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March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
12:36
PM PT
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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4-point play: Lakers vs. Heat

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
9:09
AM PT
Alamar By Ben Alamar
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesGoran Dragic has been getting to the free throw line more since joining the Heat.
The 4-Point Play looks at the four analytics-based storylines that will make you smarter when watching Wednesday’s game between the Los Angeles Lakers (26th in BPI) and the Miami Heat (18th in BPI) at 8PM ET on ESPN. Our BPI gives the Heat a 73 percent chance of winning.

1. The Miami Heat are projected to win 37 games, have a 60 percent chance of making the playoffs, and have the second-easiest remaining schedule, according to ESPN's BPI.

2. Goran Dragic has a career average of 4.2 free throw attempts per 36 minutes, but was getting a career low of 2.9 free throws per 36 minutes this season in Phoenix. Since coming to Miami, he has averaged 6.1 free throws per 36 minutes.

3. The Lakers will keep their first round pick provided it is in the top 5, otherwise it will belong to Philadelphia. The Lakers have a 74 percent chance of keeping their pick, according to BPI.

4. Ed Davis leads the Lakers in scoring efficiency with a true-shooting percentage of 60 percent and is seventh in the league with an offensive rebound percentage of 13 percent. The only 25-year-olds to have seasons at those levels or above since 2000 are DeAndre Jordan, Tyson Chandler, and Robin Lopez.
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Al Jefferson had 21 points and 16 rebounds, Mo Williams added 20 points and 13 assists and the Charlotte Hornets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 104-103 on Tuesday night for their third win in four games.

Williams, who came in averaging 23.4 points in his first five games since being acquired from Minnesota, had his third double-double with the Hornets.

Williams knocked down a big 3-pointer with a minute to play to push the lead to six and added five free throws in the final 18 seconds to seal the win.

Gerald Henderson added 21 points, including several key baskets late in the fourth quarter. Cody Zeller had 10 points and 11 rebounds as all five Charlotte starters finished in double figures.

Jeremy Lin led the Lakers with 23 points off the bench, while Jordan Clarkson had 19.


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Jeff Biggs and Arash Markazi break down the chances the Lakers make a run at Rajon Rondo in the offseason.
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Jeff Biggs and Arash Markazi break down if Kobe Bryant should retire or continue to play after next season.

Vlade Divac joins Kings' front office

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
1:01
PM PT
[+] EnlargeVlade Divac
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesVlade Divac spent six seasons with the Kings and became a fan favorite.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Former fan favorite Vlade Divac has rejoined the Sacramento Kings as vice president of basketball and franchise operations, a job that will include advising the front office and coaching staff.

The team announced Tuesday that Divac would assist in global and fan outreach initiatives and oversee the player-development programs. Divac, 47, will take a lead in talent evaluation and develop relationships between the team and European players.

Divac retired from professional basketball in 2007 and was named president of the Serbian Olympic Committee three years later.

He averaged 11.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 blocks per game over 1,134 career NBA games with the Lakers, Charlotte and Sacramento. Divac is only one of four players in league history with at least 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists, 1,200 steals and 1,600 blocked shots, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin Garnett.


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Thunder 108, Lakers 101: The streak ends

March, 1, 2015
Mar 1
6:14
PM PT
Buha By Jovan Buha
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- As the season drags out, Lakers Nation is divided.

Do the Los Angeles Lakers' fans want to the team to keep losing and improve its chances of keeping its first-round draft pick? Or do they want to win regardless of the draft implications?

There is no consensus either way, but Lakers head coach Byron Scott offered his perspective on what he felt the fans want.

“I think the majority of them ...” Scott said before pausing and rethinking his answer. “Let’s say half and half. Half of them want us to lose, and half of them want us to win.”

Does that line of thinking from loyal fans bother Scott?

“The half that want us to lose? That bothers me a lot,” Scott said.

Well, Scott was clearly bothered on Sunday as those on Team Tank got their wish. The Lakers, riding the momentum of a three-game win streak, fell 108-101 to an undermanned Oklahoma City Thunder squad playing without Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams.

