Archives For Game Preview

Steph! Durant! Draymond! Klay!

Wait. No. None of them. Sorry.

The Lakers play the Warriors tonight in Las Vegas and will play an interesting mix of young guys and veterans the defending world champs (oh that’s right they blew a 3-1 lead) Dubs will throw out there. You might even recognize a few names — including former Laker Xavier Henry.

But we’re not really worried about those guys, are we? No, tonight I’ll be watching the Lakers’ young guys very closely. These guys are 2-0 and had a nice comeback win against the 76ers on Saturday. That game saw some tired legs and good pressure defense bother the Lakers, so here’s hoping tonight they have recovered some and can put forth a cleaner game.

With that, a few other things I will be watching for:

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This is it. The end of a season. The end of a career. Both of these carry meaning, but only one of them really matters to me today.

Thank you to Kobe for a wonderful 20 years with the franchise I root for. There has been much written and said over the years, but there has been way more good than bad and the highs provided are ones which will stick with me forever.

I really have nothing else to add. Enjoy the game, folks. Regardless of the outcome and the final score, I know I will.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet and ESPN2 nationally. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

After losing to the Rockets on Sunday, the Lakers are in Oklahoma City on Monday for their final game of the season against the Thunder. It also concludes their three game road trip serving as the final setup to the game against the Jazz on Wednesday. Sort of amazing to think the season is already over. In a way, I liken how it’s passed to those first few months of being a new parent. The days have been so long, but time has passed by so quickly.

Though it was back in December, it feels like just the other day Kobe announced, officially, this season would be his last. Now his final game is in two days. I know the time between then and now has been filled with losses, missed shots, fits and starts from the young players, and a whole lotta #byronquotes. Those tough moments have had me, more than once, wishing for the end to finally come. Now that it’s here, I can’t say I’m particularly thrilled about it. Yes, I want the negativity and suffering to end. But saying goodbye to Kobe isn’t something I’m looking forward to all that much, even though I know it is time.

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With only 3 games left in Kobe’s career, the focus is almost entirely on the final moments of his brilliant career whether he wants it that way or not. After the Lakers were handled by the Pelicans on Friday, Kobe didn’t express much approval of his point guard saying the goal was to get Kobe the ball as much as possible. On the other hand, Kobe took 10 shots in the 1st quarter of that game, including seven 3-pointers! So if he doesn’t want the ball, he’s got a weird way of showing it.

Again, though, whatever Kobe wants or doesn’t want, isn’t really that relevant at this point. The retirement train left the station long ago and now we’re all on the tracks together. There’s no adjusting course so we might as enjoy the scenery. If that involves a few more forced passes into #24, what does that matter at this point (with 3 games left in the season and his career)?

So, we celebrate the player and his career however we want to. For some, that might mean continuing to root for his departure as quickly as possible. Kobe’s not the most lovable figure in sports — Nike has done a great job of playing that up lately — and I think Kobe is fine still wearing the black hat to a portion of fans. If that means eating up career highlights and reveling in what once was, that’s totally fine too. I mean, he has clips all over the web of him dominating every team in the league. Today’s opponent included.

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I’ll be 100% honest: I have little to say about this game. The Pelicans’ injury situation is so dire, here is their projected starting lineup: Toney Douglas, James Ennis, Dante Cunningham, Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca. Say whatever you want about the Lakers and them producing the worst season in franchise history, at least they’re fielding a roster of names you can recognize.

With that, I thought this might be the best preview available when considering all the variables.

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The Lakers face the Clippers (again) on Wednesday, a night after getting crushed by them to the point the entire 4th quarter of the game was garbage time. While the Lakers have had a few successful games against their Staples Center co-tenants in the last few seasons, most games have mirrored Tuesday’s onslaught. The Clippers get up to play the Lakers and when you have a difference in quality between teams that’s been present the last few years, it’s not hard to predict the results.

After the game, Byron Scott offered similar critiques to ones he has leveled for most of the season — and especially recently. He lamented the lack of his young players’ intensity in comparison to Kobe and Metta World Peace, mentioned when you play “soft” and are not the aggressor games like this happen, and said they will need to learn to play with the appropriate level of intensity every night if they are going to “survive in this league”.

Another thing Scott mentioned was that he has run out of tactics and approaches to jumpstart his team. This was an interesting admission, since it not only implicates his players as (seemingly) non-responsive to his attempts to get them to play better, but also himself since he’s essentially admitting he’s no longer reaching his team (or at least a part of them). Whether he meant it that way or not, it’s also how that statement can be interpreted.

There could be a variety of reasons for this, but it’s a worthwhile discussion that is worrisome on multiple fronts.

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The Lakers play the Clippers on back to back nights a “home and home” where the only difference is the color of the uniforms, what face appears on your season ticket, and whether there are photos of your players in the rafters or not.

Oh, and there’s a difference in quality of team, too. The Clippers are¬†pretty much locked into the 4th seed in the playoffs and a match up with the Warriors in the 2nd round. The Clippers just got Blake Griffin back from his torn quad/broken hand/suspension from punching the team’s equipment man in the face. Griffin looked rusty, but that’s to be expected.

If they are to make a deep run, they’ll need him at his best, though they will also need to find ways to integrate him back into what they did while he was away. Anchoring the 2nd unit as a point-PF who has the ball all the time might be the best way to do that, but that’s a conversation for another day.

The Lakers, meanwhile, are looking to ramp up their young players’ minutes over their final six games. This means changes to the rotation and, ultimately, Brandon Bass and Lou Williams being moved to the bench. Byron Scott gave the veterans a heads up that they should be ready should circumstances call for him to extend deep into the rotation, but otherwise they are going to sit.

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It’s been a strange week for the Lakers. Off court drama + a 48 point loss in Utah + an overtime win vs. the Heat = fans’ heads spinning. But nothing grounds the Lakers or their fans like a game vs. the Celtics. It seems almost any other storyline takes a backseat to a game against Boston and a chance to beat the organization’s most bitter rival.

Kobe’s farewell tour adds an additional layer to this. Against the Heat, Kobe played 9 minutes and was held out of the entire 2nd half after telling Byron Scott he “couldn’t move” on the court. But with multiple days off and the lure of one last game against the hated C’s, there is little doubt Kobe will play in this game. There is no playoff push to make or any seeding implications for the Lakers, but this game means something. It always will.

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