Source: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant
Source: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

December 14, 2013 — 4:00 PM (PST)
Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

After a disappointing, albeit expected blowout loss vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers (10-12) look to bounce back tonight vs. Charlotte Bobcats (10-13) and return to their winning ways. Once again, the Lakers come into tonight’s game without a point guard. The three Lakers point guards, PG Steve Blake, PG Steve Nash, and PG Jordan Farmar, all expect to miss games for the foreseeable future due to various injuries. G Kobe Bryant, who once again will start the point guard position, looks to continue to keep his teammates involved and not prioritize as high on scoring.

More importantly, the Lakers defense has been atrocious to say the least. They let Toronto Raptors C Amir Johnson, who doesn’t have any low post moves whatsoever, score a career high 32 points of 14-17 shooting without any resistance, let Phoenix Suns PG Goran Dragic, who also scored a career high 31 points, and PG Eric Bledsoe run around in circles around the Lakers defense, and let the Oklahoma City Thunder run the Lakers out of the building scoring 122 points.

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Bobcats have players who can cause a lot of problems for the Lakers again, especially on the defensive end. PG Kemba Walker and former Utah Jazz C Al Jefferson lead the Bobcats team who has shown improvement and would be the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference if season ended today. Walker, who led the Connecticut Huskies to a NCAA Championship in 2011, leads the team in scoring at 17.0 PPG while dishing out 4.5 APG, while Jefferson brings a veteran presence to a team that has been lacking that asset for years, averaging 15.1 PPG and 9.2 RPG. To close out the 4th quarter, we expect to see a combination of former Laker PG Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker to finish out the game in back court, which hopefully would not cause the Lakers defense as much turmoil as the Phoenix Suns’ back court of Dragic and Bledsoe

Projected Starters

PG - Kemba Walker Kobe Bryant [Advantage: Lakers]

SG - Gerald Henderson / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Bobcats]

SF - Jeffrey Taylor Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]

PF - Josh McRoberts / Jordan Hill [Advantage: Lakers]

C - Al Jefferson / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Thunder: G Ramon Sessions, F/C Cody Zeller, G Ben Gordon

Lakers: G Xavier Henry, G/F Nick YoungF Shawne Williams

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Keep Guards Away From Paint: The Lakers have major problems keeping guards away from the paint, letting them get high percentage shots for themselves or an open teammate. Without a rim protector and a slow Pau Gasol as our center, the guards have to make the offensive players feel more uncomfortable while dribbling the ball and cause turnovers. Despite not having a point guard, guards like Meeks, Johnson, Nick Young, and Xavier Henry are all interchangeable skill-wise, so an excuse to play intense defense and show great communications cannot be plausible for this group.
  2. Get Pau Gasol Involved: Who knows what the fallout will be from the drama between Gasol and Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni will become moving forward. However, if D’Antoni meant to press a button to jump-start Gasol at least on the offensive end, it might have worked. Offensively, Gasol scored 19 points off 6-11 shooting, the first time Gasol shot over 50% from the field since they played the Brooklyn Nets on November 27th. With Bryant continuing to get his body reconditioned to regain his form as an elite scorer, he seems more interested in jump starting Gasol, evidenced by Bryant’s 13 assists. Bryant knows, D’Antoni knows, the rest of the Lakers know, and the Laker Nation knows that for the Lakers to have any chance at success moving forward, Gasol needs to play close to an all-star level again.

Bottom Line

Hopefully a back to back game, especially for Bryant and Gasol, would not be an issue, since they each only played 23 minutes. After an embarrassing loss vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, I expect the Lakers to play with effort and efficiency and find a way to close out the Bobcats in a closely contested game tonight.

Prediction

Lakers: 96-93