Records: Lakers 37-12 (1st in West) Bobcats 24-23 (6th in East)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 109.1 (10th in league), Bobcats 102.4 (25th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 102 (2nd in league) Bobcats 102.3 (3rd in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Bobcats: Raymond Felton, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Nazir Mohammed
Walton out tonight:His back is bothering him again so he will watch this game from the trainers room.
Bobcats coming in: You’d be making a big mistake thinking “it’s just the Bobcats, the Lakers should blow them out.” First, because the Bobcats always give the Lakers trouble.
And second, because the Bobcats have been a hot team of late. They have won primarily with a very aggressive defense this season — they basically are tied with the Lakers on the season — and have been getting their offense from two sources.
One is Gerald Wallace, who has been playing like an All Star for the last 10 days — averaging 23 points a game on 58.7% (eFG%) shooting and 52% from three. Wallace also is a power on the offensive glass while on the other end he has 15 blocks in the last 10 games.
The other is Stephen Jackson. He has been scoring 22 a game and providing some other scoring punch to the team.
Keys to game: If the Lakers go to their isolation offensive trends of late tonight, they will be in a lot of trouble. Charlotte’s defense will be the problem. Darius adds some details:
Larry Brown has been one of the better coaches at disrupting the Triangle offense over the years. This goes back to the ’04 Finals and has been a recurring theme in any Lakers/team coached by Brown matchup. Mostly he loves to have his players disrupt passing angles by side fronting the post in the hub of the Triangle, denying pass to the corner on the strong side, and then sagging from the weak side to deny the pressure release when we look to swing the ball. This leads to poor timing in our sets and makes our guards over-dribble (which has been a problem this season even without the defense forcing this action). Our guys are really going to have to be crisp with their movement and work to get open. Not to mention the ‘Cats are the #1 team in defensive efficiency this season.
While Darius has the floor, he has a couple other points:
People always mention LeBron, ‘Melo and Pierce as the guys that Ron Artest was brought in to contain. Well, few would put Gerald Wallace in that class (I don’t) but he’s a dangerous player and a guy that can hurt the Lakers. Wallace has an all around game and Ron is going to have his hands full with a guy that will be very active on both ends of the floor. Wallace is playing at an extremely high level this season — proven by his inclusion on the Eastern All-Star team — and Ron is going to need to especially watch him on the glass has Wallace is getting about two off. rebounds a game. On a side note, look at the guys that Ron has been asked to guard lately — LeBron, Pierce, Caron Butler, Iguodala, Granger, Rudy Gay, and now Wallace. And before the All-Star break he’ll likely see plenty of minutes on Richard Jefferson, Brandon Roy, Melo, and AK-47. Wow. No rest for this guy.
Another guy to look out for is Raymond Felton. The forgotten PG of the Deron/CP3 draft class hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations coming out of college, but he’s having a solid year as he seems to finally found his game as a pro. His assists are down, but all of his shooting numbers (except for FT%) are up even though his scoring is down. That tells me he’s playing more under control and not forcing too much. This is like the influence of Larry Brown on his game as Brown is notoriously hard and demanding on PG’s but it looks like Felton is taking to Brown’s tutelage.
Another note about Felton, he comes off the pick with the quickness and strength of only a few in the league. He just explodes. What is challenging for the Lakers is Wallace often sets the high screen and Diaw also comes out by the arc to pull his defender away from the basket. The Lakers need to defend Felton well without getting into foul trouble and keep him out of the paint.
Another key — taking care of the ball. The Bobcats are second in the league in creating turnovers (per possession), jumping passing lanes and using long arms and athleticism to disrupt plays (see Darius’ note). That can fuel their running game, something they don’t do a lot under the controlling Brown but they have the athletes and can get some easy buckets in transition that way. You can’t give them easy buckets — their defense is not going to give you any. It’s how they can score enough to beat you.
Where you can watch: 7:30 p.m. start here out west, on Fox Sports. Plus, ESPN radio 710am.