Preview and Chat: The Washington Wizards

Kurt —  March 30, 2008

Records: Lakers 49-24 (3 seed); Wizards 38-34 (5 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.9 (4th); Wizards 109.6 (12th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.9 (5th); Wizards 110.2 (19th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf
Wizards: Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antawan Jamison, Brendan Haywood

I’m outta here: I’m going on vacation again, and not just because the Lakers’ play the last couple of games has made me ill. I’ll be gone all of this week, living the high life in the Shelter Island area of San Deigo.

Some familiar names from this site will be keeping things going — with some interesting ideas for posts. Things are not going to slow down around here at all.

Lakers notes: I’ve praised him before for this — one of the things Phil Jackson does well is put players in a position to succeed by playing to their strengths. He doesn’t ask Sasha to run the pick and roll, he makes him a spot up shooter because that’s what he does well. He asked Kwame to just rebound and be a big body because those were the only two things he could sort of do. It is kind of like directing Keanu Reeves in a movie — ask him to do Shakespeare and he flops, but contain him in a simple character and he’s fine.

However, all the injuries have forced Phil to ask too much of players, forced them to be asked to do things they do not do well. And the results have been ugly. Phil can’t limit Walton’s minutes when Luke is struggling because he needs the healthy body on the floor. I think we’re all a little tired of the “wait for Gasol and Bynum to come back” line of thinking — the last couple of games the team played like they were waiting — but there is a lot of truth to it. When healthy, this is a deep and versatile roster. (By the way, good news about the Bynum injury in the Times today, and Gasol is expected back next week).

Kwame a. had some thoughts about the short term that I’m passing along.

I really think the most important thing is getting Pau back, that will happen soon. Our whole game is outside-in, we gotta reverse that to inside-out. Also, without Pau, Kobe doesn’t have the luxury of the deadly pick and roll, and effective weapon that opens up space on the court. As far as defense, well that may be the thing that prevents us from winning it all. I can’t find one thing we do well on defense right now, not just one player, the whole team, because its a team thing…..One other thing, a lot of our shots are coming from the perimeter, which is triggering the oppositions fast break. With our bigs back we will get closer shots, and limit the oppositions opportunities for fast breaks.

And, by the way, if you haven’t seen this, it is quite sad.

The Wizards Coming In: No Gilbert Arenas, no problem. The Wizards are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference lately, having won 8 of their last 10. That includes big wins in the first two games of this West Coast road trip, in Seattle and Sacramento. In both games the Wizards spotted the home team big leads (in the teens) then came roaring back in the second half.

Another former Laker, this one the very popular Caron Butler, comes to Staples tonight. He is averaging 17.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game in the last 10, although he is shooting just 44.8% (eFG%) lately.

The guy really stepping up is Jamison — 23 and 10 in the last 10 games, shooting 51.7% (eFG%).

Keys To The Game: The Lakers need to get the damn ball inside tonight. Right now the Lakers are a perimeter team, and that doesn’t work in the triangle (or really in general), and you end up shooting a stupid amount (45) three pointers. The Wiz are not a great defensive team, the Lakers should run their offense and get good looks out of it. It can’t be the Kobe show.

The Lakers should be able to do that because the Wizards prefer small ball and will go with a small lineups for extended periods. The Lakers need to be ready for that and get back for transition defense. The other way to slow the Wizards — don’t turn the ball over and get the ball inside instead of shooting threes.

The Wizards are a team that lives on penetration and kicks — Arenas or no Arenas they get into the lane. The Lakers bigs need to defend the rim tonight, and do that without fouling. The Wizards as a team average 24 free throws a game (in the last 10) with Jamison and Butler leading the way. Mbenga (and maybe even Mihm) should get a few minutes tonight but the key will be to keep Ronny and Odom out of foul trouble.

The Wizards like to shoot the three on those kick-outs, 20 a game in the last 10. In particular, both Stevenson and off-the-bench Roger Mason can hit the shot (42% and 48%, respectively, in the last 10) so you can’t sag off them.

Where you can watch: The game is at 6:30 pm on both Fox Sports here in LA and on League Pass.