March 9, 2013
Los Angeles Lakers Status Check:
Home Record: 21-11
Last 10 Games: 7-3
Streak: Won 2
Last game: 118-116 win over Toronto in OT
PPG: 102.7 (6th)
Opponents PPG: 101.7 (26th)
Offensive Rating: 108.0 (8th)
Defensive Rating: 106.9 (21st)
Pace: 94.8 (3rd)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .515 (8th)
Turnover Percentage: .121 (29th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .742 (9th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .272 (13th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .235 (2nd)
Opp. eFG%: .499 (18th)
Opp. TO%: .121 (29th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .168 (2nd)
Leading scorer: Kobe Bryant (27.8)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Los Angeles Injury Report:
Pau Gasol: out (partially torn plantar fascia)
Jordan Hill: out (hip surgery)
The Lakers are playing their best basketball of the season right now, finally turning it on after months of underperforming and contending for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Bulls are floundering, dropping seven of their last 12 in a tough part of their season, currently in the fifth spot out East.
Kobe Bryant has recorded 40+ points and 10+ assists in his last two games, the first Laker to do that since Jerry West in 1970, according to Elias. Bryant is on a tear, averaging 36.0 points on 53.2 percent shooting from the field and 45.9 percent from deep over his last five games to go with 7.0 assists and 5.4 rebounds. Over his last ten games, he’s averaging 32.3 points on 53.9 percent shooting, 7.3 assists and 6.1 rebounds per contest. What that means is that Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler are going to have their hands full in this one.
Kobe’s heroics have been carrying the Lakers, as they’ve won seven of their last nine, but they haven’t all been very convincing wins. It took overtime to beat the Raptors by just two points, it took a 20-point comeback against the Hornets to escape New Orleans with a win, they beat the Hawks by one and both the Mavericks and Blazers by four. Both of their losses over that stretch, to the Thunder and Kings, were by double digits, as were victories over the Celtics and Timberwolves.
This isn’t to take away from the Lakers streak, but it does show, especially the last two games, that the Lakers, though winning, are very beatable.
The Bulls took the first game in this series, a double-digit win at home, which gave the Lakers six straight losses away from the Staples Center. But Los Angeles is much better at home, compiling a 21-11 record in the sunshine and smog, compared to 11-20 on the road.
Kobe was held to 16 points on 7-22 shooting in that first contest against Chicago. Without Deng in the line-up, Butler did a solid job on Bryant, while also scoring ten points and grabbing eight boards of his own. The Bulls will be without Kirk Hinrich again, who led Chicago in scoring with 22 points on 9-11 from the field in January matchup with Los Angeles. Kirk added eight assists and seven rebounds in what was his best all-around game this season. Rip Hamilton, who will also be out once again and didn’t travel with Chicago for the three-game road trip, added 13 points on 18 shots.
The Bulls were out-rebounded by ten, but shot 9-17 (52.9 percent) from three compared to 3-17 (17.6 percent) for the Lakers. The Bulls also won the turnover battle (16-8) and dished more assists (25-15).
The Lakers will be missing their own starter, as they will still be without Pau Gasol who is fighting a partially torn plantar fascia. Gasol had 15 points and 12 boards against the Bulls. And even with Hinrich playing, who is the Bulls best point guard defender, Steve Nash shot 5-12 and finished with 18 points. Nash and Nate Robinson are basically going to let the other one do whatever they want to on the offensive end.
It was all knotted up after three quarters in the first contest between the teams, before the Bulls outscored the Lakers 26-14 in the final frame. Chicago held LA to 26.3 percent from the field and forced six turnovers, while the Bulls shot 45.8 percent.
That solid fourth quarter defense is unusual for the Bulls, as the final twelve minutes is usually their worst. The Bulls allow opponent to score 23.6 points per fourth quarter, which is tenth in the league. That number doesn’t seem so bad, a top ten fourth quarter defense; however, the Bulls are 25th in the league in fourth quarter scoring themselves, at 22.5. And when it comes to opponent scoring in the other three quarters, the Bulls are near the top of the league. They are second (first quarter), third (second quarter) and fourth (third quarter) in opponent scoring in the first three periods.
