Preview & Chat: The Charlotte Bobcats

Kurt —  January 27, 2009

Charlotte Bobcats v Los Angeles Lakers

Records: Lakers 35-8 (1st in West) Bobcats 18-26 (11h in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.0 (1st in league) Bobcats 103.1 (27th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.6 (5th in league) Bobcats 105.1 (7th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Bobcats: Raymond Felton, Raja Bell, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Emeka Okafor.

On the Road Again: After tonight’s game the Lakers head for the six-game “Grammys” road trip (yes, the most meaningless award show of them all will fill Staples for a while). It’s a road trip that includes games against Boston and Cleveland. It all is the start of the toughest couple months in the Lakers schedule. With this trip, it’s a good thing to have Jordan Farmar back, who looked sharp in his return. Sometimes you learn things being forced to just watch, we’ll see if that’s the case here.

Speaking of Boston — this is the worst idea ever. EVER. I refuse to run the photo, but whatever NBA exec thought that a good St. Patrick’s Day selling point was a Lakers shirt in Celtics green — with a shamrock on the sleeve — firing is not good enough. I’m not a fan of extraordinary rendition, of going Jack Bauer on people, but this may be the exception. This could have come from the good people at Adidas, I don’t know. But somebody really didn’t think this through.

Way Off Topic, But StillI think this is a pretty good idea — shouldn’t Moses Malone’s jersey be retired in Philly?

The Bobcats Coming in: The Bobcats come into Staples with lots of old “friends” of the Lakers — Raja Bell and Boris Diaw to start. And while those two have had to adjust from the high-flying style of last year’s Suns to the grind it out style of Larry Brown they seem to be doing it very well — both had 18 points in the loss to Indiana a couple nights ago.

This team really has the feel of a Larry Brown-coached team (and not just because he openly covets everyone not on his roster). The Bobcats play hard, and particularly on the defensive end. They grind you down with a slow offensive style. And they are getting better — they are 7-3 in their last 10 games.

The key has been the much-better play of PG Raymond Felton — a 43% (eFG%) shooter on the season he is hitting 50% in the last 10 games, He has always gotten teammates involved (about 7 assists per game) but when he is scoring and not just dishing the ball the Bobcats are harder to defend. Basically, they run him off a ton of pick-and-rolls, nothing fancy but it works when he is on his game. And lately he has been on his game.

For a much more in depth look at the Bobcat guards, check out Queen City Hoops, which breaks it down in way, way more detail.

Keys to game This team is not going to be a pushover. The Bobcats have beaten Boston, New Orleans and Utah already this season. They will play hard, they will not just melt away, and they have some matchups that could frustrate the Lakers. Yes, LA should win, but don’t bet on a blowout.

Tempo is going to be key — the Lakers play at the fifth fastest pace in the league and average six or seven more possessions a game than the Bobcats (27th fastest). If the Bobcats are getting their way, the game does not have many possessions, they grind out a defensive win. It’s very Larry Brown of them. The Lakers, especially the reserves with Farmar back at the helm, need to blow past this team and get some easy buckets in transition, if they do it will be hard for the offensively-challenged Bobcats to catch up.

While the Bobcats do play good defense, their one weakness is on the boards — they allow opponents to grab 27.7% of their missed shots, which is in the bottom 10 in the league. The Lakers, with their long front line, should be able to exploit this and get some put backs and second chances.

The Lakers need to defend the pick-and-roll well, one of the keys to their offense is Felton getting into the lane. We know how quick PGs can give the Lakers fits, but LA can do a good job defending this (see Parker, Tony). If Felton is getting into the lane the Lakers will have issues.

The other tough match up is Gerald Wallace (who is a tough match up for anyone, he is good). I tend to think of Wallace as a stronger better version of Trevor Ariza, they have a somewhat similar game. One thing the Bobcats do is get him the ball in the post, but that may not work with long guys like Walton and Ariza on him. Wallace is a beast in the post or slashing into the lane but shoots just 36.6% on his jumpers — they key is getting him to shoot those and not layups.

If the Lakers can get a lead in this one they should be able to hold it, but to get that they will need to run the offense and hit the open man — the Bobcats love to block shots and leave their man to do it. There is space against them to score, but you have to be smart.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start and it is Fox Sports here in LA and NBA TV nationwide. Hey, NBA fans, why would you vote to watch this game instead of San Antonio and Utah?