Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Big Game out West; Lakers vs. Hornets Preview

This is a match-up of the two best teams in the Western Conference last season. The last time the teams met was near the end of the regular season on a hot weekend for the Lakers when they beat the defending champion Spurs and the Hornets who had the best record in the Western Conference.

This early Western Conference showdown will be the first of several back to back road games for the Lakers. The Lakers are a young team and back-to-back games shouldn’t be a problem they’re also one the leagues two remaining undefeated teams standing at 6-0.

The Lakers sixth win of the season was exactly what skeptical fans and naysayers wanted to see this season, the Lakers had to struggle in a hostile environment, did not shoot well and have the game close at the end.

The above mentioned types received that and more in the Lakers win over Dallas. The team overcame a double-digit deficit for the second straight game and proved that even when they don’t play their best and it appears that it isn’t their night they can lay their hat on knowing that if they hang around their defense and Kobe Bryant will pull them through.

It’s the first time since Dec.10-12, 2006 that the Lakers have won consecutive games in which they had trailed by 10 or more points.

The New Orleans Hornets are 4-2 after cooling off the Heat 100-89 on 11/10. Chris Paul has set an NBA record by hitting the 20 point and 10 assist mark for six straight games to begin a season. This is historical due to the fact that he passes a mark set by Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson. He also added seven rebounds to his record setting night.

He’ll be facing the league’s stingiest defense at 84.4 points per game in this match up.

The biggest difference for the Lakers this season is speeding up the pace and running, looking to score in transition or easy baskets. When the defense is set up the Lakers have no problem running their patented triangle offense.

Starter Match Up’s

PG Derek Fisher 6’ 1” 210 lbs. 12thYear, Avg. 9.5 Pts, 3.0 Ast, 2.5 Reb, 1 Stl
PG Chris Paul 6’ 0” 175 lbs. 4th Year, Avg. 21.3 Pts, 11.7 Ast, 5.2 Reb, 4 Stl

This is a match up of two veteran point guards. Chris Paul is athletic and a masterful ball handler who can push the ball at a high rate of speed but is also adept at slowing down enough to get the team into their sets. He is dangerous when he can get into the painted are with his dribble penetration, this is when he gets his teammates involved and becomes more of a problem.

The Hornets run the pick and roll play a million times and Chris Paul has his choice of which direction to go with the ball score or distribute the ball. The Lakers might want to force him to become a scorer to avoid getting his teammates involved.

Derek Fisher is a savvy veteran who can play at any tempo. In the triangle offense he doesn’t have to dominate the ball and run the offense as a traditional point guard. He does an excellent job of getting the team going and spreading the floor, He is a dangerous shooter out of the triangle offense and in transition.

He’s and excellent on the ball defender, very strong inside and knows how to be effective within the offense. Fisher and his backup Jordan Farmar will have their hands full trying to keep Chris Paul out of the paint. This is a key match up in the game, because the Lakers also could play Kobe Bryant, Jordan Farmar & Trevor Ariza on Paul. Advantage: Hornets

SG Kobe Bryant 6’ 6” 220 lbs. 12thYear, Avg. 24.8 Pts, 3.0 Ast, 5.3 Reb, 2 Stl.
SG Morris Peterson 6’ 7” 220 lbs. 8th Year, Avg. 9.7 Pts, 0.7 Ast, 3.0 Reb, 1.7 Stl.

Morris Peterson is more of a mid-range shooter; he has 3 point range as well. He isn’t known for creating off of the dribble but doesn’t have to while playing with Chris Paul. He is a veteran and decent defender.

He is listed as questionable and might not play due to a sore left knee. If that is the case he will be replaced by Devin Brown, Rasual Butler or James Posey. Count on James Posey starting and guarding Kobe.

Peterson was effective against Dwayne Wade and now he gets Kobe Bryant who is a whole different animal and a much more difficult task. He is athletic and physical, with long arms he ’ll have to be ready to defend Kobe in the post, on the perimeter, and most importantly in transition and attempt to stay out of foul trouble.

