Archives For March 2011

With the post season rapidly approaching, we’re nearing the point where the regular season awards will be voted on. Over a series of posts, I’ll make my argument for a specific Laker to win an award or be included on one of the All-NBA or Defensive teams. Today, my take on why Ron Artest should be named to the All-Defensive 1st Team.

It’s difficult to quantify defense with statistics. Sure, we have the typical box score stats of steals and blocked shots. And over time we’ve also become more comfortable using advanced metrics like adjusted plus/minus, on and off-court statistics, and PER Against to try to paint a clearer picture of which players are most helping their teams on that side of the ball. However, none of these stats truly tell the whole story and we’re often left  judging players based off reputation or snippets of games that we watch when determining the best defensive players.

All that said, Ron Artest should make the All-Defensive 1st Team this year.

No, I don’t have the magic stat that sums up his impact. I could cite that when he’s off the court, the Lakers allow 2.15 points per 100 possessions more than when he’s on the court. I could tell you that his PER agasint is 14.4 (when playing SF) which is, technically, below league average production. Or I could tell you that he averages nearly 1.5 steals a game. But none of that would really do him justice when judging how good a defender he’s been this season.

We often talk about defensive anchors in this league and we mostly talk about big men. Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Joakim Noah, Kevin Garnett, or even Andrew Bynum. This makes sense because players who can protect the basket and limit the easiest scoring opportunities have enormous value.

Well, Ron Artest is a defensive anchor that plays on the wing. The Lakers consistently put him on the other team’s best wing scorer and tell him to lock him up, and he does it.

This is where PER against doesn’t do Ron any favors. Look at that link again and you’ll notice that Ron doesn’t have any defensive statistics related to playing shooting guard. However, against the Clippers Ron spent nearly every minute on the court guarding Eric Gordon, who just so happens to be their leading scorer and their starting SG. The results were classic Artest as Gordon went 3-14 and scored only 7 points. In different games this year, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Roy, and Kevin Martin have also had to deal with Artest hounding them all over the court as Kobe got switched onto lesser wing threats. But we don’t see that reflected in Ron’s PER against (meanwhile Kobe’s PER Against when facing SG’s is 13.3)

Ron’s versatility hasn’t been limited to guarding SGs either. Earlier in the year when Bynum was hurt, or when the Laker bigs have been in foul trouble, the Lakers have been forced to go small and Ron’s had to guard PFs. Statistical metrics may not show it, but Ron’s given Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and David West (and in a recent game, Carl Landry) issues too. I specifically remember a game vs. the Clippers where Bynum was out and Lamar Odom was having trouble dealing with Blake Griffin. In that contest, Artest switched onto Blake and proceeded to push him off his spots, and ended up forcing a steal on an entry pass into Blake that helped clinch that game. (As an aside, late game steals have become somewhat of a specialty for Ron, as he snatched the ball away from Steve Nash late in the triple OT game agaisnt the Suns that helped secure that win, as well as stealing the ball from Griffin on a fast break in the aforementioned recent Clipper game that helped secure that win.)

But forget going outside his natural position to defend players. Small forward is one of the more stacked positions in the league and Ron more than holds his own against the best of the best. In three games this year, Kevin Durant has shot 36% and scored 5 points below his season average when facing Artest and the Lakers. And while Pierce, Carmelo, and LeBron have had at least one good game against him, Artest came back in the rematches against those players and held them to relatively poor nights. (After going 11-18 in the first game, Pierce went 6-15 in the rematch. After going 8-14 on Christmas, Lebron went 7-17 in the rematch. After going 14-25 in the first game, ‘Melo went 10-24 in the rematch. Ron has done a great job of bouncing back against some of the best SFs in the game.)

Beyond the raw numbers or even the versatility offered, though, it’s Ron’s sheer presence on that side of the ball that I value the most. I understand that there are other premier wing defenders but in all the games that I’ve watched I rarely see such an intimidating, aggressive defender as Artest. He’s constantly poking the ball away or forcing a player to pick up his dribble, or even pestering a player into making an errant pass. How many times have you heard an announcer (either the LA crew or the opposing one) say that you “can’t play with the ball in front of Ron Artest”? How many times has a player had to turn his back to Ron (and completely removing himself as a threat to make a basketball move in the process) in order to shield the ball and ensure that Ron didn’t get his hands in to disrupt the play? This type of stuff happens several times a game and there’s no statistical measurement that can accurately place value on what that means to the Laker defense.

