Records: Lakers 23-15 (4th in West), Wizards 8-29 (14th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 103.6 (15th in NBA), Wizards 99.2 (27th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 100.8 (10th in NBA), Wizards 108.4 (27th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Wizards: John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker, Javale McGee
Injuries: Lakers: none; Wizards: Rashard Lewis (out), Ronny Turiaf (out)
The Lakers Coming in: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Lakers lost a road game that they shouldn’t have. Wait, I’m not done. They also played poorly, their role players conjured up a mix of tentative and bad performances, and with one of the big three not performing up to normal standard the team lost.
If you didn’t try to stop me at all in the above paragraph, you’ve likely missed many of the Lakers road games this season because that’s the formula for this team when they play away from the Staples Center. This team is a bad road team. What this means for the future (unless the trend changes) is a topic for a longer post. But, what it means tonight is pretty clear. A game against one of the worst teams in the league is no gimmie.
Why? Because it’s on the road.
The Wizards Coming in: In the last 8 games this team has played, they’ve been victorious once. That lone win was a three point triumph over the Cavs and the Wiz used that gained momentum to come out and get blown out by the Warriors two nights later by 20 points. Where the Lakers are a bad road team, the Wizards are just bad.
They have some good talent. John Wall is a former number one pick, is lightning quick with the ball and is in an athletic class (for point guards) that only Derrick Rose and Russel Westbrook preside in. Javale McGee is a springy young big man that can protect the rim, run the floor, and finish with the best of them when the ball is tossed to him anywhere near the basket. Andray Blatche is the type of player that Lamar Odom used to be. Long, rangy, and skilled in all facets of the game. This team also has hard workers that will do the dirty work.
So, why are they bad? They don’t always play hard. They don’t play smart. They try to play fast, but play too fast for their own good and force the issue. They don’t play as a team, with too many isolation sets that lead to a ranking of 2nd to last in assist rate. The talent (outside of Wall, who seems to not fall into this category) is mostly in the bodies of players that double as head cases. So, they lose more than they should and have breakdowns on both sides of the ball that allow the other team to take advantage.
Keys to game: So, tonight, we see what wins out. Do the Lakers’ road woes trump the Wizards’ ability to play losing basketball?
I’d throw in a bunch of X’s and O’s here, talk about match ups, what to expect in terms of trends, and basically explain what I thought could work or what we might see.
Not today, though. Because what matters most isn’t that the Lakers have advantages in the post, that the Wiz have no one to really guard Kobe, or that the Wiz transition game must be slowed down to make them a half court team.
No, what matters is that the Lakers must start to take some pride in their game when it travels. What matters is that the Lakers need to stop being a different team on the road than they are at home. If the Lakers decide they’ll be aggressive, that they’ll attack the defense by moving the ball, that they’ll simply concentrate harder they’ll be the better team tonight.
If their role players show the confidence in themselves that they do at home, if they take shots in rhythm, if they trust that they can perform to their abilities, the Lakers will be the better team tonight.
But, if the Lakers play the same way they have in most of their other road games this season this game will be a pick ‘em. Yes, the Lakers played an overtime game last night. And the Wizards will test them in the open court and try to wear them down more. This is something to look for tonight. But, that can be overcome if the Lakers bring their home game with them to Washington and show some pride in the process. That’s certainly what I hope to see…because that’s what I think matters tonight.
Where you can watch: An early 4:00PM start time for this one on KCAL. Also listen live on ESPN Radio 710AM (and on Sirius XM 218)