Archives For Game Preview

The Lakers are coming of their first days of consecutive rest in over a month. After playing in Cleveland on Saturday, they are in Charlotte to play the Hornets today, Tuesday, the 5th game of a 7 game road trip which will have them on the road for two weeks. So, even with the extra day off, there really is not any rest for the weary in the NBA — something the Lakers are well aware of, I might add.

This goes for the travel and for who they will face on the floor. To be clear, the Hornets are not looked at as a “power” by any means. They are only 2 games over .500 at 15-13 on the year. However, that mark is good for 4th in the East and they easily could be 3rd if they hadn’t lost 4 in a row before getting a win against the Hawks on Saturday. So, yeah, the Hornets are good. They have good depth, an excellent coach, and, maybe most important, know who they are and how they want to beat you.

Charlotte plays a disciplined game on both sides of the ball and makes opponents beat them rather than making the kinds of mistakes where the Hornets beat themselves.

Consider the Hornets rank 6th in defensive efficiency, 1st in defensive rebound rate, 28th in offensive rebound rate, and 3rd in turnover percentage on offense. This team makes you score on your first possession against a set defense and then makes you play out full possessions on the other end by rarely giving the ball away. We talk about Memphis as “grit and grind”, but Charlotte has a little bit of that in their blood too.

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The Lakers may have been able to end their 8 game losing streak with a win a in Philly over the 76ers, but the NBA schedule makers have a way of trying to humble you quickly.¬†You’ll recall the 4 game in 5 night roadie the Lakers struggled on just a little while back, well now the team heads into Cleveland for it’s 3rd game in 4 nights and their 4th in 6 nights — all of which have been on the road.

Even if it weren’t a back to back, though, playing the Cavs would be a daunting challenge. The Cavs are the best team in the East and, if it weren’t for the Warriors looking amazing after adding Kevin Durant, the defending champion Cavs would likely be viewed as the best team in the league. Their starting lineup has one of the best net ratings in the league (+9.4 in 281 minutes) and any time LeBron, Love, and Kyrie share the floor they are outscoring teams by 11.4 points per 100 possessions.

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I am swamped in my everyday life, so this will be short. Sorry, ya’ll.

The Lakers have lost 8 in a row and even though I think they are closer to getting back on track than those consecutive L’s say, they actually have to start winning games for that to matter. Tonight in Philly against the 76ers offers a nice opportunity to get that win even though they offer their own set of of issues for the Lakers to overcome.

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With the Lakers currently mired in a 7 game losing streak, it is hard to be optimistic. That early season good start, buoyed by a strong offense and a better than expected defense seems like ancient history. The Lakers now look like one of the worst defensive teams in the league and have lost some of that offensive magic which made them so much fun to watch. The question, I guess, is whether what we are seeing now is the new norm or if there is a way to recapture what was happening in the season’s first few weeks.

I don’t think anyone can give a definitive answer to that question, but I do know we should have a better answer over the next handful of games. The Lakers played 3 solid quarters against the Kings, but were so thoroughly thrashed in the 3rd period none of that really mattered. Over the next couple of weeks, the team will remain on the road, playing some winnable games, but also several which pundits should have them losing. During the first part of the year, the Lakers surprised by pulling out several of those “they have no business winning this game” games while also picking up W’s against similarly talented teams.

 

Teams like, well, the Nets.

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The Lakers are in the midst of a 6 game losing streak. Sunday’s game against the Knicks saw the return of D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young, but both were limited with their minutes and Russell struggled with his shot mightily while looking rusty in general. The team’s defense continued to be terrible, switching excessively and then not containing dribble penetration in the half court or transition.

Despite all that, the Lakers lost by 6 points and had a real chance to take the game in the final 5 minutes. Again, they had a chance to win the game. In other words, there are lots of things to work on with these Lakers and I can understand there being a certain amount of targeted concern. I also think the team is going to get back on the right track now that the injuries are clearing up. Now if only Tarik Black can come back soon.

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Saturday it was reported that D’Angelo Russell was close to a return, with today’s game against the Knicks being a real possibility. Well, Luke Walton offered some good news after this morning’s shootaround:

Assuming nothing goes awry, Russell returning has the chance to offer a real boost to the Lakers’ offense and normalize the team’s rotations. While the former is desperately needed, the latter point cannot be ignored either. After Jose Calderon hurt his hamstring, Luke Walton has turned to Ingram and Clarkson as the “PG” and neither offered a real solution to the team’s woes. Clarkson has not shown to be the passer/playmaker needed at that spot and Ingram, though a fine initiator, is not assertive or threatening enough out of the P&R to really get the defense on its heels.

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The Lakers are now 3 games under .500 at 10-13. They have lost 3 in a row and 4 of their last 5 games, their lone win coming against the Bulls in what was a pretty unexpected performance considering how shorthanded they were and the fact they were on the 2nd night of a back to back.

The team, of course, remains shorthanded. Though the recent update on D’Angelo Russell is somewhat positive, he’s not likely to return until early next week. And the team is still without Nick Young and Jose Calderon for longer than that while Tarik Black is out at least against Houston with Larry Nance questionable to play.

None of that is good news. Not against a Rockets team which is playing very well of late. Houston has won 5 of 6, including a double OT victory in Oakland against the Warriors last week. That win snapped the Dubs’ double-digit win streak and showed how the Rockets can compete against the best teams through their high powered offense which is piloted by James Harden.

Harden is an MVP candidate and is a nightmare for any team to contain, but especially these Lakers. In the first matchup between LA and Houston, Luke Walton put Nick Young on Harden for most of the night and while Young battled hard he ultimately didn’t stop James from getting his numbers. Harden’s ability to get into the paint allowed him to set up teammates for good looks and his shooting ability meant there were no ways to shade or cheat on him without giving up a play he is more than capable of making.

Without Young available tonight, it’s unclear who Walton turns to now. Deng? Ingram? Does he break up his backup backcourt duo of Clarkson and Williams in order to have JC track the Beard? Harden is of such quality, but none of these sound like good solutions.

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Crushing headaches do not mix with writing game previews. This is something I knew already, but am reminded of today as I try to type words onto a white screen reflecting light which might as well be Shinobi ninja stars being guided right into my eyeballs.

So, forgive the brevity.

The Lakers play the Jazz tonight in a return to Staples Center. After going 1-3 on a road trip which saw them play those four contests in five nights, the team is back in action after only a day off. The “rest” may help, but I doubt it. The first game back from a road trip can often be just like another road game. Players have to settle in, attempt to get back to their regular routines, and then get right back on the court to play basketball again. At least they get to sleep in their own beds.

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