In the end, I know that Ron’s a long shot to make 1st team. Last year he probably had an even better defensive season and he didn’t make either 1st or 2nd team all defense. It doesn’t help his cause that the Lakers are looked at as a team that relies heavily on their big men as their defensive catalysts. Nor does it help that Ron plays with Kobe (who has a strong defensive reputation of his own) and is backed up by Matt Barnes, yet another player with a rep for playing strong D. But I’ve watched the games. I know how Ron’s been asked to chase players around screens, lock them down in isolation (where based off Synergy’s statistics, he’s a top 10 defender and only allows .53 points per play), and expertly challenge their shots. I’ve seen first hand how he changes the game on that side of the ball by cutting off passing angles, forcing turnovers (that aren’t neccessarily recorded as steals), and making players take extra dribbles that burn precious seconds off the shot clock. Even when he’s had a bad game he’s bounced back in the next one to play even better.

This year, he’s just been too good to go without recognition. Here’s hoping that he gets it.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  March 28, 2011

There’s a lot of different topics cluttering my brain today, so no better way to address them all than with an installment of Fast Break Thoughts…

*Most fans have a player (or more) that they look at more critically than others. For years, the guy that I’d often judge a bit more harshly than others was Jordan Farmar. There’s no need to get into those reasons again, but lets just say that I was okay with him moving on as a free agent. However, with Farmar gone a new player has taken his place: Shannon Brown. I like Shannon as a player and think he deserves a lot of credit for his developing and growing his game. During his time as a Laker he’s made tremendous strides as a shooter and ball handler. That said, multiple times a game I find myself not able to look past his penchant for over dribbling or his mistakes on defense. Too often, he gambles for steals or doesn’t close out with a hand up (preferring to run at a players legs). Too many times he ignores making the post entry in favor of probing the defense while dribbling the ball between his legs. He’s too much gunner and not enough wingman for my liking. Again, he’s made great strides as a player and by all accounts he’s coachable, accountable, and a hard worker. However, I find myself wanting less freelancing and more commitment to doing the little things better. Maybe I’m being too hard on him.

*Last night Derek Fisher started the game 0-7 and finished the game just 1-8, scoring only 2 points. He chipped in 3 rebounds and 4 assists while tallying a team high +26 on the night. This type of statistical line gives Fisher supporters and bashers ammunition in their next barroom argument about his value to the team. But I’ve never questioned his value just because those little things that I’m asking Shannon Brown to do get done by Fisher on a nightly basis. Maybe I turn a blind eye too often to Fisher’s weaknesses while playing up his strengths more than I should. In any event, I couldn’t agree with Roland Lazenby more here.

*Last week, Rob Mahoney wrote that the Chicago Bulls should be the favorites to win the championship. Based solely off his power rankings and his playoff odds predictor, John Hollinger’s numbers agree. That said, over at The Point Forward, Zach Lowe tells us that the Lakers are once again the favorites to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy come June. An excerpt:

Put simply, the Lakers are playing both offense and defense better than anyone else. They’re also as healthy as any veteran-heavy team can expect to be now. Ron Artest is surging, Pau Gasol’s mid-range jumper has reached the point where it should inspire terror in opposing fans upon release, and Andrew Bynum is playing the best all-around ball of his career. In doing so, Bynum is helping change the Lakers’ identity in a way that makes them fit more closely the conventional notion of a “playoff-style” team (if you believe in such things). And even so, they remain unconventional in ways that make them extra difficult to deal with.

I know it’s extremely convenient of me to agree with Zach here (after all, look at the name of this site), but I do. One of the main reasons behind my not-quite-there thoughts on the Bulls is because of the team they remind me of: The 2008 Los Angeles Lakers. Like our guys from 2008 the Bulls have made a big leap from their previous season, losing in the 1st round of the playoffs the previous year and coming out of nowhere to lead their conference. They excel on one side of the ball (in this case defense), while being middle of the pack on the other side. They employ the likely league MVP. They have several players (and a coach) that are considered winners, but haven’t had a lot of success together as of yet. In the end, I do think the Bulls have what it takes to reach the Finals. I’m just not convinced they have what it takes to bring home the hardware. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I feel like I’ve seen this before.

