SEASON& SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers lead the season series with Phoenix 2-1 with one game remaining after taking last season's series from the Suns 3-1. The Lakers have won three consecutive season series against the Suns overall, each by a 3-1 margin. This will be the 217th meeting between the two teams with the Lakers leading the all-time series 127-89. The Lakers are 16-7 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 6-4 in their last 10 regular season visits to Phoenix and are 6-2 in their last eight regular season games at US Airways Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 28-15 against the Suns during the regular season. In 52 career games against the Suns including 45 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 25.7 points. In February of 2009, Bryant shared MVP honors with then Sun Shaquille O'Neal at the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix. Bryant and Suns guard Steve Nash were both selected in the 1996 NBA Draft, Bryant going 13th overall to Charlotte and Nash two picks later to Phoenix. Derek Fisher was also in that draft, taken by the Lakers with the 24th overall pick. Suns forward Jared Dudley was teammates in Charlotte with Shannon Brown while Phoenix guard Aaron Brooks played the 2008-09 season in Houston alongside Ron Artest. Also, Lakers forward Luke Walton and Suns center Channing Frye were teammates at the University of Arizona for two seasons (2001-02, 2002-03). Lamar Odom played for current Suns head coach Alvin Gentry when he was head coach of the Clippers from 2000-03, Odom's second, third and fourth seasons in the NBA. 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.
LAKERS CLINCH PACIFIC DIVISION
With a victory over Portland March 20th, the Lakers clinched not only a playoff berth, but also their 22nd Pacific Division title (41st season in Division) as well as no worse than a #4 seed in the Western Conference for the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Teams 1 to 4 in each conference are the three division winners and the team with the next best regular-season record, with the seeding of these four teams determined by regular-season record. The playoff-seedings of teams 5 to 8 are based upon regular-season record. With the win, the Lakers became the 1st team in the West to clinch their division. The playoff berth also marks the Lakers 58th postseason appearance in 63 NBA seasons as well as their 30th playoff berth in 32 seasons since Dr. Jerry Buss purchased the team prior to the 1979-80 season. Last season, the Lakers clinched a playoff berth on March 19th with a victory over Minnesota and a Rockets loss to Boston but didn't clinch the Division until April 3rd.
50 WIN SEASONS
With their victory over Portland March 20, the Lakers reached the 50-win mark for the fourth consecutive season and 32nd time in franchise history (31st time since moving to Los Angeles prior to the 1960-61 season and the 29th time since the NBA adopted an 82-game schedule prior to the 1967-68 campaign). Since Dr. Jerry Buss took over the team prior to the 1979-80 season, the Lakers have posted 23 50+ win seasons. It is Phil Jackson's 17th 50-win season in 20 seasons as an NBA head coach.
JACKSON REACHES 600 WINS WITH LAKERS
With the Lakers win at Dallas on March 12th, Phil Jackson earned his 600th career regular season victory in Los Angeles. Jackson is now the fifth coach in NBA history to win at least 600 games with one franchise, joining Jerry Sloan (1,127 with Utah), Red Auerbach (795 with Boston), Gregg Popovich (792 with San Antonio) and Red Holzman (613 with New York). Including Jackson, only 22 coaches in NBA history have won 600 career regular season games, let alone with one franchise. Jackson, who established the Lakers franchise record for regular season coaching wins in February of 2010 (534th victory 2/3/10 vs. Charlotte), is the only coach in league history to win better than 70 percent of his games (1,148-480, .705). He currently ranks 5th all-time in regular season victories, 11th in regular season games coached, 1st in playoff games coached (323), 1st in playoff games won (225) and 1st in playoff win percentage (.697). The fastest coach to 1,100 victories, Jackson earned induction in his first year of consideration for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and was enshrined on September 7, 2007.
NO CHARITY FOR BYNUM
In the Lakers March 8th victory at Atlanta, Andrew Bynum posted 16 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots but despite that physical performance, did not attempt a free throw. In doing so, Bynum was the first Lakers' player in more than 25 years to register at least 15 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks in a regular-season or playoff game in which he did not go to the charity stripe. The last Laker to post a similar performance without going to the foul line was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game Two of the 1985 NBA Finals at Boston (30 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks in a 109-102 win).*
BRYANT PASSES MOSES MALONE FOR 6th ON NBA'S ALL-TIME SCORING LIST
Just over a week removed from passing Elvin Hayes (27,313) for 7th on the NBA's all-time scoring list 2/27 at Oklahoma City, Kobe Bryant passed Moses Malone (27,409) for 6th on the all-time list with a free throw in the second quarter of the Lakers 3/8 victory at Atlanta. Earlier this season, Bryant moved past Hall-of-Famers Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946) 1/28 vs. Sacramento, Oscar Robertson (26,710) 1/7 vs. New Orleans, Dominique Wilkins (26,668) 1/4 vs. Detroit and John Havlicek (26,395) 12/10 at Chicago on the all-time list. Next on the all-time list ahead of Bryant (27,519) are Shaquille O'Neal (5th/28,590), Wilt Chamberlain (4th/31,419), Michael Jordan (3rd/32,292), Karl Malone (2nd/36,928) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1st/38,387). Among the top six scorers in NBA history, five have worn the Lakers uniform.
Bryant has been steadily moving up the list over the past few years. Earlier this season, with 23 points at Chicago (12/10/10), he passed John Havlicek (26,395) for 11th. Last season, he passed Alex English (25,613), Reggie Miller (25,279), Jerry West (25,192), Patrick Ewing (24,815) and Allen Iverson (24,368). In passing West with a slam dunk at the 4:14 mark of the third quarter February 1, 2010 at Memphis, finishing the game with 44 points (West's retired number), Bryant became the leading scorer in Lakers franchise history. In 2008-09, Bryant passed Gary Payton (21,813) and Hall-of-Famers Charles Barkley (23,757), Robert Parish (23,334), Adrian Dantley (23,177), Elgin Baylor (23,149), Clyde Drexler (22,195) and Larry Bird (21,791).
RARE ONE-SIDED GAME IN SAN ANTONIO
In their victory over the Spurs on March 6th at AT&T Center, the Lakers closed out the first quarter with a 26-5 run to take a 34-13 lead en route to a 99-83 victory against San Antonio. This marked only the second time in the Spurs' 36 seasons in the NBA that they were outscored by more than 20 points in the first quarter of a home game. The first was a 122-117 overtime loss to the Rockets in January 1989. Additionally, the Lakers increased their lead to 28 at the half, the first time in which the Spurs have ever trailed by at least 28 points at the half at home in franchise history. The last time the Spurs were down by 28+ points at the half in any game was January 20, 1990 at Denver (Nuggets 69, Spurs 40).*
The Lakers also outscored the Spurs by 29 points with Tim Duncan on the floor, his worst plus/minus since posting a -29 against the Lakers on November 28, 2003. Duncan finished 1-for-7 from the field for the second time this season, the other coming 12/28 against the Lakers as well. Prior to this season, Duncan had only two home games in his entire career in which he had one field goal or less. (ESPN Stats & Information).
Kobe Bryant's 24 points in the Lakers victory over the Clippers (2/25) took him over the 1,500-point mark for the 11th consecutive season, marking the longest such streak by an NBA player since Karl Malone reached that milestone in 12 straight seasons (1986-87 to 1997-98).*