— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) December 25, 2015
I’ve written it before, but I’ve not been the biggest fan of the Lakers playing on Christmas. This is mostly for selfish reasons — I’d much prefer to just relax with family and not have to be the guy who shuns everyone while totally investing in another Lakers’ game. I do that 81 other times a year, one day off — on Christmas no less — isn’t too much to ask for.
This year, though, I don’t have that same feeling. And, again, it’s for selfish reasons. This will be Kobe Bryant’s final game on Christmas and I want to see him perform. If his recent level of play holds up, it should be a good final game too. But even if it doesn’t, I still want to watch him do his thing.
Kobe’s the NBA’s all-time leading scorer on Christmas day with 383 points on his resumé. His filled highlight reels with some amazing moments that are engrained in my memory. You know, ones like these:
— NBA (@NBA) December 22, 2015
They haven’t always come in winning efforts, but they’ve been spectacular all the same. A few more moments like the ones above might be too much for Kobe to gift us, but I’d be lying if it wasn’t on my list of things I’d hope Santa to deliver.
Of course, it won’t be easy. The Lakers aren’t a good team — their 35 point shellacking at the hands of the Thunder is our latest reminder — and they face a Clippers’ team who is good (though they hope to be great). The match ups across the board favor the other Los Angeles team and with the world watching you have to imagine they’d love nothing more than to try and embarrass their “big brother” once again.
If the Lakers are to hold them off, a lot of things would need to go their way. I won’t give you an entire list, but these would be pretty important:
- Kobe needs to play well. Like 25-30 points on over 50% shooting along with 5-8 assists, well.
- The young guys all need to bring it. That means efficient shooting nights from Russell and Randle with Clarkson being his typical steady self. Work on the glass from all three is paramount and some playmaking/assists from all of them would also be needed. Something along the lines of a combined 40 points, 20 rebounds, and 12 assists is in the neighborhood of what would be needed.
- At least one of the Lou Williams/Nick Young duo needs to get hot.
- Roy Hibbert needs to stay out of foul trouble and keep DeAndre Jordan off the glass.
- Blake Griffin cannot go off. No 35 point, 15 rebound efforts on this day.
- Keep Chris Paul under wraps. This hasn’t been Paul’s finest year, but he’s been better than given credit for. A 15 point, 7 assist night is probably wishful thinking, but that’s in line with what the Lakers would need to have his output be.
- Jamal Crawford cannot get hot.
I could see some of the things the Lakers need on offense to go their way happening, but defensively they are going to have problems. Griffin and Paul are too good and the Lakers’ defense, both individually and from a team concept, simply do not do enough things well to battle against those players’ strengths. Further, if those two find their stride, DeAndre is likely to shake free for lobs and on the offensive glass way too often.
With that, what I am really hoping for most is a competitive game that is worth watching all the way through. A close finish with some back and forth between Kobe/the kids and Paul/Griffin would be a nice way to cap off a Christmas. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you and I hope you enjoy the game.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on ESPN and TWC Sporstnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.