*Speaking of the Bulls, they’re one of the teams whose performance down the stretch I’m watching closely. Along with the C’s, Mavs, Heat, and Spurs, the Bulls represent a team that could be a post-season opponent in which the rest of the regular season will dictate home court advantage should a match up with the Lakers occur. For up to the minute standings, look here. So you know, however, the popular take is that the Lakers won’t catch the Spurs for HCA in the West. That’s an opinion that I also agree with.

*Not sure how much of the NCAA tourney you’ve been watching but there have been some great games on in the past couple of weeks. For what it’s worth, I’ve been impressed with a handful of college players including Kyrie Irving of Duke, Harrison Barnes of UNC, Derrick Williams of UofA, and Kemba Walker of UCONN. Walker has especially impressed me as his shot making and moxie are otherworldly. I’m sure others from that list of players will make better professionals, but watching Walker dart around the court, hit step back jumpers, set up his mates, and do it all with a sense of the moment has been very impressive.

*And speaking of the Tournament, my bracket is officially dead. I don’t have a single team alive in the Final Four and am near the bottom of the rankings in our FB&G pool. As for the winner of our pool, that’s yet to be established as Bob’s Bracket has a 5 point lead and still has his pick for National Champion alive.

*Lastly, we haven’t discussed this much here but the reality is sinking in that the Sacramento Kings will relocate to Anaheim (likely to be named the Royals). If you haven’t heard, Phil Jackson has spoken out against this relocation and it’s now being reported that this move could cut into the revenue from the Lakers recently inked TV deal with Time Warner. That’s a lot of money.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Pau Gasol. Particularly with David West on the sidelines, the Lakers have an enormous advantage inside against a team like New Orleans. Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry are both undersized, and while Aaron Gray is bulkier off the bench, he’s not very good. It’s a game Gasol should dominate, and he did. In the first half, he scored in just about every way possible, whether running the floor to finish on the break, hitting from mid-range, or- best of all- absorbing contact inside from Landry and Okafor earning a pair of and-one opportunities. By the break, he’d converted six of his nine shots for 15 points, but perhaps more importantly hauled down nine rebounds on a night Andrew Bynum struggled to stay on the floor (see below).

From the K-Bros, Land O’ Lakers: Said Derek Fisher after Sunday’s 102-84 win over the Hornets at Staples: “As you move through a season, particularly for a team that has the experience we have, there are ebbs and flows in a season you embrace. You understand there are certain things that are just part an NBA season. When you’re on that high and things are going good, it’s important to maximize it and ride it out. I think that’s what we’ve done. We haven’t all of a sudden said it’s important to us now. As we started to play good right after the break, we found some things that we could kind of hang our hat on, and stuck with it. It’s been good for us.”

From Ryan Schwan, Hornets 24/7: The Lakers jumped out to a big lead in the first quarter, running their offense, taking advantage of all the size mismatches on the inside, and drilling every open look they got.  The Hornets didn’t give up all game, cutting the lead to single digits several times, but in the end, they couldn’t hit their own open perimeter shots and fell 102-84 to the Lakers. I said before the games that for the Hornets to win, they were going to need Landry to go off and their perimeter guys to hit their shots.  The Hornets perimeter guys, however, didn’t comply, and it wasn’t because of some sort of stellar perimeter defense.  They simply failed to knock down the open shots they did get.  3-17 from deep, including 1-10 from Marco and Trevor.  I expect that from Trevor, but Belinelli’s inability to hit his shots hurt badly.  Paul himself was off for a lot of the game, shooting several shots so short that they were very nearly airballs.  23 points from three of your starters?  That’s not cutting it against anyone.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Sometimes, life’s like a box of chocolates that contains only one kind of chocolate: you know precisely what you’re going to get. Such is the case these days with games between the Lakers and Hornets. The teams assemble on a basketball court. The Lakers deploy their superior size, depth and talent to pound away inside. Kobe Bryant goes to work on whoever’s guarding him. Hornet shooters honk a bunch of open looks. Lakers win comfortably. Cut. Print. That’s a wrap. Everything went according to script tonight at Staples Center, where the Lakers prevailed, 102 to 84, to tie a bow around a four-game season sweep of New Orleans. We can look forward to a four-game postseason sweep should these teams meet in the playoffs

