Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

The Los Angeles Lakers will look to bounce back from an ugly opening-night loss when they travel to US Airways Center to take on the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night.

The Lakers were not only hammered by the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, but they also lost Julius Randle for the season after the rookie forward broke his leg, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

The Suns are looking to build upon a strong 2013-14 campaign which saw them win 48 games and finish one game out of the playoffs. Phoenix was expected to be one of the worst teams in the league, but it proved to be a pleasant surprise behind impressive backcourt play and solid depth.

The Suns are also aiming for their seventh straight home win over Los Angeles, a feat they haven’t accomplished since 1994.

Catch the action at 10 p.m. ET on either TWC Sportsnet or Fox Sports Arizona.

Be sure to keep it right here as Bleacher Report provides you with live coverage throughout the game.

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Kevin Ding Grades Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers Season Debut

Kobe Bryant made his highly anticipated return to the court on Tuesday in the Los Angeles LakersNBA season-opening loss to the Houston Rockets. How did the five-time NBA champion look in his first action of the year?

Kevin Ding joins Stephen Nelson to grade the Black Mamba’s performance in the video above.

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Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers 10/28/14: Video Highlights and Recap

Looking to rebound following last season’s dramatic playoff exit at the hands of Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers, the Houston Rockets kicked off another season with hopes of improving around its star-studded core.

Chandler Parsons is gone, but Dwight Howard and James Harden remain, and the two All-Stars looked to start the season on the right foot against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Expectations aren’t high for the Lakers, but with Bryant at the helm, fans will believe the future Hall of Fame player can once again lead them to greatness.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Los Angeles Lakers: 5 things to watch for in tonight’s season opener

It’s finally here, NBA fans. The moment we’ve all been waiting for: the tipoff of the 2014-15 NBA season. Los Angeles Lakers fans get to see the team take the floor on primetime Tuesday night versus the Houston Rockets on TNT. Here are 5 things that will more than likely dominate the game tonight.

The matchup between Kobe Bryant and James Harden. In the time that Kobe has been battling leg injuries, James Harden has emerged as a legitimate force on the offensive end and a superstar. As a result, some fans and critics believe that he has effectively laid claim to the title of best shooting guard in the NBA. However, many basketball purists are quick to say that a healthy Black Mamba still holds the top spot. Both are volume scorers and fun to watch on the offensive end, so look for a high-scoring battle between the two.
Dwight Howard returning to face the Lakers is still a major storyline.
The return of Dwight Howard. I already know that this point is going to warrant some negativity from those who are no

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Jeremy Lin Has Clear Path Back to Stardom with Los Angeles Lakers

Hopefully, Jeremy Lin brought his appetite to Hollywood.

With playing time and production both available in abundance, the table is set for the former phenom to feast during his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers.

In some ways, that opportunity exists for nearly every player on this roster. Consider that chance the perk of suiting up for a team fresh off one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

But Lin’s shot at a breakout campaign—or a bounce-back one, depending on whether his magical Linsanity run was long enough to qualify as such—is stronger than the rest. That is a reflection of a number of different factors, not the least of which are the Lakers’ depleted point guard ranks.

L.A. had hoped to have a two-headed beast at the position.

Veteran Steve Nash was earmarked for the starting gig by head coach Byron Scott in September, per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. Lin, acquired in an offseason trade from the Houston Rockets, figured to be staring at major minutes as both the first guard off the bench and the backup to the oldest active player in the NBA.

The Lakers had other options beyond those two, but none of them looked very promising. Veteran Ronnie Price, a hard-nosed defender with a career 37.8 field-goal percentage, arrived last month on a non-guaranteed contract. They picked up Jordan Clarkson on draft night, but the 22-year-old is a combo guard with a still-developing jump shot.

From every angle, this was going to be a two-man rotation. But the nerve issue in Nash’s back, which limited him to only 15 games last season, ended his 2014-15 campaign before it even started.

Just like that, Lin’s rotation spot went from significant to substantial. And, somehow, it seems to be growing by the second, just like the team’s injury report:

Needless to say (though Scott said it anyway), Lin will start for the Lakers on opening night, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. What remains to be seen is how often, if at all, Lin will actually leave the floor.

