Records: Lakers 13-3 (2nd in West) Hornets 7-10 (12th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 107.2 (14th in league) Hornets 106.9 (16th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.1 (2nd in league) Hornets 111.2 (28th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Hornets: Darren Collison, Devin Brown, James Posey, David West, Emeka Okafor
The Lakers Coming in: Following today’s theme of maturity with the Lakers, it has certainly been nice to see them take care of the weaker teams in the league handily. In past years we all seemed to dread games against some of the teams at the bottom of the standings because the Lakers played down to them, and while they may get the win it took a lot of Kobe late to do it. Not so lately. The Lakers have been focused early, jumping out to big leads and putting teams away in the third quarter. As god intended.
Of course, LA has yet to play the Bobcats.
The Hornets Coming in: Chris Paul will not suit up tonight, still out with a sprained ankle. Peja Stojakovic also may not play, he missed the last game due to the illness of a family member and is not expected on the court tonight.
Since we last saw the Hornets, Byron Scott has been let go. (Which led to some wildly far-reaching speculation about him coming to Los Angeles. If that was you, just stop it. Stop it now.) Scott was not the only problem the Hornets had by far, but by the accounts of those close to the situation Scott had lost the team. That would make two teams he has lost in the locker room now, the Nets and the Hornets. (Still want to fantasize about the dream job he would do with the Lakers?) GM Jeff Bowen was given the coaching gig on the theory that if he built it, he should have to coach it.
Still, since the Scott left and Paul went down the Hornets have picked up some quality wins — over the Suns and Hawks — and looked like a better team in some ways. How are the Hornets better without a guy who has a PER of 33? Team play. The Hornets are moving better without the ball, rather than waiting for CP3 create. They are running a lot more and getting points in transition. Also, in transition their bigs, like Okafor and West, have hit the offensive glass hard for putbacks.
Well, that and the Ewing theory.
If the Hornets can blend CP3 into this style of play they can be effective.
Blogs and links: Check out the gang at Hornets 24/7, who do great work.
Also, the D-Fenders won their season opening game Sunday night. There’s a new blog out covering just the D-League you may want to check out called D-LeagueDigest.
Keys to game: As is the case basically every night, the Lakers have a huge advantage along the front line to exploit — they need to do that not only for the baskets but to slow the transition game of the Hornets down. Make them keep defenders down low and take the ball out of the basket not off the rim.
The one guy that has really got to run tonight is Bynum — Okafor has been running and doing what Bynum loves to do, get down the court early, get deep position and getting the ball for an easy bucket. Bynum’s long arms can give Okafor trouble, but Bynum needs to be back to do it.
The other thing that fuels the running game is turnovers. The Lakers need to take care of the ball — the Hornets like to pressure with their small, quick guards. On the flip side, I like Collision but he has some learning to do and the Lakers may be able to get some turnovers and easy buckets.
Where you can watch: 7:30 start at Staples Center, you can choose between Fox Sports or NBA TV, or for those in their cars tune in at 710 ESPN on your AM dial. (I guess radios don’t have dials anymore, but I like the phrase.)