After losing a game that seemed in the bag before the fourth quarter, the Lakers get a Charlotte team they had better not look past.
Quick thoughts on the loss to Minnesota: The Lakers tired legs showed in the fourth quarter when they were slow to get out in the face of Szczerbiak and Hudson. Mihm canâ€™t handle Garnett one-on-one (no one can) and once the outside shooters got going for the T-Wolves they had an inside/outside game that was almost impossible to stop. The key would have been keeping Szczerbiak from getting hot in the first place, and part of that falls on Odom who played off him for parts of the game.
The good news is, the Laker offense looked better (although it fell apart a couple times when Kobe was out). With the triangle we need to be patient, and having Walton back (and D. George expected tonight) will help. More on this is a few days (I watched much of the game with friends in a bar and have yet to do any charting), but the Lakers just need to get a game where they get the offense and defense going at the same time.
Tonight would be a good time â€” it would be foolish to take Charlotte lightly. The Bobcats are like Utah in the sense they are weak on offense but pretty solid on defense. They are ninth in the league with a defensive rating of 103.6 (points per 100 opponent possessions) and that should bring some respect that they are better than their 5-12 record indicates (their Pythagorean is 8-9).
After a weak defensive outing late against Minnesota, this is a team the Lakers can shut down. The Bobcats are not strong offensively in large part because they are the second worst shooting team in the league (43.8%, eFG%). They are especially weak on the perimeter, shooting just 37.8% on jump shots. They had hoped to make that up on the inside but Rookie of the Year Emeka Okafor is in a sophomore slump, shooting just 39.9% from the field and scoring just 15.7 per 40. Kareem Rush can fill it up but his defense is still sad, which is why is a -6.3 per 48 minutes this season. The guy to watch is Gerald Wallace, who is shooting an impressive 57.5% from the field this year with a true shooting percentage (which includes free throws) of 59.2% (higher than any Laker).
The Bobcats are a good rebounding team with Okafor pulling down 17.4% of available rebounds and Sean May coming off the bench and getting 16.3% (the best Laker by this measure is Odom at 14.3%). May has the best +/- on the team of any guy getting regular minutes (+13.6) and former UNC guy Raymond Felton is right behind him (+9.7) â€” the Bobcat bench is pretty good and the Laker need to get good play from their bench to match.
This could be another great game for Odom, allowing him to continue asserting himself â€” the weakest spot defensively for the Bobcats, by a wide margin, is against the four. Odom should get some post up opportunities plus get chances on the perimeter.
With a long road trip starting Tuesday, the Lakers need a win here. Nothing more needs be said.