Records: Lakers 10-6 (6th in West), Magic 10-4 (5th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 101.8 (19th in NBA), Magic 107.5 (6th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 98.5 (6th in NBA), Magic 102.0 (15th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Magic: Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, Quentin Richardson, Ryan Anderson, Dwight Howard
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Blake and Derrick Caracter (both out); Magic: Hedo Turkoglu (doubtful), Jason Richardson (questionable), Daniel Orton (questionable)
I’m not going to give our normal preview today as I think J.M. and Eddy Rivera (of the great site Magic Basketball) covered a lot of ground this morning. So, instead, I offer a few bullet points of some of the things I’ll be watching closely in a game I think is quite important to the Lakers.
- The Howard/Bynum match up is the one in lights and I’ll be watching that one closely. Both guys have been great this year and Howard has again shown that he’s the elite big man in the league with his ability to control the glass, navigate the double teams that he sees, and be the leader for his team. Bynum meanwhile has done everything the coaches have asked of him by doing his own yeoman’s work on the backboards, deterring shots in the paint, and scoring in double figures. Both will be all-stars this year and deservedly so. However, the match up I’m really watching is of the other two big men in this game – Pau Gasol and Ryan Anderson. Anderson is having a fantastic year shooting the ball and leads the league in made three pointers. His ability to stretch the floor on offense and make defenses pay for collapsing on Howard has been a major driver for Orlando’s success on that side of the ball. His PER is actually better than Howard’s and that speaks to how well he’s been playing and how much he’s grown in Orlando’s system. Pau will need to shadow Anderson closely on defense and not get sucked into the paint when Howard is going to work on Drew. If Pau’s able to maintain discipline, contest shots and make Anderson try to create off the dribble, it will go a long way towards disrupting the Magic’s O. On the other end of the floor, Pau needs to carry over last night’s performance to tonight. He must be aggressive and decisive with the ball and attack Anderson every chance he gets. Anderson is a steady defender but does nothing spectacular on that end of the floor and Pau should be able to make him work on D if he plays an attacking style.
- The other individual match up I’ll be watching closely is Kobe on Redick. The former Dukie has expanded his game beyond being just a sniper and now is a heady ball handler that can create off the dribble and in the P&R. With Hedo likely out tonight, Kobe will likely have to defend the P&R and he too will need to be disciplined both in that action and when playing off the ball as Redick will find the gaps on the perimeter to get off his jumper. If Kobe loses contact, it can mean made three pointers and that’s the last thing the Lakers need. Kobe, meanwhile, must attack his defender tonight and not lay back so much simply taking the first available jumper that presents itself. He openly stated last night that the team has been experimenting on offense and while I encourage the diversity, he must also find a way to get his rhythm early in the game. His scoring is too important to this team’s offensive success to take a different approach. Of course he must balance his game and create for others as well, but that’s always been the case. I expect that with a weaker defender than he saw last night in front of him this evening, he’ll be better in this regard.
- As a team the Lakers must cover the three point line. Orlando’s offense is as good as it is because they thrive on the most efficient shots in basketball – the ones taken by Howard at the rim and the ones by their shooters behind the arc. Last night the Lakers let the Heat get off from behind the line and they didn’t have the fire power to keep pace running their deliberate half court sets. Tonight, the same thing can happen if the Lakers don’t get out to shooters.
- The Lakers must control the glass. They’ve been out-rebounded far too often in recent games and with Howard gobbling up boards, the Lakers can’t afford to let him go wild. Control the backboards to limit them to one shot and use their size advantage at other positions to create extra shots of their own.
Where you can watch: 5pm start time on ESPN and KCAL. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.