I apologize that last sentence was confusing, let me say it another way. The Bulls are a top four defensive team through the first three quarters, and then drop all the way to tenth. It is fascinating that the Bulls get worse and worse throughout the game. I can’t be the only one drawing connections from heavy minutes for starters to lackluster fourth quarter play.
The Bulls were sloppy in the fourth against Utah, shooting 20.8 percent in the quarter, while allowing the Jazz to shoot 43.8 from the field. Luckily the Bulls brought down nine rebounds to salvage the game and escape with the win.
The biggest thing for the Bulls to keep up for all four quarters will be their defense. Despite struggling to win games this season, the Lakers offense has been quite good; it’s the defense that has been letting them down, and with Dwight Howard coming back into form, that is improving as well. Los Angeles is eight in offensive rating and just 21st in defensive rating.
January 21, 2013
Los Angeles Lakers Status Check:
Road Record: 5-13
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Streak: Lost 2
Last game: 108-103 loss to Toronto
PPG: 103.1 (5th)
Opponents PPG: 101.6 (26th)
Offensive Rating: 108.4 (8th)
Defensive Rating: 106.8 (20th)
Pace: 94.8 (2nd)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .510 (7th)
Turnover Percentage: .140 (18th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .732 (14th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .289 (10th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .239 (2nd)
Opp. eFG%: .496 (17th)
Opp. TO%: .124 (28th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .177 (1st)
Leading scorer: Kobe Bryant (29.6)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Lakers Injury Report:
Steve Blake: out (abdominal surgery)
Jordan Hill: out (hip)
The struggling Lakers visit the United Center, looking to become the next team to benefit from Chicago’s home court woes. Los Angeles is truly struggling away from home, having dropped their last five away from the Staples Center.
It’s not just on the road that the Lakers are having troubles though, it’s everywhere. The Lakers are 17-23, 2-8 over their last ten games; they are third in their division and on the outside looking in on the playoffs currently. They have had some injuries, but their real problem all season has been their defense. LA ranks 20th in defensive rating (106.8), even with Dwight Howard, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Pau Gasol scored 25 points on 15 shots but the Lakers fell to Toronto Sunday night. Kobe Bryant scored 26 points, but went just 10-32 from the field, including 3-12 from three. Bryant went to the line just three times, and had six turnovers.
Dwight Howard will be well rested after getting ejected in the second quarter. Howard played 17 minutes, recording five points and two rebounds before getting his second technical late in the first half. In the three games leading up to the Raps contest, Howard was averaging 22.0 points and 15.3 rebounds.
In 14 games against Joakim Noah, Howard is averaging 19.7 points and 12.9 rebounds. Noah averages 7.9 points and 6.2 rebounds against Dwight. In those 14 games, Howard’s team is 9-5.
Steve Nash tallied 16 points and nine assists against Toronto, while Earl Clark posted 14 points and 14 boards off the bench. The Raptors shot 54.8 percent from the field and finished with 27 assists.
“I didn’t feel like we were ready to play,” Nash said about the Toronto loss. “We cut too many corners at too many different times in the game and had too big a hole to climb out of. We’re just not finding any consistent level out of our group.”
The Bulls are coming off an overtime loss to the Grizzlies, in which they shot 36.5 percent from the field. Jimmy Butler led Chicago in scoring, with 18 points in his first career start. Memphis recorded 21 fast break points to pull out the win, after Chicago outscored them 29-16 in the fourth quarter.
That fourth quarter was a nice change of pace, as it’s usually the Bulls that are blowing a double-digit lead. Joakim Noah was glaringly missing from the comeback, as he played a season-low 27 minutes before being benched throughout the fourth and overtime.
Injury note: Luol Deng did not participate in shootaround Monday and is expected to be out tonight.
March 31, 2010
Steve Nash gave D-Rose a lesson in fourth quarter heroics last night.
Well, so much for Derrick Rose owning Steve Nash.
On paper, last night’s matchup of rising star versus former MVP looks kind of even. Rose finished with 23 points (7-for-16 from the field, 8-for-9 at the line), 5 rebounds, 10 assists and a steal. Nash had 22 points (8-for-20, 2-for-3 on threes, 4-for-4 from the stripe), 4 rebounds, 10 assists and 2 steals.
The battle wasn’t so close in terms of their plus-minus stats, where Nash was +12 and Rose was -3. And, of course, the final score went in favor of Captain Canada.
