Lakers Gameday | 11/17/09 | Pistons
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Bryant shakes off groin injury with 40-point outburst
By Bryan Chu, for NBA.com
Posted Wednesday November 18, 2009 2:45AM
LOS ANGELES (NBA.com exclusive) -- After shooting an airball and being stripped twice in his first three possessions, Kobe Bryant appeared to be in for a long night.
Bryant missed his first four shots, and it appeared his lingering groin strain was the culprit.
Questions about the injury were put to rest for now, however, as Bryant shook off the sluggish start, lifting the Lakers to a 106-93 victory over the Pistons on Tuesday night at the Staples Center.
"I wanted to come out and have a good game and have people stop asking about it," said Bryant, who added later, "I felt good. My groin wasn't really hindering me. I was able to bounce, move around like I normally do."
Bryant finished with a game-high 40 points on 17-for-29 shooting. The NBA's leading scorer also recorded his 100th 40-point game, which trails only Wilt Chamberlain (271) and Michael Jordan (173).
"True honor," said Bryant. "It's just a good feeling."
More importantly, the win kept the Lakers (8-3) from dropping three straight, which they haven't done since Pau Gasol joined the Lakers in February 2007.
"They were embarrassed with the losses," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
More good news came pregame when Jackson appeared to target Thursday's game against the Bulls as Gasol's possible return to action since injuring his hamstring on Oct. 10.
"He's hoping that he can play on Thursday," Jackson said. "I asked him if he could play tonight actually and he said he didn't feel ready. We're still waiting for him to totally feel comfortable."
The Pistons (5-6), who began a four-game West Coast trip, were led by reserve guard Will Bynum's 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting. Ben Gordon chipped in 18.
Despite jumping out to an early seven-point lead, Detroit dug itself a hole after being outscored 34-20 in the second quarter. The Pistons were down 57-42 at half in large part because of Bryant, who scored 21 points early.
The Pistons needed big games from Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey, but neither could get going. Villanueva had two points and Rodney Stuckey managed 11. In the first half, the duo combined for 3-for-14 shooting and finished 4-for-18.
Unlike the back-to-back losses where they struggled in the third quarter, the Lakers ran off a 20-4 run to secure a 81-53 lead. During one stretch, Bryant converted 9-for-11 from the floor.
It's no secret the Lakers struggle against small, quick guards. But against the Pistons' backcourt, the Lakers were able to do a solid job containing and preventing dribble penetration. Both teams shot 47.2 percent, but the difference was a 44-32 advantage on the boards.
"They did hurt us in the paint," Pistons coach John Kuester said. "We weren't able to close the gap they way we were capable on until that last quarter."
With much of the talk this season about Gasol's injury, Andrew Bynum is quietly having a superb season. He recorded his eighth double-double of the season, finishing with 17 points and 12 rebounds, and is just one of two players who is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds. The other is Toronto's Chris Bosh.
"He's quickly becoming one of the top centers in the league, by far," Bryant said. "If he just stays on that pace and does what he keeps going, he'll be an All-Star."
Down by as many as 28, the Pistons managed to trim the Lakers' lead to 98-91 after an 18-7 run. Their run sizzled when DaJuan Summers fouled Shannon Brown, who had 12 points, on a 3-point attempt with under two minutes to go. He converted all three free throws.
Despite the loss, the Pistons know they have to just stay afloat until veterans Richard Hamilton (ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (back), both with no timetable on their return, rejoin the team.
"We just want to see steady improvement," said Gordon pregame. "Playoffs, that goes without saying. We want to surprise people this season. People aren't expecting a lot from us, we want to be overachievers this year."
A pair of jaw-dropping offensive and defensive plays went down in this game. With about five minutes to play in third quarter, Bryant was met with Kwame Brown midair, and flipped a no-look shot over his head with his back to the basket. Possibly the block of the early season came with six minutes left in the game when high-flyer Shannon Brown was rejected by Jason Maxiell.
Notes: Lakers forward Luke Walton will miss a minimum of six weeks with a pinched nerve in his back.
Lakers’ Coach Phil Jackson on the Lakers’ performance tonight:
“We played a couple of good periods in this game tonight and we sustained the effort at the end. I was pleased with the ball movement and the way we played in the first course of the game.”
On Kobe Bryant’s performance tonight despite the bothering groin:
“It’s the kind of effort he gives; it’s kind of a remarkable trait that he has that individually separates him from other players.”
On the Lakers out-rebounding the Pistons by 12:
“That just happens. I think it happened because guys were active, moving or being aggressive.”
