victory, the Lakers have the 11th-best defense in terms of defensive efficiency, allowing just 101.3 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com/Stats. For comparison's sake, the Lakers' defense last season -- led by Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace -- ranked 18th.

On Sunday, Sacramento shot just 41.7 percent, including 25 percent in the Kings' 13-point third quarter, in what is becoming a trend (five of L.A.’s past six opponents have shot 43.5 percent or worse).

So, what exactly has changed over the past six games?

For starters, Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson entered the starting lineup.

When those two share the floor, the Lakers are a completely different team. In the 211 minutes they’ve played together, the Lakers allow just 98.8 points per 100 possessions, which would rank seventh in the league.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 100, Kings 86

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
9:05
PM PT
Buha By Jovan Buha
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- For the Los Angeles Lakers, good things come in 3s.

Through their first 13 games, 30.8 percent of the Lakers’ points have come off 3-pointers, the highest percentage in the league.

“Defending the 3-point line is something that’s of importance,” Kings coach Mike Malone said when discussing the Lakers’ scouting report, “because they take so many of them and they shoot at such a high percentage.”

The Lakers’ record reflects Malone’s analysis. When the Lakers make nine or more 3-pointers, they’re 6-3. When they make eight or less, they’re 0-4.

Thus it was a bit surprising that the Lakers defeated the Sacramento Kings 100-87 Sunday night -- their season-high third win in a row -- as they went just 8-of-26 from deep (30.8 percent).

Instead of living or dying by the 3, the Lakers relied on an uncommon formula for Mike D'Antoni-led squads: defense.

The Lakers used their defensive activity in the passing lanes (eight steals) and in the paint (nine blocks) to propel their fast-break attack (20 points) and make up for their subpar outside shooting. The Kings' offense became anemic -- they shot 41.7 percent from the field -- and the purple and gold coasted to a much-needed victory.

How it happened: Led by Pau Gasol’s inside touch and Steve Blake’s all-around performance, the Lakers took a convincing seven-point lead into halftime. After the Kings made their first three field goals to cut the deficit to just two points, the Lakers held them to six points on 2-for-17 shooting (11.8 percent) over the rest of the third quarter. From there, the Lakers extended their lead to as many as 18 points before ultimately winning by 14.

What it means: The Lakers have won three games in a row for the first time this season and, more importantly, four of their past six games to return to .500 (7-7). With a vital three-game road trip coming up, the Lakers can improve on their poor 1-4 road record.

Hits: Blake messed around and nearly had a triple double, scoring nine points, grabbing five rebounds (all in the first half) and dishing out 12 assists.

Gasol continued his impressive string of performances with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Xavier Henry returned to early-season form, scoring 21 points by getting out in transition and drawing fouls (5-of-6 from the charity stripe).

Misses: Greivis Vasquez (20 points, seven assists) scored a season-high and gave the Lakers trouble out of pick-and-rolls.

Stat of the game: The Lakers held the Kings to just 86 points, the fewest they’ve allowed this season. L.A. has now held five of their past six opponents to under 100 points.

Up next: The Lakers embark on a three-game road trip through Washington (5-8), Brooklyn (3-10) and Detroit (5-8). With all three teams playing sub-.500 basketball, the Lakers have a legitimate chance to finish their road trip with an above .500 record and in the playoff hunt.

Rapid Reaction: Kings 104, Lakers 86

October, 10, 2013
10/10/13
9:29
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LAS VEGAS -- Pau Gasol caught the ball on the foul line extended on the left side of the court in the third quarter in the Los Angeles Lakers' preseason game against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday and had options. He could pull up and shoot over his man. He could drive. He could dish it off, as Chris Kaman was positioned nearby, in the short corner, and likes that midrange shot. Gasol chose to pump fake, put the ball on the floor and drive middle, leaving his defender scrambling to recover to the rim and Kaman's defender sagging over to help.

As soon as Gasol spotted Kaman's defender leaving him, he whipped the ball in the air back over his head right by the hoop in a perfect spot for Kaman to plunge toward the rim and catch it for a layup or dunk. Only Kaman stayed stationary right where he was, about 15 feet from the hoop on the baseline, and the ball sailed out of bounds.

