Tuesday night the Lakers fly to Houston to battle the Rockets, 24-22, who are led by point guard Kyle Lowry and shooting guard Kevin Martin. They are a quick team that likes to get out and run while also having the ability to score in their half court set. Lowry, Martin and Chase Budinger are efficient three-point shooters so the Lakers are going to have to play solid defense.
Bynum and Gasol are good enough at the defensive end that they should not need help guarding their players. This means that the guards do not need to drop down into the post to double team the Rockets’ post players leaving their perimeter shooters open. That is the key for the Lakers to be victorious, allow the post players to play one on one so they can defend the three point line.
The same type of defensive strategy against the Rockets still applies for the Lakers Wednesday night in Dallas. This is another back-to-back game on the road for the Lakers and fatigue in the second half is going to play in favor of the Mavericks. The Mavericks do not have enough talent in the post, besides Dirk Nowitzki, to have to double team. Although Dallas is having a sub-par shooting year, they are still one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league when left open. Not allowing the guards to penetrate the middle of the defensive is what will give the Lakers their best chance at beating the Mavericks. Dallas relies on penetration and kick-out passes to wide open shooters to power their offense. Also, they hurt teams on the offensive board, so rebounding and keeping the Mavericks to one shot per possession is important.
Los Angeles returns home for two games at the Staples Center. First up are the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night. The Blazers have been an up and down team this year, mostly down, as they have not lived up to the expectations of the beginning of the year. They are an under .500 ball club, and after a 42-point loss to the New York Knicks last week, they fired their coach and traded Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby before going to Chicago and beat the Bulls. However, two days later they lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder and find themselves 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot. This is a team trying to find their new identity under new coach Kaleb Canales, but is facing a tough home, and newly improved Lakers team. Despite the troubles the Lakers have against Portland in Portland, the opposite goes for them at home. Keeping the Blazers from getting out on the fast break is one key for the Lakers Friday, along with feeding the post. Losing Camby hurts the Blazers against the Lakers as they have no one else who can match size with Andrew Bynum.
Sunday features the second meeting between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers currently stand two games ahead of the Grizzlies in the Western Conference playoff picture, so it is imperative that the Lakers are victorious. Los Angeles was lucky to come away with the win last week in Memphis after having 18 turnovers against Memphis’ pressure defense, but this is a game where the ball handling skills of new Laker, Ramon Sessions, should show its value. The Lakers must take care of the ball and limit their turnovers against the Grizzlies, who lead the league in causing turnovers. Limiting turnovers means more offensive shot attempts for the Lakers and keeps the Grizzlies from scoring easy fastbreak points. Since Bynum had a monster game last week in Memphis, he needs to be a focal point in the offense during this game as well.
The Lakers have a tough week ahead of them, four games in seven nights, a back-to-back road trip where they have not been good, and then a Sunday game against a tough defensive team. The addition to Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill will be on full display, as they get more and more comfortable playing with a new team, and playing against playoff caliber teams. As always, the Lakers must limit turnovers and continue to exploit team weaknesses by giving the ball to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the post.