But numbers don’t really tell the story of how Nash almost single-handedly stole this game down the stretch. For most of the fourth quarter, it looked like the Bulls were going to live up to Derrick’s playoff prediction. Then, with just over five minutes remaining and Chicago clinging to a three-point lead, Nash took over.
Nash started by finding Amar’e Stoudemire (21 points, 11 rebounds) for a layup (Bulls 94, Suns 93). After a Brad Miller three, Nash hit a driving layup of his own (Bulls 97, Suns 95). After the two teams traded a few misses, Nash suckered in Chicago’s defense and then hit Jason Richardson (27 points, 10-for-19) for a three-pointer (Suns 98, Bulls 97).
Rose hit a short jumper, but then Nash countered by driving the lane hard and hitting a turnaround of his own (Suns 100, Bulls 99). Derrick came back with an aggressive drive to earn a couple free throws, both of which he hit (Bulls 101, Suns 100). However, Nash on-upped Rose by snaking into the paint for a scoop shot and the foul (Suns 103, Bulls 101 after Nash hit the freebie). Rose again went hard to the hole, earning and converting another pair of foul shots to tie the game at 103-103 with 59 seconds left.
Pretty exciting stuff, right?
Unfortunately for the Bulls, Nash wasn’t done. Now, did I mention that Kirk Hinrich left the game for good after spraining his left ankle by stepping on Joakim Noah’s foot in the second quarter? This meant Jannero Pargo was guarding Nash down the stretch. And by “guarding” I mean “usually watching Nash run right past him.”
Pargo might have been a cardboard cutout for all the trouble Nash had in maneuvering to wherever he wanted to go. Jannero could not stay in front of Nash, and, to be fair, the rest of the Bulls didn’t exactly amaze with their rotations. So with 41 seconds left, Nash pulled what seemed like the entire Chicago defense into the paint before finding Channing Frye for a wide-open three-pointer to put Phoenix ahead 106-103.
As soon as Frye’s shot went in, it felt like the Bulls were done. A three-point deficit down the stretch is deadly against a team that doesn’t shoot the three that well. Chicago made the right play out of the timeout, as Rose drove in for a quick layup to pull the Bulls to within a point with 37 seconds left. But Nash once again pulled all the Chicago defenders to him and dished to Grant Hill for a wide-open dunk with 23 seconds left. Suns 108, Bulls 105.
Then Rose blinked.
Perhaps feeling the pressure — and I mean really feeling it — for the first time all game, Rose forced a three-pointer with a Suns defender right in his face. Like, so in his face that Derrick had to double-clutch the shot attempt, which didn’t come anywhere close to going down. Phoenix ended up with the ball and the Bulls were forced to foul Nash, who naturally drilled both free throws to give his team a five-point lead with 13 seconds left. Game over.
Regarding his ill-advised three-pointer, Rose said: “I felt like I should take it. I had to adjust. In the future when that play comes around again, I’ll know what to do.”
Thanks to Nash, that future will probably have to be next season, because this loss was devastating to Chicago’s playoff chances. The Bulls only trail the eighth place Raptors by 1 1/2 games, but Toronto has a more favorable schedule down the stretch. No matter how you look at it, the Bulls are facing an uphill battle, especially with Luol Deng still out with a strained calf and Hinrich’s status unknown.
Give Derrick credit, though. He’s keeping his chin up.
Said Rose: “It’s hard right now. But, you can’t think about it like that. We play soon [at New Jersey tonight]. And that’s what I’m thinking about [Wednesday] to let [the team] know our heads can’t be down. We came out and played our hardest tonight. We played and competed tonight. We didn’t execute our plays like we were supposed to. They did. They won.
“I’m actually going to go back to the Berto [Center] right now and shoot with some of my friends. Hopefully [Wednesday] in practice talk to [the team]. Everybody needs to get involved and win some games.”
The sad thing is, everybody was involved. Flip Murray was fantastic off the bench (23 points, 9-for-12, 9 rebounds, 4 assists). Joakim Noah looked like his old self, finishing with four dunks, a couple blocked shots, and a double-double (12 points, 10 boards). Taj Gibson had a double-double of his own (14 points, 10 rebounds). Pargo even hit a couple threes to help the Bulls recover from an early deficit.
