This is the preview for the Home and Home series against the Warriors for March 23rd and 24th. Personally, I don’t know why it’s called a “Home and Home” because we play one at home and the next one away, but anyhow, that’s just me.
The Lakers are finally rolling again after adapting to yet another loss of a big man (Gasol). They’ve won two in a roll beating a really good team (Utah) and a really bad team (Seattle).
This next series is against a team that could be considered more dangerous than Utah, a very unpredictable team. While the Warriors have been consistently good enough to stay in playoff contention (beating the dominant Celtics last month at home) you never know if you’re going to meet the team that is fighting off Denver for the 8th spot in the playoff race or the jump-shooting team that occasionally shoots itself out of the game. Their recent 122-105 blowout loss to the Kings comes to mind, where the box score shows that they shot 25 3-pointers despite only making 5 of them.
In truth, I expect the Lakers to win both games. If the Lakers win this series they will be the first team in the west to reach 50 games and only the third team in the league, assuming the Pistons, win either of their games with the Wizards and the Suns.
However, the biggest beneficiary from the next two games, asides from us, could be the Nuggets, who by Monday could be tied with the Warriors in the loss column.
Anyhow, enough with the commentary in the rest of the league let’s do a more-in-depth-than-usual, analysis of the match-ups.
Marquee Match Ups -
Analysis: If you look at the stats, you’ll see that Baron Davis scores, rebounds, and assists more than both of our PG’s combined, and in less minutes too (and Jordan is shooting a terrible percentage from the line). With all due respect to our PG’s this is a tough match up that I don’t expect us to win. Baron Davis is simply bigger stronger and better than anything we can throw at him at this point. The fact that the Warriors offense is tailored to his skill set doesn’t help much either. Our only hope is that our PG’s can continue their recent run of good form and continue hitting their outside shots and eliminating turnovers from their game.
Prediction: Baron 2, Lakers PG’s 0.
Analysis: Monta Ellis is the real deal for the Warriors. Although he doesn’t shoot the 3-ball very well, his quickness, speed, and ability to finish around the rim are all perfect fits for the Warriors style of play. His opponent coming in hasn’t really gone off on an offensive rampage since that woeful 11-33 shooting display in Houston and this Laker fan thinks his short term memory may be beginning to fade. If the Lakers continue the trend and take the early lead and shoot the ball really well in either of these two games, look for Kobe to continue playing all around solid basketball. If the outside shot isn’t falling for our perimeter players, look for Kobe to start “taking what the defense gives him.”
Prediction: Kobe 2, Ellis 0.
Analysis: Wow, Vladdy sure has some abysmal stats. To be fair he’s been playing very, very well lately, and should be able to give the Warriors fits with his 3-point shooting. However, if we’re being fair, Vladdy really doesn’t stand a chance if he’s guarding Stephen Jackson. Hopefully Jackson stays true to form and takes 17 shots to get his 20 points, because otherwise this is a troubling match up
Prediction: Vladdy 1, Jackson 1.
Analysis: It wasn’t long ago that we debated as Lakers fans about the merits of adding Harrington to our roster. The general conclusion that he was a LO-Lite with a better outside shot to offset his not-so-stellar defense still seems to be true. You also have to love that Odom is finally averaging over 10 rebounds a game as a Laker, it seems that he may finally be delivering on some of that promise that led us rave about his all-star chances.
Pietrus is mentioned only because you never know when Don Nelson is going to try to go even smaller and play Harrington at Center, like he did against the Rockets.
Prediction: Odom 2, Harrington 0.
Analysis: The tallest man to actually get playing time in the Nelson regime, Biedrins is the master of all things not free-throws or 3-pointers. While he got thoroughly outplayed by Bynum in our last meeting Biedrins stands a chance to hold his own against Turiaf. The biggest problem the Lakers face is whether or not to attack him on offense to put him in foul trouble or not, because with Turiaf’s propensity to pick up fouls he might as well be fouling a 60% shooter as opposed to a 75+% shooter.
According to the latest reports Gasol is not expected to return until after this series.
Prediction: Turiaf 1, Biedrins 1.
Lakers: With the addition of Newble, the Laker bench now boasts a good wing defender who can guard the 2-4 position again. Hopefully, the addition of Newble will result in less playing time for Walton so he can have a chance to fully heal from his injuries. Other than that, this bench looks scary good for next year with Farmar, Sasha, Ariza, Vladdy, and Turiaf, and this isn’t even considering the 6-9 Chinese point guard we have stashed away in the ABA.
Warriors: In Matt Barnes and Kelenna Azukuike, the Warriors have two shooters who can light it up from down town and get hot really quickly, but apart from that their bench is really thin. Nelson seems to have lost trust in Bellinelli, the Italian only playing 4 minutes this entire month. Nelson also continues to raise eyebrows around the league for not giving young rookie Brandan Wright a chance. His recent minutes have been sporadic and so consequently has been his prodiction.
