As I said last night, the unpredictable Lakers are back and last night as a reminder of how fun they can be when they are on their games. Missing Kobe and their three point guards (I’m not yet counting Kendall Marshall), the team proved once again that they would not quit. Sure they were sloppy offensively for extended stretches, but they were still able to score well enough and defend more than well enough to beat the Wolves.
Tonight, however, they have a much more difficult task in front of them playing the Warriors in Oakland. Though the Dubs have had their issues this season (they only sit a half game ahead of the Lakers in the standings), they are a potent offense and, with Andre Iguodala healthy, are nearly back to full strength and looking more like the competitive team they were slated to be to start the season. I still think they’d be better off exploring the trade market, but as is they have the potential to beat any team in the West once their full roster is available to Mark Jackson.
The big key to the game is slowing down Steph Curry specifically and keeping the team from getting hot from behind the arc in general. Curry of course is their star guard who has a knack for hitting three pointers from any distance against any type of defense, but Klay Thompson has similar range and Harrison Barnes, Iguodala, and even Draymond Green are all capable of knocking down the long ball. The Lakers will need to be sharp in their pick and roll defense in the half court while also finding shooters in transition to ensure that open jumpers are ceded regularly. If the Lakers can mark their men and force them to shoot from the mid-range or in the paint with a big man contesting, they’d have done their jobs more often than not. This will require that the Lakers’ bigs are up to the task of helping to challenge shots near the paint and then still recovering to the backboard to rebound, but that’s true every night.
Offensively, the Lakers must continue to try and find multiple sparks in order to keep the Warriors’ defense off-balance. Pau Gasol, as he has been the last couple of games, will be key to this as it’s his ability to work in isolation from the post (high, mid, and low) that creates shots for himself and for teammates. If Pau is able to score well enough when looking for his own, it will only open up his passing chances more. This should hopefully help set up the likes of Wes Johnson, Nick Young, and Xavier Henry for the types of shots that they can knock down.
Speaking of Young, like Pau, his ability to create shots in isolation will be huge tonight — but will also be tested. I would not doubt that Young sees a healthy dose of Iguodala defensively and scoring on that guy is awfully tough. Hopefully Young can find his groove early and ride that wave throughout the game, because if he can’t hit shots he (and, subsequently the Lakers) will be in for a long night offensively.
One last thing I’d like to see is for the Lakers to attack the paint as often as they can to make Andrew Bogut defend without fouling. When he goes to the bench, the Warriors really miss the defensive presence Jermaine O’Neal was providing and must now depend on Maurice Speights or David Lee to protect the rim when the big Aussie is on the pine. If the Lakers can force him there earlier in each half due to some extra fouls, it will go a long way in helping them establish the offense they’ll need to keep pace with the Warriors.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.