04/04/2011 - 13:25
Time to Start Another Streak
Lamar Odom and the Lakers continued their assault on the NBA's top spot this weekend.
LA pulled within a game-and-a-half of the top-seeded Spurs on Friday with a win over the Utah Jazz. However, after falling on Sunday afternoon to the Denver Nuggets, the Lakers now sit 2.5 back of the San Antonio Spurts with just six games to play.
But LO isn't concerning himself with where the Lakers wind up, just so long as they're playing at their highest level when they enter the NBA's second season:
"It really doesn't matter, you want to play your best basketball," LO told ESPN's Arash Markazi. "Who you meet and when you meet in the playoffs, I think that's what scared teams do by positioning themselves. We're not going to run from a team not to finish first. That's what this is all about."
According to No. 7 it isn't really an issue if Los Angeles secured home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Whatever the road they have to travel, they'll take it, he said.
"When you look up at the banners, we don't put division titles up or things like that up, our goal is to be the best team and if we can finish as the beat team in the West, that's an accomplishment. We're not going to run from that," he said. "This is the time of year where we become a little bit more intense and pick up the focus and do our meditation and look to be the best."
The Lakers have been the league's best since the All-Star break, even with their loss to the Nuggets on Sunday, just their second defeat in 19 games.
THE FLU GAME
Los Angeles extended their post All-Star break record to 17-1, beating the Utah Jazz 96-85 in Salt Lake City on Friday.
With 16 points and seven boards, Lamar was one of the Lakers' top performers on the evening and he did it, ESPN LA's Dave McMenamin reported, while battling the stomach flu:
Lamar Odom is usually a 6-10 bundle of energy before a game.
Sometimes he'll get in an extra couple sets of push-ups and sit-ups right before tip-off.
Other times he'll work the room, talking to teammates and reporters about what's going on in the world of sports on that particular day.
Then there are the days he'll rifle through a bag of candy to get that last sugar rush before taking the court.
Before the game Friday in Utah however, Odom just sat slumped in his chair leaning his head against his locker. He barely moved other than to shuffle to the bathroom. He hardly spoke and with baseball's opening day just passed and his Yankees starting with a win there was plenty to talk about. He didn't dare eat and instead gingerly took sips from a cup of water.
When the game started he had to run back to the locker room twice more before he checked in for the first time.
"I was back there throwing up. I don't know if it was what I ate, or what," revealed Odom after the game. He was officially listed with gastroenteritis (stomach flu), yet played through it. "Guys like Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol, these guys are great and they don't miss games if they're hurt, tired [or] sick. You learn from their greatness. It rubs off on you."
Once he finally did check in, No. 7 put it all aside and pieced together a strong second quarter. He scored six of the Lakers' 20 second quarter points, but LA trailed by six heading into the locker room. LO chalked the Lakers' slow start up to a late arrival in Utah.
"By the time we got to bed it was 4 or 5 in the morning for some of us; we started off slow," he said. "Coming into the half we wanted to cut it to 10 and we were able to cut it to six. We kind of put ourselves into a position where we wanted to be and did all the small things in the second half to come back and cut into that lead."
LA grabbed the lead in the third and for the second straight game, No. 7 came on strong at the end of the third, sinking a three-pointer as time expired. He added a second triple early in the fourth.
"He gave us everything he's got as usual, but more credit to him for not feeling well [and playing]," teammate Pau Gasol said. "Throwing up is not something easy to deal with when you have to play an NBA game, but he played really well."
No. 7's six-point swing increased the Laker lead to twelve and LA coasted the rest of the way to a road victory.
"Just for my own competitive drive, I wanted to at least give it a shot," LO said of playing sick. "I don't feel too well. People can appreciate that you gave it a shot. You let your instincts take over."
Lamar claimed to feel better on Sunday and let his play prove it.
Los Angeles got another stout showing from No. 7, who nearly matched his Friday stats. But the Lakers couldn't defeat the league's other hot team, the Denver Nuggets.
The Package scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and even got into the passing act, recording five assists.