Prediction: The Lakers simply have a deeper team than the Warriors. This will come in really handy in the second game, as the Lakers starters will be fresher than their opposite numbers, but the first game is anyone’s game
Lakers Bench: 1, Warriors Bench: 1
Key Match Up -
Lamar Odom vs. Al Harrington: The key for the Warriors offense is their ability to play small and take the other team off the dribble, and Harrington, along with Stephen Jackson, is vital to that strategy. If Odom can hold his own defensively against Harrington without needing help defense then it will severely hamper the Warrior’s style, and put more onus on Stephen Jackson (41% shooter), Baron Davis (not a bad option), and Monta Ellis (guarded by Kobe) to create for the offense.
Surprise Performer -
Lakers – Ira Newble: Ira Newble, if he plays significant minutes, should be able to guard Stephen Jackson or Baron Davis effectively. This could be vital if either one of those two players get hot. In that case, we can switch Farmar/D-Fish onto Ellis and then have Kobe and Newble guard Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson. If the above Key Match-Up goes our way, we will be taking 3 of the 5 guys playing on the Warriors side out of the game, which I think is pretty sweet.
Warriors – Brandan Wright: Ya never know, Nelson might start him.
Keys To The Game -
- Get their bigs into foul trouble: If we can get Biedrins and Harrington into foul trouble we pretty much guarantee victory. Because we have Turiaf, their normal strategy of going small is already minimized. Going even smaller (Jackson at center) does not give them the advantage, nor does going bigger-but-less-talented (O’Bryant), as Turiaf can defend Jackson and O’Bryant slows them down and thus takes them out of their system.
- Take good shots: The Warriors play a high tempo game, and consequently there are going to be enough shots to go around for everyone. However, the problem when we play high tempo offenses is that we often get sucked into taking ill advised shots, mostly 3-pointers. Not to say that we shouldn’t look for the 3-point shot, as we’ve been stroking marvelously from downtown in the last two games, but we shouldn’t always take the first shot opportunity that presents itself, and against the Warriors, the first available shot is often a 3-pointer. In order then for us to make high quality shots, we have to make the defense react to us, and the best way to do that is to…
- Space the floor: It’s simple really. In order for us to win, Kobe usually has to be effective, and in order for him to be effective, their defense has to give him more than one option. The more options we give him within the offense, the less effort Kobe has to expend making plays for his teammates, which leads to more effort put into guarding Monta Ellis, which brings us to…
- Stay out of foul trouble: Just like the Warriors, we do not currently have an abundance of talented big men. In fact, the main backup for Turiaf is Mbenga, who the Warriors know well, and there is no back up for Odom (well technically there there are two, but one’s starting at Center and the other is starting at Small Forward). If Turiaf gets into foul trouble, most of our advantage against the Warriors going small is erased, and we could have a real battle on our hands. We can work towards keeping Turiaf out of foul trouble by…
- Stop dribble penetration: Ok, I know this is too much to expect from this Lakers team. However, if they could just channel the dribble penetration into help defense, either from Odom or Turiaf, instead of just letting them run by, then the odds of a foul occurring from out-of-position defending is reduced significantly. It is important though that the help defense doesn’t come from the perimeter defenders because we need to…
- Defend the 3-point line: The warriors shoot a lot of 3-pointers, and on some nights more than their fair share are going to go in. In order to challenge all their 3-pointers successfully, help defense from penetration has to come from the other big man and not from the perimeter defender. If the perimeter defender is lured in to defend the penetration, then he leaves his man open to either take the 3-pointer or, if the defense is forced to rotate, to swing the ball around for a better look. Either way, the perimeter defenders have to trust that the bigs can handle the penetration and the bigs have to trust that the perimeter defenders will channel the penetration into a more defensible angle.
I said perimeter defender way to many times there. Still, if you’ve watched as much Lakers basketball this season as I have… *shudder*.
Statistical Predictions -
Feel free to copy and past these below, go ahead and pit your luck against other Lakers fans.
00= 1 Game Predictions, (00) Equals Two Game Total Predictions:
20+ (50+) Points: Kobe, Lamar, Farmar (Kobe).
10+ (20+) Rebounds: Odom, Turiaf, (Odom).
7+ (15+) Assists: Kobe, Turiaf, Odom, (Odom).
2+ (5+) Blocks: Kobe, Odom, Turiaf, (Turiaf).
3+ (6+) 3-Pointers: Sasha, Farmar, Vladdy (Sasha, Vladdy).
Closest to Triple-Double: Kobe, (Odom).
Out on a Limb: Kobe goes for 40, Sasha dunks for the first time in his career.
Score: Win by 11 (20).
Game Information -
Radio: KLAC, KWKW
Internet: NBA LP
Radio: KLAC , KWKW
TV: KCAL 9
Burning Questions -
After all the subtle and not-so-subtle moves made this year, does Mitch get consideration as GM of the year?
Assuming we win the series, do you fancy the Laker’s chances of reaching 60 wins? They can only afford 1 more loss over their last 11 games, including games against San Antonio, New Orleans, and Dallas but only 3 road games during that stretch – Sacramento, Portland, and the Clippers- and one back to back, Cllippers “away” then Hornets at home.
By now we’ve figured out that Gasol makes Mihm redundant, but will he do the same to Turiaf?
I’m out for the weekend so I won’t be able to thank you all for your wonderful compliments for this post, but don’t let that stop you from posting.