After the Lakers were handed a bad loss at the hands of the Celtics on Friday night, Byron Scott said there would be lineup changes in tonight’s game versus the Pelicans. True to his word, Scott has swapped out two members of his starting group:

Reasonable minds can disagree about this move, but Scott is clearly trying to inject some defense into his starting group by removing Boozer and Lin in favor of Davis and Price. As we have discussed all season, the Lakers’ defense is horrid ranking last in points allowed per 100 possessions and doing so by a fair margin. Without getting into all of the details, the Lakers don’t do anything particularly well on that side of the ball and injecting two of the players the coaches feel are better on that end is deemed as the logical move.

That said, the numbers don’t really support this particular change. Let’s dive in:

  • The lineup of Lin, Kobe, Johnson, Boozer, and Hill has posted an offensive efficiency of 102.7 and a defensive efficiency of 117.7 for an efficiency differential of minus-15.0.
  • The lineup of Price, Kobe, Johnson, Davis, and Hill has posted an offensive efficiency of 96.0 and a defensive efficiency of 119.5 for an efficiency differential of minus-23.5.
  • In terms of the big men pairing, when the Boozer/Hill tandem have shared the floor, the Lakers’ defensive efficiency has been 117.0.
  • When the Hill/Davis tandem have shared the floor, the Lakers’ defensive efficiency has been 119.3.
  • When Jeremy Lin shares the floor with Kobe Byrant, he is shooting 46.5% from the floor and has 94 assists to 42 turnovers.
  • When Jeremy Lin has not shared the floor with Kobe, he is shooting 33% and has 4 assists to 11 turnovers.

There are some caveats in these numbers — the Price, Kobe, Johnson, Davis, Hill lineup have only played 20 minutes together over the course of five games. The Hill/Davis numbers offer a larger sample — 134 minutes — but still not as large as the Boozer/Hill duo (394 minutes). As for the Lin numbers, they too offer a small sample as Scott has preferred to play Lin almost exclusively with Kobe to try and optimize his two best guards by playing them together. So, these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt as there are simply not big enough samples to say any of these trends are irreversible.

That said, these numbers are what they are and do make me raise an eyebrow. The Lakers are making changes that, per the numbers, make them worse on the floor than better. When the samples get larger maybe these trends will reverse. But, my guess is that even if they do improve, they won’t do so at a rate that makes any sort of dent in how well the team plays as a whole. At least not without other shifts in how the lineups are deployed and how many minutes specific groups play together. We’ll see if Scott makes any such changes or if he simply swaps Lin and Boozer’s roles with Price and Davis’. If that happens, I expect things to look just as bad as they have to this point.

In any event, there is a game to play tonight and these changes will be put into play with a chance to make some waves. The Pelicans aren’t a great team by any means, but they have one of the league’s best players in Anthony Davis and other useful players who can make an impact against the Lakers. Chief amongst them are Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Ryan Anderson. Evans may be of particular issue since his ability to create off the dribble is a trait that the Lakers have struggled to contain all year. Maybe having Wes Johnson on him will slow him some, but unless Hill and Davis are there to help while still managing the stay with Anthony Davis on the glass and when slashing into open creases, it will all be for naught.

Further, when Anderson comes into the game the Lakers will need to find a way to defend the arc with a big man. With Boozer now coming off the bench, one has to wonder if defending Anderson will fall on his shoulders. If it does, watch out. Boozer is hesitant to defend out the three point line and that is exactly where Anderson will set up. If Boozer cannot get to the arc, Anderson will bomb away with quick releasing threes and hit more than his fair share if he’s open.

