Nowitzki, Mavericks roll over Lakers, win by 34

Nowitzki scores 23, Mavericks keep high-octane offense rolling in win over Lakers

      
 

 

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Lakers News: Latest Surrounding Free-Agent Workouts, Nick Young’s Flop and More

Don’t look now, but the Los Angeles Lakers are on a winning streak. All right, so it’s only a two-game streak, but every team needs to start somewhere, right? With the Lakers now closer to full strength, it’s clear this team has enough talent to make a run and possibly get something good going this season.

Still, there are some missing pieces to the puzzle due to the season-long losses of forward Julius Randle and guard Steve Nash. Well, there’s been some recent news on that front, as well as some talk regarding Nick Young’s warning from the Association and a surprise tribute to Jeremy Lin.

What’s being said about these recent developments, and how do they affect the Lakers going forward? Let’s take a look.

 

Latest on Lakers Workouts

There has been plenty of talk regarding which players the Lakers will be bringing in to fill empty roster spots. Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders was the first to tweet several names rumored to be heading to Los Angeles for workouts:

Obviously, not all four players will be joining the team, but it was difficult to gauge which were front-runners in the eyes of Byron Scott and Co. On Thursday, Shams Charania of RealGM shed some light on the topic:

So, Dwight Buycks and Gal Mekel were apparently the top two performers who earned second workouts. With one of these two players seemingly the favorite to join the team, one thing becomes clear: The added depth will come at point guard rather than power forward.

It’s difficult to tell whether Buycks or Mekel has the upper hand right now, but the Lakers need to decide if they would rather have the facilitating ability of Mekel or the aggressiveness of Buycks. The smart money is on Mekel.

 

Nick Young’s Flop

According to NBA.com, Young has received a warning from the NBA for flopping. The swingman is always one for theatrics, but this time, he may have gone a little too far. At full speed, it doesn’t exactly look like a flop, but when you take a closer look, you see that Young hits the deck without being touched.

This Vine from K L Chouinard is some pretty telling evidence:

Luckily, the result of that nontouch by Kyle Korver was simply a warning; however, Young must be careful going forward. After all, the Lakers are a far superior team with the forward on the court, and that has been evident, as Los Angeles is 2-0 since his return.

Young had this to say about his return to action, via Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding:

There’s no doubt Young is one of the Lakers’ most valuable players. In just two games this season, he’s averaging 16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals off the bench. Staying in the Association’s good graces will be key for Young to remain on the court and continue his stellar play. Let’s hope that bad flop was a one-time thing.

 

Jeremy Lin Tribute

The Houston Rockets may have been a little freaked out by Lin’s strong performance against the Atlanta Hawks, as the guard went 6-of-7 from the floor for 15 points, adding 10 assists for a stellar double-double. As a result, the team pulled out all the stops to throw Lin off his game Wednesday.

Despite Lin’s checkered past with Houston, the Rockets decided to honor the guard with a video tribute on their scoreboard in the middle of the first quarter, and the home crowd cheered for the former player, according to Chris Baldwin of CultureMap Houston.

Ding’s Instagram featured a picture of the tribute:

The end result was Lin’s worst performance of the season. The guard shot 1-of-5 from the floor, scoring three points and adding four assists, one block, one steal and five turnovers. Luckily, the rest of the team picked up the slack, and the Lakers left Houston with a win.

Before Lin’s stint in Houston, he played 29 games with the Golden State Warriors and 35 games with the New York Knicks. Will we see both of those teams paying tribute to the guard when the Lakers come to town? It isn’t likely, but it would sure be an interesting strategy.