He has averaged 12 points against the Lakers last season and has the size and talent to be formidable as well as pose a challenge.

Kobe Bryant who was already playing at an MVP level and known to take his game to another level when necessary. He is averaging 24.8 points, 3.0 Assists, 5.3 Rebounds, 2 stl, 2 blocks. He imposes his will on his opponents in all aspects of the game and is always playing the part as the “best” closer in the league. Advantage: Lakers

SF Vladimir Radmanovic 6’ 10” 235 lbs. 7thYear, Avg. 7.2 Pts, 1.2 Ast, 3.8 Reb.
SF Peja Stojakovic 6’ 10” 229 lbs. 10th Year, Avg. 15.2 Pts, 2 Ast, 4.6 Reb

Stojakovic is a deadly three point shooter; he isn’t going to give you 20 points or more a night and won’t be effective off of the dribble. He is strictly a shooter but very effective when he’s on. The Lakers will need to chase him off of the three point line like Rick Fox did when he played in Sacramento.

Radmanovic has been inconsistent so far but he has bought into the team concept and has played better defense. He is in the starting lineup to spread the floor with his perimeter shooting; he is more effective starting than coming off of the bench.

Radmanovic will make plays in the offense and on defense. The Lakers have an excellent problem with a lot of depth at this position. If Stojackovic manages to get hot he will be cooled off by Trevor Ariza. He will also have to contend with Lamar Odom as well, who is also capable of limiting his impact. Advantage: Lakers

PF Paul Gasol 7’ 0” 250 lbs. 7th Year, Avg. 15.8 Pts, 3.0 Ast, 11.5 Reb, 2 Blocks
PF David West 6’ 9” 240 lbs. 5th Year, Avg. 19.0 Pts, 3.0 Ast, 6.7 Reb

David West is a solid player and outstanding scorer from 12-15 feet, posting up and in the painted area. He is the team’s second leading scorer; he has been inconsistent and has gotten off to slow starts but is still highly effective. He will have his hands full being guarded by and having to check Pau Gasol.

Pau Gasol is an excellent scorer and passer out of the post and will command a double team that will open up the offense. Pau Gasol is a smooth player that will start at Power Forward but will also play Center and record a double-double nightly and have a huge impact on the outcome of this game. Advantage: Lakers

C Andrew Bynum 7’ 0” 285 lbs. 3rd Year, Avg. 9.5 Pts, 1.5 Ast, 9.0 Reb, 2 Blocks
C Tyson Chadler 7’ 1” 235 lbs. 7th Year, Avg. 9.2 Pts, 1.0 Ast, 10.0 Reb, 2 Blocks

Tyson Chadler scored a total of 11 points in two games since returning from a sprained ankle. He is the epitome of a high fly act that can jump out of the gym and the Hornets main shot blocker. Several of his points come on put backs and alley-oop passes from Chris Paul. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol both out-weigh Chandler and need to keep a body on him and between him and the basket.

It would make sense to provide him with a heavy dose of pump fakes and ball fakes to get him off of his feet and into foul trouble.

Andrew Bynum is rapidly developing both offensively and defensively, he is 2nd in the league in blocked shots. Serving as the Lakers last line of defense and protecting the rim has been huge. It was something that the team missed for 47 games last season and the entire playoff run. Pau Gasol will also log minutes at center and the combination will be deadly. Advantage: Lakers

Both teams have capable bench players that can provide rest for the starters and continue the team’s high level of play. The Lakers “Minute Men” have more depth and contributors; the bench that averaged 32 points per game last year has boosted that number to 42 points this season.

The addition of Lamar Odom to the bench but playing starter’s minutes has been huge. He has sacrificed his game for the good of the team in a contract year. The Lakers bench of Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar, Trevor Ariza, Sasha Vujacic and others has been literally changing the pace of the game and taking this team to another level. Advantage: Lakers

Prediction: Lakers 105 - 85
* Photo Credits (2) Larry W. Smith, EPA for the Trevor Ariza & Pau Gasol Photos

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