Gasol grimaced; Kaman shrugged his shoulders as if to suggest he thought Gasol was going to keep barging toward the lane himself because he had already beat his man. Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni subbed out both of the big men, and they sat on the bench and immediately hashed out the play that went awry.

That's what preseason basketball is all about -- trying to mix and match new pieces together to see whether they can build a comfort level with each other and understanding and rhythm with their games.

"We're going to play that way," D'Antoni said before the game of the Gasol-Kaman starting lineup. "Just ride it for a while and just see what happens."

What happened wasn't as successful as the pair's debut together in a preseason win against Denver on Tuesday, as L.A. lost to the Kings 104-86, but it wasn't all turnovers and head shaking out of the two, either. Gasol had 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. Kaman had 17, six and two. They shot a combined 11-for-20 from the field and they had just one more turnover combined other than the one described above.

"Those guys are showing that they can play well together because they're both skilled, they can both make passes and look for each other," Kings coach Mike Malone said before the game. "So, as a coach, you always evaluate who you are as a team, what your personnel looks like and how to best utilize them, and what lineup best complements each other. If we had two 7-footers who could play, we'd probably find a way to use them."

And despite a few hiccups here and there, D'Antoni surely will continue to find ways to use Kaman and Gasol going forward.

How it happened: The Lakers led 50-48 at the half before falling asleep a bit and allowing Travis Outlaw to score nine points on three 3-pointers in the third quarter, giving Sacramento a four-point lead heading into the fourth that ballooned from there.

(Read full post)

Division Preview: Clips set to stay on top

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
7:35
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Yes, the Los Angeles Lakers might have 23 Pacific Division titles since the NBA created the league classification at the start of the 1970-71 season. And true, the Los Angeles Clippers have only one, coming last season. However, in the “What have you done for me lately?” sports world we live in, the Lakers’ “Showtime” history won’t give them a leg up on the lads from Lob City this year.

The story of the five-team Pacific Division for 2013-14 is one of the haves (Clippers and Golden State Warriors picked to finish second and sixth, respectively, in ESPN.com’s Summer Forecast of the Western Conference), the have-nots (the Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns were picked 14th and 15th in the West in the same survey) and the Lakers, who fall somewhere in between.

With the Clippers coming off the most successful regular season in franchise history and adding Doc Rivers to the fold, the boys in red, white and blue are primed to back up their first Pacific Division title with another one, continuing the trend over the past decade of teams getting hot in the division and staying that way (the Lakers won five straight division titles from 2007-2012 and the Suns won three straight before that from 2004-07).

ESPNLosAngeles.com broke down each of five teams’ prospects heading into this season, including a take from both an anonymous Western Conference scout for the teams’ on-court plans and from an anonymous Western Conference front-office executive looking at the direction each franchise is headed.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS
2012-13 record: 45-37
If absorbing Dwight Howard’s departure wasn’t enough for the Lakers to digest, the best three players remaining on the roster -- Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol -- all enter the new season with serious health questions. How will Bryant respond to Achilles surgery as a 35-year-old? Will Nash, at 39, be able to keep his body on the floor through the rigors of an 82-game season? Is there anything left in those 33-year-old knees belonging to Gasol? And is Mike D'Antoni the right man to try to keep it all together? Still, the Lakers trudged ahead without Howard, making a couple of high-talent, low-budget pickups while maintaining their coveted cap space for the summer of 2014.

Players Added
Rookies: Ryan Kelly, Elias Harris (undrafted free agent)
Free Agents: Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, Robert Sacre (re-signed), Nick Young

Players Lost
Free Agents: Earl Clark, Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison
Waived: Metta World Peace (amnesty)

Scout’s take:

-- "They’re going to be back playing more of Mike D’Antoni’s style, which is a lot of early offense, playing the pick-and-roll, playing to Steve Nash’s strengths. You got a guy in Jordan Farmar who is going to be able to play in that style. He’s quick, he’s athletic, he can play point guard. Nick Young is an athlete, a guy that can get up and down the court and can really score coming off the bench. Wes Johnson is a guy who can space the floor for them, hopefully."

