The Other Side: Los Angeles Lakers
Once again, TNT is stuck with a Thursday night game that looked good when the schedule-maker planned it, but terrible right now, with Gilbert Arenas sidelined and the Washington Wizards playing lousy basketball. The Wizards still gave Cleveland a good game on Christmas, and they already gave the Los Angeles Lakers a close game last month, losing 106-104 when Caron Butler scored 26 points and decided to go for a game-winning three-pointer instead of going for the tie at the end of regulation.
Washington's win over Sacramento last night was huge because it meant that the Wizards wouldn't have the exact opposite record as the Lakers. Whenever the Wizards visit the Lakers, it always harks back to that night in December 2006, when Arenas scored a career-high 60 points and led his team to a 147-141 overtime victory. Ah, the good old days.
The Lakers (33-8) have been running away with the Western Conference all season. Surprisingly, the Lakers are just 11-5 against Eastern Conference teams this season, with losses against Orlando (twice), Miami, Detroit and Indiana. After losing back-to-back games against San Antonio and Orlando last week, the Lakers have won their past two games against Cleveland and the Los Angeles Clippers. Last night, Andrew Bynum led the Lakers to a 108-97 win over the Clippers by scoring 42 points with 15 rebounds. Kobe Bryant added a triple-double with 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
Here is what else you should know about the Lakers before they host the Wizards tonight:
1. Kobe Bryant Is One Tough Hombre
Kobe Bryant has a high pain threshold. While trying to get a steal against Cleveland's LeBron James in the first quarter on Monday, Bryant dislocated his right ring finger but said he will play through it. Last season, Bryant never stopped playing after tearing a ligament in his pinky finger. The reigning MVP led the Lakers to the NBA Finals and won an Olympic gold medal. Bryant said this latest injury hurts more, and it has affected his shooting. He shot 14 of 37 (37.8 percent) in the past two wins, but he has focused more on sharing. Bryant has had two triple-doubles in his past three games, and has posted 45 assists in his past four games -- the most of any four-game stretch in his career.
Bryant has spent a good part of this week talking about playing other sports. After his beloved Philadelphia Eagles lost to Arizona on Sunday, Bryant said he could've helped Donovan McNabb at receiver. And, when some of the Los Angeles Dodgers visited the Lakers on Tuesday, Bryant said he would be willing to replace Manny Ramirez in left field. Baseball and Kobe? I thought he said he wanted to avoid the MJ comparisons.
Whatever Bryant decides, somebody needs to come up with a better marketing plan at Nike for his new low top shoe. This is supposed to be funny, but I don't know about this one:
2. Andrew Bynum Is Trying to Provide a Presence
Before Andrew Bynum exploded for a career-high 42 points with 15 rebounds and three blocks against the Clippers, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was pretty critical of his 21-year-old center. Bynum had failed to reach at least eight rebounds in any of his previous games and Jackson challenged him to be more aggressive. Bynum shrank some in his anticipated battle with Orlando's Dwight Howard on Friday, but he got physical with LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Monday. After Bynum's big night -- in which he joined Toronto's Chris Bosh as the only players with a 40-point, 15-rebound game this season -- Lakers' Coach Phil Jackson said he still expects more. And that's understandable. The Lakers are 11-0 when Bynum scores at least 19 points. That has happened only four times this season.
3. Phil Jackson Will Coach the Western Conference All Stars
For the fourth time in his career, Phil Jackson will be head coach of the West at the All Star Game because they have clinched at least a tie for the conference's best record through Feb. 1. But this will be the first time since 2000 -- his first season with the Lakers -- that Jackson will man the sidelines for the West all-stars. The question now is, how many Lakers will be in Phoenix with him? Kobe Bryant has guaranteed a spot, but Pau Gasol wouldn't mind making a return after making his only all-star appearance in Houston in 2006. Gasol is averaging 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, ranks eighth in field goal percentage (55.6 percent), and has led the Lakers in scoring six times this season.
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Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | January 22, 2009 9:33 PM
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