Records: Lakers 7-3; Bucks 5-4
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.4 (2nd); Bucks 104.6 (19th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.8 (9th); Bucks 107.9 (21st)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf (although it could be Vladamir Radmanovic again), Andrew Bynum
Bucks: Mo Williams, Michael Redd, Desmond Mason, Yi Jianlian, Andrew Bogut
Lakers Notes: We are a spoiled. Sometimes in our efforts to focus on how much Andrew Bynum has improved, or what a good floor general Jordan Farmar has become, we overlook something â€” Kobe is unbelievable.
In the first quarter he was the alpha dog â€” 4 of 7 from the floor (2 of 3 from beyond the arc), plus he got to the line four times, giving him 14 points in just under 11 minutes. After a rest he came back in and was 4 of 6 (3 of 4 from three) with another assist, giving him 26 points on 80% (eFG%) shooting for the half and a +8. For the game, Kobe had an offensive rating of 139 (points per 100 possessions pace) and â€” thanks to another big night from the bench â€” got to rest almost all of the fourth quarter.
The other thing of note â€” that was one of the Lakers better defensive showings this season. They held the Pacers as a team to 43.7% (eFG%) shooting. And I think Jermaine Oâ€™Neal will remember Bynum as more than trade bait in the future.
The Bucks Coming In:Right now, the Bucks are the luckiest team in the NBA. They have been outscored by their opponents (3.4 points per 100 possessions) but still have a 5-4 record. And, they are undefeated at home. Something is going to change â€” either the Bucks numbers will start to show them outscoring opponents or, more likely, theyâ€™ll drop some of those close games and their record will fall.
Yi Jianlian gets all the attention Bucks are Michael Reddâ€™s team â€” he is using 27% of the teamâ€™s possessions when he is on the floor, is shooting 48.9% (eFG%, and that is a pretty good number considering how much of the offense he is carrying) and is averaging 24.8 points per 40 minutes.
The Bucks run many of their offensive sets for Redd â€” they run him off multiple screens, they make him the ball handler in some screen-and-rolls, theyâ€™ll even post him up (credit the official Lakers web site scouting report for that info). And donâ€™t think this is the catch-and-shoot only Redd â€” last night he got to the line 20 times. The Lakers need to keep him off the line.
Pinky, Are You Pondering What Iâ€™m Pondering? A couple more thoughts on the newest Laker Trevor Ariza. Because of the time it takes to learn the offense, I think Arizaâ€™s minutes will be limited at first (although Iâ€™d expect him to get a taste tonight). What will get him on the floor is his defense â€” there are times the team would be willing to sacrifice some scoring to have better defense on the wing. I expect his minutes and role will grow as the season wears on, and by next year heâ€™ll have a comfortable spot in the rotation.
Keys To The Game: Both teams come in on the second game of a back-to-back, but The Lakers should be able to get some mismatches on offense â€” they donâ€™t have anyone who can cover Kobe (does anyone really?), the Bucks have struggled to defend the three and there arenâ€™t many threes like Odom, and Bynum should be able to do some damage against Bogut. The Lakers, on the other hand, should be able to use Kobe (and Ariza?) to slow Redd somewhat.
Like the Lakers, the Bucks can count on their bench in key moments â€” in crunch time last night in Cleveland it was Mo Williams taking most of the shots (in part because the Cavs canâ€™t defend the point) and Charlie Villanueva in the paint (remember he had 26 against the Lakers last year). Yi and Mason sat and watched. The Bucks also have Bobby Simmons off the bench, who seems to have found his Clippers form and is shooting 53.9% this season. Whichever teamâ€™s bench comes through will have a big advantage.
Tonightâ€™s Game: Where Five-In-A-Row Happens: If the Bucks had not won an emotional game last night, I might pick them to knock off the Lakers. My guess is that both teams come out a little flat tonight (if one team gets a healthy early lead that would be huge) but that the deeper Lakers bench gets them another lead, and a rested Kobe finishes them off. Still, this is the kind of game that worries me against a team that just seems to win right now.
Where you can watch: Game time is 5 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into KCAL (9), no national broadcast. Online, Iâ€™d suggest Gamecast.