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Game 2 Preview — Your LakerLinks...

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I didn't see the morning bullets today, so here are some links & leads for purple-friendly previews of tonight's Game 2 at Staples:

(1)

Game Lakers Face a Character Game: They need to play more like the team that won 65 games in the regular season if they are to avoid an 0-2 deficit against the Rockets

by Broderick Turner, LA Times

No, "the sky is not falling on the Lakers," as Coach Phil Jackson admonished the media after practice Tuesday.

But in the eyes of Lakers Nation, these are gloomy days.

The Lakers' faithful reached the stage of despondency after just one loss, after the Houston Rockets defeated their beloved team in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Monday night at Staples Center, taking home-court advantage in the process.

The Lakers were not the same team that had the second-best record in the NBA at 65-17 and that many picked to win the championship.

"We were totally out of character last night as to who we were as a basketball team," Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons said Tuesday.

The Lakers must get back in character tonight in Game 2 at Staples Center or risk going down 0-2 in the best-of-seven series. Among the things they must improve:

Better one-on-one defense

The Lakers allowed too much penetration, particularly to super-quick point guard Aaron Brooks, who got into the teeth of the defense time and time again. * * *

Pressure the basketball

The Lakers had 11 steals and four blocked shots, but they need more deflections. * * *

Hustle plays

The Lakers outrebounded the Rockets, 39-35, but they didn't get to enough loose balls.

Offensive execution

The Lakers' offense looked out of sync. They must play together and pass the ball better.

Control the tempo

The Lakers don't want to play race-horse basketball. But if the score is in the low 80s or 90s, that's a better tempo for the Rockets. * * *

(More stuff after the jump...)

Click each headlines to jump to the full story...

(2)

Lakers are Talking Tough, At Least

by Mike Bresnahan, LA Times

Suddenly, the preamble to Game 2 of an allegedly innocuous playoff series sounded like the day before Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

The rhetoric was flying after Tuesday's practice, the Lakers' words trying to catch up to the play of the Houston Rockets the previous night.

Coach Phil Jackson was irritated at practice, cracking the verbal whip, according to those who took part in the closed session.

Then Kobe Bryant, who had 32 points on 31 shots in Game 1, practically said the Lakers' 100-92 home loss was a good thing, saying his teammates were a "little edgy" and that he was "more than anxious" to see their response tonight in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Indeed, one loss was all it took to make the first week of May feel like the second week of June.

"I think last year we had a cakewalk to the NBA Finals. It feels good to be tested a little bit," Bryant said. "If you're going to be a champion, you've got to be tested, you've got to answer those bells, you've got to answer the call."  * * *

 

(3)

For Lakers, Uncertainty is a Good Thing

by Kevin Ding, Orange County Register

EL SEGUNDO - If you get a little nervous before any event in life, it's a good thing. It's a sign that the event about to come really matters to you.

And right about now, a lot of Lakers fans are a little nervous. A few of the players, too.

That's good stuff, because a little tension makes for a lot of excitement. * * *

Climbing to the true top usually has some bark and some bite - just ask the Celtics, who slogged through last postseason by starting out an unseemly 9-7. Even if the Lakers did blow away the Western Conference field in the regular season, it's not surprising that a surprise or two would occur at some point now.

And a little surprise is part of the intrigue, a prelude to the better team ultimately prevailing. The Lakers remain the better team in this series and the next, for sure, but we knew going into the postseason that the Lakers weren't a dominant defensive team - so there would be games in which they struggled.

There's a reason why Jackson is currently wearing his 2000 NBA championship ring - the first won he won in Los Angeles. Winning the 2009 NBA championship would mark a new first for him and the Lakers. Just as was the case with that 2000 team, it isn't clear that these Lakers are completely ready to reach the true top.

So it's logical and meaningful that they have they face a clear challenge in Game 2 tonight.

"We should be very, very hungry and very aggressive," Pau Gasol said. * * *

 

(4)

Houston at Los Angeles

by Beth Harris, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES. - The Lakers were abject failures in their Western Conference semifinal opener against the Houston Rockets. It was hard to tell, though, by Kobe Bryant's downright cheerful attitude Tuesday.

"We played really bad," he said of the 100-92 loss in which the Lakers shot 44 percent from the floor, were 2-of-18 from 3-point range, and 12-of-19 from the line.

Sensing panic in the streets among Laker fans, Bryant offered up some calming words.

"It's not like it's the end of the world," he said. "We're not the first team ever to lose a Game 1 at home, it's just here in Los Angeles, people get pretty nervous."

Bryant isn't among them. * * *

 

(5)

Walton Says He's Ready to Go

By Ramona Shelburne, LA Daily News/Inside the Lakers

Luke Walton spent about a half hour after practice putting himself through a grueling workout to make sure he really was ready to return to action after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.

Afterwards, he said he would play in Game 2 tommorrow night against the Rockets.

"It's good enough to play,'' he said. "It felt good in practice today.''

Luke said it was tortuous to be in street clothes last night as the Lakers dropped Game 1 of the series 100-92, especially since his ability to move the ball was one of the things the Lakers were sorely lacking.

"It was really hard to watch. It's always hard to sit out, then you make it a playoff game and your team loses, and it's really really tough. * * *

 

(6)

Los Angeles Lakers Postseason Statistics - 2008-09

 

Amuse yourself with the crunchy numbers from ESPN at this link.

 

(7)

Kobe Bryant, like Frankie, says relax

by Andrew and Brian Kamenetzky, LA Times Lakers Blog

On the one hand, most of us understand intellectually that championship seasons are often forged out of pain, hardship, and adversity. LA's title runs in 2000 and 2002, for example. Then again, there's a certain charm, at least as it relates to the management of blood pressure issues, in the 2001 run, where the Lakers lost only once en route to the parade and fans had to sweat the outcome about as much as that first scene in an action movie when the title character looks to be in quite a pickle.

Really, are they gonna kill him off nine minutes after the opening credits?

After losing Game 1 Monday night, the Lakers find themselves in a position rarely seen over the course of this season: Behind in something that right and truly matters. Still, while the numbers for opening game losers aren't nearly as rosy, the Lakers aren't going to panic. Instead, after a intense-for-the-time-of-year practice Monday in El Segundo, Kobe Bryant (2008 MVP, All Star, seller of shoes and high end watches, Fathead) told the media he's excited for the challenge of playing from behind against a hard-nosed, muck the waters Houston squad. * * *

 

The bottom line:

1. It was only one game. One loss. Lakers have the better team and Game 1 is indicative of nothing.

2. Lakers are focused now. Prepare to feel the wrath, Rockets...

3. There are potholes on the road to the NBA Championship, which we are traveling. No worries.