On Tap: The end of the regular season

Kurt —  April 19, 2006

Rest? Who needs it? Thanks to Seattle playing their 82nd game like the first 81 – meaning with historically bad defense – the Lakers need a win in the last game of the season. So, expect to see Kobe and Lamar and the other starters play until this is wrapped up. It’s simple, win and get a good-but-slowed-of-late Phoenix squad in the first round, lose and get the Spurs, who are 7-3 in their last 10 and playing some of their best ball in a while. Besides, if we can help make sure of a first-round series where Ron Artest and Bruce Bowen meet, we can all win some money betting the under.

About that winning thing: The Hornets are a classic case of a lesser team that creates match up problems for the Lakers. In the three games these two have played (with the Lakers winning two) the Hornets are averaging 102.3 points as a team, with six players averaging double digit scoring.

Those match up problems (similar to ones Phoenix presents but not as dangerous) start with David West, the four who can step away from the basket some (64% of his shots this season are considered jump shots). In the three games against the Lakers, he has averaged 19.7 points shooting 52% (eFG%). Then there’s soon-to-be rookie of the year Chris Paul, who has averaged 19.3 points on 53.8% shooting against the Lakers, plus dishing out 9.7 assists per game.

Other guys of note: Desmond Mason is shooting 63% against the Lakers, Rasual Butler is shooting 56.3% and Speedy is scoring 13 a game but could go for more.

The Hornets are not that good on offense – for the season they are 25th in the league in efficiency. Bottom line, if the Lakers want to play the Suns they’ve got to play some D…

But they can’t stop the Lakers:
Some Lakers have had big nights against New Orleans, giving the Lakers wins this season.

In the two Laker wins against the Hornets Kobe has averaged 35 points and Lamar 20.5, and both were +16. But the Lakers have gotten good play out of Smush, who has been +25, and out of the center position (Kwame in one game, Mihm in the other), which is +26. Just like always, when the support players around the big two play well, the Lakers get the win.

Other notes, Kwame is shooting 76.9% against the Hornets this season, and Cook is at 73.8% (both eFG%). That said, when the Lakers went on a fourth-quarter run to win the last game between these two, Cook was benched for Luke Walton.

Mihm is back: This is a good spot for him; he has shot 57.1% against the Hornets this season. Also, it’s key to get him back before the Suns series because to win that the Lakers are going to need to get points in the paint, lots of them, and Mihm is a more polished inside scorer than Kwame.