Even before Nash was removed from the picture, Lin was preparing to a play a pivotal role in this offense. As a constant threat to find scoring chances for himself and his teammates, he was one of the few players on this roster capable of relieving some of the defensive heat felt by Kobe Bryant.

“Jeremy makes a huge difference creating shots for others,” Bryant said, per Bill Oram of the Orange County Register. “We’ve got somebody else who can penetrate, make plays for others and put pressure on the defense.”

Lin’s game is all about pressuring a defense. He can get a little ball-dominant at times, but he needs to play that way to be most effective.

Playing off James Harden and Dwight Howard with the Houston Rockets, Lin was too often miscast as a complementary spot-up shooter. While Lin deserves some credit for bumping his three-point percentage to a career-high 35.8 last season, he was simply making the best of a less-than-perfect situation.

“Playing off the ball isn’t where Lin is most comfortable,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale. “He’s better off as a dual threat at the very least—someone who vacillates between dominating and sliding off the rock.”

During his one-season stay with the New York Knicks, fewer than 19 percent of his two-point field goals came off assists. That number climbed above 27 in his first year with the Rockets, then spiked to 32.4 last season.

Houston never saw the player responsible for that global craze in 2012, but he was never in position to leave that type of imprint. His field-goal attempts dropped during each season with the Rockets (12.2 per 36 minutes his first year there, 11.6 the next), and his player efficiency rating was dragged down with them (19.9 in New York, 14.6 over his two years in Houston).

Limit Lin’s involvement, and you limit his effectiveness.

That’s what makes his move to L.A. so intriguing. He won’t have the same problems he did in Houston, leaving open the possibility for him to recapture what looked like such a bright future not long ago.

Even in a reduced role, he impressed during his time in Houston.

Last season, he had the sixth-highest field-goal percentage on drives among players with at least 500 such shot attempts, per NBA.com’s SportVU player tracking data. Over the past two years, he’s been one of only 14 players to average at least 15 points on 44 percent shooting and six assists per 36 minutes.

Granted, those aren’t quite mind-numbing statistics, but they look pretty good for someone who was playing well outside of his comfort zone. The Rockets tried to fit his square-peg talents into their round-hole offense for a while before eventually just letting him decide the shape of their second team.

The Lakers are absent a go-to scorer outside of the 36-year-old Kobe Bryant, who sandwiched six regular-season appearances in between Achilles and knee injuries last year. Microwave scorer Nick Young has the talent to fill that role some nights but could be out two months after undergoing surgery on his right thumb.

With a defense that appears overly generous on paper, this offense will need reliability. That could be hard to find on a frontcourt featuring a past-his prime Carlos Boozer, an unproven Julius Randle and the to-be-determined tandem of Jordan Hill and Ed Davis.

The Lakers need both safety and excitement. Lin should be able to supply both if he’s allowed to play his game.

“In the NBA, you have to be great at something,” Lin said, per Medina. “For me it’s attacking the basket.”

An aggressive Lin has been a productive Lin.

He took at least 12 shots in 17 different games last season. In those contests, he averaged 19.2 points on 46.5 percent shooting. In his 25 starts with the Knicks two years back, he put up 18.2 points on 44.5 percent shooting.

He has the ability to orchestrate nightly assaults on the stat sheet. With these Lakers, he could also have the situation and system needed to carry out those attacks with regularity, especially once he learns what his coach wants and his teammates need out of him.

“I just want to figure out how I can bring my strengths and apply it best to this system,” Lin said, per Medina. “It’s kind of like a chess match in learning and figuring it out.”

This should be the chance at stardom Lin never received in Houston nor looked like he deserved before that wild year in The Big Apple. Everything seems to be in place for him to make his move back up the NBA’s pecking order, with both the Hollywood backdrop and L.A.’s need for a long-term answer at point guard hinting at a longer shelf life than his previous meteoric rise.

Of course, none of this comes with any guarantees. He still needs to walk the tightrope between scorer and playmaker while ensuring that the biggest serving is always left for Bryant to devour. The Lakers have prospects to develop and veterans to appease, all mouths that Lin will be expected to feed.

The degree of difficulty is high, but so too is the potential prize.

All signs point to Lin being cleared to send his star back into basketball’s orbit, but only if he is ready to launch.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Which Los Angeles Clipper Will See the Biggest Role Shift in 2014-15?

