Archives For Game Preview

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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The Lakers came to New York winless, but look to leave the state with their first two wins of the year. After beating the Nets in Brooklyn on Friday night, they get the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon. The start time leaves something to be desired — we’ll see how many players have that dragging look that comes from a Saturday night out on the town.

Friday’s game against the Nets offered the first look at what a real road game looks like in what could be Kobe’s last season. At Yahoo!, Adrian Wojnarowski captured the moment and atmosphere very well:

Over and over, they chanted Bryant’s name at the Barclays Center. He let the love wash over him, waving to everyone on his way out, disappearing into the tunnel with his hands raised to the rafters. The Lakers won’t win a lot of road games this year, and that kind of response won’t always feel appropriate. It did on Friday, though. Truth be told, it felt perfect.

“The crowds, the chanting, people wanting to see me play – I’m extremely, extremely appreciative of that,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports. “I understand what that means. Listen, my personality isn’t the rocking chair kind of thing, but the chanting of my name means enough to me.”

Bryant is sure to get another taste of that this afternoon. There are few, if any, opposing arenas which Kobe is more beloved than Madison Square Garden. The Knicks crowd has loved Kobe over the years and he has loved them right back, giving them some great moments and memories. He has always said he loves to play there and it has shown in his efforts. Today, with the understanding it could be the last time he plays there, I expect there to be much of the same appreciation he was shown in Brooklyn two days ago.

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The Lakers venture out on the road, heading east to face some teams outside California for the first time all season. Tonight they are in Brooklyn to face the Nets, one of the few teams in the same situation the Lakers are in — specifically, a team who is still looking for their first win. Someone, then, will leave this game happier than they entered it.

For this team to be the Lakers they will need to sort out how to defend much better than they have through their first four losses. The Lakers boast the worst defense in the league, mostly because they cannot contain dribble penetration and cannot protect the rim when Roy Hibbert exits. Considering Hibbert is currently only playing 25 minutes a night, this leaves the team lacking a defensive presence in the paint for nearly half the game. It has not gone well.

Managing the defensive paint is especially important against the Nets as they possess one of the best scoring big men in the league in Brook Lopez. Lopez’s ability to get points from the post as well as in pick & pops by hitting his midrange jumper will put the Lakers into help situations. While Hibbert should be able to defend Lopez well enough in post up situations, when big Roy vacates the game or when the pick & pop becomes the play, the Lakers are going to have to rotate, help, and sort out their back line defense in ways they’ve not been effective at to this point in the year.

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The Lakers are still winless, now 0-3, and back in action Tuesday night. They face off against the Nuggets who are 1-2, though already feeling the injury crunch. This is the last home game the Lakers will have for a while as they depart east for a five game trip which won’t have them playing back at Staples until Sunday, November 15th.

While focusing on the road trip is definitely getting ahead of things, the Lakers must be cognizant of the fact that tonight’s contest may give them their best chance at a win before the rigors of the road begin. Remember, too, last year’s Lakers’ started 0-5 before finally breaking through in their 6th game. They also only won a single game out of their first 10. Avoiding a repeat of last year would be nice, especially since this first part of the schedule was considered the “soft” portion. (I did not say soft in Byron Scott’s voice.)

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The Lakers enter their 3rd game of the season winless and last in the Pacific Division standings. Every other team in the division has at least one win. If you are looking for solace, though, there are other teams in the conference still looking for a win, including preseason playoff hopefuls in the Rockets (0-2) and the Pelicans (0-3). To be fair, the Rockets have played the Warriors once and the Pelicans have faced the Dubs twice, but hey, I’ll take the silver linings wherever I can find them.

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After losing to the Timberwolves on opening night, the Lakers are 0-1. The last time they were at or above .500 (0-0 does not count) was actually December 20, 2013 when they were 13-13. That…that was a long time ago. Mike D’Antoni was head coach, Pau Gasol anchored the pivot, and Kobe Bryant had already played in all of the 6 games he’d appear in that season (he broke a bone in his knee three days earlier against the Grizzlies).

That stat interests me because tonight the Lakers have a chance to get back there against the Kings. Sacramento, like the Lakers (and, if we’re honest, like the Wolves), are looking to take a major step forward this year by outperforming expectations. They hope to make the playoffs. And they assembled a veteran heavy roster and retained George Karl to get there.

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The Lakers open their season against one the few teams who have been as bad as they have recently. While the Lakers have won 48 games over the last two seasons, the ‘Wolves have been nearly as bad with 56 wins over that same period. Though, to be fair, 40 of those wins did come in the 2013-14 season which saw Kevin Love put up video game numbers.

Of course, Love is now a Cavalier. And Andrew Wiggins, the fruits of the Love trade, is a T’Wolf. He joins #1 overall pick from this June’s draft, Karl Anthony-Towns, to form what Minnesota fans hope is the inside/outside tandem that will dominate the league for years to come. The Wolves also sport lottery picks Zach LaVine and Shabbaz Muhammad as well as Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio (questionable), and Nikola Pekovic (doubtful) as core players.

With this group of elite youth and young veterans, the Wolves are a team on the rise. Add in veterans Kevin Garnett, Kevin Martin, Tayshaun Prince, and Andre Miller and this is the type of roster construction Lakers’ fans should be quite familiar with. In fact, in a way, tonight’s game offers a bit of a look in the mirror for two organizations who hope to take some major strides forward this year. Sort of fitting considering the Lakers hail from where the ‘Wolves now call home.

The similarities in roster construction make for an interesting set of match-ups and story-lines.

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The Lakers enter their final preseason game of the exhibition season tonight and, while there is a lot to wonder about, my biggest item is simply to stay injury free. It is, truly, the only priority.

While the battle between Metta and Jabari for the final roster spot matters, seeing a good game from Russell would be nice, seeing whether Huertas can continue his strong play, and the surely entertaining Julius Randle/Draymond Green match up are all talking points, those are secondary. Get out of this game healthy and then onto opening night against the T’Wolves. Seriously. It’s all I am asking for. Win, lose, or another game cut short for whatever reason pops up. I do not care as long as both teams leave the game as healthy as they entered it.

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