Weak offense holding the Lakers back?

The Lakers are one of the NBA’s best defensive teams so far this season, but their offense is near the bottom of the league. It could explain why their 10-5 record to start the season could be considerably better.

After all, the Lakers are holding opponents to 89.4 points, the fifth-lowest mark in the league, on 40.9 percent shooting (third-lowest). Chicago has the league’s best defense, giving up 85.0 points, and Philadelphia is best at opponents’ shooting (40.6 percent).

Offensively, the Lakers are averaging 93.3 points, which is only 19th-best in the NBA, on 45.7 percent shooting. The Miami Heat, Thursday night’s opponents, are averaging a league-best 106.2 points on 48.7 percent shooting.

“We’re trying to find our way offensively,” coach Mike Brown said. “You can see in stretches where it is really discombobulated. The ball comes to a stop. I’d like to feel if we don’t score, we can still win games. Hopefully, our guys understand we can win with defense.”

The Lakers scored only seven points in the third quarter of their victory Monday over the Dallas Mavericks, one more than the franchise record for the fewest points in a quarter in the shot-clock era, set in 1977. They finished with 73 points, which is three more than the club record for the fewest points in a game, set in 2002.

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Olympic team will monitor Kobe Bryant’s health closely

Kobe Bryant was named today to the preliminary 20-man roster for the 2012 London Olympics, which wasn’t a surprise given his gold-medal performance with Team USA in 2008. U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo each talked about keeping tabs on Bryant’s health as the Games approach.

They want him healthy and contributing.

“I think Kobe really wants to be in London and depending on injury, that will be his choice, but it will have to be something very, very serious (to sideline him),” Krzyzewski said. “He has a number of years left, but I know he would want another Olympic championship. He’s about championships, and we need him … because of that mentality and being one of the leaders for our team.”

Said Colangelo: “He’s such a competitor, he’ll do anything to play and he wanted to take any role he was asked to play. So in this particular case, Kobe is going to keep us posted and we’ll watch him as closely as we can. We don’t want to put him in any jeopardy whatsoever, and we won’t.”

Bryant has been playing with a torn ligament in his right wrist. He also has had issues with his right knee, pinky, index finger and ring finger in recent seasons. He traveled to Germany during the offseason to have a procedure performed on his knee.

The final Olympic roster must be pared to 12 by June, or before the U.S. begins its training camp sometime after July 4. The Games will be held July 27-Aug. 12.

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Mike Brown wants NBA to look at Blake Griffin’s shove

An expanded version of tomorrow’s story today …

Lakers coach Mike Brown said today he wanted the NBA would take a closer look at Blake Griffin’s post-whistle shove to Darius Morris while the rookie guard was in midair late in the first quarter of the Lakers’ 102-94 loss Saturday to the Clippers.

Paul fouled Morris a nanosecond earlier, but Morris continued to the basket and dunked as Griffin shoved him. Brown went into a rage on the sideline and had to be restrained by his assistant coaches and drew a technical foul.

“Whether the shove was blatant and, boom, or was just a little shove, when a guy is in the air, that’s a dangerous play,” Brown said. “Nothing was called (on Griffin) and I wondered why. So I’m going to ask (the league) to review it mainly so I understand.”

Brown didn’t say he believed Griffin meant to harm Morris, but he said he was confused by the referees’ explanation of events.

“I would like to know the league’s ruling on that after they watch it on tape to see, so I have a better understanding,” he said. “What I was told, in a nutshell, is that its OK to push a guy in the air as long as he doesn’t get hurt, or it doesn’t look like he’s going to get hurt. So it’s a judgment call because the whistle clearly had been blown.”

Griffin upset the Lakers last season and during two exhibitions earlier this season because they believed he celebrates his dunks a little too excitedly and jumped on their backs while going after rebounds he clearly cannot get.

Griffin did not apologize for Saturday’s play.