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Mavericks Injury Update: Devin Harris hopes to return for tonight’s matchup against the Lakers

The Dallas Mavericks will look to secure their 10th win of the season tonight when they face-off against the visiting Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers, currently riding a two-game winning streak. Tonight’s game should also see the return of Devin Harris, who missed Wednesday’s victory over the Wizards with right leg soreness. As tweeted by Dwain Price, Devin Harris believed his absence to be a ‘one-game thing’. Devin Harris believes this is a one-game thing and he’ll be able to play Friday when the #Mavs host the #Lakers.— Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) November 19, 2014Without a doubt, the Mavericks are playing phenomenal basketball right now – winners of five in a row and looking like a strong contender to come out of the West. The additions of Parson and Chandler were the perfect pieces, complementing the likes of Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki seamlessly. Trouble is, with a 9 – 3 record, Dallas is a part of the Southwest division, without question the most challenging division in th

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Phil Jackson Says Even He Couldn’t Help the Lakers Win This Season

Even if he wanted to, Phil Jackson couldn’t help the floundering Los Angeles Lakers turn around their season.

This is coming from the man himself, who insinuated during a TMZ street-side interview that coaching isn’t what’s hurting Los Angeles on the court.

When asked if he could coach the Lakers back to relevance, the former Lakers coach and current New York Knicks president said coaching isn’t what’s killing the team.

“They have a lot of needs, that team does,” Jackson said. “…They’ve got a good coach.”

Expanding on the subject, Jackson added that he wouldn’t have won games in Los Angeles without the help of talented players.

“A coach always relies on talent to be that good,” Jackson said.

When asked directly if the team lacked ability, Jackson smiled.

“They’re growing up together,” Jackson said.

Jackson appears to think the biggest issues at hand in Los Angeles are the players. He also appears to not have heard about head coach Byron Scott’s aversion to good basketball.

In any case, it’s not like Jackson can blame the management without calling out his fiancee, Jeanie Buss. Long-distance relationships work better when you’re not airing each other’s dirty laundry in the newspapers.

As for the Lakers, the team is on a (relative) hot streak of sorts. Los Angeles beat the Houston Rockets on the road Wednesday night, notching its second straight win.

Kobe Bryant and company will look to extend the streak Friday against the 9-3 Dallas Mavericks.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture filigree.

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Lakers vs. Rockets: Score and Twitter Reaction

In Round 1, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard said what they thought of each other in a near brawl. In Round 2, Howard killed a large part of the intrigue by sitting out with an injury. But at least the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets gave fans a basketball game worth watching this time around.

Kobe Bryant scored 29 points, Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill each turned in double-doubles and the Lakers scored the game’s last nine points en route to a 98-92 victory over the Howard-less Rockets on Wednesday.

Houston missed Howard’s presence throughout the game, but its plight without its All-Star center came to a head on a critical sequence that helped decide the game. Following a wild missed three-pointer from Bryant, the Rockets allowed an offensive rebound that resulted in Wesley Johnson finishing a layup plus the foul. Johnson’s free throw gave Los Angeles a 94-92 lead with 43 seconds remaining.

The Rockets’ next trip down the floor was a stilted offensive possession that ended in a post-up—for Howard replacement Tarik Black. Black’s twisting turnaround attempt missed, and Nick Young knocked down two clutch free throws to seal the game after the Lakers grabbed the rebound.

Howard played 28 minutes in the Rockets’ 119-93 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, but reporters saw him after the game. Though he initially downplayed the injury and was expected to be in the lineup, the Rockets ruled him out with a strained knee just before tipoff. Howard did not watch the game from the Houston bench, and the team has not given a timetable for his return.

“Bumps and bruises,” Howard told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle on Monday. “I’m getting old. I’m going to need a cane in a second. But it’s all good. This is just the usual post-game pain. I’ll be all right though, God willing.”

James Harden, flustered into a six-point performance by Tony Allen on Monday, again started slowly. He went scoreless for nearly the entire first half and had attempted only two shots at the halftime break, taking on far more of a distributor role.