-- "I don’t expect them to be a strong defensive team. They’ve got a lot of older, veteran guys. I just don’t know that that’s the strength of Coach D’Antoni. I think he’s a tremendous offensive coach and I know his philosophy is, ‘Well, if we outscore the opposing team then we’ve played good enough defense.’ He’s basically said that in the past."

-- "I do expect the Lakers to be competitive again. I think they’re a playoff-caliber team. I don’t know if they’re going to be one of the top-tier teams in the West."

-- "I do expect Kobe to be back playing at a high level. I know there’s uncertainty with the Achilles' heel. Just with his talent and his drive, I expect him to be back at a high level. I would almost worry about him pushing it too far, too fast. I think they’re going to try to force him to come back kind of slow. Don’t try to take on the world right away.

"Kobe, to me, is going to thrive off of his smarts and his experiences. He’s always been one of those guys that’s just been like a sponge. I think that’s what separates him from the average player or even a very good player. I think this is just another challenge for him. He’s like [Michael] Jordan in that way where he’ll almost make up motivation, make up something to help get him motivated.

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillPerhaps the biggest question facing the Lakers this season is how Kobe Bryant will respond following Achilles surgery.
"I would not be surprised for him to be back at an All-Star level. I don’t know if it’s going to be next season, it could be, but I could definitely see him being back as an All-Star because that’s just in his DNA."

Exec’s take:

-- “It’s kind of a year where I’m sure they don’t know what’s going to happen and the rest of the league doesn’t either. A big part of it is where is Kobe going to be at? If there’s a guy you don’t want to doubt, it’s him. If he’s anywhere near 100 percent, you can’t count those guys out to be in the playoff hunt at the very least."

-- "I think they’re trying to get through with a team that can probably be competitive this year and see where they’re at health-wise, and then next year they obviously got a ton of flexibility to kind of re-mold that franchise.

-- "Dwight being gone, it hurts you from a talent standpoint, but it might help from a chemistry standpoint -- just from the outside looking in. If you have Nash and Pau both healthy and Kobe is anywhere near 100 percent, I think they’ll see more rhythm with that offense."

-- "I think Nick Young will be a good addition off the bench for them, if they bring him off the bench, give them some punch."

-- "I don’t know if they have the depth to contend for a top five or six seed in the West, and if Kobe is not anywhere near 100 percent, I think it could be a challenging year for them."

-- "They'll see where they're at. At this point I don’t think they want to think about that possibility [of stripping down the team] right now. I don’t think that’s how they think. Their aspirations are a lot higher than most teams every year, and I’m sure they want to see where Kobe’s at come Jan. 1 and see where the team’s at. If they get to the point where it’s the trade deadline and they can tell their team’s not going anywhere, I’m sure they’ll at least consider something with Pau or any other pieces they might be able to move for a longer-term piece."

-- "I think all of this comes back to where Kobe’s at -- healthwise, mentally -- because I think they’re going to factor in how he views what’s the short term and long term with them because he’s been such a statue of that franchise for so long. I think it will be something that they feel their way out as the season goes along on that."

Lakers 2013-14 prediction: 44-38

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 103, Kings 98

March, 30, 2013
3/30/13
9:46
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Here's a capsule-sized look at how the Los Angeles Lakers salvaged a 2-2 road trip with a rousing, come-from-behind win, beating the Sacramento Kings 103-98 on Saturday night at the Sleep Train Arena:

How it happened: Things looked pretty grim to start as L.A. trailed by 12 after the first 12 minutes and gave up a whopping 37 points in the first period. Making matters worse, Steve Nash could play just two minutes before ending his night because of a right hip strain. But the Lakers persevered. Kobe Bryant scored 10 of his 19 points in the second quarter to get L.A. back in it before halftime, and the Lakers used a 14-1 run to end the third to put control of the game in their hands. It got tight late in the fourth quarter, but L.A. was able to strip Tyreke Evans to break up a layup attempt, Dwight Howard blocked a potential game-tying 3 from DeMarcus Cousins (yes, you read that right) and the Lakers survived.

What it means: There's life in these Lakers yet. Coach Mike D'Antoni said at shootaround Saturday that his team's goal was to finish the season 9-0, hoping Utah would falter somewhere along the way and the Lakers would be able to vault back into a playoff spot. There's plenty more work to be done to get eight more wins, but if L.A. plays with the same sense of team effort it did from the second quarter on, the Lakers will have a shot to do it.

