The Lakers haven’t lost often since the All-Star break but currently find themselves on a two game slide. After losing a surprising game to the Utah Jazz last night the Lakers chances at catching the Spurs are all but finished, and Los Angeles is now just looking to maintain their lead over the Dallas Mavericks in the second slot. The Lakers will be looking to get back on track tonight when they face the Golden State Warriors up in Oakland.
This is the first match-up between the Lakers and Warriors since January 12th. That game was close throughout until the Lakers used a big fourth quarter surge to defeat Golden State 115-110. The Lakers ran behind strong performances from Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant to get the victory, and will need more of the same tonight.
The Warriors have a very deep backcourt that includes Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. Both players are electric and can score the ball at will, so it will be up to the Laker guards to control the tempo and the young duo.
Los Angeles will also need a more consistent effort from their bench. There has been no hiding the fact that Phil Jackson has been unhappy with the bench’s inconsistent play this season, and he has let his frustrations be known. Golden State is not nearly as deep as Los Angeles, but it is still up to the players on the Lakers’ bench to capitalize on this advantage.
Keys to the Game:
Control the tempo: Led by Ellis and Curry the Warriors are a team that loves to run. The Lakers need to slow down the tempo and control the pace of the game. A slower pace will allow the Lakers to take advantage of their size in the post.
Dominate the paint: The Warriors front line is not nearly as dominant as the Lakers’. Andrew Bynum recorded a new career high in rebounds last night against Utah, and will need to keep up those numbers tonight. Coupled with Pau Gasol and eventually Lamar Odom off the bench, the Lakers big three should be able to have their way with the undersized Warriors.
Get back to what was working: Before Sunday’s loss to Denver the Lakers were 17-1 since the All-Star break. They were winning games with effort and energy. Since then Los Angeles has looked lethargic and lazy, and it has resulted in two consecutive losses in games that should have been won. The Lakers need to get back to what worked for them in the first 18 games and get away from what didn’t the last two.