On Tap: The Washington Wizards:

 —  December 17, 2004

My get-to-this-file is full, but tonight it’s a family Christmas night decorating the tree with my wife and daughter, so everything save the preview has to wait. (Sure, my daughter is just six months old and really won’t “get” Christmas, that doesn’t mean my wife pretend she’s going to love it.) Check back over the weekend for an interesting news and notes post.

As for tonight, break out the retro uniforms for a Laker/Wizards match up (the Lakers are wearing the 1959-60 unis, from the last season in Minneapolis).

Washington (at 12-8, much better than expected) comes to town touted as the fourth highest scoring team in the NBA at 100.7 ppg, but for the last three games in a row the team has been held to double digits. They lost two of those three (beating only New Orleans) and that’s no coincidence — the Wizards like to get up and down the court, 45% of their shots come within the first 10 seconds on the shot clock and when they do that their eFG% is a healthy 52%.

Slow Washington down into a half-court game and their shooting falters — from 16 to 20 seconds gone on the shot clock their eFG% is 38.1% (for comparison, the Lakers are at 46.6%), in the last four seconds of the clock the Wizard eFG% drops to 29.5% (43.8% for the Lakers). The Wizards need the easy buckets that come in transition because they are not good jump shooters. So far this season 73% of their shots are jumpers and the eFG% is a low 37.5%.

Leading the scoring for Washington are two players Laker fans are familiar with from the Western Conference — Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas.

Jamison will be a challenging match up for Lamar Odom — Jamison has a PER of 20.7 in the four, while holding his oPER is 13.7 (for comparison, Odom’s PER is 20.5, but his oPER is 18.7, meaning Odom needs to focus on defense and stay out of foul trouble).

Arenas poses a problem for the Lakers have struggled with this season — a point guard who can score (averaging 21.6 points with a PER of 19.1). Look for Kobe to cover him, at least some of the game.

The other player who has been a key for Washington is center Brandon Haywood, who leads the team with a +17.5 Roland Rating and has really stepped up this season like team suits had long hoped. They count on getting a boost off the bench from Kwame Brown, but he has not been consistent.

Tonight could be a big night for Chris Mihm and others in the low post area — center is the Wizards weakest spot defensively (oPER of 18.2). The other spot where they are worse than average is the point guard position, we’ll see if Tierre Brown can repeat last night’s performance, without the turnovers.

The last time the Lakers had the second game of a back-to-back at home it was similar — fast-paced Orlando came to town, but the Lakers controlled the tempo and won the game. If they can play good defense and keep the Wizards in the starting gate this is a game the Lakers should win, turn it into a horse race and the Lakers may get passed in the stretch.