Archives For March 2012

Records: Lakers 29-18 (3rd in West), Blazers 22-25 (12th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 104.5 (13th in NBA), Blazers 105.0 (11th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 101.7 (10th in NBA), Blazers 103.8 (13th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Ramon Sessions, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Blazers: Raymond Felton, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Pryzbilla
Injuries: Lakers: none; Blazers: Elliot Williams (out), Shawn Williams (out)

The Lakers Coming In: After two straight losses to Utah and Houston, the Lakers bounced back with good performances from Kobe, Pau and Ramon Sessions. Kobe went into the game against Dallas with little rhythm offensively, having shot three-for-20 and 10-for-27 in the two games prior, but he ended up having one of his most efficient nights on the season in Dallas, scoring 30 points on 11-for-18 shooting. Pau Gasol also had a big night, scoring 27 points (his second highest mark of the season) on 13-for-16 shooting with nine rebounds. On top of that, Ramon Sessions seems to be coming into his own in this Laker offense, as he had his best night as a Laker (granted, he’s only played in four contests in the Forum Blue and Gold), recording 17 points and nine assists — more assists than any Laker point guard had recorded up to this point in the season. In the post-game thread, Travis noted that it was his first time being able to see Sessions play as a Laker, but was able to sum up his effectiveness pretty well: “The best part is his game is controlled and even though the ball is in his hands a lot, he rarely gets in trouble or lets the defense hone in on him.”

The Trailblazers Coming In:  Portland is coming off a big win over the Memphis Grizzlies that saw Nicolas Batum score 24 points, which included four three-pointers. Wesley Matthews, who has recently become a starter after Portland effectively got rid of two-fifths of their starters at the deadline, chipped in 18 points and nine rebounds. While most expected the already struggling Trailblazers to be playing for a lottery pick the rest of the season, they currently sit at 2-2 since the trading deadline, just like the Lakers — who many expected to be much improved with the addition of Sessions. Instead, Portland has now won two of three against playoff bound teams (the other loss was an embarrassing effort against the Milwaukee Bucks), and have been either really good or really bad with their new roster and coach.

Portland Trailblazer Blogs: Portland Roundball Society is a fantastic blog to check out all Blazer news and analysis.

Keys to the Game: I mentioned that the Blazers lost two of their five starters at the trade deadline, and they happen to be two guys who were best against the Lakers’ strengths. As far as under appreciated ballplayers go, Gerald Wallace may define that more than any other small forward in today’s game. He’s an energy guy who can knock down jumpers, attack the rim, pass well, and defend the hell out of some of the league’s best perimeter scorers. If you needed one guy to shut down Kobe for one possession, he’s one of the first three guys that I’d consider, and he’s no longer a member of the Portland Trailblazers. The task of guarding Kobe will now fall on either Nicolas Batum or Wesley Matthews, who Kobe has destroyed over and over again. With Wallace gone, Kobe should feel a lot more comfortable working within the offense, especially in the mid to low post with Matthews guarding him or around the perimeter with Batum guarding him. While Batum is no slouch on the defensive end himself (he’s the kind of tall, lanky defender Kobe has struggled with in the past), he hasn’t had the same success stopping Bean that Wallace has had.

The other guy the Blazers lost was Marcus Camby. While one of the oldest players in the NBA, Camby was still a serviceable post defender who was still rebounding at a nice clip. Before the trade deadline, Camby was at his best defensive rating in seven years and starting every night with the condensed schedule at age 38. Now with Camby gone, the Blazers lose some of the frontcourt depth that’s needed to counter the Laker bigs over the course of 48 minutes and now start Joel Pryzbilla, another aging big man but one less skilled than Camby. A heavy dose of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol should give the Blazers all they could handle on the night, and both Drew and Pau have had relatively good games when Camby was on the helm.