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: After winning consecutive NBA championships, the Lakers feel like going 15-1 after the All-Star break isn’t much reason to — in the words of Ron Artest’s new song — “Go Loco.” “We just feel like we’re in a good rhythm,” Kobe Bryant said calmly after the Lakers’ 102-84 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday night at Staples Center. The Lakers are now four games behind injury-plagued San Antonio for the NBA’s best record. The Spurs and Lakers both have nine games left, including an April 12 date at Staples Center. Asked if the Lakers are motivated by catching the Spurs, Bryant replied: “We’re motivated by winning. It doesn’t really matter to us whether we catch ‘em or not.”

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Lakers coach Phil Jackson isn’t focusing the Lakers’ quest for it, but he said before the team’s game against New Orleans on Sunday night: “All things are possible in this game.” Jackson was talking about the Lakers maybe rallying all the way past San Antonio for the best record in the NBA. After the Spurs’ loss in Memphis on Sunday, the Lakers went into their game with New Orleans knowing a victory over the Hornets would leave the Lakers just four games behind San Antonio (57-16). The Spurs have nine games left, but seven of them are against teams with winning records — and one is against the Lakers at Staples Center on April 12. Jackson said the Lakers are not plotting to pass the Spurs, who expect to have Tim Duncan (ankle) back for some final regular-season games.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: After placing his shoes by his locker, Lakers guard Derek Fisher walked past the television and shot a glance at the screen. The Memphis Grizzlies were seconds away from securing an upset victory Sunday over the San Antonio Spurs, the team with the NBA’s best record that seemed destined to have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. But Fisher didn’t flinch for one second. He simply walked past the monitor and headed toward the exit. There was a game to play. Three hours later, the significance of San Antonio’s loss came into perspective. The Lakers’ 102-84 victory Sunday night over the New Orleans Hornets reduced the gap for first place in the Western Conference to four games and secured a one-game lead for the second spot over the Dallas Mavericks, which clinched their fourth consecutive victory with a win Sunday over the Phoenix Suns.

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: Lamar Odom has never made an All-Star team and never won an individual award, unless you count the Eastern Conference player of the month in March 2004. But the Lakers forward is closer than ever to taking home a personal keepsake. Odom and Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry are in a tight race for the NBA’s Sixth Man Award. Odom is quick to point out he’s already a winner. “I’ve got two awards,” he said, pausing for effect. “Two championships.” Then he got reflective about winning something on his own. “It would be a great accomplishment,” he said. “I never would have seen myself four or five years ago coming off the bench.”

Tonight is just one of those nights where the Lakers’ collective talent was enough to win the game, but you never got the feeling of this game being dominated by an obviously superior team. The Lakers’ inability to put teams away has been a pet peeve of mine of lately, and tonight’s game was no different. The Lakers held leads of 18 and 17 points at different points in this game, but the game never seemed out of reach, as the Lakers continued to let the Hornets get back into the game over and over again. Even though it never seemed as if the Hornets gained enough momentum to get over the proverbial hump, the Lakers never really put them away.

The Lakers got going early, getting the ball inside to Pau and Andrew Bynum for easy layups and dunks. Kobe saw some time in the post, knocking down short jumpers and getting to the free throw line by attacking the rim. Even Ron Artest muscled Marco Belinelli for a couple of easy buckets near the rim. Even though Derek Fisher wasn’t putting points up on the board, he had a few nice passes that led to easy points for the Lakers early on in the game. The Lakers pounded their way to a 30-19 first quarter lead, and really looked like they were finding a nice offensive groove going into the second quarter.

Unfortunately, the second unit went away from what was working for the starters and started taking jumper after jumper after jumper after jumper. During the first six minutes of the second quarter, the Lakers took a 15-foot or longer jump shot in nine of their 12 attempts. By that point, the Lakers watched what was once a 12 point lead, get reduced to a four point lead. This trend would continue throughout the rest of the game. The Lakers played fantastic basketball to open up the third and extended their lead to 18, but started taking more jump shots and watched as their lead dipped back below double figures. They, again, stretched their lead to 17 points, but watched as that lead was slowly chipped away until the Lakers finally put the Hornets away in the final minutes of the game.