On the Pistons putting the Lakers in foul trouble tonight:
“Well we got ourselves in trouble in the fourth quarter by early foul trouble so they’re shooting in the penalty the last eight minutes of the quarter. So you have to put your hands in your pockets and play defense. And all they’re trying to do is create foul situations, which makes it tough.”
On the second unit’s role when the Lakers got into foul trouble:
“They just have to step in and find their way right at that point. It’s not so much that the starters did a poor job, I think they did a very good job tonight.”
On Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown’s impact on the game:
“I think it’s the aggressive nature that they came out with. Obviously, we have our two small guards and they had their three guard lineup in and I think it worked well for us because they stayed aggressive. And they had opportunities on the offensive end that clicked for them, which was good, and defensively I think they did well.”
On the Lakers ending their losing streak tonight:
“Well some of that is just talent and some of it is resiliency of the team that comes back. They were embarrassed with the losses and they want to feel good about themselves so they worked hard to change that.”
Lakers' Kobe Bryant on the game tonight:
"We didn't play defense like we did the first few games. On the offense, we tried to do too much and weren't concentrating."
On the bench:
"It's about shifting your focus. Especially with a big lead the guys want to come in and try to get rhythm offensively. The focus and the energy should be on the defensive end."
On his groin:
"I wanted to come out and have a good game and have people stop asking about it. I know you have to ask about it, but I don't like discussing it."
On Andrew Bynum:
"He's huge. He's quickly becoming one of the top centers in the league, by far. If he just stays on that pace an does what he keeps doing, he'll be an All-Star."
On his 100th 40th game:
"True honor. A lot of work that went into it. And when I look back on all that, I had 100 of those games. It's just a good feeling."
Lakers' Jordan Farmar on the chemistry with Shannon Brown:
"We're just trying to play with energy. We've been really lackadaisical the past couple games. Just had the right mind-set about what he had to do tonight."
On playing on the floor at the same time with Shannon Brown:
"Shannon and I talk about it all the time. We talk about how we both make plays for ourselves, for the team. When penetrating, his man helps and I'll kick-it out and he'll make the same kind of plays for me. We get out on transition, get dunks, open the floor. We definitely like playing that way. Kobe at the 3, not a lot of teams can guard him at the post. A little more energy, a little more athletic, quicker pace of the game."
Lakers' Lamar Odom on Kobe's achievement:
"Kobe drives to be the best, one of the best in the game."
On Lakers not loosing 3 straight games in about last 3 years:
"Pretty good team. Fight back. Competitive. We have the push mentality and get ready for the next game. You got to give us credit for that. We're a strong-willed team."
Lakers vs. Pistons Game Preview
By BRETT HUSTON
The lowest-scoring half in franchise history figured to provide enough motivation for the Los Angeles Lakers in their latest game. Instead, they suffered through yet another poor second half.
The Lakers look to bounce back Tuesday night and avoid their first three-game losing streak in nearly two years when they host the Detroit Pistons.
Los Angeles (7-3) didn't suffer a third loss until Dec. 9, in its 20th game, in 2008-09 on its way to the franchise's 15th NBA championship. The team reached that mark much more quickly this season.
Each of the defeats featured two common themes - poor shooting and underwhelming second-half scoring. The Lakers shot 39.5 percent and had 35 points after halftime in falling 94-80 at home to Dallas on Oct. 30. They then won six in a row before shooting a season-low 35.2 percent and setting a franchise record with 23 second-half points in a 105-79 loss at Denver on Friday.
Los Angeles shot 33.3 percent and was limited to 37 points after halftime Sunday in a 101-91 defeat to Houston, which held a 60-38 rebounding edge.
"You only end up getting six offensive rebounds on the night when you shoot 38 percent," coach Phil Jackson said. "That's not supposed to be like that. You're supposed to have numbers of second opportunity chances. So we're going to have to work on where we're getting our shots from."
Kobe Bryant was 5 of 20 from the field and scored 18 points, two nights after finishing with 19 against Denver. Bryant, who aggravated a groin injury against the Rockets but is set to play Tuesday, hasn't been held under 20 in three straight games since April 2-7, 2005.
"I've felt better,'' Bryant said, adding he was "mortified" at the past two losses. "It'll be all right. I've been nursing it, kind of playing through it. ... You know I don't make excuses.''
The Lakers have not lost three in a row since Jan. 23-27, 2008, shortly before Pau Gasol - out with a strained right hamstring - was acquired from Memphis.
"Defensively, we need to step it up,'' said center Andrew Bynum, averaging 20.8 points and 11.8 rebounds. "That's what we're lacking right now. We got guards trying to box out bigs. Bigs trying to box out guards. We're all over the place right now.''