Earlier in the season, this loss might have counted as a moral victory. But Chicago doesn’t have the margin of error left for that. Moral victories aren’t going to earn them a trip to the postseason. Only real victories will.
Update! Here are some thoughts from By The Horns reader and guest author Tony C.: “I also consider the final few minutes to have been an illustration of why Rose hasn’t fully arrived yet as a star. Yes, it’s true that he isn’t a stellar defensive player, but he should have TOLD Vinny and the team that HE would guard Nash. Then he should have gone out there, adrenaline pumping, and done his hyper-athletic best to shut Nash down. If the Suns had beaten us with someone else knocking in shots, so be it. But to allow the player who was obviously going to to attempt to take control of the game to do just that was inexcusable, and I believe that if Rose was a true leader at this stage, he would have at least tried to step up and assert himself on defense.”
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos
March 30, 2010
Steve Nash is one of the best point guards in the NBA. Has been for years. Even though there were (and, in truth, still are) a fair number of dissenting opinions regarding his back-to-back MVPs, the reality is players don’t win that particular award without kicking some serious you-know-what along the way.
Captain Canada currently leads the league in assists per game (11.1) and is second (to Chris Paul) in Player Efficiency Rating among point guards (21.48). More importantly, his Phoenix Suns are 21-5 since January 28 while getting key contributions from NBA castoffs like Channing Frye and Jared Dudley. No Western Conference team has a better record during that stretch.
Here’s the thing, though: Derrick Rose kind of owns Nash. Or, at least, he has so far.
Check out Derrick’s splits: In three games against the Suns, Rose has averaged 25.3 PPG on 68.6 percent shooting (including 2-for-3 from downtown) to go along with 4.3 RPG and 5.0 APG. In those same three games, Nash has averaged 9.7 PPG, 7.3 APG and 5.0 TO. Moreover, Nash shot 13-for-33 in those contests…which is pretty significant considering he’s been in the top 10 in Effective Field Goal Percentage for the past seven years.
The most important stat from Rose’s three games against Nash and the Suns is this: 3-0. That’s Chicago’s record, which includes a 115-104 win in Phoenix on January 22. In that game, Rose scored 32 points (15-for-21) with 5 assists and 3 steals while Nash finished with 8 points (4-for-12), 7 assists and 5 turnovers (thanks, as By The Horns reader PTFC correctly pointed out, to some pesky defense by Kirk Hinrich).
I can’t help but wonder whether this matchup can possibly continue to be so lopsided. I guess we’ll find out tonight.
January 25, 2010
The Bulls swept the weekend? Brad Miller was a hero? Yes and yes.
After opening their seven-game Western Conference road trip with agonizing losses first to the Golden State Warriors and then to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Bulls seemed almost destined for a season-crippling losing streak. Going into Friday’s game against the Suns, an 0-7 trip appeared to be a very real possibility…and 0-4 at the very least. I mean, back-to-back road games versus good teams following consecutive road losses to bad teams?
And yet the Bulls finished the weekend 2-0.
I’m still a little blown away. When discussing strategies for the Suns game, I firmly stated that Chicago absolutely could not afford to be lured into shooting jumpers all night long. However, that’s exactly what happened…and it worked. It actually worked. The Bulls attempted only 16 of their 85 field goals at the rim, but ended up shooting about 51 percent on jump shots (35-for-69), including 78 percent from 10-15 feet (7-for-9) and 50 percent from 16-23 feet (17-for-34).
“Chicago did the unexpected,” Amare Stoudemire said. “They hit shots.”
The hot shooting was due in large part to Derrick Rose, who went 3-for-3 inside five feet, 4-for-6 from six-to-eight feet and 8-for-12 outside of 15 feet. Rose was hitting from everywhere. When the kid beat the third-quarter buzzer with a leaning three-pointer, you just knew it was his night. Fittingly, he also nailed an off-balance jumper from 20 feet to seal the 115-104 victory with a little over a minute to go.
Rose finished with a game-high 32 points to go along with 5 assists and 3 steals. And while I don’t want to demean what he accomplished, I also don’t want to overlook the contributions of Luol Deng (23 points, 10-for-17, 6 rebounds), Joakim Noah (19 points, 9-for-10 from the line, 8 boards, 2 blocks) and John Salmons (14 points, 6-for-9 from the field, 2-for-4 from downtown).
