On Tap: The New Jersey Nets

Kurt —  March 17, 2006

Record: 33-28 (30-31 Pythagorean) 3rd seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 5-5
Offensive Rating: 105.5 (21st in the NBA)
Defensive Rating: 105.6 (10th in the NBA)

As Jim Mora would say, “Playoffs?” The Lakers head out on a tough road trip with a slim cushion — basically one of those little pads you bring to sit on the bleachers with at a little league game. The Lakers are 1.5 games up on slumping New Orleans (losers of 7 straight), 3 games up on Utah and 4.5 on Houston and whoever is left on their roster.

The Lakers need to come back from New Jersey, Cleveland and Boston with at least one win to be sure they still have a lead (and two would be better). The Lakers need to take control of their playoff destiny rather than counting on the incompetence of those chasing them.

How hot is Lamar? In the last 10 games, he has an eFG% of 65.6%, while pulling down 8.4 rebounds per game.

March Madness Thoughts: Should he stay or should he go now? If you’re Jordan Farmar, do you come back to UCLA next year or do you go pro after this season? This is a weaker year in the draft and the league needs point guards, but there are also questions about the consistency of Farmar’s outside shot. Chad Ford said that while GMs think he needs polish, point guards are valuable enough that Farmar would be a late first-round pick if he came out. I expect he’ll stay one more year, but…

Someone to watch:
NBAdraft.net currently has the Lakers taking, with the 26th pick in the draft, Kevin Pittsnogle, senior from West Virginia. He’s a big man with an outside touch but not much presence inside, or at least that’s the book. Well, that and he’s a bit nuts. Not that they’ll take him, but I’m curious. Something worth checking out around the tournament.

Let’s Talk Nets: The Nets have a dangerous trio in Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson. In what could be a break for the Lakers, Carter and Kidd have been slowed by colds in recent days. When these two played in November Kidd torched Smush and the Lakers for 35 points. Five different Nets scored in double figures that day,

Jefferson likely will get the Kobe assignment and last time these two hooked up it worked, Kobe had 46 points but shot just 44.5% (eFG%) for the game, Jefferson finished a game-high +16. Despite the fact the game went to overtime, Brian Cook was the only other Laker to score in double figures.

After the big three for the Nets, they have gotten little from anyone else lately. The partial exception to that has been Nenad Krstic, the center who has been averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds a game the last 10 games.

Key’s to a Laker win: Good defense on the perimeter. Two-thirds of all the Nets shots are jump shots and they hit 43.8% of them (eFG%). By the way, those numbers are almost identical to the Lakers. The key for the Lakers tonight will be making sure the Nets big three are not efficient.

The Lakers need a big game out of Smush at both ends — not only must he slow Kidd (with some help from that cold virus) but point guard is also the weakest spot defensively for the Nets. He, along with Cook again, need to have big nights. Also, Odom needs to continue his play of late (he had just 8 points and 5 assists in the last meeting).