Records: Lakers 31-9 (1st in West) Magic 26-14 (4th in East)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 108.6 (11th in league), Magic 109 (9th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 101.1 (2nd in league) Magic 103.8 (6th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Magic: Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Matt Barnes, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard
Shannon Is Dunking: In case you missed the news this morning, Shannon Brown is in the dunk contest. He will be up against Gerald Wallace, Nate Robinson and DeMar DeRozan (who I think beats out Eric Gordon in the dunk off).
Congrats to Shannon. It will be interesting to watch on Feb. 13 — dunking in game and dunking in an exhibition are two totally different things (well, except for the being able to dunk part of it). The Dunk Contest is a showman’s exhibition, Brown is by nature a little bit reserved. We’ll have to see what he comes up with for the contest.
Magic coming in: I wanted to touch on just a couple things about the issues the Magic are facing.
The Magic’s offense is predicated on the other team needing to double-team Dwight Howard, or dribble penetration — either way it should free up three point shooters or get high percentage looks at the rim. Except that Dwight Howard is taking three less shots per game than he did last year, they are not getting him the ball in the post well enough. Last season Jameer Nelson’s penetration tore up the Lakers in the regular season, but he has not been the same player. So a lot of those penetration chances are going to Vince Carter, who has never been an efficient scorer and is not near the passer Nelson is. When they do get the three, they are not hitting as many — Nelson shot 45% last year, 37% this year, Hedo shot 35% last year, Carter 30% this year, Rashard Lewis is shooting the same percentage but is getting one less attempt per game.
I’ll add that while everyone talks about how much they miss Hedo, they miss Courtney Lee. He played 26 minutes a game in the playoffs and gave them some athleticism and solid play, things they seem to consistently miss now.
These things seem fixable to a degree, but like the Lakers those fixes need to start coming now so that there is something built solidly before the playoffs start.
Magic blogs: We’ve already linked to Orlando Magic Daily today, but you should also check out Orlando Pinstripe Post (the former Third Quarter Collapse), which is a high quality team blog with good writing.
Keys to game: Often, when teams that faced off in the playoffs the year before come together the next season, you get a little bit better brand of basketball. All those hours learning the tendencies of the other team, studying the offense, come back in game situations. And, as Bill Bridges pointed out in the comments:
Play Howard straight-up. Stay on the 3-point shooters and force them to shoot off the dribble as only Carter is dangerous off the dribble.
The Lakers have the luxury with Bynum, and Gasol behind him, of single covering Howard and really making him work at both ends of the floor. Plus, bringing in DJ Mbenga for a little hack-a-Howard can work for a stretch, also.
Carter was supposed to provide the ability to create shots off the dribble — particularly late in the shot clock — that the Magic lacked last year. The problem is, Carter’s true shooting percentage is down to 50.2%, well below the league average. He is shooting just 44% when he gets to the rim, 41% from 16 feet out to the arc, then 30% from three. While he can create off the dribble he is not finishing well enough to boost the team’s offense.
The Lakers cannot let Jameer Nelson get going. They also need to defend the pick-and-roll as Orlando likes to run that with Howard setting the screen (so he can roll and get deep position) or Lewis (for the pop). The Lakers have seen it all before, they know how to defend it, they just need to bring the focus this game.
Where you can watch: 7:30 p.m. start on TNT nationally, and ESPN 710 radio here in LA.