Kobe? Heâ€™s listed as probably and a game-time decision after the groin strain the other night. Yes, it would leave the Lakers incredibly short handed if he sat, but itâ€™s a long season so I lean toward rest rather than pushing it if there is any pain or concerns.
Orlando is hot. They come in winning five straight, and they are doing it with defense. Their offense hasnâ€™t been spectacular â€” only Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza are shooting over 50% in the last 10 games. Howard has been spectacular, he comes in off a 30 point, 25 rebound game (against the lacking inside game of Golden State).
What is fueling the Magic is teams are shooting just 44.5% (eFG%) against them in the last 10 games. The Lakers are shooting 52.3% on the season. Itâ€™s always easy to say â€œthe team that shoots better will winâ€ but tonight the Lakers field goal percentage is something to watch.
Last meeting with Orlando. The Lakers won handily, by 13, in the game where Smush had the big third quarter (coincidentally after Sasha had a good second quarter). The Lakers pulled away at the end of the third and never looked back. Kobe had 27 and Smush 20. For the Magic, Grant Hill had 20 but Kwame Brown held Howard to 12 points and 8 boards.
The Magic spread their possessions out fairly well between Jameer Nelson, Hill, Howard, Darko and Carlos Arroyo. Trevor Ariza had a nice game as well, shooting 62.5%. The Magic ran their offense often through the high pick and roll, but the Lakers were sagging then. One of the positives the last couple games is that Bynum seems to have gotten the message and was out hedging on the ball handler coming off the pick, that could help the Lakers tonight. Last game the Lakers switch on the pick a lot, but the Magic did a poor job of exploiting the mismatches.
For the Lakers, it was a hot shooting night for basically every Laker save Kobe (who, of course, took the most shots). Smush shot 75%, Waton 64% and Cook 87%. Of late Kobe has been better about making sure those guys get shots when hot, so I expect more out of them â€” and if Kobe sits they are going to have to be huge.
Battle of the future. Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. It’s going to be fun to watch these two match up for the game. No predictions, although itâ€™s safe to say that Howardâ€™s game is a little more polished than Drew’s right now. Last meeting Kwame was able to be physical with Howard and kept him in check, weâ€™ll see what Drew can do.
I expect teams are going to try to establish their bigs so this will be a fun matchup to watch in the first quarter.
As a side note, I wonder if we coming into a little â€œgolden ageâ€ of talented bigs again, with these two plus guys like Oden and Durant coming in next season, Love and his Bill Walton style below the rim game going to UCLA then likely the NBA. Yao is still pretty young (even though it seems heâ€™s been around forever). That’s a lot of talent.
Thing to look for: Chris Webber in the stands.