Offensively, we’ll see if the changes the Lakers make can at least spark their second unit. In theory, a unit of Lin, Ellington, Young, Boozer, and Sacre will be able to score some points and get up and down the court in the process. Lin, Ellington, and Young can all stretch the floor as well, so the space that they create should open up some post opportunities for Boozer and driving lanes for the guards should their men get too aggressive with closeouts. Hopefully, the bench can take advantage, especially against a Pelican’s bench that isn’t very strong in their own right.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Look, let’s skip the pleasantries and get down to business. The Lakers are not a good team. As many people have pointed out over the last couple of seasons, this isn’t necessarily the worst thing. The way the NBA is set up, it’s in the team’s best interests to lose games, get high draft picks and use them as core rebuilding pieces for the future. This season, it has been argued, that strategy is doubly important since their draft pick is only top five protected and will go to the Suns should it be six or lower. If the Lakers want to keep this pick they need to lose a lot of games. The more the better, some would say.

I can understand this logic. I really can. And while I detest the idea of “rooting” for losses, the benefits that come from those L’s stacking up can’t be ignored.

None of that applies tonight, though. No, when the Lakers play the Celtics, I don’t care about the future pick. I don’t care about accelerating a rebuild. I don’t care for your logic. Nope. Not at all. You see, these are the Celtics. I don’t want the Lakers to lose to them. Not today, tomorrow, or next week. Not ever. As I said above, if the only games the Lakers won all season were against the C’s, it would take some of the sting off. This is what a rivalry does.

Of course, when both teams are bad — and the C’s are pretty much equally bad right now — some would say the luster of this rivalry is removed. Yes, these organizations have 33 banners between them but right now they are cellar dwellers. Of all the games on tonight, this is one a lot of fans will actively avoid. Watching Kobe and Rondo is nice and all, but when it’s all said and done a Carlos Boozer/Jared Sullinger duel isn’t something people are using up their Friday night on. Again, I see this perspective. But, again, I do not care. This is appointment viewing for me. This matters.

In saying all that, I could get into X’s and O’s here. I could talk about slowing Rondo, keeping Sullinger off the offensive boards, and making sure ┬áthat Kelly Olynyk is defended out the 3 point line. I’d discuss Jeff Green and how he must be kept out of the lane and turned into a jump shooter. And ditto for Avery Bradley. I could then get into Lin being aggressive in getting to the rim, how the C’s lack rim protection, and how this would be a good game for Ed Davis to get going. Oh, I’d also discuss how Kobe has a size advantage against most of the C’s wings and how this might be a good game for him to really work to get into the post to create double teams and easier scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. This stuff, in the micro, matters towards the end goal.

But, in reality, all I really care about is getting the W. How they do it, isn’t important to me. If it means going to Nick Young down the stretch, do it. If it means running plays for Jordan Hill, make it happen. If it means playing Kobe a few extra minutes, I’m saying go for it. Like I said, logic isn’t going to cut it with me today. The faces may change, but the goal remains the same. Just beat the Celtics.

With that, here’s a video to get you in the mood. Enjoy, folks.

The Lakers continue their three game road trip tonight in Washington, just a night after beating the Pistons in Detroit. That game saw a tired and flu-ridden Kobe rely heavily on his teammates and a nice third quarter burst of his own to win the game and bring the Lakers record to 5 and 14 on the season. Of those 5 wins, 4 are against the Eastern Conference and 3 of them are on the road.

Which means, tonight, against the Wizards in Washington the Lakers are sure to win. Yeah, not so much.

I know I’ve said this a lot this season, but the Lakers are pretty outclassed in this match up. The Wizards are one of the more balanced teams in the league, showing out well on both sides of the ball with deep roster. They currently boast the the 2nd best record in the conference and have enough talent on their team to make it so they will be in the mix at the top of the conference until the end of the season — health permitting.

In other words, the Lakers are in for a severe challenge and any expectation about this game remaining close is likely just wishful thinking. In their core four players of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene, and Marcin Gortat the Wizards have advantages at nearly every position save in Kobe’s match up with Beal. When you add to this that Paul Pierce is their 5th starter, the Lakers are going to struggle to keep pace with this team and will likely find themselves in disadvantageous positions all over the floor trying to defend this group.

