Records: Lakers 49-22 (1 seed); Bobcats 25-44 (12 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.1 (3rd); Bobcats 105.1 (23rd)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.7 (6th); Bobcats 110.8 (23rd)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf
Bobcats: Raymond Felton, Jason Richardson,Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor, Nazr Mohammed
Tech problem solved. Well, at least we think. There is some more behind the scenes upgrading to go on today, but the site look and form is back. As I said in the comments, this is really a community site and this summer Iâ€™ll be looking at possible changes to the look and the options here, and when that happens Iâ€™ll be looking for suggestions and thoughts.
Lakers notes: According to Mike Breshnahan at the LA Times, Sunday will be the earliest Pau Gasol returns. What matters most is having a healthy Gasol for the playoffs, no need to rush him back for a game against the Bobcats. Also, Bynum is still a couple weeks away and Ariza is sometime during the playoffs.
That said, the Lakers are banged up right now. Kobe has a twisted ankle to go with that pinky finger held on by tape. Fisher got a bruised knee in the end-of-game collision with Ellis last game. Every team is a little banged up right now, what has been impressive is how the Lakers fought through their injuries to stay on top in the West. Credit to the team, which is playing with confidence, and the coaching staff for knowing when to put their foot down on the gas and when to ease off.
NBA Thoughts Two things, one of which is Iâ€™m looking forward to seeing some of the Celtics/Suns game tonight. Should be an interesting test for both teams.
Chris Webber is stepping away and that seems to make the era of the Shaq/Kobe Lakers a little smaller in the rear-view mirror. Webber was at his peak in Sacramento, leading the Kings in that 1999 to 2003 stretch when they were probably the second best team in the NBA. He was versatile, could play inside and out, was a fantastic passer and solid rebounder. I hope he is remembered more for those days than the one big mistake at Michigan or what he was by the end of his career, when his body betrayed him.
The Bobcats Coming In: Charlotte comes in on the second night of a back-to-back, having found out that Utah can score a lot of points (126-106 Jazz win). Incidentally, thatâ€™s how the Lakers beat the Bobcats last month, just outscoring them. Because it was a thumping, most of the Bobcat starters rested during the fourth quarter. Charlotte has lost six of its last seven after a five-game winning streak against quality teams (while Wallace was out).
Of late, the two leading scorers for Charlotte have started to find their stroke. Jason Richardson is averaging 24 points per game in the last 10 shooting 52.5% (eFG%) overall and 35.8% from three. Gerald Wallace is shooting 53.1% and is scoring 16 points per game (and while he doesnâ€™t shoot many threes he can hit it if he sets his feet). Iâ€™m looking forward to getting a better look at Wallace who didnâ€™t play against the Lakers lat month.
If the draft goes to form, the Bobcats will have the 8th pick this year.
Keys To The Game: The Lakers need Odom to keep playing like he has in recent weeks. Last month when these two played Gasol had 26 points on 9 of 11 shooting â€” Charlotte had no answer for him. Odom (and maybe Radmanovic) will need to pick up some of that slack.
Odom also needs to play well on defense. The Bobcats come in with real size and the ability to play inside and out with Okafor and Mohammed. If those two get going inside it tends to opening things up for the Richardson and the jump-shooters on Charlotte, so Ronny and Odom need to play well defensively, not letting those two (particularly Okafor) get going. Okafor has struggled of late (giving the Bobcats 10 and 8 on 44% shooting in his last 10), the Lakers need to continue that trend.
The good defense also need to extend to slowing Wallace and Felton and not letting them get into the lane with penetration at will, or blocking a few shots if they do.
This is not a good defensive team the Lakers face, LA should get high-percentage looks if they move the ball and run the offense. The rotations of the Bobcats have been slow every time I have seen them this year, including the highlights of last night.
Fast starts in both halves would help. The Bobcats should be tired and they have had some terrible starts to the third quarter recently. Fast starts at the beginning of both halves mean the chance for Son Of George and maybe Newble to get some burn. At the same time.
Where you can watch: The game is at 7:30 pm on both Fox Sports here in LA and on League Pass.