Archives For Game Preview

The season is only five days old, but tonight the Lakers will play their fourth game and their second back to back. Through the first three contests the team has yet to win a game, though Friday night’s effort against the Clippers was a very good showing that the team could not close out down the stretch. Depending on how you view things, then, there may be reasons to be encouraged as the team finally started to show some positive strides offensively — they took 20 three pointers! — while stringing together some solid defensive possessions. They still have a long way to go, however, even if Byron Scott and Kobe Bryant were feeling good after the game.

The hope entering tonight is that the Lakers can build on some of what they showed against the Clippers. That game featured some solid offensive execution, built mostly on the back of nice floor games from Kobe and Jeremy Lin. Both guards found a good balance between attacking for their own shot and hitting open teammates for open looks. That balance kept the defense guessing and allowed other guys to find a nice flow offensively — Jordan Hill chief among them.

Against the Warriors, the Lakers will try to keep this going and a lot of it will depend on Lin. I expect Steph Curry to start the game on Lin, so the hope will be that Lin can use his superior size (Curry is not short, but he is more slight of build than Jeremy) to get position on drives and get into the paint. Once there, Lin will need to finish well in the paint and use the threat of his shot to draw defenders in and find open men. If Hill is able to slip into the creases of the defense while Andrew Bogut is forced to help, he can, like versus Jordan on Friday, get makable looks that he can convert.

As for Kobe, he’ll be facing off against a much better defender in this game than Matt Barnes. Klay Thompson has size, nice instincts when guarding in isolation, and quick enough feet to give Kobe issues. Kobe will likely try to counter this by going to the post, but he will have a rough go of things if he doesn’t make his moves quickly before the help defense can get set and disrupt his first move. I would like to see Kobe come off picks and look to catch and shoot to open up some of his isolation work later.

The Lakers will need their offense to do solid work considering the trouble their defense will be in. As we saw in the preseason, the Warriors are going to test all the weak spots of the Lakers’ team defense, spreading them out on the perimeter in order to bomb them with deep jumpers and then gash them with weak side movement from their forwards and big men.

Curry and Klay are the keys to this, so Lin and Wes Johnson (who is likely to cross match and guard Thompson) have their work cut out for them. Both Warriors have absolutely zero conscience when letting their jumper go and they must be marked well beyond the three point line lest you want to be embarrassed with a bucket within their range. This is especially true in transition where both will run diligently to the arc both with the ball, in front of the break, or as trailers.

They’re not the only threats, however. Even though David Lee has been ruled out, the Warriors have plenty of offense. While Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Andrey Bogut aren’t classic scorers, all can be threats within the construct of their roles. Green has worked hard to improve his three point range and his ability to camp behind the arc aids in the Warriors’ spacing based attack. Barnes can also hit that shot as a spot up man, but can be even more dangerous if he finds his groove in isolation or as a slasher working off Curry and Thompson. Bogut, meanwhile, will do all the dirty work, can still score some as a roll man in the P&R and will get the occassional post up bucket. Andre Iguodala is coming off the bench for this team and providing playmaking for the 2nd unit, which keeps continuity from group to group and allows the O to continue to work well.

In other words, the Lakers are in trouble tonight. As mentioned at the top, they have played a lot of games in a condensed period of time and have done so shorthanded. And while they showed some strides against the Clips, the Warriors will be playing at home and will be ready to put their foot on the necks of the Lakers should they be given the opportunity. Maybe the Lakers surprise in this game, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

We knew that the Lakers would have a tough go of it this season, but the team’s first two games have served as the evidence that wasn’t fully formed off just the preseason and our analysis of the team’s offseason moves. The Lakers have been, for lack of a better word, awful to start the year.

Unfortunately for them, lopsided losses against the Rockets and the Suns are only the beginning as the team faces the Clippers tonight. Their Staples Center co-habitants haven’t exactly looked great either — they played a sloppy and close game against a very shorthanded Thunder team last night — but are clearly the superior squad entering this game. They are a team that in the spring will actually look to have a good chance to make good on their championship aspirations while the Lakers (who have stated to have the same goal) will look retain a top five protected lottery pick.

The match ups in this game aren’t even really worth discussing, to be honest. While it’s nice in the abstract to discuss how Jeremy Lin might perform against Chris Paul or how a combination of Jordan Hill and Ed Davis might fare against Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the reality is that the Clippers’ players should outperform their counterpart in nearly every matchup. The only advantage the Lakers look to have is with Kobe against a Clippers’ wing rotation that doesn’t offer a great defensive option (though Matt Barnes and JJ Redick will compete hard on that end and offer more than just token resistance). We’ll see if Kobe can carry over some of his effectiveness he showed in the Suns game (he did, after all, have 31 points in only 3 quarters of play), but also see if he can do so while his teammates join him with some reasonable production themselves.

From a larger strategy standpoint, this game actually mirrors some of what the Suns’ game did. While the types of players and match ups are different, the Clippers will play fast and look to exploit the Lakers’ transition defense. The Clips have multiple players who can turn a rebound into a fast break chance and the Lakers will need to find a way to get back effectively or give up the type of highlight plays that will be all over SportsCenter after the game.

