Records: Lakers 39-23 (3rd the West), Warriors 22-38 (13th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 106.1 (12th in the NBA), Warriors 105.9 (13th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.1 (13th in the NBA), Warriors 109.5 (28th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Ramon Sessions, Devin Ebanks, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Warriors: Charles Jenkins, Klay Thompson, Dorell Wright, Mickell Gladness, Jeremy Tyler
Injuries: Lakers: Kobe Bryant (out); Warriors: Andris Biedrins (questionable), Andrew Bogut (out), Steph Curry (out), Richard Jefferson (out), David Lee (out)
The Lakers Coming in: Kobe Bryant will sit for his 7th straight game tonight, but is reportedly close to a return. Friday’s rubber match versus the Spurs may mark the return of the Mamba but for now he remains out. Kobe can’t get back fast enough, though. Counting tonight’s game, there are only 4 games left in the season and that means Kobe’s chance to mesh with his team in real game action is slowly slipping away. And while there will be ample practice time (especially in the 3 days off before the season finale against the Kings), it’s important to take what’s worked on in that setting to game situations to feel things out. When Kobe does return there will be an adjustment period and I’d much rather have that occur before we get into “best of 7″ territory.
One more note on last night: in the moment, you likely wouldn’t have found a more frustrated viewer than me. The 2nd quarter was a comedy of errors major and minor and to watch the team literally give the game away with a single, uninterrupted stretch of poor play had me fuming. However, when reflecting on the action (and, as a masochist of sorts, in review of the tape) the errors that the Lakers made are entirely fixable. The way they played screens, the carelessness with the ball, the lack of attention to detail…they’re all things that can be looked at on film, adjusted with practice time, and improved upon. For all the hits Mike Brown has taken, I don’t think it can be argued he’s not a good teacher of the game and that he’s enforced good habits with this team. Moving into the playoffs, I do trust he’ll have this team ready. How far they go will be dependent on a lot of factors both in and outside of his control but I’m not distraught after last night, that’s for sure.
The Warriors Coming in: What do you call a team stripped of nearly all its top end talent and replaced it with young players who are both less talented but hungry and hard working guys looking to earn a position in this league?
If you said the Warriors, you win a prize.
So, what you see with this particular group of players is hustle and effort on nearly every play, but with results that aren’t in line with how hard the team is playing. The lack of talent hurts this team in the moment, but if it helps them retain their top 7 protected draft pick this June, maybe it will all be worth it.
What will also be worth it is the information gathering that’s surely going on right now. It’s now been proven that Klay Thompson can play. Will Jeremy Tyler join him as a player that shows promise? Will Nate Robinson be a guy that sticks beyond this year? What about Dominic McGuire? These are the questions that need answering and while the manner in which the answers are being forced upon the Warriors fans can be frustrating (they really do deserve better), the data mined from this final stretch will inform future decisions. It doesn’t make it any easier, however.
Warriors Blogs: Check out Warriors World for good analysis and insight on the team from the East Bay.
Keys to game: I’d make jokes about the keys to this game being “showing up”, “tying one’s shoes properly”, and “avoiding undercooked poultry” but these are the Lakers I’m talking about – you know the team that can win or lose against anyone. So, while the Warriors won’t offer a lot of talent to match an even Kobe-less Laker team, this game still must be taken seriously from the visitors.
This means sticking to the game plan and punishing the Warriors inside. David Lee has recently been sidelined with a strained groin and that means even less depth for a Dubs team that already has a depleted front court. Even if Andris Biedrins does play, the Lakers must still attack through the post and pound this team inside via entries to the low block and on the offensive glass. If Bynum and Gasol both don’t go for double-doubles it better be because they don’t play enough minutes, not because they aren’t featured on offense.
Defensively, the Lakers’ game plan will really only come down to two factors. First, the Lakers must control the tempo of the game. Last night they got sucked into playing at the Spurs pace and as the game went on that proved to be a bad error in collective judgment. Tonight, the Warriors will try to duplicate what the Spurs did by pushing the ball after misses and makes and try to ensure that they don’t have to set up in the half court against a defense featuring two 7 footers. The Lakers must keep the floor balanced in order to transition back, build a wall against Charles Jenkins and Nate Robinson and then run to shooters that will camp behind the three point line.
Second, in the half court, the Lakers must defend screen actions better. The Warriors will run pin downs for Klay Thompson to free him for his jumper and then work weak side actions to spot up Dorell Wright. If the Lakers get caught on screens, these plays will produce open jumpers – especially from behind the arc – and if those shots start to fall the game will remain close. In recent games the Lakers have navigated screens poorly and it’s led to the types of shots capable shooters will make all night. So, they must be better against a Warriors team that will run these same actions.
Tonight is a game the Lakers must win. They should be ready to bounce back from last night, they have a much more talented team, and they have playoff positioning at stake. Said another way, there’s motivation aplenty for this team and they must channel that and deliver the W. The Dubs will fight, but the Lakers must match that energy and effort tonight. Simple as that.
Where you can watch: 7:30PM start on KCAL and ESPN. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.