Hits: Bryant passed Wilt Chamberlain to move into fourth on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan are ahead of him now. Pretty incredible company he keeps.

Bryant just missed a triple-double, with 19 points, 14 assists (one shy of his career high) and nine rebounds.

Howard was dominant, shooting 10-for-14 for 24 points and adding 15 rebounds.

Steve Blake filled in for Nash to score 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting.

Pau Gasol had 10 assists along with 12 points.

Jodie Meeks had 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting, after shooting 6-for-19 in his first two games starting for Metta World Peace.

Misses: Free throws were a sore spot again, with Bryant missing a technical free throw early and going 1-of-2 from the line with less than 30 seconds to go, putting L.A. up by just three instead of four. Howard shot just 4-for-10 from the stripe.

For the game, Bryant played all but the final 23 seconds of the third quarter, 47:37 overall. You could say he's leaving it all out there, or you could say D'Antoni needs to be more disciplined in resting him. Bryant shot just 5-for-18 on those tired legs, which are still playing through a bone spur in his left foot.

Stat of the game: After coughing up 39 turnovers combined in their previous two games, the Lakers had just seven miscues Saturday ... and only four over the last three quarters after having three in the first period.

What's next: On Tuesday, the Lakers host the Dallas Mavericks, a team that is closing in on them fast. The Mavs have won 11 of their 16 games in March, including an impressive victory against Chicago on Saturday. Tuesday also is Shaquille O'Neal's jersey retirement ceremony at Staples Center.

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 113, Kings 102

March, 17, 2013
3/17/13
9:18
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- There was a telling quote from Antawn Jamison after the Los Angeles Lakers rallied to win in Indianapolis without Kobe Bryant the other night.

"We have too much talent to think that there's not a chance for us to win when he's not out there," Jamison said.

Bryant didn't play Sunday, marking the first time all season he didn't suit up. But Jamison and the Lakers showed what kind of talent it has without their leader.

Journeyman Jamison reminded everybody why he is No. 43 on the NBA's all-time scoring list and just 176 points away from 20,000 for his career by hitting from all over the court en route to a team-high 27 points on 8-for-14 shooting, including 5-for-8 on 3-pointers.

Just like in Indiana, it wasn't just Jamison, either.

Steve Nash showed he is just as much a former two-time MVP as he is a 39-year-old, posting 19 points and 12 assists.

Metta World Peace showed he's more than a tough wing defender, scoring 22 points on 10-for-12 shooting, after putting up 19 against the Indiana Pacers.

Dwight Howard looked healthier than he has maybe all season, tallying 12 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots.

Steve Blake had 16 points and eight assists. Earl Clark had 11 points and eight rebounds.

Everybody contributed.

Solid win.

How it happened: After Sacramento went on a 10-0 run to cut L.A.'s lead to just 90-88 in the fourth quarter, Blake came up huge, drawing a foul on Jason Thompson to thwart a sure Sacramento Kings bucket on the fast break, then hitting a 3-pointer soon after to put L.A. up 95-88. The Lakers regained control of the game, sparking a 13-2 run overall. They rolled from there, winning by 11 and going four games above .500, at 36-32, for the first time all season.

What it means: "They know where we are [in the standings],” Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game. “They know how important these games are at home, especially. We just can’t kick one like we did in Atlanta." The Lakers made it interesting against a Kings team that came into the game 20 games under .500. But they won, which is what they need to keep doing for the final 14 games of the regular season. Now that L.A. has been flirting with a playoff spot for some time, they can even think about moving up the ladder.

"Just looking at [the standings] real quick, No. 6, right?" D'Antoni said before his team won for the 11th time in 14 tries since the All-Star break. "That seems to be the thing. I wouldn’t think anything else. That would be a goal that we try to get to."

Hits: Sunday marked the first time since Pau Gasol was traded to the Lakers on Feb. 1, 2008, that L.A. won a game in which Bryant and Gasol did not play.

Howard grabbed 17 rebounds, keeping his streak of collecting 12 or more rebounds in every game since the All-Star break intact. The 14 games with 12 or more boards ties the longest such streak he's had in his career.

