Archives For Game Preview

The story of tonight’s game against the Warriors isn’t actually about the game, but instead the pending result. The Lakers look to do what 15 straight opponents to start the season have not been able to — beat the defending world champions. Considering the state of both teams, it is pretty much a foregone conclusion the Lakers will not win this game.

One Warriors’ win is not a big deal. 16 Warriors’ wins without a loss to start the season would be the best start in the history of the league. So, this would be a pretty big deal. With the Warriors at home (and the Lakers playing anywhere), the pending doom is only more predetermined.

Sorry, guys, there are no roses and rainbows in this preview. I do not offer any hope, here. The Warriors are, potentially, one of the best teams the league has ever seen. The Lakers are currently the opposite of that. When asked if his team could win this game, Kobe said “stranger things have happened” which, you know, isn’t an endorsement.

So, here we are. But, if you want me to indulge your thirst for how a Lakers’ win could happen, here is the formula:

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As we wrote after the Lakers’ loss to Raptors on Friday, the Lakers’ record isn’t what many would like (this includes me), but the level of play and some heartening signs have been visible lately. The young trio of Russell, Clarkson, and Randle played well, the starting lineup has had some good stretches, and Kobe has found a bit of a niche as a playmaker who is looking to attack a bit more than the early season catch-and-shoot (and miss) guy he’s been.

This may not be exactly what we were looking for when the season started, but it’s coming together better than what the first couple of weeks of the campaign hinted at. Well, that’s the hope at least. As with any young team, there is a two steps forward, one step back progression to the season and it would not surprise to see things change up some tonight when the Trailblazers visit Staples Center.

Hopefully not too much, though. Especially when talking about some of the progress the young players are showing. The Blazers offer a dynamite young backcourt and a nice group of young PF’s to match up with the Lakers’ trio of the future.

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The Lakers come off a much needed few days off to play the Raptors tonight in Los Angeles. After a rough stretch of 7 games in 11 days with 6 of those 7 on the road, a few days off to recharge their batteries and come into this game fresh is what the team needed. And I do not just mean physically, either. The Lakers only have 2 wins in 11 games this season. Mentally, all that losing starts to take its toll.

So, not playing since Monday should help the Lakers. Playing the Raptors in that first game back, however, will not. The Raptors are not playing as well as they would like — they are currently 7-6 and not in the top 8 seeds in the suddenly improved East — but they are still a much better team than the Lakers. Of course, the Lakers are 28th in offensive efficiency and 27th in defensive efficiency, so most teams are “much better” than them. But that’s another story for another day.

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The Lakers have had quite the stretch of games in the past week plus. Sunday’s win over the Pistons was their 6th game in 10 days with tonight’s game against the Suns their 7th in 11 days. The visit to Phoenix makes 6 of those games on the road. That’s a lot of miles to travel in a short amount of time. And while the feeling of getting a much needed W might propel them in the short term, I would not be surprised at some tired legs tonight.

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In recent interviews Byron Scott has taken a more optimistic approach for where his team is. For example, he had this to say about the team’s defense (per the LA Times’ Mike Bresnahan):

“I know a lot of people aren’t happy with our record and where we are,” Scott acknowledged. “But I’m happy with the progress that we’re making, especially at that [defensive] end of the floor. That was the main objective coming into this season, to form an identity on that defensive end and let everything else kind of take care of itself.”

Scott’s softer public stance is needed when the team is doing so poorly. We also should not dismiss entirely what he’s saying — the Lakers have been a bit better defensively recently — so it is worth him saying this publicly, not just to give his guys some public praise, but to speak to what is going on. Before the Lakers went on their 5 game road trip, their defensive efficiency was 113.0. Heading into tonight’s game, that number has fallen to 106.4. Lopping off nearly 7 points per 100 possessions defensively is improvement.

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My apologies for the bare bones preview today, folks. A lot going on outside of the site that required my attention. Thanks for understanding.

The Lakers conclude their 5 game road trip in Dallas on Friday night, hoping to bounce back from three straight losses. The team now sits at only 1-7, last place in the West (or, technically, tied for last place with the Pelicans).

The last game, a loss to the Magic, offered some bright spots even though it was a last second defeat at the buzzer. The game was close throughout, several of the team’s young players had good games, and rookie D’Angelo Russell closed out the game — gaining good experience in the process.

The Lakers can only hope for similar results tonight. They will have Kobe back in the lineup, however, to help (maybe?) with that process. After sitting out the last two games (Heat, Magic), Kobe returns from his sore back to his starting spot at small forward. We will see if he eases his way back into the lineup or falls right back into his team high 29 usage rate. I think everyone would benefit if he took the former approach, but that’s a conversation for another day.

As for the opponent, the Lakers are familiar with the Mavs having already faced (and lost to) them earlier in the year. Dirk is having a throwback year, playing great basketball and shooting the lights out. The Mavs are still dealing with key players being banged up, but as Chandler Parsons and Wes Matthews get healthier, this team will look to try and get back to the playoffs and try to make some noise that they have been unable to make in recent seasons.

For them, getting there means winning games like this one agains an inferior opponent. For the Lakers, it would simply be good to get another win. A loss wouldn’t be the end of the world, but a 1-8 record against the schedule the team has had isn’t very good, that’s for sure.

Where you can watch: 5:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

After losing to the Heat on Tuesday, the Lakers are 1-2 on their current road trip. Facing the Magic today, on the 2nd night of a back to back, is not an ideal way to try and reach .500 on the trip (and snag their 2nd win of the season), but it is the opportunity in front of them.

The Magic will not be a pushover. Like the Lakers, they have a collection of young talent and hired a disciplinarian coach to propel them forward in their rebuild, only they are farther ahead in the process. Last season yielded two lottery picks in Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. Prior to netting those two, the Magic drafted Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo plus snagged Nikola Vucevic in the deal which netted the Lakers Dwight Howard (Vucevic was in Philly and went to Orlando when the 76ers nabbed, gasp, Andrew Bynum). Add to them this year’s lottery pick Mario Henzoja and, well, this team is loaded with young players who can all play.

Adding Skiles is seen as the final piece to help the young players grown and realize some of their enormous potential. Skiles has a history of turning teams around quickly, getting through to them as a motivator and getting them to play well defensively. While Skiles was a showman and assist machine as a player, he is a hard-nosed coach who maxes out his players by inspiring them to play hard every night. The results so far are a 3-5 record and a competitive team who only has a -.6 point differential on the season.

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This is less a preview about the Heat and more a comment on approach to any given game moving forward. So, if you are interested in match up specific content, sorry to let you down today. Our morning links from today give some nice background Kobe and Wade and, like our previous game previews you can hash out the players of import simply by examining the rosters from both teams.

I am taking this approach for the simple reason that at some point the Lakers are going to need to decide what they want most out of this year. As we noted in our season preview and have touched on several times since, the Lakers headed into this season with contrasting goals of winning as many games as possible while also developing the young players. The balancing act which would come from trying to achieve both goals would be difficult and likely unsuccessful.

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