While Bryant tries to end his shooting slump - he hit 32.4 percent over his last two games after making 56.9 percent in his previous four - Detroit's Ben Gordon is coming off a far worse performance.
The Pistons led Dallas by six at halftime Sunday but lost 95-90 as Gordon missed 15 of 16 shots, the last a potential tying 3-pointer with two seconds left.
"I was getting great looks at the basket, but I could never get myself into any kind of rhythm,'' Gordon said. "I was getting open, and I can't start turning down shots, but nothing felt good and nothing looked good.''
Gordon has been the primary option with Richard Hamilton (ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (back) out, and Rodney Stuckey left late in the fourth quarter Sunday with an ankle injury after scoring a season-high 28 points.
Stuckey said he is "good to go" Tuesday, and will try to improve upon his 5.0-point average against Los Angeles last season.
The teams split their two meetings in '08-'09, with Detroit handing the Lakers their first loss, 106-95 at Staples Center on Nov. 14.
Bryant averaged 25.4 points in his last five home games against the Pistons, who won three of those matchups.
Copyright 2009 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited
Kobe Bryant (strained right groin) is probable.
Luke Walton (sore back) is out.
Pau Gasol (right hamstring strain) is doubtful.
Richard Hamilton (sprained right ankle) is out.
Tayshaun Prince (small ruptured disc – lower back) is out.
SEASON & SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers split last season’s series with Detroit 1-1 for the second consecutive year. This will be the 199th meeting between the Pistons and Lakers with Los Angeles holding a 129-69 advantage. The Lakers are 3-7 in their last 10 overall contests with Detroit. At home, the Lakers are 7-3 all-time against the Pistons at STAPLES Center. In Detroit, however, the Lakers are just 4-6 in their last 10 overall games and 1-6 in their last seven trips to the Palace of Auburn Hills, snapping a six-game losing streak with a 92-77 victory 3/26/09 last season. Prior to the six-game losing streak, the Lakers had won nine straight regular season games in Detroit from 1993-2002. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 11-7 against Detroit (1-4 in the postseason). In 23 career games including 19 starts against the Pistons, Kobe Bryant is averaging 22.8 points with a personal high of 40 established March 4, 2006 at STAPLES Center. On 2/8/07, the Lakers were held to a series low 78 points in Detroit, breaking the old mark of 81 points established 2/10/05 at Detroit. The Lakers and Pistons have met five times in the postseason since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles, six including their time in Minneapolis, with the Lakers going 4-2 in those meetings but just 1-2 in NBA Finals. Piston’s center Kwame Brown played 136 games for the Lakers from 2005-08, averaging 7.4 points and 6.2 rebounds during that span. His last game as a Laker was against the Pistons before being included in a trade that brought Pau Gasol from Memphis to the Lakers. Piston’s guard Chucky Atkins played one season with the Lakers (2004-05), averaging 13.6 points and 4.4 assists in 82 games while shooting .387 (176-455) from behind the 3-point line. Piston’s forward Tayshaun Prince (Dominguez HS) played high school basketball locally in the Los Angeles area while forward Chris Wilcox was teammates on the Clippers with Lamar Odom back in 2002-03.
THIRD TIME’S A CHARM
With back-to-back losses at Denver and home against Houston, the Lakers are in the midst of the FIRST two-game losing streak of the season. Last season, the Lakers suffered just FOUR two-game losing streaks all season, a mark which was historically good. According to Philadelphia 76ers stats guru Harvey Pollack, no team has gone through a season without a single two-game losing streak; six teams have had just one two-game skid, 13 teams (including the 1949-50 and 1986-87 Lakers) have had two two-game losing streaks, 11 (including the 1971-72, 1989-90 and 1999-00 Lakers) have had three two-game streaks and five teams, including last season’s 2008-09 Lakers championship squad, went through a season with four two-game losing streaks total.
Since the acquisition of Pau Gasol on February 1, 2008, however, the Lakers have yet to lose three consecutive games. Los Angeles has now lost two-straight games NINE times overall since acquiring Gasol (7 regular season, 2 playoff streaks). Of those nine two-game losing skids, the Lakers have played the third game of the streak without Gasol twice, snapping two-game losing streaks with victories 3/18/08 at Dallas and 3/30/08 vs. Washington in overtime. In games played without Gasol since he joined the Lakers, Los Angeles is 14-7 overall (6-4 in 2007-08, 1-0 in 2008-09 and 7-3 in 2009-10). The Lakers last three-game losing streak came just a week before the trade, with consecutive losses at San Antonio, at Dallas and vs. Cleveland from 1/23/08 through 1/27/08.