I could go on and on with this, but in it’s most simply explained by the fact that the Lakers really don’t have anyone who can stay with John Wall for an entire game. And if Wall is able to break loose, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the team follows. Mind you, the rest of the team is good enough to get their own without Wall drawing extra defensive attention and getting his own offense going, but with Wall attacking Lin and Price for most of the night, those other guys are very likely to feast on a lot of open looks.

This is where I’d normally say that the Lakers’ offense would need to step up. And while that’s true, I have my doubts about it actually happening in this game. As noted at the top, this is the Lakers 2nd game in as many nights and a road game. Plus, with Kobe not 100% physically, their will be an over reliance on other players to step up and play well. That worked last night against the Pistons…but that was the Pistons. They’re awful. The Wizards are decidedly not and have good defensive players all over the floor to give the Lakers’ issues. Of course the Lakers can still get theirs and hitting some contested shots will go a long way in closing the talent gap (ask the Raptors), but it is certainly a lot to ask for.

So, sorry to be a downer folks. I know the Lakers are feeling good coming off two straight wins. But I’ve a feeling tonight, all factors considered, ends up being too tough a match up for the Lakers to overcome.

Where you can watch: 4pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

The Lakers defeated the Detroit Pistons 106-96 thanks to (for a change) a good third quarter. LAL is now 5-13 after back-to-back wins and is 4-0 against teams from the Eastern Conference while the Pistons fell to 3-15 (yuck).

The game started out as ugly as you might with both teams sporting a combined 7-27 record. Carlos Boozer provided the early offense for LA, notching 8 points in the first quarter. Kobe looked, for lack of a better word, tired in the first quarter and didn’t score until the third quarter. But as he often does when his shots not falling, he played the facilitator role and found his teammates for open looks early and often. That kept LAL close in the first period despite shooting under 40%.

The game remained close in the second quarter and the lead changed hands multiple times. The bench provided a nice spark tonight, led by Swaggy P as is so often the case. Young came off the bench looking for buckets and was successful in finding them after an 0-4 start. He finished with a classic Nick Young scoreline of 19 points, 1 rebound and a goose egg in the assist column.

The third quarter is where this game was won. Kobe came to life, scoring a quick 12 points to help the Lakers build a lead that swelled to 19 points at one point. Jordan Hill continued his strong play (particularly on the offensive glass), knocking down both open jumpers that usually came on the heels of Bryant’s getting into the lane and connected on a few nice jump hooks on his way to 22 points and 13 rebounds. He’s been a bright spot for the Lakers in a season where there haven’t been many.

It would have been nice for the Lakers to maintain the advantage they built in the third quarter to enable to starters to rest with a game against the 11-5 Wizards tomorrow night. But that wasn’t the case, as some sloppy play allowed the Pistons to cut the lead to 8 with 5 minutes to play, which prompted Byron Scott to put Jeremy Lin and Kobe back in the game to secure the win. And that’s exactly what they did. Despite turning the ball over 10 time (!!!), Kobe finished with 12 points and 13 assists. In his last two games, #24 has totaled 25 assists. While there’s no doubt LA needs Kobe to be their first option offensively, he’s clearly the teams best passer/facilitator and it would serve the team better if Kobe played the facilitator role more often.

While two wins in a row are always nice, it’s important to keep in the mind the quality (or lackthereof) of the of opponent tonight. The Pistons have been putrid as of late- tonight marked their ninth consecutive loss. They looked lost on the offensive end, having seemingly no gameplan, and were out-hustled throughout tonight’s game. But the Lakers will take any win they can get, and they head to Washington tomorrow riding a two-game win streak.

Let’s hope the improved offensive play (all 5 starters were in double figures tonight for the second consecutive game) continues tomorrow night in Washington. The Wizards are a much, much better team than the Pistons are, and if the Lakers don’t come to play, a blowout is a real possibility.