After holding the Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks to sub-28 percent shooting in the fourth quarters of consecutive games, the Lakers were still effective against the Thunder in the final frame (OKC shot just 39.1 percent), but were never able to pull closer than six points.

Jeremy Lin led all scorers with 20 points, while also adding six rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Jordan Hill claimed 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Jordan Clarkson and Wayne Ellington each scored 12 points.

Disappearing act: What happen to the Lakers’ vaunted defense over the past three games? With Durant and Westbrook out of the lineup, the Thunder had no singular offensive force capable of taking over the game, but they found a way to hurt the Lakers in transition (plus-6), from beyond the arc (plus-6) and at the free-throw line (plus-5). The Lakers were too often late on their rotations to corner 3-point shooters and gave up too many uncontested baskets at the rim when they were forced to help the helper. The Thunder may have shot only 41.2 percent, but they still put up 108 points and had plenty of good looks.

Second-unit spark: Los Angeles’ bench outperforming its starters is nothing new this season, but today’s disparity was particularly jarring. No Lakers starter registered a positive plus-minus; all four bench players did. Lin was the player of the game, and Hill and Ed Davis palpably outplayed starters Carlos Boozer and Robert Sacre, which made it somewhat confusing as to why the bench didn’t play more than they did.

Up next: The Lakers embark on a three-game road trip and face the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.
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LOS ANGELES -- Serge Ibaka had 18 points and 14 rebounds, D.J. Augustin added 18 points and nine rebounds, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Los Angeles Lakers 108-101 Sunday night without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Enes Kanter had 16 points and 15 rebounds as the Thunder's supporting cast snapped a two-game skid with no help from its superstar duo. Durant is out with a foot injury, and Westbrook underwent surgery on his right cheek Saturday in his native Los Angeles.

Yet the Thunder's role players, backups and newcomers never trailed against the 14th-place Lakers, whose three-game winning streak ended meekly.

Jeremy Lin had 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds for Los Angeles, which got at least eight points from eight players, but couldn't win its season-high fourth straight.


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Lakers forward Ed Davis caught a pass from Wayne Ellington and threw it down against the Thunder.
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Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson drove to the basket and made a layup before the buzzer went off in the first quarter.

Lakers credit improved defense for streak

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
4:13
PM PT
Buha By Jovan Buha
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The 2014-15 Los Angeles Lakers are in unfamiliar territory.

Not only are they riding a surprising three-game win streak, but perhaps more impressive, they’re doing so because of their defense, which has been a historic weakness at times this season.

“We’re just changing out defense a lot,” coach Byron Scott said at practice Saturday. “We’re going to our full-court press, we’re going to our zone, we’re going to our man. We’re just trying to keep them off balance as much as possible. We’re in scramble situations where we feel we have to make that second and third effort, and our guys are doing that. ... I’m happy with the progress.”

The numbers bear that out.

The Lakers are allowing 108.0 points per 100 possessions this season, which is the second-worst mark in the NBA, according to NBA.com/Stats, but have trimmed that figure down to just 97.5 points per 100 possessions during their three wins over the Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks -- the 10th-best defense over that span.

“[The coaching staff] told us our fourth-quarter numbers today, and the last two games have been good in terms of limiting Utah and Milwaukee’s field-goal percentage,” point guard Jeremy Lin said. “So I think that’s the foundation of it all. We got stops and then we come down, spread the ball, and take what the defensive gives us.”

Los Angeles held the Bucks to just 21 points on 21.1 percent shooting in the fourth quarter on Friday, and the Jazz to only 19 points on 27.3 percent shooting in the fourth on Wednesday.

Lin agrees with Scott that the unpredictability of the team’s new defensive coverages -- Scott dubbed their zone as a “Spider” defense on Monday -- have made opposing offenses uncomfortable.

“It keeps them off balance,” Lin said. “Scott has been able to mix in stuff -- some three-quarter court stuff, some traps, some zones, some matchup zones, some man. He’s really switching it up, and I think it doesn’t allow the offense to necessarily get too comfortable when we’re switching things up.”

The streak has Scott, who has had little to smile about this season, grinning from cheek to cheek.

