Records: Lakers 53-13 (1st in the West) 76ers 33-31 (6th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.8 (1st in league) 76ers 106.3 (23rd in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.6 (6th in league) 76ers 105.6 (6th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
76ers Andre Miller, Willie Green (appropriate guy to start today), Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Samuel Dalembert
The Lakers coming in: Lest you think only you noticed this, early in his post game press conference after the Dallas game, Phil Jackson talked about how the Lakers have lost the killer instinct they had earlier in the season, when they got up by 15 and buried teams.
The players kind of shrugged that off at practice Monday. I personally think this is really a matter of boredom and focus, plus the injury to Bynum weakening the rotations. The Lakers keep winning, and while they get up for the challenges — back-to-backs in Houston and San Antonio — they get up by 15 early on Dallas and they just kind of start going through the motions.
But now is the time to start changing that, to start getting focused, because if it is Dallas in the first round they may not be so lucky to come back and win those games.
The 76ers Coming In: This is the first game of a six-game West Coast swing for the Sixers, who come in with a three game winning streak. The swing is a tough test, but it’s a chance for a team that is just missing that little something to pull together before the playoffs. They likely will get Orlando in the first round, and that is a tough task but not an impossible one (after the Nelson injury).
That little thing the Sixers lack, by the way, is any kind of consistent outside shooter. Nobody on the team stretches the floor. They are sort of like Utah of three years ago that way.
I have always loved Andre Miller’s game, he is a classic PG who can pass, penetrate and play solid defense. And he is playing well — scoring 18 a game while shooting 54% and dishing out 8 assists per game the last 10. Of course, the other guy to watch is Iguodala, who leads he team in scoring, slashes to the hole as well as anyone and gets them both assists and rebounds. Plus, he is the only guy to fear from three on this team, shooting 36.4% in the last 10 games from deep.
Keys To The Game: My one word of advice — don’t drink green beer tonight. Green eggs and ham I could see, but beer? No.
If there was one game where the Lakers pack-the-paint style of defense should work, it is this one — the 76ers are the worst three point shooting team in the NBA, hitting just 31.5% of their attempts. What they do have is an athletic front line, but if you can keep them out of the paint and shooting jumpers, they struggle. (That said, the Lakers need to be ready to adjust, Donyell Marshall got hot from three in their last game against the Heat and it changed everything.)
On defense, the Sixers are about gambling and forcing turnovers, which leads to easy buckets going the other way with all the athletic guys they have that can fill the lanes. The Lakers have to take care of the ball — I’m looking at you Farmar and Sasha.
Also, the Sixers do play some zone, and after the disaster against Dallas, you can be sure they will pull it out tonight. Darius talked about how to attack that:
The way to beat a zone is with the high post flash and the baseline player running from short corner to short corner as the ball reverses. Odom and Powell would be perfect in this role, but we have to be patient and move the ball.
One other lesson needs to be learned from the Dallas game — when the zone came out the Lakers became a jump shooting team, and that fueled some transition baskets for the Mavs. The Sixers are very good in the open court and would love some long rebounds and chances to run. Just another reason to make sure the ball gets inside early and often. Second unit, I’m looking at you. Again.
Where you can watch: 7:30 start at Staples, on Fox Sports in LA, if you’re already not too drunk on St. Patrick’s Day. And if you are, don’t drive (insert your own Norm Nixon joke here, if you want).