Instead the first-half scoring burden went to Kostas Papanikolaou, who scored 16 of his career-high 19 points before the break. The Lakers left the Greek rookie wide-open at points thanks to poor defensive rotations, and he blitzed them from the wing and corners. Consistent shooting has been the only thing to hold Papanikolaou back in his young NBA career, as he’s shown above-average rebounding capabilities and is a plus passer for a forward.

Harden reclaimed his status as the offensive fulcrum in the second half, expertly weaving his way into the paint for easy shots near the rim or to draw the foul. Stylistically, Harden has taken a beating as his career progresses for the at-times aesthetic horror show that is his game. But he’s arguably the best in the world at drawing fouls and finished with 24 points on only 11 shots. It’s not pretty, but it is good basketball.

The Lakers, coming off their first road win of the season Tuesday night in Atlanta, earned their first win over a Western Conference opponent this season. Bryant threw up 28 shots to get his 29 points but added seven assists, and the Los Angeles offense at times bordered on cohesive. Boozer turned in his second straight double-double, and Hill had his fourth consecutive.

Hill and Boozer kept going to the back-to-the-basket well for most of the night. With Howard out, the Rockets started the undrafted Black at center. While Black has looked fine in limited minutes this season and may carve out a long-term niche as a backup big, Wednesday night served as proof of how desperately Houston needs Howard to stay on the floor.

The Lakers were able to break through the Rockets’ so-so perimeter defense and get decent looks at the basket, though some players (mostly wings) struggled finishing. Houston came into the game with the league’s most efficient defense, but the Lakers’ offensive rebounding numbers and the looks they got at the rim exposed the Rockets’ depth problems.

Last season Houston could have plugged Omer Asik, among the league’s best half-dozen rim protectors, into Howard’s spot. Asik’s trade to New Orleans and the Rockets’ lack of a proper replacement left Kevin McHale at times running a five-out system with no obvious rim protector on the floor. Those lineups can work in short spurts against below-average offenses, but it’s an issue that may have long-term ramifications.

Outside of the Howard injury, the Lakers’ effort also received a boost from Young, who provided a spark off the bench in his second game of the season. Young scored 16 points, 13 of which came in the second half. He hasn’t shown many adverse signs from the thumb injury that kept him out the first 10 games. It’s also worth noting—mostly because he’ll tell us all even if we ignore it—that the Lakers are undefeated with Swaggy P back in the lineup.

“That’s the thing that I love about Nick,” Lakers coach Byron Scott told reporters Tuesday. “He brings positive energy. He’s an energy giver, not taker, and that’s what we need.”

The widespread praise of Young comes largely from his infectious personality, but he’s not without merit on this team. Young will likely become the de facto second scoring option next to Bryant over the course of the season. Anyone who watched the Lakers in their first 10 games knows Bryant needs help anywhere he can get it—even if it comes in the redundant chucker department.

Young’s swag may not rub off on his teammates enough to make the Lakers a playoff team, but it could make help them competent. After the first few weeks, that’s a reason to be positive.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Lakers Showing Signs of Life After Terrible Start to 2014-15 Season

Don’t plan to attend a parade down Figueroa Street just yet, Los Angeles Lakers fans. Don’t even sit on StubHub for seats at Staples Center beyond mid-April, unless you’re eager to support the Los Angeles Clippers.

A 98-92 win over the Dwight Howard-less Houston Rockets won’t bring another Larry O’Brien Trophy to L.A. Neither will a 104-99 victory against the Atlanta Hawks, sans DeMarre Carroll and a whole Al Horford.

But wins are wins, especially those that come on the road. And in a season clouded with misery and predictable disappointment, every a little ray of sunshine counts.

The Rockets still have plenty going for them, despite the absence of the Lakers’ newest nemesis, on account of a knee strain. James Harden, for one.

Harden had himself an evening that was at once typical of and unusual for such a prolific and aggressive scorer. The two-time All-Star scored 28 points on just 11 field-goal attempts, with a pair of threes, a slew of slashes and eight made free throws constituting his total.

Typical Harden, right? Not if you peek behind the box score.