Of course, not all is bad in a win. We’ve been seeing a more aggressive Kobe in recent weeks and he topped the 30-point mark for the third straight game for the first time since the end of January/beginning of February. What you have to like about his recent performances is the fact that he’s been really aggressive in attacking the rim, allowing him to pick his spots in his mid-range game, which in turn turns into more efficient outings. Also, he’s been getting to the free throw line at a nice rate. Tonight, Kobe was seven for eight from the free throw line. Pau also had a fantastic game, scoring 23 points and adding 16 rebounds. His mid range jumper has been outstanding in recent games, and was no different tonight. More importantly, however, was the fact that he was not only finishing around the rim, but he was finishing strong. He had a few and-1’s and a couple of dunks in traffic.

Andrew Bynum had a rough night with the referees for most of the game, but had a small takeover while out on the floor with the second unit midway through the fourth quarter. He had a nice baseline drop step that got him to the free throw line, hit a nice face up jumper over Aaron Gray, a big dunk off of a Luke Walton pass and hit one more short jumper before Lamar Odom came in to finish the game for him. Finally, Ron Artest had a really efficient game tonight. 4-6 from the field, 1-1 from three and 2-2 from the free throw line. He finished the night with three steals, and now the Lakers are 14-1 when Ron line in the box score shows three steals.

Overall, it’s hard to complain too much after the Lakers won their 15th game in 16 outings since the All-Star break. They got it done on the defensive end again, only giving up 84 to the Hornets. The Lakers have Dallas up next on Thursday.

Records: Lakers 52-20 (2nd in West), Hornets 42-31 (7th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.7 (2nd in NBA), Hornets 106.2 (20th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.7 (7th in NBA), Hornets 104.2 (6th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Hornets: Chris Paul, Marco Belinelli, Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor
Injuries: Lakers: Devin Ebanks & Theo Ratliff (out); Hornets: David West (out)

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers are the hottest team in the league (or at least right there with the Bulls). That said, there are still things to improve on. Phil Jackson has called out his bench, looking for better play from his reserves. He specifically asks for better D and less turnovers on O and I can’t blame him. What I’m seeing is a tendency to try and make the big play on both sides of the ball rather than playing with a more methodical approach that’s worked so well for his starting group. Shannon Brown consistently gambles for steals by shooting the gap in passing lanes and nearly every bench player makes at least one homerun pass a game looking for the play that gets the crowd off their feet rather than making the pass that will simply progress the offensive set in motion. For what it’s worth, the bench players themselves recognize this. As cited in the article linked above, when Lamar Odom was asked about the bench’s performance of late, he pulled no punches:

If I had to grade it, the last 10 games would be a ‘C,’ and close to an ‘F’

Well then. While I wouldn’t go that far (LO is known to strive for perfection) the reserves do need to get back to playing within themselves more and running the sets on both sides of the ball. I’d like to see less reliance on perimeter shots and for the ball to stick less on the wing by players that want to dribble and probe the D looking for their own shot (that means you, Shannon Brown). Defensively, I’d like to see the big men better help when wings penetrate the lane. I understand that Pau and LO aren’t going to provide the same presence that Bynum does, but seeing players get all the way to the rim in both the half court and in transition is frustrating.

The Hornets Coming in: We often talk about the up and down nature of a season when discussing the Lakers. Well, our guys have nothing on the Hornets when it comes to roller coaster campaigns. From Chris Paul trade rumors, to ownership changes (the NBA ended up buying the team), to dealing with lease issues surrounding their long term future in New Orleans, this team has seen it’s fair share of drama both on and off the court all while holding on to a playoff spot in the tough as ever western conference. You would think this would be enough with the regular season winding down. However, they’ve recently been dealt another blow when David West landed awkwardly on his left knee, tearing his ACL and being ruled out for the rest of the season. Luckily, the Hornets had completed a trade at the deadline that netted them Carl Landry who for all extents and purposes is a poor man’s David West (they possess similar skill sets, West just does them all better) but that still leaves the Hornets woefully thin in their front court with few options to turn to.