In the half court the Clips will mix a lot of post ups for Griffin with pick and rolls between Paul and both big his big men. To counter, the Lakers’ bigs will need to have strong communication with their guards in order to effectively manage Paul at the point of attack while still covering the back line. One particular play to watch for is when the Clippers run a 1/4/5 pick and roll where Griffin screens for Paul and then, after diving, makes a catch with a quick lob to Jordan for the easy finish. This is a play the Lakers used to run often between Kobe, Pau, and Bynum several years ago and with that reminder I will now go weep in the corner.

Ultimately, this game is likely to end just like the Lakers’ previous games did. I wish I had better news for you, but again, it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. From a talent perspective, the Lakers just aren’t as good as the team they are playing. We will be saying that a lot this season, it seems.

After Julius Randle’s injury on opening night, writing a game preview seems sort of trivial. But the games will go on and the Lakers, even down their prized rookie and as shorthanded as ever, travel to Phoenix to play their second game in as many nights in an opponent’s home opener. The lack of rest (both physical and mental, considering the Randle injury) and the fact that the Suns are opening their season are two variables that would have made this game challenging already, but when combined with the fact that the Suns are the superior team the Lakers are facing a steep climb.

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What’s that you say? The NBA is back? THE NBA IS BACK.

While my expectations for this Lakers’ season aren’t what you could call optimistic, that doesn’t change the fact that today is one of the best days of the year for me. Few things can compare to a fresh campaign with a new team to watch and fresh stories to tell.

With that, I’m going to keep this short and sweet so we can all just relax and wait until the games tip. First things first, let’s get some of the news of the day out of the way:

While the news of Lin starting is only a recent development over the last couple of days, I am quite happy that Scott has put him with the first group. The reserves can certainly benefit from Lin’s playmaking and ability to organize the offense and that, in and of itself, may have been reason enough to keep him coming off the bench. But the starters can benefit from those skills too and with this team short on talent I’d like to see the best players on the floor as often as possible (within any minutes restrictions, of course) to try and impact the game. Lin should be playing 30+ minutes a night and that should allow him overlap with both units and allow him to help both groups offensively.

As for Henry and Price, it’s nice to have both available, though it’s doubtful either will have much impact in this game. Price may serve as Lin’s backup and having his defense on the floor would be nice in certain situations. But I would just as well have Clarkson play some back up PG minutes (12-15 of them, depending on how long Lin can go) and call it a night. Henry, however, isn’t likely to see any time at all after not practicing over the last couple of weeks and not seeing any action this preseason. That said, with Young, Ellington, and Kelly (who could serve as a SF this year) also out, Henry could find his way to the floor in an emergency situation.

With that news out of the way, I turn my focus to tonight. Well, mostly tonight.

The Rockets come in as one of the top five to six teams in the West this year. They have all-NBA players in Dwight Howard and James Harden, brought in Trevor Ariza to replace Chandler Parsons, and are expecting growth from Patrick Beverly and Terrence Jones among others. If all goes right for them, they can press for a top four seed in the conference and can bubble up from fringe contender to conference finalist where anything can happen. They will represent a huge challenge for the Lakers in this game. And while some of that will mitigated through the adrenaline of a home opener on the first night of the season, talent will usually trump all and Houston has more of that than the Lakers.

This will be a trend for the Lakers this year and you will likely be able to lift sentences from that paragraph above and drop them into any game preview I write all year. But, in saying that, I think it is important that fans understand that even in a season that will challenge our patience, that we try to enjoy the journey and take what positives we can from the process of what this season will offer.

Rooting for the Lakers this year will be less about the big goals of a playoff berth or a parade at the end of the season and more about the little things that might occur in any given game or over the course of the season. Enjoy Kobe Byrant’s skill level and shot making. Enjoy the growth of Julius Randle and his multi-faceted offensive game. Enjoy how Ed Davis moves defensively and how he challenges shots at the rim. Enjoy Jordan Hill’s hustle and offensive glass work. Enjoy Jeremy Lin’s fearless drives to the cup. Enjoy Nick Young…well, being Nick Young.

Maybe your list is different. But these are the things that will keep me afloat this year and keep me invested in what happens next and how the team is coming together. The season will be long and, at many times, frustrating. But over the course of the year try to find the things that keep you happy and looking forward to the next moment. The Lakers won’t always be bad (seriously, they won’t be) and, if history has any part in determining the future, things will start to look up in the coming years.

So, in saying that, enjoy the ride you guys. Another season is upon us. Basketball is back. This really is the best time of the year.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm tip time on TNT. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Much like when the NFL preseason reaches its final game, the real dress rehearsals for the Lakers are behind them. So while tonight offers the last game action before the regular season begins on Tuesday, this contest won’t actually be treated as the lead-in to that night. As with the previous game, Kobe will sit out and I would expect there to be plenty of minutes available to the reserve group that features Julius Randle, Ed Davis, and Jeremy Lin.

In any event, there’s really no point in getting too deep into this specific game. I’ve no clue if the Kings are going to take this contest seriously or not, but I know the goal for both sides is to leave the game as healthy as they entered it so they can proceed with prepping towards their respective season openers. While there are always things to learn about your team with habits to form and trends to evaluate, this contest isn’t really about those things. No, get in and get out with a healthy team and move onto the real games.

With that, I leave it to you all in the comments to discuss whatever you see fit.

Where you can watch: 7:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.