Even with Wallace and Camby gone, this is still a team that won’t allow you to key in on one guy defensively. The Blazers will run their offense through LaMarcus Aldridge (as they should), but both Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews could give the Lakers issues. Batum was fantastic from behind the 3-point line in January and February, averaging better than 42 percent from range. However, teams have finally started to close out and run the Frenchman off the three-point line, lowering his shooting from behind the arc to 32 percent in March. Even with his significant drop off, he’s still a dangerous shooter when open (as Memphis found out), and it would be wise for the Lakers to run him off the line and not trade two points for three. Wesley Matthews is another guy who can score the ball. While Kobe has repeatedly killed Matthews when Bean has had the ball, Matthews is the kind of guy who moves around a lot and has given Kobe problems himself. He moves well without the ball and is an excellent spot-up shooter, which accounts for 33 percent of his overall offensive production. Per mySynergy Sports, Matthews is hitting 42 percent of his spot-up threes and scores 45 percent of the time he spots up (this is accounting for the times he’s fouled). Finding Matthews, keeping Batum off the three-point line, and working hard to keep Aldridge from going off will all be instrumental, but obviously much easier said than done.

Where you can watch: 7:30 PM start time on Fox Sports West. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  March 23, 2012

This Friday’s Lakers are riding a high note, coming off a convincing win against the Mavericks, including some throwback acrobatics from the Mamba.  It seems strange to me, that we’re already at the top of the stretch – only 19 games until the playoffs begin. Ramon Sessions’s arrival has brought an infusion of pick and roll energy and the effect on his teammates, and the game itself, has been obvious.

Zach Lowe, the Point Forward: Ramon Sessions has played four games with the Lakers, including three against defenses ranked 18th or worse in points per possession — Houston, Minnesota and Utah, though the Jazz played some stingy D in beating the Lakers on Sunday. Sessions has logged a grand total of 100 minutes with his new team after being traded from the Cavaliers. Those 100 minutes might prove totally meaningless in the long haul, such as there is a long haul in this compressed schedule. With all that said, you cannot simply ignore early trends, and the results suggest that Sessions, as many predicted, could have a larger impact on the Lakers than his middling individual numbers in Cleveland indicate he should. Sessions might be only a league-average point guard, the thinking went, but league average would be a giant upgrade over the Derek Fisher/Steve Blake combination — an improvement that might add up to something greater than the difference between Sessions’ individual stats and those of the players whose minutes he would take. Sessions’ numbers have been fantastic. He’s averaging nearly 18 points and nine assists per 36 minutes, shooting a totally unsustainable 57 percent, hitting enough outside jumpers to punish defenders who leave him open and assisting on better than 40 percent of the Lakers’ baskets while he’s on the floor. Even more encouraging: He has transformed the offense, Los Angeles’ weak link, both in terms of increased production and better shot distribution. The Lakers rank 15th in points per possession and have been around that mark all season. Teams that play average ball on one side of the floor rarely compete for championships; the Lakers’ defense has been solid, but not quite good enough to carry a middling offense through four brutal playoff rounds.

Matt Moore at CBS/Eye on Sports: When the Lakers acquired Ramon Sessions at the trade deadline from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for the “rotting corpse” contracts of Luke Walton and Jason Kapono along with a first-round pick in 2012 and the right to swap picks in 2013, Lakers fans got excited. Here was a real-life point guard, not just a game-managing, “give the ball to Kobe and go sit in the corner patiently” fill-in. Derek Fisher is many good things for a basketball team. Dynamic is not one of them. Sessions, on the other hand, is exceedingly dynamic. The Lakers’ offense under Mike Brown is nothing like it was under Phil Jackson. There were some natural fits at the start of the season. Pushing the ball through the post more to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, was, in a big way, a good idea. It took some time, though, because of the fact tat Kobe Bryant was the that primary backcourt initiator. Criticize Bryant and you ignore his elite scoring ability, his place in NBA history, and yes, his five championship rings. Ignore those faults, and you’re feigning obliviousness to the simple reality that often times Bryant’s own supreme confidence in his abilities, the very thing that makes him such a phenomenal offensive force, can override his decision-making with regards to the right play. Put simply… dude doesn’t like to pass. He will, he’ll do it, he does, quite often. But if he has his druthers, he’s putting up a FGA. That’s just who he is. How he responds to less control with Sessions running the offense is something to keep an eye on.

