If the Lakers are ever going to win the second game of a back-to-back, if they are going to get back to .500, this seems like the best chance theyâ€™ve got.
The Lakers are coming off what, by all accounts, was one of their best games of the season. (What a game to be the first one for me to miss, â€œwatchingâ€ only on the ESPN Gamecast. Which, by the way, has been dramatically improved.) The Lakers shot well from the field â€” both Kobe at 58.3% and the rest of the team at 47.7% eFG% (it was Mihm and Cook who dragged that down, not a big surprise considering the strong Buck front line). Odom was aggressive (he had his best game according to commenter John). More importantly, Odom, Mihm and the rest f the Lakers hit the boards hard and out rebounded one of the leagueâ€™s better on the glass.
Buck coach Terry Stotts said after the game he and his team focused too much on Kobe in the first half. This is what can happen when the Lakers run the offense and the other Lakers hit their shots â€” you can chose to let Kobe kill you or everyone else. For a change, the other team is faced with a Catch-22.
Which would be a nice place to put Toronto tonight. But for these Lakers there are no pushovers, no one they can look past. The good news is not only are the Lakers in the second game of a back-to-back, so are the Raptors, who had to play into overtime before falling to the Wizards.
Donâ€™t be surprised if the Lakers again start Sasha and Smush as Toronto tends to be small, starting two point guards, Mike James and Jose Calderon, with Morris Peterson as a guard/forward at the three. James and Peterson are efficient shooters (51.4% and 53.6%, eFG%, respectively) so they need to be watched.
The real driving force for Toronto is at the four â€” Chris Bosh. Heâ€™s a young player that GMs everywhere are drooling over and hoping he wants to get out of the Great White North like just about every other good players the Raptors have had. Bosh is averaging 21.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per 40, both very good numbers, shooting just 48.9% from the field but he gets to the free throw line a lot and has hit 85% of his attempts from there so far.
But, like the Raptors as a team, Bosh is not a great defender. Take this note from the great Raptorsblog recently: The Raptors defend the three-point line well (opponents shoot just 32.7%) but as a team they are second to last in the league in opponent eFG%. The Raptors are getting destroyed in the midrange and inside.
That should play into the hands of Kobe and the Lakers â€” if they play like they did last night.
Off topic for a second: Hereâ€™s my favorite recent line from Scott at Raptorblog:
I expected last night’s Raptors-Hawks game to be uglier than two bums fighting over a 40 of Maximum Ice, and I wasn’t disappointed.
One other Raptor player I want to mention is rookie Charlie Villanueva, who comes off the bench to play center and has posted a good PER so far of 15.7. After his draft stock fell everywhere but Toronto, he has been talking about how he is out to prove his detractors were idiots.
Well, I was one of those detractors, and I hope he proves me wrong. The question was never his body or skills, it was his heart and mind. I watched him closely as he sleepwalked through a game against Vermont in the NCAA Tournament and another late-season game, he showed life only when it was time for him to score. That turned me off.
Then I saw him at the Summer Pro League out here and he was a force â€” he played with a chip on his shoulder the two games I watched. He showed all the skills that made him so highly touted. So far this season he has continued to play with that chip and has been very good for the Raptors. I still want to see him be able to do this for full season, maybe two, before I say he wonâ€™t revert to his UConn form. But maybe the pre-draft criticism lit the fire that was out in him, and if so heâ€™s going to be a good to very good player for years.
Hopefully, just not tonight.