Harden didn’t register any points until a quarter-and-a-half had passed, and he didn’t hit from the field until there were just over three minutes left until the break.

Of course, The Beard brushed by L.A.’s defense for 24 second-half points.

Just none when it really mattered. He put the Rockets up five with a 20-footer at 2:42, but he failed to get back on the board as the Lakers ripped off a stunning 12-1 run.

What happened? Wesley Johnson happened.

Good Wes came out to play in the waning moments, hounding Harden on one end and hitting shots on the other. With the clock running under a minute, he picked Harden’s pocket and finished an and-one on the other end that gave the Lakers a 94-92 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Two possessions later, he smothered the smooth-scoring swingman to the point of jacking up a desperate air ball from beyond the three-point line that wound up in Kobe Bryant‘s hands. Carlos Boozer noted the importance of Johnson’s role to the team, per Serena Winters of Lakers Nation:

Fitting, too, that Bryant would be the one catch, a tough, contested miss, that all but sealed the game in the Lakers favor and the one that actually did. His night was full of misfires—20 all told, including those from the free-throw and three-point lines. 

Heck, his evening was about as streaky as Harden’s. Bryant opened the scoring with a three, then missed five straight shots…then nailed six in a row…then went on to miss seven consecutive field goals later on. Along the way, he took more than his fair share of maddeningly contested shots, including a few of the variety that had ESPN Insider Tom Haberstroh (subscription required) in such a fit:

Watching the Lakers play basketball this season, for the most part, has been a miserable experience. It’s hardly team basketball. Flip over to a Lakers game and chances are you’ll see four guys in purple-and-gold standing around watching Bryant build a house, brick-by-brick.

But just because it took Bryant 28 shots to pile up his 29 points doesn’t mean he came up empty; far from it. He led all scorers with nine fourth-quarter points—one more than a certain swagtastic shooter.

Nick Young followed up a 17-point season debut in Atlanta with 16 more at the Toyota Center Wednesday night. It’s way too soon to say he’s the Lakers savior…but they are 2-0 since he returned from a broken finger.

This, after a 1-9 start in which they looked like easily the league’s worst team west of Philadelphia and, in some ways, its most hopeless over the long haul. Their defense had been scraping the bottom of the deepest barrel in the NBA for stops, ceding 113.4 points per 100 possessions, while allowing their opponents to shoot a sizzling 48.5 percent from the floor.

The Rockets managed a mere 40.5 percent for themselves and were outrebounded 47-38 by the size-deprived Lakers, with Jordan Hill accounting for 16 points and 10 boards inside.

Granted, Houston didn’t have Howard, whose forays around the rim—like those few he fit in before bowing out of the Rockets’ season-opening blowout in L.A.—rank among the best way to boost a squad’s field-goal percentage on any given night. And the Lakers’ struggles defending the three were as evident as ever, with Houston’s trey-happy attack, hitting 15-of-38 (39.5 percent) from downtown.

But there’s no point in poo-pooing improvement, however token.

Not after watching the Lakers cede at least 107 points on eight different occasions coming into the game. Not after suffering, sulking and slinking through an unbearable bundle of barrages that embarrassed this franchise and its coach, Byron Scott, who came into the campaign preaching purple-and-gold pride and physical defense. Not after wondering whether the sky was actually falling, or if those were just drops of real rain to soothe California’s drought.

And certainly not after seeing the Lakers spread the wealth a bit, rather than wait for Bryant to either save or bury them, depending on the outcome of a contested shot late in the clock.

Four double-digit scorers in Houston. Five in Atlanta. Not coming from the end of the bench, benefiting only from the solemn, pointless opportunities with which crunch time is rife, especially in Lakerland.

Is it the Swaggy P Effect? Has Young’s mere presence helped to balance out Bryant’s on-ball proclivities, by providing the Black Mamba with a reliable scoring partner? Has he reinvigorated the Lakers’ locker room with his trademark brand of San Fernando Valley-bred bravado?