“All last year, if I ever kept going after the whistle (stuff happened),” Griffin said when asked after the game about the shove on Morris. “I got told early in the season that was going to happen. It’s an unwritten rule. If you’re going after the whistle, be prepared.”

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Rookie Darius Morris only backup plan for Lakers

A sneak-peak at tomorrow’s story tonight …

With the veteran Steve Blake sidelined for up to a month because of a fracture of the cartilage where the ribs meet the sternum, Lakers coach Mike Brown planned to turn to the rookie Morris as a replacement. Brown said there was no Plan B.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in him until he screws up,” Brown said of Morris before the Lakers renewed their Hallway Series rivalry with the Clippers at Staples Center. “It’s probably just going to be Darius and Fish.”

Fish is Derek Fisher, the Lakers’ 37-year-old starting point guard. As Fisher’s backup, Blake is averaging 7.3 points and 2.8 assists in 12 games, tops among the Lakers’ substitutes. Fisher is averaging 24.8 minutes; Blake is averaging 24.3.

“He’s good enough to start for a lot of other teams,” Brown said of Blake. “There are times late in games when he’s on the floor with our first unit. I can go on and on about him. It’s a big blow for us. Another guy is going to step up to get it done.”

For now that guy is Morris, a Los Angeles native who was a standout at Windward High before playing two seasons at Michigan before the Lakers selected him in the second round (41st overall) of the NBA draft last June.

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Steve Blake out three to four weeks with rib injury

The Lakers’ second unit took a hit when the team announced during tonight’s 97-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers that backup point guard Steve Blake would be sidelined for about three to four weeks because of a costochaondral fracture.

In layman’s terms, he fractured the cartilage that connects the ribs to the sternum.

Blake was originally hurt in Tuesday victory over the Phoenix Suns and then he aggravated it in the second half of Wednesday’s victory over the Utah Jazz. He is averaging 7.3 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Playing without Blake and Metta World Peace, who had a sore back and Achilles’ tendon, the Lakers’ backups combined for only four points tonight. Rookie guard Darius Morris, who figures to fill in for Blake, had three points in only his second NBA game.

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Lakers’ Mike Brown has no hard feelings toward Cavs

A sneak-peak at tomorrow’s story …

Lakers coach Mike Brown did not leave two tickets for Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert tonight. “He’s got enough money to buy 2,000 or 20,000 let alone two,” he said. Gilbert fired Brown after the Cavs won 61 games in 2009-10.

The Lakers hired him to replace the retiring Phil Jackson last May.

Brown said he has no hard feelings toward his former employer.

“He gave me an opportunity,” he said. “He gave me an opportunity for five years. He did everything as a coach you hope an owner would do to help you have a chance to win. We just didn’t get it done. Sometimes it happens. It’s his team, his money.

“I’ve got a good life. I don’t think it would be right if I was upset or acted a different way with the type of money I’m making. There are a whole bunch of other people who are struggling and don’t make what I make and get fired every day.

“I’m blessed. I try to keep it in perspective.”

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Lakers’ Steve Blake has a fracture in rib area

Backup guard Steve Blake suffered a fracture of the cartilage that connects the rib to the sternum, an MRI exam today showed. He was hurt during the Lakers’ victory Tuesday over the Phoenix Suns and aggravated it during their overtime victory Wednesday over the Jazz in Utah. He left the game and was treated in the locker room, returning to watch the last few minutes of overtime from the bench.

The Lakers said Blake would be re-evaluated in the next few days. They list his status for Friday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers as day-to-day. Rookie Darius Morris could be used as a replacement for Blake. Morris had four points in his NBA debut Wednesday.

The team didn’t practice today and neither Blake nor coach Mike Brown was available for comment.

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Bryant, Bynum, Gasol lead Lakers to first road win

A sneak-peak at tomorrow’s game story tonight …

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson had the ball and the game in his hands with the final seconds ticking down in overtime Wednesday night in front of a raucous crowd at EnergySolutions Arena.

