SEASON& SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers took last season's series with Phoenix 3-1, marking the 3rd consecutive season the Lakers have won their season series with the Suns by a 3-1 margin. The Lakers series victory in 2007-08 that started this current run snapped a run of three consecutive losing seasons to the Suns from 2004-07. This will be the 214th meeting between the two teams with the Lakers leading the all-time series 125-88. The Lakers are 16-6 against the Suns all-time at STAPLES Center during the regular season and 7-3 in their last 10 regular season home games against Phoenix. On the road, the Lakers have gone 4-6 in their last 10 regular season visits to Phoenix but are 4-2 in their last six regular season games at US Airways Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 26-14 against the Suns during the regular season. In 49 career games against the Suns including 42 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 25.8 points. In February of 2009, Bryant shared MVP honors with then Sun Shaquille O'Neal at the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix. Additionally, during the 2008-09 season, the Lakers defeated the Suns by 26 points 2/26/09 at STAPLES Center. The 26-point margin of victory was the Lakers largest over the Suns since January 4, 2002 when Los Angeles defeated Phoenix 118-86 at STAPLES Center. Suns guard Jason Richardson and forward Jared Dudley were teammates in Charlotte with Shannon Brown while Lakers forward Luke Walton and Suns center Channing Frye were teammates at Arizona for two seasons (2001-02, 2002-03). Also, Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright won three championships as a center for Phil Jackson's Bulls from 1990-92 and served as an assistant coach under Jackson from 1996-98 when the Bulls won their final two championships of the 90's.
Since moving to Los Angeles prior to the 1960-61 season, the Lakers are 34-16 in ROAD OPENERS (first road game of the year) after last season's November 3rd victory in Oklahoma City. In their last 14 road openers, the Lakers are 12-2 and have won their last five straight overall. While the Lakers have opened their home schedule against the Suns six times (three meetings on opening night) and gone 3-3 in those games, they have only opened their road schedule twice against Phoenix. On both occasions, the Lakers defeated the Suns: 103-99 11/1/03 at America West Arena and 119-98 11/2/07 at US Airways Center.
JACKSON ONE WIN SHY OF 1,100 FOR CAREER
With the Lakers victory over Houston on opening night, Phil Jackson moved within ONE victory of 1,100 for his career. Jackson (1,099-460), who has now coached 1,559 regular season NBA games, is on pace to become the fastest coach in NBA history to the 1,100 victory plateau. Of the four other coaches who have amassed at least 1,100 career victories, Pat Riley was the fastest to do so, needing 1,639 games. Of the remaining three, Jerry Sloan needed 1,823 games, Don Nelson took 1,931 games and Lenny Wilkens earned career win 1,100 in his 1,996th game on the sidelines.
Jackson, already the fastest coach to 1,000 career victories, established the Lakers franchise record for coaching wins in February of 2010 (534th victory 2/3/10 vs. Charlotte). The only coach in league history to win better than 70 percent of his games (.705), Jackson currently ranks 5th all-time in regular season victories, 12th in regular season games coached, 1st in playoff games coached (323), 1st in playoff games won (225) and 1st in playoff win percentage (.697). Earning induction in his first year of consideration, on September 7, 2007, Jackson was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Owning a record 11 NBA Championships as a head coach, only Jerry Sloan (4th), Pat Riley (3rd), Lenny Wilkens (2nd) and Don Nelson (1st) have more career victories than Jackson. Of the top five, Jackson has coached 900+ fewer games than Wilkens, 800+ fewer games than Nelson, 400+ fewer games than Sloan and 300+ fewer games than Riley.
GASOL JOINS KAREEM, SHAQ & ODOM WITH OPENING NIGHT PERFORMANCE
In the Lakers opening night victory over Houston, Pau Gasol posted the 276th double-double of his career with 29 points and 11 rebounds. Since 1970-71 (the post-Wilt era in Los Angeles), only three other Lakers have had that many points and rebounds on opening night: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1976), Shaquille O'Neal (1999, 2000, 2001) and Lamar Odom (2006).
For the 18th time since moving to Los Angeles prior to the 1960-61 season, the Lakers opened the regular season at home. In those games, the Lakers now have a record of 14-4. Overall, Los Angeles has a mark of 36-15 in their 51 REGULAR SEASON openers. Including their time in Minneapolis, the Lakers are now 41-22 in season openers for an NBA-best .651 win percentage. The Lakers have now won three straight opening night games, 7-of-their-last-8 opening night games overall and are now 17-2 in their last 19 opening night games overall dating back to 1992.
In HOME OPENERS (first home game of the year), the Lakers are 34-17 since moving to Los Angeles, most recently defeating the Houston Rockets 112-110 at STAPLES Center 10/26/10. With their victory over Houston, the Lakers improved to 16-3 in their last 19 HOME openers overall.
HOW CHAMPIONS HAVE FARED THE NEXT SEASON
Since the NBA's inaugural season in 1946-47, 21 of 64 winners of the NBA Finals have followed their championship seasons by winning the NBA Finals. Among the other 43 teams, nine lost in the NBA Finals, 17 lost in the Conference Finals, 10 lost in the Conference Semifinals, five lost in the First Round and two failed to make the playoffs. Five teams have managed to defend their title two or more times consecutively, with Minneapolis winning three straight titles from 1952-54, Boston winning eight straight titles from 1959-66, Chicago winning three straight titles from 1991-93 and again from 1996-98 and the Lakers winning three straight titles from 2000-02.
THREE OR MORE CONSECUTIVE VISITS TO THE FINALS
Since the NBA's inaugural season in 1946-47, 12 teams have advanced to the NBA Finals three or more consecutive seasons with the Lakers doing so on six separate occasions (1952-54; 1968-70; 1982-85; 1987-89; 2000-02; 2008-10). The Lakers franchise record for consecutive Finals appearances is four, done so once from 1982-85. Among the other teams to advance to three or more consecutive Finals, only the Celtics did so more than three straight seasons (New York: 1951-53; Boston: 1958-66; Boston: 1984-87; Detroit: 1988-90; Chicago: 1990-92; Chicago: 1996-98).
BRYANT 5th ON NBA FRANCHISE CAREER POINTS LIST
With his 29th point February 1, 2010 at Memphis, Kobe Bryant surpassed Jerry West as the Lakers all-time leading scorer. Additionally, having scored all his points with the Lakers, Bryant moved to sixth on the NBA's franchise career points list. On February 24, 2010 at Dallas, Bryant moved past Reggie Miller (25,279) for 5th on this list. To date, only four players in league history have scored more points for a single franchise than Bryant.