Game Preview & Chat: The Seattle Supersonics

Kurt —  November 27, 2007

Records: Lakers 7-6; Sonics 2-12
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.7 (6th); Sonics 100.5 (25th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.6 (14th); Sonics 110.5 (26th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Vladamir Radmanovic, Andrew Bynum
Sonics: Earl Watson, Kevin Durant, Damien Wilkins, Kurt Thomas, Chris Wilcox

Lakers Notes: “There is little margin for error.” That has been one of the mantras of this site regarding this year’s Lakers — the squad cannot absorb injuries and perform at its best for long. The players cannot have mental lapses and get wins.

And that’s what this three-game losing streak is really about. Kwame Brown is out injured for at least a few more weeks, and Turiaf is not 100%, two things that threw the Laker rotations off and hurt the defense along the front line. Key players have had off games or off moments — Lamar Odom, or Andrew Bynum on the last play against the Nets. The team tried to compensate by chucking up threes at a pace only Rudy Tomjanovic would love, and that was a recipe for disaster..

All that said, while the record says 7-6, the point differential (or Pythagorean record, if you prefer) suggests the Lakers are still playing like a 54-win team. The offense has been mostly good, the defenses has had lapses but is basically average in the NBA this season. If they keep that level of play up for the entire year, they will do just fine. A three game losing streak is hardly a time to panic.

The Sonics Coming In: If you have a 19-year-old rookie as your go-to scorer, it’s going to be a long season. And that’s where the Sonics are. I’ve seen some of their games and that combined with talking to people around the team leads to my two cents:

Durant is going to be very good but he’s on a steep learning curve in the NBA. He can score and does so with an amazing flourish at times, but he hasn’t met a shot he doesn’t like and that leads some ugly attempts and a 43.1 shooting percentage (eFG%). Which is not good for a guy using 26% of the team’s possessions when on the floor. He’s also turning the ball over a lot. All that said, he’s young and learning, and there are flashes where he shows why he may well be worthy of that lofty pick.

By the way, Sonics fans are saying the hype around Durant is overshadowing how good Jeff Green is as a rookie. He can drive and get the ball in the lane, 56% of his shots come right around the basket. He will be a good defensive challenge for the team tonight.

The Sonic that has impressed me is former Clipper Chris Wilcox, who has developed some polished post moves, which is why he is shooting 53.7% and has a PER of 19.89, best on the team.

Also playing well for the Sonics is Kurt Thomas providing a veteran presence inside. Wally Szcerbiak can heat it up at times (and seems to do that against the Lakers). Damien Wilkins has improved his shot and Delonte West has some brilliant plays (and some horrible ones).

Bottom line, this team has talent, but it is young and still blending and trying to figure out the way at the NBA level.

The Fouth Quarter Gets A Litte Fuzzy: The Seattle Weekly has given us the Sonics drinking game:

Let’s get drunk. (Take a drink every time):

-Kevin Durant takes a shot that would have gotten you benched on your high school, junior high, or rec league team.
-Chris Wilcox dunks.
-Robert Swift looks like a victim stuck in a bully’s body.
– Damien Wilkins pump fakes.
-Jeff Green’s jersey looks too small for him.
-You find yourself examining the southern shore of PJ’s beard for grip marks.

Blogs you should read: Friend of the site Kevin Pelton, the web master for the Sonics, has a blog with great insight into the team. And also there is Supersonics Soul, which is a blogging insutution. Then there is Save Our Sonics, the site right in the middle of the noble fight to keep this team in Seattle. Personally, I hate the idea of this team moving to OK City.

Keys To The Game: This is going to be an up-tempo game — the Sonics play at the second fastest pace in the NBA so far (tied with Phoenix), the Lakers seventh. Both teams also turn the ball over at a high level (the Lakers on 17.5% of possessions, the Sonics on 18.1%, both in the top [or is it bottom] 10 in the league). If one team can take care of the ball tonight, it will be a big advantage.

The Lakers need to get the Sonics athletic wing men to shoot from the outside, because none of them are terribly good at it. Durant, Earl Watson, Jeff Green, Nick Collison are all shooting under 50%. Szcerbiak runs hot and cold, if he is missing let him shoot from out there too. When the slashers do get to the rim, Bynum and Mihm (and Turiaf) need to alter and block shots without getting in foul trouble.

On offense, the Lakers should be able to get the shots they want — this is not a great defensive team. But they have to be patient and run the offense (when the break isn’t there). In the starting lineups there is no way Kurt Thomas or Chris Wilcox should be able to handle Bynum in the post, and the Sonics don’t have the perimeter defenders to slow both Kobe and Lamar.

Tonight’s Game: Where A Slumpbuster Happens: When you need to break out of a slump, you don’t worry about how it looks, just that you get what you need to get back on track. The Lakers need a win, and this is the perfect team to get it against. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just a win to right the ship. We’ll worry about pretty next game.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7:30 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into Fox Sports, nationally you will need League Pass. (Sorry for the TNT note earlier, thanks for the corrections).