A philosophical shift in the Los Angeles Clippers offense has been building for years, and this season should be the one where the shift is complete.

Blake Griffin is ready for an expanded role, one that should at least split offensive playmaking responsibilities with Chris Paul.

This is no slight to Paul, who had his best season since 2008-09, averaging 19.1 points, 10.7 assists and 2.5 steals per game in 2013-14. Certainly he is capable of leading a dynamic offense, as he helped transform the Clippers into the highest-scoring offense in the league last season.

However, when Paul was injured for a month last season, Griffin shined. From January 4 until February 7, Griffin dominated to the tune of 27.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and shot 55.4 percent from the field, while leading the team to a 12-6 record.

Griffin is absolutely ready for more responsibility on offense, but he also needs to take on a larger role defensively. The Clippers offense was elite last season, but it was the defense that failed in the playoffs, resulting in an epic blown Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder and losing the series as a result.

But in what ways will Griffin’s game expand on each end of the court?

 

Griffin’s Role Shift: Offense

Since Paul’s arrival three seasons ago, Griffin’s role on offense has been that of a second option. Griffin would consistently sprint the floor for duck-ins, run pick-and-rolls and, more recently, attack off the dribble from the perimeter.

Paul was the driving force offensively, holding the ball, directing traffic and consistently setting his teammates up for scoring opportunities off his dribble penetration.

Griffin mainly played off Paul’s moves; cutting, screening and hitting jumpers when Paul fed him. Paul was clearly the first scoring option despite his high assist rates.

Things began to change last season once Paul injured his shoulder, missing a month of action. Griffin became the focal point of the offense, and Doc Rivers embraced this by speeding up the tempo and running the offense through him.

ESPN.com’s Kevin Arnovitz gave a great breakdown of Griffin’s play last season while Paul was injured:

In this regard, Griffin has been a revelation over the past month, and with Paul out, he now occupies the focal point of the Clippers’ offense. The ball lands in Griffin’s hands earlier and more often, and the choreography rotates around him. His usage rate has skyrocketed over the past month — 29.8 since Paul left the lineup, up from 26.9 prior to Paul’s injury. Applied to the full season, that number would trail only Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. 

It remains to be seen if the Clippers will play as fast as they did without Paul, but the offense will flow through Griffin more this season. Not only can he operate out of the low post, high post or attack off the dribble as well as any power forward in the league, but he also added the corner three to his arsenal.

Griffin was already difficult to guard, but stretching defenders to the three-point line with his shooting will add a deadly new weapon to his repertoire. Expect to see Paul feeding Griffin on the wing plenty this season, as well as the offense working through Griffin at the elbow.

 

Griffin’s Role Shift: Defense

It seems like the main narrative surrounding the Clippers the last few years has been focused on the team defense. Taking one look at the coaching staff surrounding Rivers on the L.A. bench, that narrative still rings true.

Mike Woodson, Lawrence Frank and Rivers are known to be defensive-oriented coaches. Rivers did not just go after the most talented coaches he could find to sit next to him this season, he had a purpose. That was to improve his team defense, starting in the paint with DeAndre Jordan and Griffin.

Despite his immense offensive talents, Griffin has never been considered a good defender. He doesn’t exactly have the wingspan—6’11.25”—or size—6’10”—to be an elite defender, but Rivers wants a more consistent effort from his superstar power forward.

In fact, according to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register, Rivers has high expectations for Griffin’s defensive improvement:

“He has the ability himself to be an all-defensive player, and I think he’s taking that to heart as well.”

Last season, Rivers made a similar prediction about Jordan winning the Defensive Player of the Year award. Rivers might be on to something, as Jordan finished third in the voting.

Per Woike‘s article, Jordan also sees improvement ahead for Griffin.

“This is definitely the most I feel like Blake’s talked on the floor,” Jordan said. “…People follow his lead, but when he says something, people really listen because he rarely talks when he’s playing. He’s taken that leadership role.”

Griffin began expanding his role defensively last season, as he took on the burden of guarding players such as Kevin Durant and LeBron James to test himself. That type of effort is what can help the Clippers escape the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

While Rivers might never ask Griffin to be a defensive stopper, both know that their championship aspirations cannot be hinged on outscoring opponents.

