Records: Lakers 2-1; Hornets 3-0
Offensive ratings: Lakers 107.9; Hornets 108.5
Defensive ratings: Lakers 100.3; Hornets 94.1
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Ronny Turiaf, Kwame Brown
Hornets: Chris Paul, Mo Peterson, Peja Stojakovic, David West, Tyson Chandler
Lakers Notes: Andrew Bynum is off to a hot start â€” after three games his PER is higher than Kobeâ€™s â€” and weâ€™ve all been quick to heap well-deserved praise on him for his off-season conditioning work and his more aggressive attitude. But something overlooked is what a good job the Laker guards (plus Walton) are doing getting him the ball in a position where he can succeed. If Andrew has to give up a lot of position to get the possession, he becomes less effective. His length makes him unstoppable near the hoop but at eight feet out he is no KG. But the Lakers have recognized when he has gotten good position deep and rewarded him with the ball. I hope that continues.
The Hornets Coming In: To get some insight on the Hornets and the franchise, I asked Ron of Hornets 24/7 about his team:
It’s only a couple of games into the season, but has what you’ve seen made you think this team can take the next step?
Yeah, so far, so good. I don’t think the Hornets have been properly tested yet, having faced three short-handed opponents, but I’m loving the look of this team. The ball movement has been excellent, and unlike last season, we’re now considered to be a pretty lethal shooting team. The defense is also looking real solid. I’ll be shocked if Tyson Chandler doesn’t make the All-Star team this year. Seriously. He’s not playing around. We’ve also got some good depth. Bobby Jackson, Jannero Pargo and Rasual Butler can all score in bunches off the bench, while young ‘uns Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong look promising.
How much does a team like the Hornets doing well (or the Saints, for that matter), mean to the city right now?
I think the Hornets doing well is important, but the city doesn’t know it yet. The Saints have deep roots, and their success will never go uncelebrated (is that even a word?). The Hornets will always have to work a little harder and market their product a little smarter if they hope to give New Orleans the same lift. I think they’ll win the city over though. The current squad has what it takes to do that.
Chris Paul has become an established star, but how is his game changing and improving entering his third year.
He apparently spent the summer working on his shooting a lot, although we have yet to see the fruits of that. He’s a year smarter and a year stronger. I think he better understands better how to pace himself and save his body for later in the season. So far this season, he’s really benefiting form having a solid supporting cast. A healthy Peja on one wing and a guy like Mo-Pete on the other makes his job so much easier. The defense has to stay home on those shooters and it frees up the lane much more for him. I doubt we’ll see any substantial improvement in any one area from Paul this season, but expect him to be a little bit better at everything.
Keys To The Game: Two hot teams coming in, which should make an interesting game this early in the season.
Both teams come in playing very well on offense, two of the best shooting teams in the league so far, and that likely will not change, so the team that steps up on the defensive end will get the win. For the Lakers, that will be the tough test of stopping Chris Paul (particularly off the screen-and-roll, which is their mainstay) â€” heâ€™s averaged 18.7 PPG shooting 65.8% (true shooting percentage), plus 35% of his possessions end in an assist (9.7 per game). This tough task will fall to Farmar and Fish at first, but will test the Laker rotations behind them that have been good so far this season. The front line will get tested because Tyson Chandler has played will early on, grabbing 22.7% of the available rebounds while on the floor (Bynum is at 25% right now).
If the Laker defense can force some turnovers (10% of Paulâ€™s possessions end in one) that can mean some easy baskets at the other end. On the other end, Iâ€™m not totally sure what to expect of the Hornets, this will be a big test for them. Then again, Denver should have been a test and the Hornets are 3-0.
One other key tonight â€” as Mike in the Mountain West pointed out â€” is the depth of the Lakers. The starters are pretty evenly matched, but if the Laker bench can do what it has done in the past couple of games, this can be another Laker win.
Tonightâ€™s game: Where Scoring Happens: The big question tonight â€” can Luke Walton keep his streak of consecutive games with passes through a defenders legs alive? As for the game itself, I look for it to be up-tempo and high scoring. So bet the over. And I think the Laker depth gets them a win as they pull away in the third quarter.
Where you can watch the game: Game time is 7:30 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into Fox Sports Net, nationally youâ€™ll need league pass or log on to the NBA web site, where you can follow the gamecast and, if you register, listen to the radio call. Also, if youâ€™re familiar with torrents at all www.sport-scene.net has the games up for download the next day (thanks to Goo for that tip).