Maybe. Maybe not. Well, probably not. But compared to a decrepit Carlos Boozer? A lost Jeremy Lin? A supporting cast stymied, at times, by the Mamba doing his thing? Young’s not just a breath of fresh air; he’s a freakin’ gust of it. In true Young style, he defined his Swag, courtesy of Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding:

It’s all relative for the Lakers right now. They can talk all they want about championship aspirations and building toward the sport’s biggest prize. They wouldn’t be the Lakers if they didn’t, and Kobe would not be Kobe if he didn’t, wrote B/R’s Kevin Ding:

So he has to answer the questions about making the playoffs by deflecting and saying it doesn’t matter what he says about that because people aren’t going to believe the Lakers will make it anyway. He might not rationally expect the Lakers are going to, but he has to operate as if they can.

It’s all about process for these Lakers. Laying the foundation for their future. Establishing a system, an attitude, an approach, a culture under Scott into which the next Lakers—and the Lakers after that, and the Lakers after that—cannot only fit, but eventually also thrive.

As the famous Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once wrote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Indeed, the Lakers look as though they’re at least 1,000 metaphorical miles from hanging their 17th banner. And two wins in mid-November, amidst an 82-game schedule that ends on Tax Day in America, April 15, equate to little more than the pre-walk shuffles of an anxious infant on the Lakers’ long road back to relevance.

Each bit counts, though, no matter how small, when there are only small bits of solace to be found in the sea of uncertainty that surrounds the NBA’s marquee team and its most polarizing living legend.

As Bryant put it after L.A.’s first win of the season, 107-92 victory over the Charlotte Hornets: “You’ve got to start somewhere.”

 

Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.

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Kobe, Lakers rally past Rockets for second win in a row

Kobe Bryant scored 29 points as Los Angeles took advantage of Dwight Howard’s absence.

      
 

 

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Lakers vs. Rockets: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

In Round 1, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard said what they thought of the other in a near-brawl. In Round 2, Howard killed a large part of the intrigue by sitting out with an injury. But at least the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets gave fans a basketball game worth watching this time around.

Kobe Bryant scored 29 points, Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill each turned in double-doubles and the Lakers scored the game’s last nine points en route to a 98-92 victory over the Howard-less Rockets on Wednesday. 

Howard’s presence was felt throughout the game, but Houston’s plight without its All-Star center came to a head on a critical sequence that helped decide the game. Following a wild missed three-pointer from Bryant, the Rockets allowed an offensive rebound that resulted in Wesley Johnson finishing a lay-up plus the foul. Johnson’s free-throw gave Los Angeles a 94-92 lead with 43 seconds remaining. 

The Rockets’ next trip down the floor was a stilted offensive possession that ended in a post-up—for Howard replacement Tarik Black. Black’s twisting turnaround attempt missed, and Nick Young knocked down two clutch free throws to seal the game after the Lakers grabbed the rebound.

Howard, who played 28 minutes in the Rockets’ 119-93 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, was seen limping by reporters after the game. Though he initially downplayed the injury and was expected to be in the lineup, the Rockets ruled him out with a strained knee just before tip-off. Howard did not watch the game from the Houston bench and no timetable has been given for his return.

“Bumps and bruises,” Howard told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “I’m getting old. I’m going to need a cane in a second. But it’s all good. This is just the usual post-game pain. I’ll be all right though, God willing.”

James Harden, who was flustered into a six-point performance from Tony Allen on Monday, again started slowly. He went scoreless for nearly the entire first half and had attempted only two shots at the halftime break, taking on far more of a distributor role.

Instead the first-half scoring burden went to Papanikolaou, who scored 16 of his career-high 19 points before the break. The Greek rookie was left wide-open at points thanks to poor defensive rotations, blitzing the Lakers from the wing and corners. Consistent shooting has been the only thing to hold Papanikolaou back in his young NBA career, as he’s shown above-average rebounding capabilities and is a plus passer for a forward.