His dimes went to four different players. Two came on back-to-back possessions to open the fourth quarter. That immediately followed LO's strongest frame of the game as he put in nine points in the third.
The Nuggets, however were able to hold on late for a 95-90 win.
OWN WORST CRITIC
Though the Nuggets ended the game five points up, LO felt the game swung moments earlier on a Kenyon Martin basket that turned the game into a two-possession affair with 11 seconds to play.
LO thought he could have boxed out better, a situation that reminded him of a late loss to the Spurs earlier this year.
"That's twice this year," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I was so mad at myself because the same thing happened against San Antonio and we lost the game like that. It was anyone's game to take and that's why they took the game."
Brian Kamenetzky of ESPN LA said LO taking accountability for the play, one on which he was clearly fouled, was one of the highlights of the day:
"No question, Kenyon Martin pushed through Lamar Odom to gain a critical ORB and putback in the final seconds, essentially icing the game for Denver. To his credit, Odom refused to complain, instead pointing the finger back at himself and his teammates.
"We had a chance to get back in the game. Me and Ron have been playing basketball all of our life -- we didn't communicate on that. We're supposed to squeeze him. Me and Ron, we've been playing ball so long we're supposed to communicate, squeeze him, and have a chance to take the game into overtime."
But Martin did put his hands in your back, right?
"I'm not going to expect the ref to make a call right there," Odom said.
Bryant agreed, calling the play a "no call."
Not that I expected anything else, but it's nice to see the Lakers looking past opportunities to make excuses."
LA coach Phil Jackson, though, had no problem standing up for his player, who he felt got a raw deal:
"That's a foul," said Jackson. "He just steamrolled Lamar underneath. But, it wasn't called and that's the way the game was being played today."
Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook broke down the play and gave a few reasons why LO wasn't really the one to blame. The first being the foul and the second being Artest's failure to provide the pinch.
"Before I get any further, lets get something out of the way, this was a foul on Kenyon Martin. He basically bullies Lamar Odom under the rim where he is allowed to tap in the basketball, but that isn't what we are concerned with right now. We aren't concerned with that because the Lakers, Ron Artest in particular, makes a key mistake here that allows Martin to get in position for the offensive rebound."
Pruiti notes that Artest ends up boxing out air:
"With Artest not helping out on the box-out, it allows Martin to basically bully Odom under the rim, putting himself in position to get the offensive rebound. With Martin on his back, Odom is unable to jump up and try to get the rebound. This allows Martin to be the quickest to the basketball, where he can tap home the offensive rebound."
But LO wasn't trying to dwell on the logistics of it afterward:
"It's time to start another streak," he said.
The Lakers get to see the Jazz for the second time in three games, Tuesday night at the Staples Center.
Lamar is anxious to see how LA responds to their loss.
"You're only as good as your last game," he said. "The thing about our team is we know we can play better. We'll just keep trying to push. We're looking for perfection. Whether it's defensive assignments, missed free throws or [falling behind], we don't want to do that. We want to play the perfect game."
The game tips off at 7:30 and is being broadcast on Fox West and NBA TV.
- Fatigue sets in, Lakers unconcerned (ESPN.com, April 3, 2011)
- Lakers forward Lamar Odom isn't happy with his boxing skills (LA Times, April 4, 2011)
- Least consequential loss of Lakers' season (OC Register, April 4, 2011)
- Lakers hit right not after slow first half, get past Utah (LA Daily News, April 2, 2011)
- Odom upchucks, upends Utah (ESPN LA, April 2, 2011)
- Lakers Gameday: Nuggets (Lakers.com, April 1, 2011)
- Would the Lakers be better off as the No. 2 seed (LA Times, April 2, 2011)
- Nuggets 95, Lakers 90 – at the buzzer (ESPN LA, April 3, 2011)
- Denver tip-in leaves LA ticked off (ESPN LA, April 3, 2011)
- Lakers don't get the pinch (NBA Playbook, April 4, 2011)
- Lakers lack proper energy and execution (LA Times, April 3, 2011)