“I was very happy with the way our guys played,” Scott said. “We competed. The last three games defensively we’ve been great, especially in the fourth quarter. I’m just happy with the progress that our guys are making. The process is going well. So there’s no reason not to smile.”

The good vibes may not last long, though, because the Oklahoma City Thunder are in town on Sunday.

Even without Russell Westbrook, who underwent facial surgery after injuring his right cheek Saturday, the Thunder (32-27) are by far the best team the Lakers (16-41) have faced during this stretch.

“We’re not used to that, but it feels good,” Scott said of the pressures of maintaining a winning streak. “I think our guys are hungry to try to see if we can get four.”

The future is now for Clarkson, Lakers

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
11:35
PM PT
Verrier By Justin Verrier
ESPN.com
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videoLOS ANGELES -- Jordan Clarkson is listed at 185 pounds, which is super nice of whoever comes up these sort of things.

On the court against the spidery Michael Carter-Williams on Friday, it looked as though the Bucks' point guard could wrap his 6-foot-8 wingspan around the Lakers' guard and touch his own shoulders. Among a particularly hairy starting lineup of Carlos Boozer, Wayne Ellington, Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre, the just-about-baby-faced rookie seemed no more than half of his 22 years.

There's something innocent about the Missouri product. Hopeful even. And amid a season that has seen Kobe Bryant sidelined by injury (again), as many wins as championships lining Jeanie Buss' office window, and a commitment to black alternate jerseys with sleeves, hope, in any form, is greeted with an MCW-sized bear hug.

Three straight wins will certainly lift spirits. Especially when said rookie -- the only one left standing of the team's two-man 2014 draft class -- leads the team in scoring two games in a row.

A fourth-quarter surge from Ellington, in which the journeyman guard rectified an 0-for-6 start with all 14 of his points, ultimately toppled the Milwaukee Bucks, 101-93, and lifted the Lakers to their second three-game winning streak of the season. But it's Clarkson's game-high 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting and 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, one game after scoring a career-high 20, that will linger long after Staples Center goes cold and quiet in a season destined to finish without a trip to the postseason for a second straight year.

"I'm just feeling more comfortable," said Clarkson, who after the game sported a T-shirt with the mug shot of a young Elvis Presley.

As banal as that sounds, that's important.

The Lakers have historically relied on their big, swinging legacy rather than the draft, often leveraging all those sunny days, all those titles and all those Hall of Famers to great effect; this is the same franchise that less than three years ago turned Andrew Bynum and a few party favors into Dwight Howard, then the best center on the planet. Their mixed opinions on analytics may be to their determent, but even quants concede there are inherent advantages sewn into those purple and gold jerseys. "I don't know that the Lakers need to be at the forefront of analytics usage," one analytics official told ESPN's Baxter Holmes, before noting the advantages even a big-market team can glean from those spreadsheets.

But as one of five teams with a loss column already north of 40, it behooves the Lakers to turn to the future. Even if Clarkson, the 46th overall pick last June, isn't in the long-term plans, developing seedlings like him could ultimately produce the type of young assets that can be flipped for the next big-money superstar in the team's long lineage.

Byron Scott, in his own way, appears to agree.

When asked what the biggest difference has been for Clarkson since the beginning of the season, the Lakers' coach replied, "Yeah, playing."

He's not wrong. After seeing his playing time yo-yo throughout the first three months of the season, Clarkson has averaged 27.1 minutes during February. And while Scott kept the rookie out of crunch time against the Bucks, he has stuck with him in the starting lineup, even as Jeremy Lin has averaged a team-best 16.3 points and shot 50 percent since the All-Star break.

"He's playing much better now," Scott said. "He's playing with better pace, he's not as frantic out there as he was earlier in the season. He's reading the defenses better, even though he still has a lot to learn. Defensively, he's gotten better and he's still got a long way to go. [But] his overall game has improved from training camp to this particular point."

The production from said court time, outside of the past two games, won’t exactly blow you away: Clarkson is averaging 13.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in February while shooting 45 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3. His PER on the season is a solid 14.95, his true shooting percentage a nice 51.

But it's something. And in a season like this one, something is more than enough.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.0
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.3