Records: Lakers 58-15 (1st in West) Bobcats 33-40 (9th in the East, 2 games out of the playoffs)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.1 (3rd in league) Bobcats 104.8 (27th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.0 (6th in league) Bobcats 105.7 (8th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Bobcats: Raymond Felton, Raja Bell, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Emeka Okafor.
The Lakers Coming in: I’m tired/tired of being admired/tired of love uninspired/let’s face it, I’m tired!
— Lilly Von Shtup in Blazing Saddles
I think other than Mel Brooks, Reed summed up the feelings of the Lakers and their fans best in a comment yesterday:
This has been, perhaps, the most uninteresting end to a regular season in memory. Our seeding was set by Christmas. With Drew out there really aren’t any young players whose development is interesting. Ariza is a bright spot, but if anything we’ve see our young players regress as the season progresses. There were no interesting trade additions. The rotation is largely set. The team’s strong play eliminates the “maybe they’ll turn the corner” angle. Everyone’s getting along.
So, we’ve had to endure solid, steady, but fairly monotonous basketball without any dramatic subplots. It’s tough to complain about monotony when it’s winning, but please wake me when the playoffs begin or Bynum returns.
One interesting thing, the Charlotte Observer interviewed Raja Bell about how to slow Kobe today. He said all the right things — that you can’t stop him just make him work a lot, make him hit jumpers, etc. But one question caught my attention:
Q: Is he better or worse when angry?
A: “Depends on what kind of anger; if he’s angry at who he’s playing against, better. If he’s angry at an official, or something else has him off a bit, that could work into his opponent’s hands.”
The Bobcats Coming in: Two games back that is tantalizingly close to the playoffs but a difficult amount to make up. Brett from Queen City Hoops laid out how they can do it at ESPN.com today, and of course that includes beating the Lakers.
The Lakers see old friend Vladimir Radmanovic tonight. Vlad is steady, his numbers with the Bobcats are down slightly from his numbers in LA, but not a ton. He is playing four more minutes a game, shooting 38.1% from three (down 3%), his true shooting percentage is down 4%, and his PER is almost identical.
I still really covet Gerald Wallace, and he has been playing well. In the last 10 games he is averaging 19.8 points on 59% shooting overall and 45% from three, plus you can count on about 10 rebounds and 4 assists. And he is going to keep attacking the rim.
Keys to game This is going to be a tough game. The fans are pumped up because they want revenge on what they see as a dirty hit on Gerald Wallace. The team should be pumped up and focused because the playoffs are within reach. And remember that double OT loss for the Lakers in the last meeting.
After the last showing in Atlanta, the Lakers run into another team that likes to jump passing lanes on the wings, be aggressive on defense and go for steals. The triangle offense is filled with pressure releases for these situations (or guys can just come out a little farther to get the ball). Like Atlanta, this is not a great half-court offensive team, but if you give them some easy transition baskets off turnovers they will score plenty.
The Lakers did not defend the pick-and-roll well last meeting, so we should expect a lot of that. The Bobcats run it with Raymond Felton (UNC!) and Diaw, both of whom can drive or hit the outside shot. The Lakers need to be disciplined and communicate, show out on Felton but recover fast.
Also, just make Diaw go left. Please. He’s more one sided than Odom.
Wallace also is going to get his chance to slash, and that is hard to stop. Slowing him means pushing him out on the perimeter with ball denial then having more crisp rotations behind him.
The Lakers should be able to run — this is a Larry Brown team after all. They want to grind out the game. Some easy transition baskets would be nice.
Here are a couple quick thoughts from Darius:
I wonder how we’re going to adjust to the defensive schemes that the Bobcats run. Larry Brown has had lots of success in game planning against our offensive sets and they’ll do similar things that were successful for the Hawks (and Boston in last years finals). They will deny ball entries to the wing, they’ll half front the post, they’ll deny ball reversals, and they’ll be very aware of the flash to the highpost from the weakside big. All of this is meant to disrupt our timing. Against the Hawks our guys did not do a good job of establishing the timing in our sets. (Sidebar-a while back Gatinho posted a link to a video where Phil and Tex were talking about the principles of our offense. In that video they stressed that one of the major principles is players reading the defense and reacting to what they are doing and moving accordingly. Essentially when the defender is five feet from the ball, we should be passing to the open player who should have been working to get open because he was reading that the pass would be coming soon-end sidebar.) Anyways, I’d like to see crisper sets tonight. Better timing, harder screens, sharper cuts, and-overall-more fluid movement.
On defense, I’d like to see us do a better job containing Felton off the dribble and matching the effort of Wallace and Okafor. I’d also like to see Odom do a number on Diaw and have LO use his length to disrupt what Boris likes to do on the block. Last game Diaw got it going using his Euro craftiness and it fed his confidence which led to better shot making throughout the rest of the game.
Where you can watch: Early 4 pm start out West, on KCAL 9.