Archives For Game Preview

Records: Lakers 9-40, Last in the West; Hornets 22-25, 10th in the East
Offensive ratings: Lakers 96.9, 29th in NBA; Hornets 102.6, 15th in the NBA
Defensive ratings: Lakers 108.4, Last in the NBA; Hornets 102.5, (T) 13th in the NBA
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Clarkson, Williams, Anthony Brown, Randle, Hibbert
Hornets: Kemba, PJ Hairston, MKG, Marvin’s Room, Spencer Hawes

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers have now lost 9 games in a row or, said another way, have managed to lose as many games in a row as they have won all season. The 9 game streak is the 2nd longest in team history, but a loss tonight would tie that record. If you’re wondering the last time the team lost 9 games straight it was…last season. So, yeah, Byron Scott holds a couple of dubious distinctions in the form of consecutive losses (both for the Lakers and the NBA) and can add to his legend tonight.

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The Lakers, after a deflating and bad loss against the Bulls on Thursday, are back in action on Friday against the Clippers. The loss against the Bulls was the Lakers 8th straight, their longest of the season, and only enhanced the struggles the team has been dealing with lately.

After the game Byron Scott railed on his team, questioning how important the game was to some of his players, again noted that his team did not come out ready to play, and threatened making lineup changes (again) to find players who would compete each night.

I’d go off on some long rant right now on how these comments can, by some, be interpreted as another deflection by the coach; that when your team isn’t ready to play, it reflects as much on the guy in charge (if not more) as it does on the players; that the next time this coach takes some ownership over his team’s struggles to “compete” it will be the first (second, maybe?), but I won’t write more than that single sentence. Why bother.

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Records: Lakers 9-38, Last in the West; 25-19, 4th in the East
Offensive ratings: Lakers 97.1, 29th in NBA; Bulls 100.7, 26th in the NBA
Defensive ratings: Lakers 108.3, Last in the NBA; Bulls 100.3, 8th in the NBA
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Clarkson, Williams, Kobe, Randle, Hibbert
Bulls: Rose, Butler, Tony Snell, Taj Gibson, Pau

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers have lost 7 games in a row, tied for their longest losing streak of the season. Their recent games have offered some glimmers of hope for a win, but the team has either not been able to close (Dallas) or been outclassed by much superior opponents in the 4th quarter (San Antonio). These aren’t new themes, but for a team which consistently finds ways to drop games, it is impressive in its own sad and frustration inducing ways.

Beyond the losses, I don’t have much to say about this team. Recent news is that Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell were chosen to play in the Rising Stars game on All-Star weekend while teammate Julius Randle was not. I actually think Randle was deserving, but the format of the game — USA vs. the World — and the fact that two players who will play internationally for other countries (Karl Anthony-Towns plays for the Dominican Republic and Jordan Clarkson will likely play for the Philippines this summer) are on the USA team means deserving American players didn’t make the cut. Randle is one such guy.

I’d get upset about this — and I’m sure Randle sees this as another reason to play with a chip on his shoulder — but with the longer All-Star break and the game being in Toronto, I might just enjoy a vacation on the beach rather than trudging around in freezing temperatures. I get that Randle is a young player who would (probably) appreciate the recognition, but some time off the refresh never hurt anybody. Or maybe I’m just old.

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The Lakers are back in business tonight, facing off against the Mavericks for the final time of the season. This, of course, means this will be the last time Kobe Bryant faces off against Dirk Nowitzki in an NBA Basketball game. Actually, unless they meet up at the local Y, it will be the last time they face off ever since Kobe has pulled his name out of contention for the 2016 Olympic Team and Dirk has retired from the German National team.

Tonight, then, really should be a bit of a celebration. Well, at least for me it will be. Dirk has always been one of my favorite players. Recently, Kevin Durant called Kristaps Porzingis a “unicorn” because of his varied skill set at a guy his size. Dirk, though, was the original unicorn — a 7-footer with unlimited range on his jumper — and the player who paved the way for players like Porzingis to make it to the NBA and be drafted as high as he was.

So Dirk, like Kobe, is somewhat of a pioneer. The fact that this will be the last time they play means something to me and I’ll try to reflect on that and appreciate the moment while it’s happening.

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I am keeping this short and sweet today since, like the Lakers, I am on the road (and short for time because of my travels). The Lakers visit Portland tonight in a game which will be Kobe’s last game in the Rose Garden (I know it’s the Moda Center now, but I don’t call it that). These “last game in city X” are always a bit tricky to navigate for Kobe and the rest of the team and I expect tonight to be no different.

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Records: Lakers 9-35, Last in the West; Spurs 37-6, 2nd in the West
Offensive ratings: Lakers 96.8, 29th in NBA; Spurs 108.6, 3rd in the NBA
Defensive ratings: Lakers 107.8, Last in the NBA; Spurs 93.3, 1st in the NBA
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Clarkson, Williams, Kobe, Randle, Hibbert
Spurs: Who knows, they could rest everyone or play everyone. Ask Pop pregame and get the side-eye or have him wax poetic on it. It really is that unpredictable.

