Records: Lakers 43-15 (1st in West), 76ers 22-35 (10th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 108.8 (10th in NBA), 76ers 105.7 (20th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.0 (Tied for 1st in NBA), 76ers 108.6 (20th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
76ers: Louis Williams, Jrue Holliday, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Samuel Dalembert
The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers, for all intents and purposes, are not playing close to their best ball. And, in game 59 of the season, that’s probably starting to become an issue. Earlier in the season, this could be explained away with the addtion of Artest, Pau being on the shelf, inegrating a more polished Bynum, Kobe’s post game, etc, etc. But at this point in the season, the Lakers should be starting to gel. I’m not in panic mode, but I am a bit concerned. It’s not the loss to the Mavericks or any loss that concerns me really. It’s more the level of play that has me looking a bit harder at this team. Last season, there were cries from fans about coasting or not playing hard, but this season that is not the case. I really don’t see a complacent team when I watch the Lakers play. I see a team that isn’t executing in the manner that it needs to in the moments of the game that may not require the most focus. I mean, against Memphis and even against Dallas, we saw a team that hunkered down and got the baskets it needed to either win the game or give themselves a real chance. But what about those moments in the middle of the third quarter or right before halftime? Those moments matter too and I’m not seeing the attention to detail that I’ve seen in the past.
The 76ers Coming in: The major story surrounding the 76ers right now has little to do with anything that is happening on the court, but rather with a guy that isn’t on it for them right now. As you’ve likely been reading over the past few weeks, Allen Iverson has been with the team off and on for some time dealing with an undisclosed illness to his daughter. Needless to say, we all wish that this situation turns for the better for Iverson and his family and my thoughts are with this on court warrior must now be feeling a bit helpless with a situation that he can’t control.
On the court, the Sixers seem to be going through the motions. I don’t mean that they’re not playing hard, but they’re a team that is not constructed in a way that will promote success for the long term. To steal a line from Jay-Z, the 76ers seem to be like a treadmill – running in place. Many around the league were thinking that Philly would be a major player around the trade deadline and make a deal that would shake up their roster so they could start to rebuild with a nucleus that better fits their scheme. Well, that didn’t happen. So, the Sixers are still stuck with pieces that don’t quite fit and a coach whose system is rigid and requirese certain types of guys. I know that if I was building a team that ran a Princeton offense, I really wouldn’t choose to have any of the starters on this team populate that roster.
76ers Blogs: Philadunkia not only has a great blog name, but they bring some great insight to the Sixers. Also, visit here, to check out some questions I answered for them for their ‘Fo with the Foes series.
Keys to game: In the last game between these two teams, it turned out to be throw back the clock night as Iverson was vintage and Kobe dueled with him to give the fans of Philly a look back to 2001. Sadly, we wont see any of that tonight – at least not from Iverson – due to the circumstances that I mentioned earlier. So, we’re left with the potential for a couple of different storylines that don’t quite provide the same punch, but could be interesting nonetheless.
Offensively, as I mentioned to Philadunkia, the Lakers have an big advantage inside and should go to it. Bynum and Pau have distinct size advantages over both Dalembert and Brand and should work them on the block and either score with relative ease or make them double and then move the ball to open teammates. Another advantage the Lakers have is with Kobe facing a rookie in Jrue Holiday. In these types of circumstances, Kobe seems to relish facing the up and coming young bucks to show them how much further they have to go in their young careers. So, we may just see agressive Kobe tonight, but I also hope that his teammates come along with him to join the party. Philly is not a strong defensive team, but one thing they can do is force turnovers. Philly is in the top ten in opposition’s turnover rate and with the Lakers propensity to turn over the ball in the last two games, this is something to monitor. The Lakers must not be lazy with their post entries nor with their ball reversals because Philly does have some athletes to take advantage of these mistakes.
Defensively, the Lakers need to clamp down on Iguodala. In the last game against the Sixers, Ron Artest pretty much locked up AI2 to the tune of 8 points to go along with 5 turnovers. Without Iverson tonight, Iggy will be depended on more to produce offense but if he can’t muster a better effort against Ron, this game could get ugly on offense for Philly. Two other players to watch are Philly’s two PF’s, Brand and Thad Young. In the last game, Brand was the only other Sixer to score more than 10 points by notching 19. Sure, he needed 19 shots to get there, but he showed he’s still got some craftiness in the post and can still make that 15ft jumper. Pau may not have his hands full with Elton, but he won’t be able to just ignore him either. He should really be aware of Brand on the offensive glass as 5 of Elton’s 14 carroms were picked up on our defensive glass. As for Thad Young, he may not have taken the step that many fans and (surely) his coaches would have wanted him to this season, but he’s still a versatile forward that can do a lot of things on the court. He has range out the three point line and has a decent handle. Plus he’s left handed, so he gets an extra credit sticker from me. He’ll likely find himself matched up a lot with our own lefty, so LO will need to be aware that Thad will hang around the three point line but sneak into the paint if you ball watch too much. We’re going to need an aware LO this evening, so here’s hoping he ate his sour patch kids before the tip.
Where you can watch: 7:30 pm start time here on the West on Fox Sports West. Also on ESPN Radio 710am.