With so many challenges to work through, it’s lucky that this team still has Chris Paul. CP3 is having another banner year and showing his leadership by putting this team on his back and carrying them home. Even after sitting out two games with a concussion, he’s come back stronger than ever, putting up nearly 23 points and over 11 assists (to only 3 turnovers) a game while also adding nearly 3 steals and over 5 rebounds in the six contests since his return. For all the talk of Rose as the MVP, Paul has also been fantastic and consistently reminds us that he should still be in the conversation as best PG in the league.

Hornets Blogs: Hornets 24/7 and At The Hive are two great team sites dedicated to covering this team. You should check them both out.

Keys to game: With our without David West, the keys to beating the Hornets are the same. The Lakers need to get the ball inside to Gasol and Bynum and let them go to work against undersized defenders. In Bynum’s first start of the year he faced off against the Hornets and poured in 18 points on efficient post ups and offensive rebounds (really, we tracked it). Tonight, he’s more than capable of doing the same thing should the Lakers get him the ball in the pivot against Okafor.

Gasol should also get ample touches against Landry. In the Lakers’ recent run, Gasol has been doing stellar work at the mid-post and elbow working his jumper and then countering with quick drives off ball fakes and tonight should be no different against Landry. Run sets through Pau and let him get going early, and the results should mean easier shots for everyone.

And that includes Kobe. Even though #24 has a distinct match up advantage over Belinelli, I’d still like to see him do more work off the ball to get his looks. I’d love it if he deferred early and let the ball come back to him later in the clock as he’s a guy that can get a shot off in isolation whenever he wants against the defenders that he’ll see this evening. If the ball goes into the post, Kobe can work off cross screens and flash into the paint coming off curls for easier most of the night. If he really does end up isolating, I’d prefer that those touches come at the mid post at the elbow when Odom is in the game rather than on the wing when both Pau and Drew are in there with him. Tonight’s game offers a chance for Kobe to score efficiently with minimal work if he’d get the ball out of his hands early. We’ll see if he takes this approach or not, but I’m hopeful he does.

Defensively the Lakers will need to focus all their energy on limiting Paul. He’ll obviously look to exploit the Lakers P&R defense but he’s more able to exploit the Lakers’ scheme than other players with his ability to knock down the mid-range jumper coming off that pick. Considering that’s the shot the Lakers are comfortable surrendering, Paul should get ample looks from 18 feet and a lot of the Lakers success on D will depend on if A). Paul is knocking that shot down and B). if Bynum/Gasol are able to lay back to deny penetration while still jumping out to contest that shot when Fisher/Blake get picked off in these sets. LA’s bigs will need to show discipline but can’t get over anxious in stepping out on Paul considering he’s more than willing to dish to rolling big men or jump into them and draw contact to earn free throws.

The other player to worry about on O is Carl Landry. I mentioned earlier that he’s a poor mans version of David West, but he’s also a notorious Laker killer. Landry’s mid-range game often gives the Lakers fits as he’s very much capable of hitting that 15 foot jumper but also has a very good ball fake that allows him to use his good first step to get to the basket. Gasol and Odom will need to honor that shot but not fall for his fakes so as to give up easier shots at the basket. They’ll also need to understand that his pet move off the dribble is spin off defenders and draw contact, so I’d love to see both Laker bigs keep him to one side and make him finish over length rather than allowing him an escape route to easier looks by allowing him to pivot away from the defense.

If the Lakers need to show any extra help on defense, this is one game where I wouldn’t mind seeing it come from the wings rather than the bigs. Outside of Belinelli, the Hornets don’t possess capable shooters (Ariza has been woeful this season from behind the arc and the separate trades of Peja and Thornton have left them without other wing shooters) so Ron and Barnes should have ample opportunities to dig down on Landry and Okafor and bother their handle and hopefully pick up some steals. Forcing turnovers against a team that’s led by Chris Paul isn’t easy (the Hornets are a top 10 team in protecting the ball) but the Lakers can earn some extra possessions by actively attacking the post when those guys commit to their offensive move.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start on Fox Sports West. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.