Then, suddenly, he didn’t.

Lakers center Andrew Bynum reached up and swatted away what could have been the game-winning layup in the closing seconds. The ball ended up in the eager hands of teammate Kobe Bryant, who was fouled with 0.7 seconds remaining.

Bryant sank two free throws at the other end of the court for the last of his team-leading 40 points in a nerve-jangling 90-87 victory for the Lakers over the Jazz, their first on the road in four tries and their fourth consecutive overall.

“I liked our perseverance,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “We found a way.”

When it seemed the Jazz might roll over the Lakers to start the 5-minute extra period and it looked as if a Bryant’s one-on-one play might prove costly instead of beneficial, things went in a very different direction in crunch time.

Bynum’s block was one of several monster plays.

Bryant made a 3-pointer after Paul Millsap gave Utah an 82-78 lead to start overtime with a breakaway layup and then a jump shot. Millsap seemed poised to simply bulldoze his way through the Lakers in overtime, but it never happened.

“He’s an athletic shooting guard in a power forward’s body,” Brown said of Millsap, who is listed at 6-foot-8 and 253 pounds. “I don’t know how you defend him. You try to stay in front of him and you hope he’ll miss. He’s unbelievable.”

Lakers power forward Pau Gasol sank a 3-pointer after Bryant drove into traffic and found him alone in the left corner. Gasol’s first 3 in his fifth attempt of the season gave the Lakers the lead for good at 86-85 with 2 minutes, 2 seconds remaining.

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Kobe Bryant scores 48 in Lakers’ victory

A sneak-peak at tomorrow’s game story …

His pinky is damaged. So is his forefinger. His wrist is missing a ligament.

Overall, his right hand looks bloated and misshapen. Lately, he’s been wearing something that looks like an oven mitt on his hand for off-court protection. Against all medical odds, everything seems to be functioning properly, however.
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Kobe Bryant can still put a basketball through a hoop.

Again and again and again, as he proved while dropping a cool 48 points on the helpless Phoenix Suns during the Lakers’ electric 99-83 victory tonight in front of a sellout crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center.

“If you open him up he might be a machine, I don’t know,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said after watching Bryant score 16 of the Lakers’ final 22 points during their third consecutive victory and their fourth in their last five games.

Bryant ignited a 16-1 closing run, scoring the Lakers’ final 10 points.

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Tryouts over, Matt Barnes is Lakers starter at small forward

Tomorrow’s story tonight …

Matt Barnes is one of the few Lakers who likes to run ahead of the pack with the ball in his hands. He’s also as grating as sandpaper when he’s playing defense. He’s gone from sitting on the bench to earning the starting small forward position.

The auditions ended tonight, coach Mike Brown said.

Devin Ebanks, a second-year player, started the Lakers’ first four games before Brown decided he might get better results with the veteran Barnes in the starting lineup and the inexperienced Ebanks sitting on the bench.

Metta World Peace started all 82 games when he was known as Ron Artest last season, but Brown wanted him to play an important new role as the leader of the second unit. So, the starting job went first to Ebanks and then to Barnes.

Brown said he was impressed enough by Barnes’ 16 points, plus six rebounds and five assists in the Lakers’ victory Friday over the Golden State Warriors to keep him in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Barnes then won over Brown by scoring 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds during the Lakers’ 90-82 victory over the Grizzlies at Staples Center. He also blocked three shots, including two in the fourth quarter.

“He’s my small forward for the foreseeable future,” Brown said. “He earned it. He’s held onto it and he’s played the right way for us at that position. … I thought Matt deserved to be out on the floor.

“Matt Barnes played a whale of a game on both ends of the floor. He’s playing within the system and it’s exciting to see a guy his size, with his athleticism, with his energy and his quickness play the game the right way. He had 15 (points) and 10 (rebounds), but the defensive intensity he brought to the table tonight (also) was good to see.”

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