Preview and Chat: The Washington Wizards

Kurt —  February 3, 2007

A word or 164 on Indiana. Is it just me, or did the Lakers last night remind you of last season’s version? The ones that, if Kobe wasn’t on top of his game, couldn’t step up to help out. The ones that had absolutely horrible defensive rotations so their defense only worked when they could create steals. The ones with no good play off the bench. The ones with the passive Lamar Odom. The ones that could not stay in front of a point guard (and cue the defensive rotation comment again).

I’m also going to lay a little of this at Phil’s feet: Why change four out of the five guys on the floor to start the fourth quarter when you’ve been on a 22-8 run with them? Indiana had made some changes, going to their bench as well, but this the chance to put the game out of reach, then rest the starters the last 8 minutes. Instead, the momentum swung and the Lakers never got it back.

Gilbert vs. Kobe. First, let me say this — these two starts are going to get theirs tonight. The team that plays the best around their star will get the win.

That said, slowing Agent 0 would be a big help. Last time these two met Arenas used 37% of his team’s possessions, shot 60.9% (eFG%) and dropped 60 on the Lakers. After which Kobe made the oft-repeated and ironic “he has no conscience” statement.

But it wasn’t just Arenas.
A lot of the Wizards shot well. All-Star Caron Butler used 22 possessions and shot 50% (eFG%) and got to the line a lot, so his true shooting percentage (think points per shot attempt) was a very good 65.5%. DeShawn Stevenson shot 71.3%. Jamison shot well too, but he will not be playing tonight due to a knee injury.

Bottom line: The Lakers are going to have to play a lot better team defense than they did last time these two squared off. Or than they did last night.

As for the Lakers last meeting. Kobe and Vladrad put on a shooting clinic of their own on. Kobe shot 77.1% on his way to 45 points, Radman shot 84,4% on his way to 27. As a team the Lakers shot 58.5%, which will get it done if you play any D.

Injury update. Luke Walton is expected to start playing again on the road trip, possibly in Atlanta. However, Kwame is slower to heal from his sprain, will see a specialist next week and is still a couple weeks away.

Things to look for. While the media attention will be all over the Kobe/Arenas rivalry (and that could lead to some amazing shot making) the game itself is really is all about the Laker defense. The Wizards are second in the NBA in offensive efficiency (113.6 points per 100 possessions, besting the Lakers at 110.5, 6th best). To balance that, the Wizards are 28th in the league in defense. The Wizards play at the fourth fastest pace in the league. What they want to do is turn this into a shootout. The Lakers can’t do that and win, especially on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Lakers need to make their shots, crash the offensive boards to at least slow the Wizards break a little, and then in the half court rotate on defense.

Let’s hope the team bounces back from an embarrassing game last night.