BYNUM’S STRONG START
Entering the season with 44 career double-doubles and 13 career 20+ point games, Andrew Bynum has already posted SEVEN double-doubles and FIVE 20+ points games in the eight games he has played this season. Among the top 10 league leaders in double-doubles, Bynum, who currently ranks 2nd league-wide behind Chris Bosh (8), has played the fewest games. Additionally, with his current averages of 20.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.88 blocks over 39.4 minutes, Bynum ranks 4th league-wide in efficiency with a 27.0 rating, trailing only Bosh (29.9), LeBron James (29.7) and Chris Paul (29.3). NBA.com evaluates all players based on the efficiency formula: ((Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) - ((Field Goals Att. - Field Goals Made) + (Free Throws Att. - Free Throws Made) + Turnovers)).
JACKSON TIED WITH LARRY BROWN FOR 5th ON THE ALL-TIME COACHING VICTORIES LIST
A season after earning his record 10th NBA Championship as a head coach, Phil Jackson (1,048-438) tied Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown (1,048-852) for 5th on the NBA’s all-time coaching win list with a victory over the Phoenix Suns on November 12th. The only coach in league history to win better than 70 percent of his games (.705), Jackson ranks 12th in all-time regular season games coached and 1st in playoff games coached (300), won (209) and playoff winning percentage (.697). Last season, Jackson became the fastest coach in NBA history to reach 1,000 career victories, needing 1,423 games to reach the mark. Earning induction in his first year of consideration, on September 7, 2007, Jackson was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Only Jerry Sloan (4th), Pat Riley (3rd), Don Nelson (2nd) and Lenny Wilkens (1st) have more career victories than Brown and Jackson while of the top six, Jackson has coached 1,000+ fewer games than Wilkens, 800+ fewer games than Nelson, nearly 500 fewer games than Riley and roughly 400 fewer games than Sloan and Brown.
BRYANT OVERTAKES IVERSON ON NBA’S ALL-TIME SCORING LIST
With 41 points November 6th against the Grizzlies, Kobe Bryant moved ahead of Memphis’ Allen Iverson (24,020) for 16th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Last season, Bryant (24,121) moved to 17th on the list with his first two free throws on April 10th at Portland, passing Charles Barkley (23,757). In all last season, Bryant passed Robert Parish (23,334) for 18th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, Adrian Dantley (23,177) for 19th, Elgin Baylor (23,149) for 20th, Clyde Drexler (22,195) for 21st, Gary Payton (21,813) for 22nd and Larry Bird (21,791) for 23rd. Additionally, in passing Baylor, now only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (24,176) and Jerry West (25,192 points) have scored more points with the Lakers than Bryant. Next on the NBA’s all-time list ahead of Bryant and Iverson are Patrick Ewing (24,815) and Jerry West (25,192).
This season, the Lakers are 2-0 in the first game and 1-1 in the second game of back-to-backs. On the year, the Lakers will play 20 sets of back-to-back games, the most the team has played in a single season since playing 22 sets of back-to-backs during the 1999-00 campaign. Last year, the Lakers played 19 sets of back-to-backs, going 14-5 in the first game and 14-5 in the second as well. Charlotte, Detroit and Milwaukee lead the league with 23 back-to-backs each in 2009-10 while New Orleans (15) and San Antonio (17) will play the fewest sets this season.
With their 104-88 victory over New Orleans November 8th, the Lakers posted their FIRST wire-to-wire victory of the season. Last season, the Lakers claimed nine wire-to- wire victories (games in which they never trailed) during the regular season, tied for 3rd most in the league (Phoenix) behind Cleveland (14) and Orlando (13). The Lakers also won in wire-to-wire fashion twice during the 2009 Playoffs (4/29 vs. Utah and 5/17 vs. Houston). Additionally, the Lakers were one of only two teams last season (Cleveland) to never lose in wire-to-wire fashion during the regular season. In the playoffs, however, the Lakers played two games in which they never led, falling twice to Houston in the Conference Semifinals (5/10/09 at HOU and 5/14/09 at HOU). In the regular season, the Lakers have not lost in wire-to-wire fashion since 1/17/08 vs. PHX.
VUJACIC COMPLETES 6TH FOUR-POINT PLAY OF CAREER, 28th IN FRANCHISE HISTORY
In the fourth quarter of the Lakers November 8th victory over New Orleans, Sasha Vujacic converted the 28th four-point play in Lakers franchise history (regular season and playoffs included). With his three-pointer and free throw, Vujacic is now responsible for six of the team’s 23 regular season four-point plays and 28 overall. Kobe Bryant owns the most four-point plays in team history with 10 overall (7 regular season, 3 postseason), followed by Vujacic (6), Derek Fisher (5) and Eddie Jones (2).