Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images
December 21, 2013 — 7:30 PM (PST)
Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
The Los Angeles Lakers (13-13) shocked the national audience last night by easily dismantling the Minnesota Timberwolves after learning that G Kobe Bryant will now be out for approximately 6 weeks after suffering a fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. It was one of the few games where fans could argue that every single Laker who stepped on the floor had a solid game if not excellent.
Notably, C/PF Pau Gasol looks like the Pau Gasol of old, almost having a triple double with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists. Ever since that fiasco between Gasol and Mike D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant‘s advice for Gasol to slim down and lose mroe weight, Gasol looks much slimmer physically to the Lakers championship days. In the last 5 games, Gasol has averaged 17.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG which are very close to his career averages in those 2 categories. Unfortunately, Gasol will not be available tonight due to an upper respiratory infection. G Nick Young has proven throughout the season that he can somewhat fill in for Bryant and led the Lakers victory along with Gasol by scoring 25 points on 9-14 shooting from the field. G Xavier Henry also made a tremendous contribution as the temporary starting point guard, scoring 21 points, dishing out 4 assists, and only committing 3 turnovers, which is excellent for a player playing out of position.
However, the Lakers have to carry this momentum into Oracle Arena vs. a very hungry Golden State Warriors (14-13), who are coming off a very embarrasing loss vs. the San Antonio Spurs who played without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. They have been a disappointment so far this season considering they came into the season with their highest expectations since the “Run TMC” era in the early 1990′s. Individually, the Warriors feature the dangerous “Splash Brothers” of PG Stephen Curry and Lakers Radio Announcer Mychal Thompson’s son SG Klay Thompson. Curry and Thompson have had another great season, scoring 25.4 PPG and 19.8 PPG and shooting from behind the 3 pt line at 41.3% and 42.6% respectively. The cause for high expectations in the Bay Area for the Warriors is the acquisition of SF Andre Iguodala, who played a key part for the 2012 Team USA basketball team along with Kobe Bryant to win a gold medal. Iguodala is very comparable to the great Scottie Pippen as a very unselfish player who will always guard the opposing team’s best player and also has the ability to play all 5 positions on the floor other than Center.
PG - Stephen Curry / Xavier Henry [Advantage: Warriors]
SG - Klay Thompson / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Warriors]
SF - Andre Iguodala / Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Warriors]
PF - David Lee/ Jordan Hill [Advantage: Warriors]
C - Andrew Bogut / Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]
Notable Bench Players
Warriors: F Harrison Barnes, F/C Maurice Speights, F Draymond Green
Lakers: G/F Nick Young, F Shawne Williams, C Chris Kaman
Bench Advantage: Lakers
Keys for Lakers Success
- Effort: Lets face it. The Lakers cannot beat any of their opponents anytime soon by pure talent especially with Bryant and their entire point guard players out. Therefore, the Lakers have to play with a lot of energy and effort. The Lakers have to out rebound the Timberwolves, get easy baskets, and compete for all loose balls to grind out a victory tonight. Players like F Jordan Hill, C Robert Sacre, and F Wes Johnson has to continue to get rebounds, play hard on both ends, and do the intangible things that do not show in the box score.
- Close Out on Shooters: The Warriors love shooting to say the least. The Lakers learned the hard way in their 1st visit to Oracle Arena, letting the Warriors take many uncontested shots, which resulted in the Warriors shooting 53.5% from the field and the Lakers losing by 31 points. When the Warriors visited Staples Center however, the Warriors were forced into more contested shoots, leading to them shooting only 41.5 % from the field, which also resulted in a Lakers victory. If the Lakers force contested shots and stay aware of where shooters, especially Curry and Thompson are, the Lakers have a chance to stay close vs. Warriors.
If the San Antonio Spurs can defeat a healthy Warriors without playing their “Big 3″ in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, the Lakers can sure have a good shot at defeating them also, especially if they plated with as much energy as they did last night. Unfortunately, the Lakers will not have home court advantage tomorrow playing on the road, so they cannot rely on their home fans to energize them. Furthermore, we all know that the Warriors are furious after losing in embarrassing fashion vs. some resemblance of the Spurs in front of national TV audience. Therefore, they will play with a tremendous amount of energy, something the Lakers have to counter-attack by playing very smart on both ends of the floor. Hopefully my prediction will be wrong again, but it’s hard for me to see the Warriors lay an egg again and lose another heart breaker especially on their home floor vs. Lakers.