Game Preview & Chat: The Philadelphia 76ers

Kurt —  December 21, 2007

Records: Lakers 15-9; 76ers 10-15
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.4 (8th); 76ers 103.4 (23rd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.6 (11th); 76ers 104.8 (8th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum
76ers: Andre Miller, Willie Green, Andre Iguodala, Reggie Evans, Samuel Dalembert

Lakers Notes: My junior high basketball coach taught me a couple of basketball truths that I believe wholeheartedly to this day:

1) The referees never cost you a game.
2) You don’t lose a game because you missed a shot in the last seconds.

His point was simple — it’s the team’s fault for letting the game be close enough in the first place to be decided by a referee or a desperate shot. That’s how I look at last night’s Lakers game — this was a game that never should have come down to questionable calls and the all-Kobe-all-the-time offense at the end. The Lakers bench, for one of the few times this season, let the team down — Ariza was -17, Farmar -15, Radmanovic -14, and almost all of that because of the Cavs 16-0 run at the end of the third/start of the fourth that was just ugly for the Lakers.

The game left me with concerns about focus and how, once again with the game on the line the rest of the Lakers stood around and watched Kobe, who settled for pull-up jumpers from 20+ feet. I have concerns about not putting a team away on the second night of a back-to-back. I have concerns about what happens against good rebounding teams.

All of that said, those concerns are going on hold for now and I’m going to look at this game as a one-off. For now. Teams are allowed an off night now and again.

The 76ers Coming In: They got off to a slow start, but the Sixers are 5-2 in their last seven and are playing their best ball of the season.

The Sixers have some skill guys — Andre Miller is the kind of quick PG that has given the Lakers trouble in the past (plus he may try to post up the smaller Farmar), and Iguodala loves the isolation plays because he is so explosive (plus he may be the best taking the lob in the league). Green is another good athlete, he just hasn’t quite figured out how to use those skills best yet, and Dalembert doesn’t shoot often but is efficient when he does (54% shooting this season).

Off the bench, watch for some guys who can go bombs away. Louis Williams handles the point and is shooting 43.8% from three point range, and at his side as the two guard is Kyle Korver, whose only reason for existence is he can shoot the three (43% last year, but just 33% this year so far).

The 76ers are a team that relies more on isolation and athleticism than set plays, so the Lakers need to stay focused on their team defense. And don’t leave Korver alone at the three-point line. And watch Iguodala on the back-door lob.

Factoid That May Interest Only Peter King: Allen Iverson played more minutes in Denver’s double-overtime win last night than Javaris Crittenton has all season. (Via the great KD.)

Keys To The Game: Defensive discipline. The 76ers are a team of slashers and spot up guys, plus a couple of good rebounders. What the 76ers want to do on offense is get into some isolation, basketball, let they young athletes outdo your guys. If the Lakers play team defense — rotate from the weak side to stop the slashers, stick with shooters on the perimeter, box out Reggie Evans — and the 76er offense can be slowed. The Lakers need to make this a team game, not a one-on-one show.

And that goes for Kobe on offense, who has a tendency to try to follow up a poor performance with an “I’m The Man” night. The Lakers will score plenty if they run the offense and get shots within it. And if the bench shows up and plays the way it is capable, unlike last night.

Tonight’s Game: Where I Get To Watch Unperturbed Happens: Believe it or not, I almost never get to crack-open a beer and watch a game live (or, tonight,90 minutes behind live). I DVR the games, spend time with my children and wife, then start watching about 10 on our smaller television (and with a computer on my lap). Tonight, the kids are with the grandparents, the wife is off at the movies with friends and I get to just watch a game. With a friend. In peace. So the Lakers better not blow it.

Last night, after an embarrassing loss the previous night, the Cavs came out with energy and looked like they wanted to make up for the night before. I want to see that tonight from the Lakers because, bottom line, they are the better team and if they put out that kind of effort they win.

Where you can watch: Game time is 4 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles tune into KCAL (9) but you’ll have to wait until 5:30 local time for the broadcast (so, in the comments, please use spoiler alerts).

And, a great line from The Kardiac Kid about last night’s broadcast:

Reggie Miller, however, had a rough night, with three mixed-metaphors, five idiotic/hyperbolic statements, and one grating voice.