Harden reclaimed his status as the offensive fulcrum in the second half, expertly weaving his way into the paint for easy shots near the rim or to draw the foul. Stylistically, Harden has taken a beating as his career progresses for the at-times aesthetic horror show that is his game. But he’s arguably the best in the world at drawing fouls and finished with his 24 points on only 11 shots. It’s not pretty, but it is good basketball. 

The Lakers, coming off their first road win of the season Tuesday night in Atlanta, earned their first win over a Western Conference opponent this season. Bryant threw up 28 shots to get his 29 points but added seven assists, and the Los Angeles offense at times bordered on cohesive. Boozer turned in his second straight double-double and Hill had his fourth.

Hill and Boozer were able to keep going to the back-to-the-basket well for most of the night. With Howard out, the Rockets started the undrafted Black at center. While Black has looked fine in limited minutes this season and may carve out a long-term niche as a backup big, Wednesday night served as proof of how desperately Houston needs Howard to stay on the floor.

The Lakers were able to break through the Rockets’ so-so perimeter defense and get decent looks at the basket, though some players (mostly wings) struggled finishing. Houston came into the game with the league’s most efficient defense, but the Lakers’ offensive rebounding numbers and the looks they got at the rim exposed the Rockets’ depth problems.

Last season Houston could have plugged Omer Asik, among the league’s best half-dozen rim protectors, into Howard’s spot. Asik’s trade to New Orleans and the Rockets’ lack of proper replacement left Kevin McHale at times running a five-out system with no obvious rim protector on the floor. Those lineups can work in short spurts against below-average, but it’s an issue that may have long-term ramifications.

Outside the Howard injury, the Lakers’ effort was also boosted by Young, providing a spark off the bench in his second game of the season. Young scored 16 points, 13 of which came in the second half. He hasn’t shown many adverse signs from the thumb injury that kept him out the first 10 games. It’s also worth noting—mostly because he’ll tell us all even if we ignore it—that the Lakers are undefeated with Swaggy P back in the lineup.

“That’s the thing that I love about Nick,” Lakers coach Byron Scott told reporters. “He brings positive energy. He’s an energy giver, not taker, and that’s what we need.” 

The widespread praise of Young comes largely from his infectious personality, but he’s not without merit on this team. Young will likely become the de-facto second scoring option next to Bryant over the course of the season. Anyone who watched the Lakers in their first 10 games knows Bryant needs help anywhere he can get it—even if it comes in the redundant chucker department.

Young’s swag may not rub off on his teammates enough to make the Lakers a playoff team. But it could make help them competent. And after the first few weeks, that’s a reason to be positive.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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James Harden Arrives to Game vs. Lakers Wearing Pink and Black Sweatshirt

It’s difficult to find the words to describe the sweatshirt that Houston Rockets star James Harden wore to the Toyota Center prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Harden isn’t the first NBA player to wear a crazy outfit, but he certainly turned some heads with this choice.

[cjzero]

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Los Angeles Lakers: The importance of Swaggy P’s return

After sitting out six weeks as the result of a torn ligament in his right thumb that he sustained this offseason, Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young returned to action last night against the Atlanta Hawks. So far without Swaggy P, the Lakers have struggled mightily finding options for offensive production outside of the NBA’s leading scorer, Kobe Bryant.  Although the team ranks 12th in the league in points per game, the Lakers are at the bottom of the league in field goal percentage (23rd), field goals made (17th) and 3-point percentage (28th). These numbers are not good enough to account for the team’s pitiful defense, which ranks last in the league in points allowed with a whopping 112.1 points per game. In other words, Young couldn’t have picked a better time to come back.
Nick Young returns to the Lakers at a time when his scoring and overall energy are desperately needed.
Young offers the team another player with the ability to create his own shot, which should immediately alleviate some press

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