On Tap: The Seattle Supersonics

 —  March 20, 2005

One quick housekeeping note: For those of you who use RSS (and count me in your numbers), I know the feed is not working since the move. I’m trying to correct that, but it likely will be Monday before I have the time to finish it. Now, on with our regularly scheduled programming.

Sonics fans are looking ahead to the playoffs right now and fretting they could get Houston in the first round, while Laker fans, after a 2-4 road trip, are starting to take a hard look at the draft board.

Seattle’s still the second best offensive team in the NBA (109 points per 100 possessions) but they are 23rd in defense (104.9 per 100) and that is going to come back and bite them in the post season. Don’t think, by the way, that the slower pace of games in the playoffs will hurt them — they average just 91.8 possessions per game, the fifth slowest pace in the league. They are a rare team — a jump shooting half-court team (that’s not all bad, so were the 90 and 91 Chicago Bulls, who did pretty well if you recall).

For the Lakers to take advantage of Seattle’s defense they are going to need a big game inside, and do with without Lamar Odom, who is out with a strained shoulder (no word on the MRI as of this morning). Seattle has opponents PERs of above 17 at the two forward positions and center — Butler and Mihm are going to have to step up for the Lakers to have a chance against Seattle.

For the Lakers to win, Kobe is going to have to best Ray Allen by plenty in their head-to-head match up. Back in January when Seattle beat the Lakers, Radmanovic and Allen combined for 51 points. And Kobe’s going to have to get the best of him in the fourth quarter, where he has scoreed just nine points in the last three games.

The Lakers are also going to have to crash the boards — Odom has the highest rebounding rate on the team (percentage of rebounds grabbed while he is on the floor) and in his absence other players have to step up. The Sonics’ Reggie Evans leads the NBA pulling down in incredible 24.6% of the available rebounds while he’s on the floor — that’s one in four missed shots. For comparison, Odom leads the Lakers at 15.9%. Danny Fortson comes off the Seattle bench and grabs 20.4%. As a team, Seattle grabs 32.4% of its missed shots (second highest percentage in the league). Seattle knows how to rebound and if the Lakers don’t counter this strength it will be a long night.

I hope — no, I expect — the Lakers to come out tonight and play desperate basketball. And, they are going to need to play good team defense. They need to if they are going to keep their playoff hopes alive. It’s that simple.