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers have lost 4 straight games. On the season, this is the 7th time they have had a streak of 4 or more losses. Considering the Lakers are 9-35, this isn’t super surprising. However, the math also says, then, that of their 35 losses 28 of them have come in these 7 different streaks. That seems like a lot. Or maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, that 3 game winning streak at the turn of the year seems so long ago now. At that time it seemed the Lakers were playing better and trending…if not up, then at least no longer sinking. But look above at those offensive and defensive rankings. The Lakers are 2nd to last and last respectively in those categories. They are, essentially, the worst team in the league. I mean, even the 76ers aren’t bottom 5 in both those categories (they are 21st in OEff)!

In other words, things aren’t good, Bob. But, hey, the Cavs fired David Blatt today. So if you’re the type of fan who rejoices when other teams do things that come off as a bit crazy, this day is for you!

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Records: Lakers 9-34, Last in the West; Kings 17-23, 10th in the West
Offensive ratings: Lakers 96.9, 29th in NBA; Kings 103.0 11th in the NBA
Defensive ratings: Lakers 107.7, Last in the NBA; Kings 105.9, T-24th in the NBA
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Clarkson, Williams, Kobe, Randle, Hibbert
Kings: Rondo, Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, Willie Cauley-Stein, Cousins

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers have lost 3 in a row and 7 of their last 8. They are still banged up as Larry Nance Jr. will not play, but Julius Randle will simply slide up in the rotation and assume his old role as starter. Where the questions come in is whether Tarik Black will see any minutes as the back up C with Brandon Bass playing some PF or if Byron Scott will do what he did the last game by giving Ryan Kelly the backup PF minutes and having Bass stay as the C.

This is a game where it probably makes more sense to play Black, even if Byron seems less than enamored with the development of the 2nd year pro. The Kings are a team with legitimate size and can pound you on the glass if you don’t match up accordingly. Bass fought hard against Cousins the last time these teams played, but it would be nice to spare him from all that pounding by giving Black some run too. And not just against Cousins, but against Kosta Koufos as well.

Also, if you have not been paying attention, Anthony Brown has taken Nick Young’s spot in the rotation. This transition has been in place for a little over a week, but tonight will be an interesting test, especially since the Kings have two very different types of wing players that Brown will likely defend. On one hand, you have Rudy Gay who will try to post you up and work in isolation off the dribble. On the other hand is guys like Marco Belinelli and Omri Cassipi who do their best work running off picks and spotting up. Brown will need to be mindful of who he’s guarding and respond accordingly. I think he is up to the challenge, but we shall see.

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So the Lakers have the Rockets on Sunday night. Going into this match-up, the Lakers have lost six of their last seven while Houston had their five-game win streak snapped by the Eastern Conference champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. On Saturday night, the Lakers were thrashed by the Utah Jazz right from the start. And that has been the problem for the Lakers against the Rockets so far this season. In their previous two match-ups, they lost by 29 and 20 after slow starts.

Funny enough, Kobe Bryant is averaging 23.5 points in those two games but we’re not sure if he’s going to play because of his Achilles problem. But one player who has been scoring well as of late is Lou Williams. He’s averaging 22.9 points per game in the month of January and the way he’s been drawing fouls has been, shall we say, James Harden-esque? Lou has been averaging 9.1 free throws per game this month.

If you’re hoping for a Lakers win, you hope that the guys in purple and gold catch the Rockets sleepwalking and that they keep a lead or stay within reach in the early going. But the Rockets seem to get up for the Lakers as evidenced by the two games they have played. In those two games, it was the frontcourt that has smashed the Lakers. Clint Capela and the ever-so-beloved Dwight Howard had double-doubles (not the In-N-Out kind) in both games and Donatas Montiejunas and Terrence Jones both had an impact in both contests off the bench. And I didn’t even mention James Harden, who will find a way to score 25 points whether it’s unlimited chucking or living in the foul line. The Lakers, just like most games, will have their hands full.

But really, we’re not going to be too disappointed if the Lakers lose. As it should be all along, it should be about developing the young guys (and about keeping that Top 3 lottery pick). We hope Julius Randle bounces back from the Utah game. We hope D’Angelo Russell continues to grow. We hope Tarik Black gets some more PT to see if he really is a quality back-up big man. We hope Jordan Clarkson can continue to be an excellent combo guard. Larry Nance is not going to play due to hurting his knee but, when he comes back, we hope that he can continue to expand his game aside from being a defensive stopper.

Just compete and try not to be embarrassed like the last two contests. And if the Lakers win, then it’s all gravy.

Where you can watch the Lakers play against your hero, Dwight Howard: 6:30 PM on Time Warner Cable Sports. Also listen at ESPN Radio Los Angeles 710AM.