It’s also very important to highlight the defensive job Kirk Hinrich did on Steve Nash. Captain Kirk hounded Captain Canada all night long, holding the two-time MVP to only 8 points on 4-for-12 shooting. Moreover, Nash barely finished with more assists (7) than turnovers (5). During the game, ESPN showed an interview with Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry in which Gentry said no player in the NBA — including Kobe Bryand and LeBron James — does more for his team than Nash does. I can’t really argue with Gentry’s analysis, and Hinrich’s lockdown defensive performance on Nash might have been even more important than Chicago’s offensive explosion.
Getting back to Rose for a second, I think it’s fair to say that any lingering concerns about his ability to develop a jump shot have been put to rest once and for all. When the Bulls played the Golden State Warriors in Chicago before Christmas, I got to watch Rose practice jumpers for almost a full hour. He was like a machine. It wasn’t so much that his form was always perfect (it wasn’t) or that he nailed every shot (he didn’t). What impressed me was his focus and quiet determination to master this very important aspect of his game.
You just wait. I’d be willing to bet good money he develops a three-point shot next summer.
All that said, I was mildly disappointed he earned only three free throw attempts (two of which he missed). And I was more than “mildly disappointed” that he hoisted a few jumpers while teammates were standing alone under the basket. In fact, he twice missed a wide-open Tyrus Thomas, whose defender left him to help defend against Derrick’s jumper. Ty had a rough night, going 1-for-7 from the field, including 0-for-4 at the rim. When a player is struggling, it’s vital for his point guard to create easy opportunities to get him going. In that respect, Rose failed Tyrus. I’m not trying to poke holes in what really was a great game for Rose, but I feel like these are important things for the Bulls to think about as the season proceeds.
Tyler Lockman of Valley of the Suns: “What was most baffling was the interior stats at the end of the game. The Suns outrebounded Chicago 49-42, outscored them in the paint 46-34 and scored 20 second-chance points to the Bulls six. What’s confusing about that is that, from watching the game, you’d think Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson (who grabbed eight rebounds apiece) had dominated the boards. The key for the Bulls, despite lesser stats, was the way they used their rebounds. Essentially, the Suns got a taste of their own medicine as the Bulls used huge boards and outlet passes to spark fast breaks. The Bulls outscored the Suns in transition, 16-10. That might not seem like a lot, but the simple efficiency with which Chicago used their possessions after rebounds was what doomed the Suns.”
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
Chicago’s win over the Rockets was even more impressive than their victory over the Suns. The Bulls have been a bad road team all season (6-15), and they’ve been even worse on the second night of back-to-backs (2-7 heading into the game). To make matters even more grim, Noah opted to sit out minutes before tipoff due to a left foot injury.
Enter Brad Miller.
Big Brad stepped up big time. Miller scored a season-high 25 points in only 26 minutes. He went 9-for-14 from the field — including 2-for-2 from downtown — and 5-for-5 from the line. But Miller’s biggest play wasn’t a layup or a jump shot. It was the offensive rebound he grabbed with 48 seconds left and the Bulls leading by only two points (99-97). That board gave Chicago another possession at a critical time, and 18 seconds later Rose drilled an 11-footer that pretty much clinched the game.
The Bulls also got significant add-ins from Rose (20 points, 4 assists, and that deal-sealing jumper), Taj Gibson (16 points, 14 rebounds), Kirk Hinrich (12 points, 7 assists) and (12 points off the bench). But it really was a team effort, as Chicago shot 53 percent from the field (including 7-for-12 from beyond the arc) while holding the Rockets to 40 percent shooting. On the road. On the second night of back-to-backs. Without Noah.
“That’s the NBA,” Miller said. “You’re going to be tested at some point, and you can use it as an excuse. We just went out and competed tonight.”
They sure did.
Rahat Huq of Red94: “Prior to tip-off, the NBAtv crew remarked that the Rockets struggled against teams with low post options and that they were probably feeling fortunate to face the Bulls who didn’t have one. Actually it is probably the other way around. The teams that have played the Rockets the best this year are those with no inside presence. The Rockets win through their quickness advantage and Chuck Hayes can neutralize any post-guy in the league. But if you challenge the Rockets at their own game, and have the personnel to do it, they are very beatable.”
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.