Tonight, the Lakers are on the second of a back-to-back against the New Orleans Pelicans following a huge, emotional win. This isn’t the first time that the Lakers have faced this situation as the Lakers won on Opening Night against the Clippers at Staples only to travel up north to Golden State, which resulted in a blowout loss.
The win over the Rockets may have been even more emotionally draining as they saw a huge lead in the first half dwindle in the second half, and even saw it eclipsed in the final minutes of the game, only to see Mike D’Antoni employ the Hack-A-Howard strategy to keep the team in the game. The game would then end in dramatic fashion as Steve Blake came off a screen and knocked down a game-winning three with Howard closing out.
Instead of having time to celebrate a huge win, the team was forced to re-focus their attention onto the newly named Pelicans of New Orleans, who enter tonight’s game with a 2-3 record. Despite their record, the Pelicans have a Top 10 offense and a defense right on the outside of the top third of the league, and a lot of that credit goes to young Anthony Davis, who is averaging over 21 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks on the young season. Jrue Holiday has provided defenses with some problems with his speed, but hasn’t been effective as many expected when the Hornets brought him in.
The same can be said for Tyreke Evans. After a phenomenal rookie year with the Kings, Evans hasn’t really lived up to the promise of his inaugural year in the NBA. Many assumed the change in scenery would get him to where many though he’d be at this point in his career, but that simply hasn’t been the case. Even with his struggles, the Lakers will have to keep him and the likes of Holiday and Eric Gordon out of the lane if they are to be successful tonight. Last night, the Lakers had issues containing James Harden — and while none of these guys are dynamic and crafty as Hardin, they can provide issues to the weary legs of the older guys and the inexperience of the youngsters.
Should the Lakers not keep the perimeter, that could open up things for Davis, who has been great in P&R sets and the benefactor of lobs from guards who are able to compromise the defense.
On the offensive end, the Lakers are going to need some better ball movement than they had last night. After a first half that saw the team shoot an outstanding 11-14 from three in the first half, the team kind of just stood around the perimeter for the whole second half and watched their lead dwindle. On a second of a back-to-back, this absolutely cannot happen.
Getting off to a hot start will also be huge tonight. Against the Warriors, they allowed Klay Thompson to get off to a hot start and never recovered. The Lakers have proven that they have the shooting that can get a team back in a game should they fall behind a few possessions, but they have yet to prove that they’re a team that has the mental toughness to come back from a huge deficit to get the stops they need and run the offense with enough trust in each other to get quality looks.
Tonight, the Lakers will stay with the bigger starting lineup with Kaman and Gasol sharing the frontcourt, with Jodie Meeks starting in the place of Nash. D’Antoni is still working on his lineups and rotations, and will have to find the right combinations tonight to provide the energy and chemistry needed to get another win on the road.
Where you can watch: 6:30pm start on TNT. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.