Henry Abbott, True Hoop: Going into last week’s trade deadline, the Lakers had various priorities, but, interestingly, not all of them had to do with fielding the best basketball team imaginable. The package they traded for point guard Ramon Sessions included the stale contracts of Luke Walton and Jason Kapono. And that’s no small part of the reason the team had to ship out a potentially valuable first-round pick to get the Cavaliers to agree. Similarly, they recently traded Lamar Odom for a pick (albeit as part of a larger scheme to get Chris Paul that famously fell apart). They have saved money in various deals through the years, including Vladimir Radmanovic, Chris Mihm and Adam Morrison. Not to mention, during the lockout, they took the step of aggressively trimming all kinds of staff, cutting loose various video guys and the like. Meanwhile, isn’t the story that this business is made of money, in the best media market in the NBA, with insanely high ticket prices, no competition from the NFL and one of the richest local TV deals in the history of sports? Forbes says the local TV deal alone will bring the team an average of more than $200 million a year for the next 15 years. Why on earth would they ever do something like fire the video guy, or give up a pick in the name of ditching a contract? There are various answers. One is that they’re paying more than $85 million in salaries this season. Also, while a lot of NBA teams are hobbies for their owners who make their billions elsewhere, the Lakers are the primary business of the Buss family — who are wealthy compared to you and me, but not compared to many in the owners’ club. And, of course, the various layers of luxury tax negotiated into the new CBA will punish the team mightily this year, and even more severely in the future, which requires some planning now. But the biggest answer has to do with one of the crown jewels of last summer’s multi-faceted lockout talks: The NBA now has aggressive revenue sharing. And sources say that alone is set to cost the Lakers very close to $50 million this year, and something similar every year of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Kurt Helin, ProBasketBallTalk: This tweet from Darnell Mayberry from the Oklahoman, says all you need to know: “Derek Fisher just walked into the Thunder’s locker room”. It’s what he brings to that locker room — more than on the court — that got the Oklahoma City Thunder to sign the five-time champion Derek Fisher. The team has confirmed the signing, Fisher cleared waivers at 6 p.m. Eastern. and signed minutes later. Fisher will be in uniform for the Thunder Wednesday night against the Clippers. Go ahead and circle March 29 on your calendar now — that is when Fisher returns to Staples Center to face the Lakers. The Lakers traded the veteran to the Rockets at the trade deadline, a move made to clear the way in the locker room politically for the arrival of Ramon Sessions. No doubt Sessions is the better player at this point, but Fisher sitting on the bench could have created problems. The Lakers traded him to the Rockets, and Fisher gave up his entire $3.4 million player option next season to be bought out and be made a free agent. Because Fisher wanted to win another ring (he has five as a Laker). Something he thinks could happen in Oklahoma City.

Another article that is well worth reading is Understanding Advanced Stats: The Difficulty of Defense, by Clint Peterson for Hardwood Paroxysm. I didn’t include block text because it’s an article the presents best by reading it in its entirety, with accompanying charts and video. Clint is one of the smarter, and better writers in basketball. Check it out.

A week after the trade deadline and its notable arrivals and departures, the Lakers may finally be finding their stride. They host the Trailblazers tonight – a team that has seen its share of shakeups and difficulties this season. The Lakers are holding onto a solid 3rd slot in the west. Portland is currently in 12th place, although interestingly, only four games out of 5th – that’s how bunched up the lower half of the bracket is.

Kobe Bryant is no longer the uber athlete he was in his prime. The fearless attacking of the rim and posterizing of big men has been replaced with more a more measured and calculating style. That said, when he makes a highlight play, it’s still amazing to see. And, against the Mavs, he made a play that was simply out of this world. Spinning off of a Jason Kidd ball denial in the post, Kobe caught a lob pass that was directly under the rim, got nudged from behind while in mid-air, and flipped up a reverse lay-in all in one motion while falling to the ground. This play happened on over a day ago and I still can’t stop thinking about it. It was that good. See for yourself and enjoy.

Box Score: Lakers 109, Mavericks 93
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 123.9, Mavericks 105.7
True Shooting %: Lakers 68.2%, Mavericks 53.5%

On the heels of a brutal come-from-ahead loss in Houston on Tuesday night, the Lakers wrapped up their Texas two-step in Dallas, where the defending champs and administrators of last spring’s postseason humiliation awaited. More tough sledding ahead? Not so much.

The Good: Practically everything. For starters, you know how all season the “Bad” and “Ugly” sections of these reviews have lamented the Lakers’ inability to a) connect from the outside and b) generate any kind of meaningful production off of the bench? Well, on Wednesday night, the Lakers made a phenomenal 50% of their 18 3-point attempts, six of them by bench players. Speaking of which, the Lakers’ bench was outscored by its Mavs’ counterpart by just two points, 38-36, staggering given we’re talking about, y’know, the Lakers’ bench.