Misses: With Bryant out, D'Antoni shrunk his rotation even more, playing just seven guys.

L.A. allowed Patrick Patterson to go off for 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting.

The Lakers had 15 turnovers, resulting in 17 points for Sacramento while forcing the Kings into just six turnovers.

Stat of the game: The Lakers average 22 assists per game as a team, ranking 16th in the league, and outdid themselves Sunday with 28 dimes on 41 baskets (68.3 percent).

What's next: The Lakers will have a chance to do something they've failed to do all season in 13 attempts: sweep a back-to-back. L.A. plays in Phoenix on Monday. Coming into Sunday, the Lakers were 5-8 on the front end of back-to-backs and also 5-8 on the back end of back-to-backs this season. They'll have to beware of the 22-45 Suns, however. The Lakers lost the last time they went to Phoenix this season in Nash's return game.

Lakers at Kings: What to watch

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
9:47
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
With the Lakers now north of the .500 mark, the early-season chaos has increasingly given way to an atmosphere of normalcy. However, the skeptic would note how, Tuesday's win over Brooklyn the noted exception, each win has come at the expense of nobody terribly impressive. However, the Lakers' early schedule ease is an element they can't control. They can only control the results, and an opponent like Sacramento is a gift horse than can't be looked in the mouth, especially given how the team is still playing catch up from a 1-4 start. It's important the Lakers capitalize on this momentum, because games will soon consistently offer more legitimate challenges.

With that in mind, here are a few items to be mindful of once the ball is jumped.

1) The DeMarcus effect
In the first meeting of these teams, the Lakers controlled what eventually became a 13-point victory from start to finish. However, the Kings were also competing without the services of DeMarcus Cousins, who'd been suspended for a post-game confrontation with Spurs analyst Sean Elliott. (Is it even possible for an infraction to feel more "DeMarcus?") That's not to say Sacto would have won with Cousins available, but he certainly changes the complexion of the game. Easily the best player on the Kings, he's their most reliable source of inside scoring, not to mention the most intimidating interior defender. (As our friend James Ham noted in our first preview, Cousins is still prone to lapses, but his effort and effectiveness have notably picked up this season.)

With Cousins on hand, the lives of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, who combined for 41, instantly turn more difficult. That's hardly the same thing as insurmountable, of course. Both represent quite a handful for Cousins as well, and over the many battles between he and Gasol, the Spaniard has typically come out on top. (On a side note, a seemingly mutual disdain between Gasol and Cousins creates a fun battle within the battle. I'll set the over-under for the amount of times they get tangled up, exchange dirty looks, and generally tussle at "10," then bet the over.) The Kings lose more often than not with Cousins against anybody, much less a squad with the Lakers' absurdly talented frontline.

Still, the task at hand for Gasol and Howard is considerably loftier when Cousins, rather than James Johnson, flanks Jason Thompson.

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Lakers vs. Kings: What to watch

November, 11, 2012
11/11/12
4:36
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
With so much tension swirling around the Los Angeles Lakers since their poor start, it wasn't shocking to see a lot of energy channeled into a walloping Friday win over Golden State.

This was a team clearly in need of a cathartic release, and Mike Brown's dismissal, whether consciously or not, provided the outlet. Collectively, the roster exhaled.

But with those circumstances no longer providing fresh adrenaline, it will be interesting to see how the Lakers conduct themselves.

The Kings are dealing with their own struggles, but they have enough talented -- if likely mismatched -- players to potentially keep their hosts busy. With a serious test against San Antonio looming on Tuesday, it would be great if the Lakers capitalized on the chance to continue building momentum.

For perspective on Sacto, I conducted an IM exchange with James Ham from the TrueHoop network's Cowbell Kingdom. (It should also be noted our conversation took place before the NBA suspended DeMarcus Cousins two games for a confrontation Friday with Spurs commentator Sean Elliott.) Below is the transcript.

Andy Kamenetzky: Like the Lakers, the Kings have come out of the gate 2-4. What's been your general impression of the team?

James Ham: The Kings are a young team and while they are much improved, they still make a lot of mistakes. Like the Lakers, they have a lot of new rotational pieces and they are still searching for the right mix on the floor. At 2-4, the Kings shouldn't be down on themselves. They very well could be 3-3 or even 4-2. They have been extremely competitive in almost every game so far.

