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Phil Jackson Says Lakers Don’t Play Well in the Morning

The Lakers were surprised at home losing 109-100 Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Hornets. After the game, Lakers coach Phil Jackson explained some of the team’s problems, noting two things: one, they didn’t have the proper effort and weren’t ready for the game, and two, that the team doesn’t play well in the mornings.

Responding to a question about the Lakers having a lot of rest before their first playoff game, Jackson went off on a tangent about the start time for the game. “We haven’t really been very good in mornings, morning games” Jackson interrupted. “We have not been. We just haven’t. Our guys really haven’t been sharp all year. We really tried to get them going today a couple of hours early to the arena so they’d be ready to go. We really weren’t animated and agressive. I think Ron was probably the best player we had out there today. Ron was keyed and ready to go and played well.”

Given that Phil referenced the Lakers not being ready for the game throughout his press conference, it sure seems like the biggest problem to him was the start time. Phil’s teams don’t often lose the first game of a playoff series, so for his team not to be ready was a surprise.

The good news for the Lakers is that the next three games in the series are night time. If you’re the type of person who is leery of conspiracy theories in the NBA, keep your eye on the start times for the TBA games the Lakers have. If you start seeing late games on the weekends for them, it’s a good reason to believe the league office is listening to Jackson.

Can Lakers Finish First in West, NBA?

The San Antonio Spurs must be nervously checking their rear view mirrors like a speeding driver looking out for the Highway Patrol.

If you’re a Spurs fan, let me save you the double-take; the purple and gold lights are flashing and the Lakers sirens are blaring. The Los Angeles Lakers are right behind you with those obnoxious playoff flags slapping in the wind and Jack Nicholson is on the bullhorn, yelling “PULL OVER”.

As a Spurs fan, you’re probably getting that sinking feeling in your stomach right about now as your heart starts racing and your brain starts thinking a million thoughts. “If we had just won that one game … how did this happen … I didn’t even see them coming … can we still talk our way out of this? … do you think Kobe Bryant takes bribes? …”.

I know what it’s like — the Lakers passed up my Boston Celtics team bus a few miles back while we were stuck on the side of the road with a flat Rondo.  No one thought it was possible for the Lakers to surpass the Spurs a few weeks ago after they stumbled into All-Star Weekend. Now, they are just two and a half games out of first in the West. That’s what happens when you go 16-1 and the team in front of you falters to an 11-8 record in the same timespan.  Gone now are the worries about home court vs. the Spurs and the Celtics. What’s replaced them is more than hope; it’s a real tangible chance for Lakers to clinch the top seed overall and secure home court through the NBA Finals.

So, for those wondering, can the Lakers actually do what seemed impossible just a month ago? Here’s what each team has left on their remaining schedules:

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Steve Blake and Jason Terry Fight After Push, Matt Barnes Goes Nuts

The Lakers-Mavericks game got a playoff feeling to it on Thursday night at Staples Center when the teams had a skirmish in the fourth quarter. It all started with a shove by Jason Terry on Steve Blake that started a mini-fight, resulting in Matt Barnes getting angry with Mavericks assistant coach Terry Stotts, and a partially naked woman getting escorted out for attempting to rush the court. Here’s a video of the Lakers-Mavericks fight sparked by Terry’s cheap shot:

Terry, Blake, Barnes and Brendan Haywood were all ejected immediately, while Shannon Brown later got tossed for shoving Brian Cardinal. The best reaction of all came from Phil Jackson who said “There was no fight. They were two cock-roosters bumping chests. Just some pushing and shoving going on.” Classic. Leave it to Phil to keep everything in perspective, right?

Of course he’s not worried — his team has won eight in a row and is closing in on the Spurs for the top spot in the West. The way they’ve been playing, it’s hard to figure they won’t take the top spot before the regular season ends.

