On Tap: The Washington Wizards

Kurt —  December 26, 2005

Sorry this post is up late, but been busy with family.

Record: 11-14 (Pythagorean 13-12), 9th seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 4-6
Offensive Rating: (107.7, 10th in league)
Defensive Rating: (108, 23th in league)

About the Wizards: We just saw them 10 days ago, when the Lakers played a flat first half but Kobe pushed them in the third quarter to get the win. Remember, Kobe, shot 62.5% (eFG%) that game, Odom 54.6%, and the rest of the Lakers 41.1%. Kobe had 41.

The Wizards, who like to get out and run, struggled shooting against the Lakers, jut 42.6% as a team. What kept them in the game was their two slashers, Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, got to the line a lot (28 point on free throws between them). The Lakers are going to have to play defense with their feet, because they won’t get the calls on the road. (Does Chris Mihm get the calls anywhere?)

One other note, Antawn Jamison has been struggling of late, shooting just 36% in his last 10.

One thing I hope to see today: Kwame Brown have a big game, because you know the fans in Washington are going to let him have it. What will he do with adversity on him, step up or wilt? He had a solid defensive game against Shaq. Even the Washington fans know he can play well when motivated, and if this can’t motivate him….

One thing I’m glad I won’t see today: More Shaq/Kobe hype. Man, I thought the media had finally caught on that that story had run its course. I know Laker fans had moved on a while ago (even though the local media was slow to catch on), but I thought by now the mainstream media had figured out this was a dead horse. I guess ESPN missed the memo. They ran a whole story on SportsCenter about how the two would not talk about each other, including sound bites of them not talking about each other. Guys — less hype, more news. Please.

The Lakers coming in: It was the bench that lost the Lakers the game in Miami. All five Laker starters had +/- numbers for the game in the positive — Kobe was +1 (meaning the Lakers were one point better than Miami when he was on the court), Smush was +11 (even though my gut reaction was his defense on Williams was not very good). On the other hand, he was better than Sasha (-23) and Luke (-14). Meanwhile, off the Heat bench came Payton at +17 (why didn’t he play like that when he was a Laker?) and Walker (+20).

It didn’t help that the Lakers as a team couldn’t hit a three to save their life. But they kept shooting them like Rudy T. was back on the bench.

Key’s to a Laker win: This being the second game of back-to-backs, the Laker bench has to play better tonight than it did yesterday, and better than it did last time these two met. I would expect, after the last game, Washington will try to take Kobe out of the game (as much as one can) and dare the rest of the Lakers to beat them. Also, the Wizards should try to pick up the pace and run tonight, the Lakers and their tired legs need not to get into a trrack meet.

The Lakers can head home from this road trip with a winning or losing record, 2-1 or 1-2. This is a winnable game.