AK: Sacto's defensive numbers have been pretty good, despite coming off a season in which they were among the league's worst in most categories. Byproduct of a sample size, or has this team legitimately improved the lockdown?

JH: They have improved greatly on the defensive and it's only going to get better as they continue to build chemistry, especially on rotations. DeMarcus Cousins is developing into a very high-quality post defender, but he has had issues with foul trouble. The addition of James Johnson was huge, but the biggest difference so far this season has been the effort of Tyreke Evans. He is developing into an elite perimeter defender in the mold of Andre Iguodala.

AK: The Lakers have trouble hanging onto the ball and aren't the world's greatest team defending in transition. The Kings have done a good job inducing steals this season, but how successful are they at converting turnovers into points?

JH: The Kings should eat the Lakers alive in transition. Both Evans and Marcus Thornton are great finishers on the break. Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks are lightning quick, and Jason Thompson is a very underrated big who can really get up and down the floor. The Kings like to push the tempo. They are much better in transition than they are in the half court. Defense and rebounding sets up the transition, so they need the defense to work to make the offense work in many cases.

Who will be coaching the Lakers tomorrow against the Kings? It sounds like Phil Jackson is ready to come back into the fold.

AK: Save an unexpectedly fast resolution, it will Bernie Bickerstaff ... who, by the way, boasts the greatest winning percentage in franchise history!

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Kobe Bryant won't play tonight in Sacramento

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
2:15
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Dave McMenamin has the news.

In a nutshell, Kobe Bryant will sit out the regular season finale tonight in Sacramento, ceding this year's scoring title to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant. Kobe has said repeatedly over the last few days the scoring crown isn't important to him, and certainly anyone who didn't believe him before ought to now. Had he decided to strap 'em up and make a run at K.D. I would have understood, and this poll on the official Lakers Facebook page suggests Lakers fans wanted to see him go for it. Still, Kobe is unquestionably making the safer choice, and more than a few fingernails around town will probably be preserved.

With that, tonight becomes all about extended run for seldom used players like Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris, along with everyone's first look at Christian Eyenga in a Lakers uni.


Kobe Bryant needs 38 points in Thursday's regular season finale against the Kings to capture this year's scoring title over Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.

Bryant has said repeatedly over the last few days he doesn't particularly care if he wins. The Lakers are expected to sit at least some of their starters for most, and perhaps all, of tonight's game -- totally meaningless as far as the standings are concerned -- but Mike Brown said Wednesday he'll give each player the option to suit up or not. Meaning if he chooses, Bryant can lace up his Kobe VII's and see what comes of it.


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US Presswire
If Kobe Bryant wants to get the scoring title, he's absolutely entitled to try.


Should he?

With the playoffs starting Sunday, plenty of Lakers fans would prefer Kobe kick up his feet and relax. Having spent seven games in street clothes with tenosynovitis in his left shin and only now getting back into the lineup, why risk injury in a game that doesn't matter? The better safe than sorry logic is pretty clear. Some might even consider playing just to get a scoring title selfish, putting personal glory ahead of the team's best interests.

They'd be wrong. If Bryant decides to sit, or play a quarter or a half, that's fine. I'd love to see him in street clothes, where nothing can go wrong, but if he wants to go as long as it takes to get that 38th point, more power to him. No player in the NBA works harder on his game or his body, both requiring more will with each passing year, or tries harder to win. At 33 years old, with 16 seasons under his belt and the equivalent of about 2.5 more in playoff games, to lead the NBA in scoring would be a remarkable accomplishment, particularly given Kobe's position on the floor.

I believe Bryant when he says it's not very important and resting would certainly prove his point, but if he changes his mind nobody should hold it against him. There is room in team sports for individual honors and accomplishment, particularly for players who have put in the hours Kobe has. It's not the ultimate prize, but still a pretty good one.