According to NBA.com, the Clippers’ net offensive-defensive rating was 1.1 last postseason. Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs posted an astounding 11.6 rating. Defense wins in the postseason, and the Clippers need Griffin on board defensively to do so.

Overall, expect Griffin’s role to increase significantly this season. Paul will share the playmaking duties with him, but the offense should be tailored to fit both players’ strengths.

Griffin will be allowed to handle the ball more, and Rivers has been attempting to increase tempo and push the ball ahead to get Griffin more possessions.

Furthermore, Rivers added players such as Spencer Hawes and Jordan Farmar to further improve the team’s floor spacing. Both players are good three-point shooters, which will complement Paul and Griffin’s strengths.

Expect to see Griffin’s usage and role on both ends of the floor expand, in what could become an MVP-caliber season.

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Los Angeles Lakers: 3 Guards Are Their Playoff Key

(Source: Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America)…
Los Angeles Lakers: 3 Guards Are Their Playoff Key
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
With Steve Nash injured, Kobe Bryant healthy and Jeremy Lin the starter, can their excellent offensive guard trio of Kobe Bryant, Jeremy Lin and Nick Young be the most productive 3-man-guard-unit in the NBA this season? Yes. A Jeremy Lin-Kobe Bryant starting guard duo isn’t as talented as John Wall-Bradley Beal or Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson, but with Nick Young one of the best sixth men in the NBA, they could be the most productive trio.
Nick Young is injured and will miss the 1st few weeks of the season, but once healthy, this is how I see their guards producing…
Jeremy Lin: 16 points, 6 assists per game
Role: Main distributor and secondary scorer in the starting 5. Team’s 2nd option.
Kobe Bryant: 22 points, 5 assists per game
Role: Main scorer and secondary distributor in the starting 5. Team’s 1st option.
Nick Young: 16 points, 3 ass…

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5 Ways the Los Angeles Lakers Can Exceed Expectations in 2014-15

The outlook for the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 2014-15 season is grim—and we haven’t even tipped off regular-season basketball yet.

One half of their Hall of Fame backcourt is already done for the year, as it appears the injury bug that has consumed the Lakers the past couple of seasons is still embedded within the locker room.

Expectations are low heading into the new campaign. ESPN’s Summer Forecast pegged L.A. for just 30 wins, while the analytically inclined FiveThirtyEight.com is projecting the Lakers to be the West’s cellar dwellers with an unthinkable total of 24 wins.

But predictions—even those based on intricate statistical models undergoing thousands of simulations—are nothing more than educated guesses.

The Lakers have the tools to prove the pundits wrong. Here are five ways they can accomplish that task.

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Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers 10/24/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Los Angeles Lakers looked to score a win Friday night when they faced the Sacramento Kings in a preseason clash. The Lakers were eager to prove that the combination of veteran superstar Kobe Bryant and rookie phenom Julius Randle was enough to keep them in contention but faced a tough test from a young Kings squad.

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7 Things We Can’t Wait to See During Los Angeles Lakers 2014-15 Season

The Los Angeles Lakers are not going to win an NBA championship this season.

They’ll be lucky to grab a spot in the playoffs and may even finish near the bottom of the league standings.

Surprisingly, though, the best thing about the Lakers of 2014-15 is not the NBA draft next summer. It’s the intriguing individual stories of players, young and old, rookies and veterans, who make up the current roster that will keep interest high.

There’s a first-round, lottery draft choice and a second-rounder with a chip on his shoulders who may push the veterans and bring the sort of youthful energy this Lakers team has been lacking for several seasons.

There are reclamation projects and unheralded, yet talented, journeymen who will have a golden opportunity to grow with this club or find themselves a new home elsewhere in the league.

What we won’t get to see this season is a legend in Steve Nash. Just this week, the Lakers and Nash agreed that his season on the active roster was over before it even started due to health reasons. Reached before his team’s final preseason game Friday night against the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas, head coach Byron Scott said (via ABCNews.com):

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to coach him. Steve has always been one of my favorite people in the league because he’s such a professional, such a gentleman. Just like everybody else, I’m wishing him all the best.

The same sentiment needs to be conveyed to Scott, who takes over a team in transition with a number of question marks. Kobe Bryant and company may surprise us—they have nowhere to go but up.

 

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