In the starting unit, deadly efficiency ruled the day, as Kobe Bryant, operating within the confines of the offense, scored 30 on 11-of-18 from the floor (and 7-of-7 FT), peppering the Mavs from mid-range all night. Meanwhile, Pau Gasol was absolutely masterful. Pau played one of, if not his best game of the season, connecting on 13 of his 16 shots en route to 27 points (to which he added 9 rebounds). Gasol was unstoppable on Wednesday night, not only making 6-of-7 in the paint, but doing significant damage from the outside as well, shooting 8-of-10 from outside the key, including a perfect 7-of-7 from 17-20 feet between the elbow and success on his only 3-point attempt.

Finally, we have Ramon Sessions. Much to the chagrin of the fans of Cleveland, Sessions has sent shockwaves through Lakerland, providing us with a glimpse into a life that heretofore might as well have existed in another galaxy. Not since the days of Nick Van Exel have Laker fans had a young and explosive point guard at the helm. On Wednesday night, Ramon Sessions played the point guard game that this fan base has desperately been waiting for. In 29 minutes, divided into two extended stretches, Ramon was a revelation, connecting on 7 of 8 shots, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc for his 17 points, grabbing 5 rebounds and handing out 9 assists.

Every bit as impressive as his phenomenal stat line was his role in the Lakers’ offense, which only really came to life when he was on the floor. Sessions’ greatest assets are his quickness and speed off the dribble, which he utilized beautifully, starting almost immediately after entering the game with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter, knifing into the lane and, with excellent decision-making, setting up open jump shots for teammates for each of his 9 assists, including four in a two-minute span late in the first quarter.

We’ve got a point guard!

The Bad: With the third member of their underperforming trio now spending his evenings trying to reign in Russell Westbrook, the “subpar stat line” onus was on Metta World Peace and Steve Blake. Now, truth be told neither of these guys was a complete disaster against the Mavs – MWP managed 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a blocked shot in 25 minutes, while Blake, Mike Brown’s starting point guard “for the foreseeable future,” had two pair, assists and steals, in 17 minutes on the floor – but a combined 7 points on 2-of-9 shooting, even with no turnovers, in 42 minutes is, how can I put this gently, kinda stinky.

The Ugly: Thanks to his averages of 23.7 points and 12.3 rebounds over the last 10 games, Andrew Bynum was obviously a focal point in the Mavericks’ defensive game plan. In the game’s opening minute Bynum grabbed a defensive rebound and converted a pretty reverse layup at the other end. However, rather than building on this dominating this contest the way he has so many of late, that play was the last one of consequence from the big man for some time.

Bynum was (understandably) the target of aggressive double and triple teams on every post touch from that point forward, and was unable to deliver the ball to the open man in a timely or effective manner. This strategy proved particularly effective for the Mavs in the first half, as the Lakers’ perimeter players frequently cut baseline after delivering the ball to Bynum down low. This tactic actually simplified the Mavs’ task, as they doubled aggressively off of the cutter, giving ‘Drew fits and preventing the Lakers from ever establishing him as an offensive threat.

However, the ugliness in Bynum’s performance on Wednesday night is not the result of Mavs’ defense pressuring him into an inefficient offensive game (he was 4-of-5 from the field) or sloppy effort passing out of the post (he didn’t turn the ball over once), but in Andrew’s generally lackadaisical effort. Far too often on Wednesday, Bynum was boxed out on both the offensive and defensive glass by smaller player that have no business doing so. Far too often he jogged back on offense, often not setting up inside the 3-point arc until 10+ seconds of the possession were gone. Perhaps the best example of this lackluster effort came in the first quarter, when, attempting to guard Dirk Nowitzki on the perimeter, Bynum not only failed to get into a defensive stance, but barely had a chance to turn around as the Mavs’ (by far) most potent offensive threat blew by him for a layup.

This is by no means a chronic issue and all’s well that ends well, but for a guy whose untimely ejection set the stage for crushing come-from-ahead loss the night before, Andrew Bynum spent far too much time on Wednesday play with little-to-no spark at all.

