Chicago: The Lakers’ Kind of Town?

 —  December 1, 2004

When you and I watched last night’s Laker game, we saw Kobe’s great defense — and a breath-taking block in crunch time — and Brian Cook draining threes — including a key one late in the fourth quarter — and we rightly applauded a hard-fought road win.

When the Chicago Bulls coaches watch the tape, they will be thinking, “We need to run the pick and roll, they can’t stop this at all.” At least they should be, because Kirk Hinrich could eat is alive tonight if the Lakers look like they did last night.

How much energy the Lakers have left to jump out on and disrupt the pick and roll, and if Kobe has the energy left after shutting down Redd and repeat his performance from 10 days ago against the Bulls (29 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists) will determine if the Lakers can win back-to-back games on the road.

Look at the Bulls PER ratings and you see that they really get below-average offensive production across the board and are very vulnerable to teams with good point guards and power forwards (and small forwards to a lesser degree). Caron Bulter took the most advantage of that in the previous game, scoring 21. They have done a fairly good job against shooting guards this season, but Kobe may be the exception.

The guy who has stepped up for the Bulls is rookie Luol Deng, who is second on the team in Roland Rating (a measure of a player’s value to a team) and will take over the top spot before too long. Last time he had 21 points and is now getting more court time than he did then.

The big change for the Lakers this time around is Vlade is back and starting to play a little more, hopefully giving Odom some help inside and giving him the ability to take advantage of a Bulls weak defense against the four. Also, this is a game where Chucky Atkins can step up and take a big role in the offense.

Being the second night of a back-to-back, the Lakers need to get production out of their bench — last game against the Bulls the Lakers starers scored 94 points, the bench just 8. They also have to hit the boards again — last game the Lakers out rebounded the Bulls 52-33 (19 of those for the Lakers were on the offensive glass).

What the Lakers cannot do is let their tired legs have them settling for three pointers. Last night the Lakers were 10 of 26 from beyond the arc (38.5%), a respectable percentage. Problem is, if you take the hot-shooting Cook out of that equation and the Lakers are 5 for 20 (25%), which will not get it done. Plus, teams go cold from long distance — the Lakers were 1 of 8 on three pointers in the third quarter, but where able to overcome that once Cook came back in.

The Bulls are 0-3 at home this year, while with a win the Lakers become a solid .500 on the road. Two games, two cities, two nights, that’s not easy. But winning that second game is what good teams, playoff teams, do.

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Just a note to you readers out there: In some ways this site is still trying to find a format. This is the first game preview post I’ve done, so far I’ve tried to focus big picture and not just game to game. There will always be a fair amount of big picture stuff, but if you want more things like this preview, or something else, post a comment and let me know. My goal is to create a comfortable Laker community here, and you are at the heart of that.