Rather than go with our normal preview format, I reached out to Dave M. and J.M. Poulard (who moonlights at Warriors World) for a little 3-on3. Below we tackle three questions about the Lakers with some thoughts on today’s game thrown in.
1. Before the last Lakers/Warriors game, Mike Brown mentioned that he was still in “search mode” for workable lineups and since that game we’ve seen him experiment with various player combinations. What would you suggest to Brown if you had his ear about his rotations?
J.M. Poulard: It does feel at times as though Brown is his own worst enemy as he gets into his own way with respect to his lineups. I feel as though he tends to want to feature Bynum at times a little too much and consequently forgets about Gasol. Consequently, when Bynum and Kobe both head to the bench, I’d love to see Sessions, Goudelock, Barnes, MWP and Gasol on the court together.
Not necessarily a unit you want playing heavy minutes, but they would hold their own defensively, feature Pau on offense and could even get a few transition baskets.
Dave Murphy: For me, it’s both the rotation and the substitution patterns within it. The back-and-forth tag team of McRoberts and Murphy the other night against OKC was ridiculous. I like that Josh is getting some burn again, he plays hard, alters a lot of shots. I wish Sessions was being used more to his strength. He’s starting now with Kobe so he’s used more off-ball and it’s not having the same energizer effect as when he was coming off the bench and running simple pick-and-roll. I’d like to see Brown use Goudelock. I’d certainly put that in his ear.
Darius Soriano: First off, Kobe needs to get more rest than he currently is. He’s currently the leader in total minutes played and is on pace to play only 240 minutes less than he did all of last year when he didn’t miss a single game. Second, I think Sessions court time needs to be maximized with him getting 5-6 minutes more a night than he currently is. The Sessions/Barnes pairing is one that works well and pairing them for 10-15 minutes a game seems reasonable, if not necessary. Lineups that include Goudelock would also be nice to see, if only to see if his game meshes well with Sessions’.
2. With the season winding down, what is the Lakers’ biggest challenge heading into the post season.
J.M.: The lack of athleticism and inability to defend point guards come to mind, but nothing is more apparent than the Lakers inability to play to their strengths. On most nights, the Purple and Gold should dominate the painted area with their scoring and rebounding, but as of late it has at times looked like a weakness.
It will be important heading into the playoffs for the Lakers to rediscover their form on this front if they plan on making a deep postseason run.
Dave: Heading into the playoffs, I’m worried about minutes. The Lakers looked gassed last year against Dallas and at this rate we’ll have even less in the tank. Everybody talks about Kobe because it’s there in plain sight – number three in the league in minutes, at his age, with his mileage, in a compressed season. It’s madness. Coach Brown says he doesn’t have the luxury of resting him. I’m sure there’s other coaches who wouldn’t call it a luxury. They’d call it preserving their most valuable asset. While we’re at it, guess who’s in tenth with only a minute and a half less than Kobe? Pau Gasol.
Darius: I think it’s a combination of finding good chemistry and playing better defense, both on an individual and team level. This team has faced a lot of change in a short period of time, with the trade deadline offering the latest upheaval. Finding the right balance on the floor with guys that have been together for all of two weeks will be difficult, but extremely important.
On defense, perimeter players are getting beat off the dribble too easily the big men helping has hurt their rebounding and ability to recover to their own men for short jumpers. Considering how stacked the West is with impact big men, the Lakers D must find a way to put their bigs in these situations less often.
3. Today’s match up comes on the heels of the closer than expected Lakers/Warriors match up from last Tuesday. Do you expect this game to follow a similar script as the last one?
J.M.: Not at all. The Warriors struggle on the road and have had trouble scoring in the paint all season. In the last matchup against the Lakers though, the Dubs managed to put up 46 points in the paint thanks to a few drives from some of their perimeter players.
Those lanes probably won’t be available this time around and I fully expect the Warriors to remain camped outside and firing away from deep while the Lakers score on the interior with Kobe facilitating the offense perfectly. Sounds like a recipe for a comfortable win.
Dave: Actually, if I’m Mark Jackson, I’m not unhappy about playing the Lakers again. I know it’s been a tough road for the Warriors lately but they brought it hard last time against us, especially in the second half. Klay Thompson was posting up Blake and Sessions, and Brandon Rush was nailing everything in sight. The Lakers had that ugly win yesterday – hopefully they do the unexpected and cruise to a victory and get the most out of their one day of rest before the Nets.
Darius: Considering this is a home game for the Lakers, I expect them to play better and for the closeness of the last contest to provide some extra motivation for tonight. Plus, the Dubs won’t be able to ride their own home crowd in those times where they need a pick-me-up. So, with those things considered, I expect a better effort from the Lakers and with that a better performance. Maybe Bynum hits his three point attempt this time too.
4. (Bonus question) What’s the one match up you’re looking forward to the most in this game?
J.M.: Pau Gasol matched up against David Lee. The last time the teams met, Gasol forced Lee into some tough shots and thoroughly outplayed him, going for 19 points, 17 rebounds and three assists on 8-for-16 field goal shooting. Pau was downright unstoppable and carried the Lakers’ offense in the fourth quarter to help set up Kobe’s heroics late.
Dave: Andrew Bynum against former cautionary tale Jeremy Tyler. I just like the narrative. They’re both high school kids who went pro early, with very different results. Bynum was drafted and nurtured. Tyler’s the kid who wanted to be that guy, who was so misguided (thank you Sonny Vaccaro) that he doesn’t even finish high school, he drops out, gets a one-year eligibility suspension and winds up flaming out in Israel. I didn’t know if he’d ever make it to the NBA but regardless, I’m just cruel enough to want to see Bynum crush him tonight. Sidebar, the last time these teams met, Andrew got pulled for his early three – doubt he puts one up tonight but then again, it’s April Fools so who knows?
Darius: Rather than an individual matchup at the player level, I’m interested in the how the head coaches do. In the last contest, Mark Jackson made the move of the game by inserting a big lineup without a traditional point guard that gave the Lakers real issues down the stretch. Will Jackson go to this lineup again? If he does, how will Brown counter? With these teams playing for the 2nd time in less than a week will the game plans be adjusted with any tweaks? The talent on the floor isn’t going to change but how the head coaches use that talent certainly can.