Play of the Game: With all of that said, Andrew Bynum linked up with fellow big Pau Gasol with about eight minutes left in the game – this time successfully passing out of a double team – firing a cross-court kick-out to the right corner, from which Pau buried a three-point dagger that put the Lakers ahead 90-76.

On its own this play would not be worthy of PoG, but the brazen, villainous confidence of ‘Drew made it truly memorable. In front of the crowd that is more eager than any other to see him fail (he did, after try to break their gelled-up midget 10 months ago), after making the pass to Gasol, Bynum made his way back down the floor with the ball still in the air, three fingers held aloft for all to see.

Badass.

Unfortunately for the Laker bigs, however, the top spot belong to one Kobe Bean Bryant, who, midway through the third quarter, received a lob from Pau Gasol and finished in a manner that can only be described as sublime.

Records: Lakers 28-18 (3rd in West), Mavericks 27-20 (5th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 104.1 (16th in NBA), Mavericks 102.8 (22nd in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 101.7 (10th in NBA), Mavericks 100.1 (4th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Mavericks: Jason Kidd, Rodrigue Beaubois, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Ian Mahinmi
Injuries: Lakers: none; Mavericks: Brendan Haywood (out), Shawn Marion (doubtful), Delonte West (out)

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers have found ways to lose their last two games, be it through sloppy play or late game dysfunction. Many deserve blame for the losses, so pinning any of these defeats on one person may be easy, but it’s not the most nuanced approach. Too many things went wrong in those games.

Take last night for example. Below are the plays the Lakers ran, with the results, after Kobe entered the game late into the 4th quarter:

  • Post up for Pau where he went baseline for an up and under move that he missed.
  • A “horns” set (where the ball is entered into the hight post and the weak side big and strong side guard set down screens for the wings) to get Kobe the ball. After Kobe came off the screen he wasn’t open, but received a hand off from Pau that led to him missing a three point shot.
  • Another “horns” set to get Kobe the ball. When he curled into the paint a pass was attempted, but he did not catch it cleanly and a turnover resulted.
  • Another “horns” set to get Kobe the ball. After he makes the catch drifting to the top of the key, he runs a P&R with Gasol, splits the screen and shoots a fading jumper going left that misses.
  • The Lakers run “two down” which is a down screen action to free Kobe up to get the ball. He has the option of coming up to the FT line or can break off his cut to go to the strong side post. Kobe gets the ball, on the left side of the floor and shoots a fadeaway jumper that misses.
  • The Lakers run a 1/2 P&R with Sessions and Kobe. Sessions comes off the pick but with nothing there swings the ball to the opposite wing. The ball is then entered into Pau in the mid-post, but with the shot clock winding down he takes a contested jumper that misses.
  • The Lakers run an isolation for Kobe after a screen action and he hits a jumper.
  • The Lakers run a variation of the same play to get Kobe the ball and he again hits a jumper in isolation.
  • The Lakers run a post-up play for Gasol, but he’s fouled and the Lakers must inbound. After the inbound the Lakers run a hand-off for Kobe and he takes a three pointer that misses.
  • The Lakers run another hand-off play for Kobe at the top of the key and he makes a three pointer.
  • After a Laker foul, the Rockets make one of two FTs, but because the Lakers don’t have a timeout, they can’t advance the ball and Barnes can’t get a full court heave up after fumbling the rebound. Game over.

In the entirety of the last 4 minutes and 45 seconds, not counting the last second heave that wasn’t, the Lakers had 10 trips on offense. Of those 10 plays they ran 2 post ups for Gasol and one Sessions/Kobe P&R that led to another Pau post up. Gasol took 2 shots and was fouled once. Every other time, the play was ran for Kobe and Kobe shot the ball.

Now, maybe this is Kobe’s fault for shooting every time. Maybe it’s Brown’s fault for calling these plays (from the angles I saw on TV, Brown looked to call several plays in this stretch, whether he called all of them I do not know). But what I can say is that the Lakers must find a way to diversify their late game offense if they’re going to be successful scoring the ball. Running simple down screen actions for Kobe and/or asking him to create off the dribble isn’t a strategy that will work often enough for it to be the only plan of attack. It puts the Lakers in a position where they’re too dependent on one person to score for their offense to be successful, and beyond that it’s asking him to do so mostly on his own. And while Kobe’s always seemed willing to operate within this type of structure, it’s not the most prudent way of attacking a geared up defense.