Kobe Bryant and the Duality of Basketball

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the story of Kobe’s late-night shoot around after the Lakers lost to the Heat. You couldn’t have possibly missed the tweets, the pictures, videos or the chatter. It even received 24/7 news coverage from ESPN, from Stuart Scott’s endorsement to ticker headliners and all the PR spin they could pack in between. Kobe stole the show last night as his legend rose from the ashes of defeat to drown out the shine of Miami’s feeble flame. This isn’t about the loss or extra practice or how Kobe is as hard on himself as his critics; this was Kobe embracing the opportunity to win the other game of basketball.

Kobe went ballistic to start the Miami game, hitting his first four shots. That was both a gift and a curse. L.A. raced out to an early lead but Kobe had flicked on his mental green light. This game was about to turn into the bar scene from Desperado and Kobe was carrying the leaded guitar case.

Only, he was shooting blanks.

Kobe finished out the game with 24 points on 8 of 21 shooting. He managed to score just six points in the final five minutes on 2 for 6 shooting to “klose” out the game. Every single one of his shots long and difficult threes, most of them coming much too early in the shot clock. A lot of the credit on Kobe’s misses has to be given to Dwyane Wade for his masterful defense, but Kobe was stuck in hero mode and was determined to go down shooting. When he finally did drive, he tried to force the issue, going 1-on-2 against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The result? Two turnovers.

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Lakers’ Win Over Spurs Highlights San Antonio’s Weakness Inside

The San Antonio Spurs have the best record in the NBA at 51-12 and a stellar .810 winning percentage. They have a five and a half game lead over the Mavericks for the best record in the West, and they have five more wins than the Eastern Conference leading Celtics. Despite their great regular season record, few people think they’ll win the NBA title. Even checking the NBA odds indicates that the Lakers, Celtics, and cry-baby Miami Heat have better odds to win it all. The reality is Sunday’s blowout loss to the Lakers highlighted San Antonio’s biggest weakness and the reason why few people are confident they can win it all.

Two days after embarrassing the Heat, the Spurs were thrashed by the Lakers 99-83. The Lakers got up by 21 after the first quarter, and they were up by 28 at the half. They were dominating inside both offensively and defensively. Andrew Bynum grabbed 17 rebounds in only 22 minutes and had three blocks, exploiting San Antonio’s lack of size.

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Lakers, and Justin Bieber, Get Their Championship Rings (Pictures)

The Lakers got to celebrate their 16th championship in franchise history with their ring and banner ceremony on Tuesday night. We already told you about the sweet warm up jackets they had on, but what about their sick rings:

Yeah, Justin Bieber somehow managed to slip on Phil Jackson’s ring after Jeannie Buss convinced him. You want details? Fine. I drive a Ferrari, 355 Cabriolet, what’s up? I have a ridiculous house in the South Fork. Wait, wrong movie. Oh yeah, you want details? How about this from the Lakers’ official site:

> Each ring is adorned with a piece of the actual ball used in Game 7 of the Finals
> 16 over-sized round brilliant white diamonds for the franchise’s 16 titles
> Each player is immortalized with a 3D sculpture of their face on their respective rings
> The final score of the Lakers 83-79 Game 7 win is on the side of the ring in scoreboard fashion

What they call rings I call SI’s NBA championship commemorative pack all on your finger. How the heck is someone every supposed to wear something so elaborate? At least Ron Artest should get serious money for his.

Lakers Debut Championship Warm Up Jackets During Ring Ceremony

The Los Angeles Lakers had their championship banner and ring ceremony as their season debut took place on Tuesday night at Staples Center. Each player had a turn with the microphone, said a word, and then passed it along to the next guy. Commissioner David Stern was on hand to present each player with his championship ring, and when they all said a word the team’s banner was unveiled.

The best part of the whole ceremony were the sick warm up jackets the Lakers were wearing. They were special championship jackets that had all 16 banners on the back (one for each LA banner, and one banner for the five earned as the Minneapolis). Check out these badboys that are available at the NBA Store:

The jackets go for $125 but those look to be a must-have if you’re a Lakers fan. Luckily I won’t have to worry about it, but that’s definitely one sweet piece of swag.