I never really gave my thoughts on the Lakers’ win over the Cavs, so let me spit out a few before I get to the Philly game:
- Um, wow.
- Did that really happen?
- If the Lakers are bad, how bad are the Cavs?
On a serious note, the one thing that stood out to me — beyond the crazy shot making from behind the arc — was an extra level of competitiveness from the Lakers. Maybe it stood out more because of the Cavs’ relative disinterest, but I thought Jordan Farmar and, especially, Steve Blake really set a tone to get after it on both ends and that had a positive impact on the rest of the team. Both guys hustled all over the floor, made the extra rotation defensively, and really just showed a lot of pride in what they were doing. Again, maybe the Cavs are such a dumpster fire that any effort from any team facing off against them stands out like lint under a black-light, but after seeing the Lakers have some games where they just didn’t seem as into it, I was impressed with how they competed all the way through the final buzzer, especially considering the circumstances of the game.
As for the Philly game tonight, the Lakers will be shorthanded again. Jordan Farmar is sitting out as a precaution related to his hamstring. Nick Young is out due to his knee fracture that will have him on the shelf for at least two weeks. Jodie Meeks was ruled out for this entire trip after spraining his ankle against the T’Wolves. Steve Blake is a gametime decision with a quad issue. And while Jordan Hill will play, that only leaves 8 Lakers available for action again tonight (and that’s if Blake plays): Nash, Blake, Wes Johnson, Ryan Kelly, Sacre, Kaman, Hill, and Kendall Marshall.
That’s, uh, not a lot of people. And considering what happened the last game and the fact that Philly comes in mostly healthy (the guys who have been available all year are available tonight) the Lakers are in for a game where they are out-manned while also closing their road trip. That’s not necessarily the best formula for success.
The game will be played, however, and the Lakers will need to bring their best effort if they want to win. The Sixers aren’t a very good team — their 15 wins and 35 losses are even worse than the Lakers — but they have some promising talent, including rookie Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, and Spencer Hawes. Any of those four players would instantly start for the Lakers tonight if traded pre-game so even if the team’s record is poor, it doesn’t mean they don’t have the players to win this game.
The key to winning this game will be who thrives most in the accelerated pace the action will take place at. The Sixers play at the fastest pace in the league and the Lakers are just two spots below them. The Lakers’ depth issues mean they need to better control the action and not just run up and down the court all night unless they want to lose their legs down the stretch. The Lakers will need to get back and build a wall against Carter-Williams and track Young and Turner filling the lane as they look to get to the rim. They will also need to spot Hawes in delayed transition as he will trail the play and either shoot the long jumper against a sagged defense or run drag pick and rolls to help get Carter-Williams to the rim.
Offensively, the Lakers need to hit their threes at a high rate. They don’t have to be as blistering hot as they were in Cleveland (though that would help), but knocking down 10-12 threes on a good percentage will prop up their offense enough to stay in the game if Philly is getting points in the open court.
One thing I’d like to see in helping the Lakers’ O be at its best is for Nash to be more aggressive in looking for his shot. One reason the Cavs game turned in the Lakers’ favor so early was because Farmar was super active in attacking the defense both with his own shot and in driving to the paint and dishing to teammates. Nash would do well to emulate his younger teammate as best he can to try and generate some early scoring chances for himself. This will loosen up the D and then, hopefully, open up the game for his teammates. Maybe he can turn back the clock on his 40th birthday.
Where you can watch: 4:00pm start on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM in Los Angeles.