Of course, missing Bynum surely hurt them as he’s become a very good late game option in the low post. And with his full compliment of players, who knows what Brown calls or what the players decide to run if given the chance. But last night was an example of the Lakers being too predictable. And in the end, that must change or they’ll be too easy to defend on these critical possessions.

The Mavericks Coming in: Dallas has won 4 in a row with their last two being impressive victories over the Spurs and Nuggets. In those two games the Mavs flashed a balanced and efficient offensive attack with Dirk leading the way, but with his teammates also playing very well. They’ve been missing Brendan Haywood and Shawn Marion on defense, but their offense has more than made up for any deficiencies (though, to be clear, their defense has still performed well) as teamwork and ball movement have ruled. Recently the Mavs have looked more like the buzzsaw that shredded opponents in the playoffs than the middling offensive team they’ve been for most of this campaign. And that should worry opponents – especially the Lakers – a great deal. Because when this team shares the ball and makes quick and sound decisions, the shots come easy and are usually open. And with the quality of players they have taking those shots, they become very dangerous (as we saw last season).

Mavericks Blogs: The Two Man Game and Mavs Moneyball are both very good sites. Check ‘em out.

Keys to game: With Haywood out and Marion listed as doubtful and unlikely to suit up, the Mavs are suddenly weaker at the defensive spots that would be allocated to Bynum and Kobe. This should put an emphasis on the Lakers working the ball through those two players as often as possible – especially Bynum.

Big Drew will be matched up against Mahinmi and Brandan Wright, both good athletes but both giving up a lot of weight and strength to Bynum. A post-centric attack that features Drew should be the point of emphasis tonight to make the Mavs either double team or watch as he powers to the rim with his low block arsenal. With this sort of attack, though, Bynum will need to be decisive with the ball and make the easy pass to try and set up his mates rather than looking for the homerun pass that sets up the basket. In recent games, Bynum has fallen in love with the skip pass to the opposite corner when the angled, same side pass is the easiest or the teammate rotating to the top of the key is most open. He must show patience  and rather than hunt the actual assist, he must live with the hockey one.

As for Kobe, he’ll see plenty of Vince Carter and Jason Kidd tonight and while he has the advantage over both players, both will get into him and make him earn his baskets. Against both guys I’d like to see Kobe work in the P&R more to spread the Dallas defense out and rely less on him creating his own shot in isolation or coming off curls where the timing and accuracy of passes must be nearly perfect to run the action correctly. If Kobe can catch the ball in space and free of defenders, I’m more than happy to let him attack in whatever way he sees fit, but the Mavs often hound him with defenders right in his hip pocket. Working with more ball screens should serve him well to escape  those defenders.

Defensively, the Laker rotations must be sharp, as the ball will be moving all over the court. Kidd will run the P&R and he’ll not only seek out Dirk, but he’ll use the big German’s presence on the court to shift the defense and then hit an open man elsewhere. Once the ball is passed, it will move on to the next man, and then again to the next man until the guy with the ball is open enough to take an uncontested shot. With this type of discipline on offense, the Lakers must show the same amount on defense lest they want to give up open shots to players more than capable of knocking them down.

On an individual level, the Mavs are obviously quite talented too and must be respected when in isolation. Dirk, of course, is one of the best scorers in the league and he’ll try to work over Gasol with his deep jumper and then his show and go moves to get to his preferred spots on the floor. Pau must be quick in guarding Dirk’s J, but also not fall for the fakes that will get him out of position. With Marion likely out, the Mavs also have dual threats on the wing that want to attack off the dribble. The last time these teams met Vince Carter was a key, attacking off the dribble and breaking down the Lakers’ defense. His first step must be respected and I’d much rather him have to take pull up jumpers than for him to shoot in rhythm coming off picks or be able to get all the way to the rim off the dribble. The same applies to Beaubois, who loves to use his quickness to get into the lane. He must be cut off and forced to take contested jumpers.

I haven’t even mentioned Jason Terry or Lamar Odom yet, but you get the picture by now. The Mavs are a dangerous team and if the Lakers are going to stop this slide they’ll need their best execution on both sides of the ball. If they bring it, this is a totally winnable game that can get them back on track. The question of course, is will they?

Where you can watch: 6:30PM start time on ESPN. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.