Preview & Chat: The Washington Wizards

Kurt —  January 22, 2009

NBA: JAN 04 Cavaliers at Wizards

Records: Lakers 33-8 (1st in West) Wizards 9-32 (15th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.8 (1st in league) Wizards 105.0 (24th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.9 (6th in league) Wizards 112.1 (28th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Wizards Mike James, Caron Butler, Dominic McGuire, Antawn Jamison, Andray Blatche

Live Blog Tonight That’s right.. It’s a chance to talk Lakers, mock Kenny Smith, and keep asking all night “why did we trade Caron Butler again?” And do it in real time with a live blog. All the fun will start a little before 7:30, as we catch the end of the Celts/Magic, and follow into the Lakers/Wizards.

It was three years ago today: Jan. 22, 2005. The Lakers are playing the Raptors and fall behind early. The only Laker who shows up to play is Kobe Bryant, and he takes the scoring load on — and finishes with 81. The second most points in NBA history in one game, and Kobe shot a crazy-good 75% (true shooting percentage) that night (his season average this year is 56.8%, which is still very good). Catch the highlights on the ESPN video player to the right, or you can relive every shot right here.

The Lakers coming in Welcome to the halfway point of the season — we’re 41 games in. And, 33-8, no stars having to miss a lot of games with major injuries, and a team that seems to be finding itself at times, that’s about all you can ask.

As for last night’s game, it’s a win and I’ll say again that there are no style points in the NBA. When you are 33-8, not all the wins are going to be pretty. It would have been nice to see the starters get more rest, but this game had the feeling the Lakers could take over whenever they wanted. But only Bynum really wanted too. (And that was good to see, he used to have a tendency to get up for games against the Yao Ming’s of the world but slough-off games like last night, but he showed up big.)

Luke Walton was back, which was good to see as well. I change my mind daily on whether he or VladRad should start at the three, I’m not sold either way. But as long as Ariza closes games out, I’m not going to fret over who starts much.

Finally, for those of us who still have concerns about the Hornets in a seven-game series, what the Clips did with a lot of success last night is what the Hornets like to do. Darius explains:

The Clips are getting into the lane using the CP3 P&R where the screener is really setting a back screen on the PG and the ball handler is getting a head of steam going to the basket. This has opened up DeAndre Jordan inside to get putbacks and receive interior passes and Mardy Collins to get into the lane and hit some floaters. Also the Clips are hitting jumpers, some of which are contested but a few that are not.

My Favorite Comment From Last Night Someone needs to tell Kevin Love that Color Me Badd called, and they want their facial hair back.
— chibi

The Wizards Coming In: Like the Clippers, this is another team where injuries changed everything and the first half of this season has been utterly forgettable. Tonight, no Hibachi, no DeShawn Stevenson (sorry Fresno), no Haywood.

Right now this is a franchise scoreboard watching the Clippers and OKC in the fight for the most ping-pong balls (leading up to what is considered a weak draft). And the Wizards are in for a tough little stretch — five straight games against playoff teams starting tonight.

Like the Lakers, the Wizards are coming in on the second game of a back-to-back, having won a close one in Sacramento last night 110-107. Really, the Wizards outplayed the Kings pretty handily and were up by 20 in the second half— they shot better, they hit the boards better, they took care of the ball better. What kept Sacramento in it was three point shooting — the Kings took 25 and hit 48% of them.

I will say this — the Kings are playing their kids to get experience for the future, and living with the results now. The Wizards are still about the veterans, which may be better short term, but when you have this record you should be thinking long term.

Last night’s win improved the Wizards to 2-8 in their last 10. Jamison has been playing well, scoring 20 a game and hitting nearly 40% of his three pointers in that stretch. Nick Young has been lighting it up off the bench, scoring 13 a game while shooting 61.8% (eFG%) and hitting 48% of his threes. Mike James has not impressed as the starting PG, save that he also can drain the three. All that said, the Wizards shot 14% last night from three against the Kings.

Keys To The Game: The Lakers beat the Wizards on the road in December, but it was one of those frustrating wins. LA had an 18-point lead in the second half but let that slip away, winning by just two and only because Butler missed a three as time ran out. The Lakers need to close this team out tonight.

What the Wizards run is a pretty common NBA offense — a lot of isolation for Jamison and Butler, with some high screens thrown in. Then they space the floor with some shooters. The Lakers need to run guys off the three-point line tonight. But the bigs should be able to provide help inside the paint. Basically, force this team into the midrange and you beat them, let them get layups and open threes and you’re in for a fight.

I think the Bynum/Blatche match up could be a fun one to watch.

Turnovers are the thing that are bothering me a lot lately with the Lakers — just too many of them. It keeps lesser teams in games; tonight would be a good time to start taking care of the ball.

Where you can watch: Officially a 7:30 start, but as this is a national TNT game 7:45 is more likely, and we could well miss the first half of the first quarter. At that point we will all be complaining on the live blog.