As for the rest of the game ... well, there's just not that much to watch. There could be significant burn available for Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris, and eyes will be on Devin Ebanks, suddenly thrust into a potentially prominent role this postseason. Plus, Lakers fans (at least those who haven't been hanging at D-Fenders games) will get their first look at Christian Eyenga, acquired in the Ramon Sessions deal on deadline day. With Metta World Peace suspended and Matt Barnes out with an ankle injury, the Lakers are thin at small forward. If you ran out and bought an "88" jersey right after the trade, Thursday is your day.

Jordan Hill gets a chance to follow up on his outstanding game Sunday against the Thunder, as well.

That's about it.

As for the other team, our man Jonathan Santiago at TrueHoop's Cowbell Kingdom (Tweet him here, Tweet them there) was kind enough to answer a few questions for us, looking back at another lottery run in Sacramento ...

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The Lakers made things interesting Friday night at Staples Center, but came away with the win, 115-107 over the Kings. Kobe Bryant was again mask-a-riffic, piling up 38 points on 13-of-24 from the floor. He was supported well by Andrew Bynum (19/15) and Pau Gasol (15/7/4) and a big 15 point night from Metta World Peace.

Now, we can all look forward to Sunday's game against Miami, which is basically what everyone was doing anyway, except now the clutter of another game in between has been removed.

Friday on Lakers Late Night, we hit on these things, and more, including:
  • A steadily improving offense for the Lakers. Can they continue the trend against the league's better teams?
  • Why Kobe ought to keep the mask. Apparently, the thing brings good fortune.
  • Mike Brown continuing to give his players more freedom offensively, something they appreciate.
  • L.A. vs. Miami. What do the Lakers need to do to win, and what would a victory mean?
Watch live streaming video from espnlosangeles at livestream.com


Click below for postgame video, from Brown, and Bryant...

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Rapid Reaction: Lakers 115, Kings 107

March, 2, 2012
3/02/12
10:11
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
For most of Friday's game against the Sacramento Kings, the Los Angeles Lakers put the engine in cruise control. Not ideal, but understandable for a team facing a horrible road squad in a season where discretion is definitely the better part of valor. Unfortunately, in the fourth quarter the Lakers kept the cruise but lost control, turning what should have been a blowout into a far tighter game.

In the end, Kobe Bryant put down a few buckets late and the defense earned just enough stops to keep the Lakers on the positive side of the ledger. They win 115-107, avoiding an embarrassing misstep heading into Sunday's game against Miami.

Here are five takeaways:

1. The Lakers played the right offense to help their defense.

The Kings are horrible on their end of the floor, but nonetheless the Lakers should be credited with the way they executed offensively. With few exceptions, they pushed everything toward the rim. Bryant set up shop in the post early, making five shots in the first quarter from 10 feet and in. Later, he finished a couple plays off the dribble at the basket, both from the top of the key and the baseline. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol were both effective in the paint, contributing a host of nifty finishes. In the third, Bynum executed one of the best post moves I've ever seen him make, with a massive step high off the block to change the position of Sacramento's double team, then spinning on his pivot foot back to the basket to score over Chuck Hayes.

A very nifty bit of footwork, for sure.

They did a great job as well using size to create easy baskets over the top, working hard inside to get a seal, then waiting for the lob. If anything, they were a little too lob happy. They didn't make a ton of mistakes, but a decent percentage of the miscues came on misguided lob attempts.

2. The Lakers were also very generous at all the wrong times.

Early on the Lakers were sloppy, fueling Sacramento's transition game (seven of their first 15 points came on the break). That wasn't great, but paled in comparison to how the Lakers started the fourth, turning the ball over six times in the first eight minutes. They didn't just open the door for Sacramento to get back into the game, but walked them through it tossing rose petals in their path, like those fetching valets did for Prince Akeem in "Coming to America."

Fortunately for Los Angeles, the Kings simply aren't good enough to take full advantage, allowing the Lakers to ultimately keep them at arms length. But I can't imagine they'll be happy letting a 20-point lead shrink to five in the fourth quarter. It had a feel all along of a game that the Lakers were content to match the Kings' scoring, knowing they could clamp down and put some space between themselves and the Kings later in the game (see the 27-16 third quarter). But it could have been a game the Lakers won going away, and earned their starters some rest.

Didn't happen.

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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
24.6 5.0 1.4 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.3
AssistsK. Bryant 5.0
StealsK. Bryant 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.2