The Lakers begin a three game road trip today, heading to the Motor City to face the Pistons in the first night a back to back. This after a four game home-stand that saw the team go 1-3. That lone win, however, was a game to remember with Kobe posting a triple-double while also becoming the first player in NBA history to tally over 30 thousand points while also dishing out 6 thousand assists. The Lakers, and Kobe, will look to build on that performance tonight against a Pistons team that, for all intents and purposes, is just as bad as they are.

The fact that Detroit is this bad is, for me at least, a bit of a surprise. While former Laker Jodie Meeks took the injury bug with him to his new team — Meeks has missed the entire season so far with a back issue — the rest of the roster has been able to play, only to not show any real advancement from last season. With the hiring of Stan Van Gundy, I expected this team to take a step forward in their development and compete for bottom playoff seed at least.┬áThat has been far from the case, however.

The key issue for this team seems to be roster construction and a lack of shooting (which makes Meeks’ absence so damaging). SVG has tried to play the Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith trio together, but Smith’s inability to stretch the floor while Drummond and Monroe both do their best work 12 feet and in has made this nearly impossible to do while bringing in good results. This has left the head coach looking for alternatives in Kyle Singler, Caron Butler, and Jonas Jerebko but they too have their limitations and can’t necessarily be the floor spacers that this team needs. Combine this with Brandon Jennings still doing more shooting than assisting and the solutions seem to be with a change in personnel rather than trying to shoehorn players into roles they cannot fill well enough.

In saying all this, however, the Lakers still come into this game as the underdog. The Pistons, for all their mismatched-ness, still possess real talent in their front court and have the ability to overwhelm teams with their athleticism and size. For the Lakers to get the win they will need to manage these big men on both ends of the floor and not become speed bumps to a trio who can all do work when getting into the paint.

This starts with Drummond so Hill and, later, Davis will have their hands full. Drummond has explosiveness rarely seen in players his size and his ability to bully his way into the paint to finish with power will be a problem should the Lakers allow him to get to his spots. Hill and Davis will need to do their work early and try to battle him for position, pushing him further out on the floor to make him create off the dribble to get to the paint. Strategically timed double teams can then be used to disrupt these moves, hopefully creating turnovers in the process.

Beyond Drummond, slowing Monroe should be the next priority. HIs ability to turn and face from 15 feet or work from the post will give Boozer some real issues to start out. Like with Drummond, doing work early in the possession to keep Monroe off his preferred spots while also showing the needed help will be key. Monroe has enough talent to score over 20 points and carry their offense for stretches, he mustn’t be allowed to do so if the Lakers want to win.

As for the rest of the guys, Jennings and Smith are the next big names and both have traditionally fared well against the Lakers. It will be interesting to see if Byron Scott cross matches and puts Kobe on Smith so that Wes Johnson can be freed up to defend Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Jennings for stretches. Smith is the kind of guy Kobe typically likes to guard as he can be enticed to take jumpers by sagging off him. If this does happen, however, Kobe will need to be diligent in his rebounding as Smith’s size can be an issue there.

As for the Lakers’ attack, it would be nice to see if Kobe can continue the model he’s shown the last couple of games by starting off as a distributor and then using the threat of the pass to set up his own shooting. This worked well against the Wolves and the Raptors, allowing the rest of the team to find their rhythm while forcing the defense to treat every player on the floor as a potential threat. The ball moves well under this approach and since Kobe can find ways to get his shots up regardless, taking this route would be a sound strategy.

I am also looking for Lin to bounce back against Jennings. Lin’s aggressiveness has been good lately, but his shooting and turnovers have been up and down. Jennings can be a gambler defensively so Lin will need to be careful with the ball, but that gambling can also lead to bad positioning that Lin will need to take advantage of. If Lin can get his jumper going, it will open up his drives to the rim where he can draw multiple defenders (especially Drummond) to create shots for his teammates. Hopefully we can see Lin and Davis start to rekindle some of their early season chemistry where the big man benefits from Lin’s playmaking.

Where you can watch: 4:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.