Lakers vs. Bobcats Pre-Game Report: Charlotte Heads West to Staples Center

Charlotte Bobcats (3-18) at Los Angeles Lakers (12-9)
7:30 PM PST, January 31, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Fox Sports West, NBA League Pass
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)

Bobcats Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Gerald Henderson
SF: Boris Diaw
PF: Tyrus Thomas
C: Byron Mullens

Key Reserves: F Derrick Brown, G Matt Carroll

There once was a saying, “there is no place like home.” Never has that saying been more true for the Lakers, who have had a very inconsistent start to this season, posting a road record of 2-7, while playing strong at home with a mark of 10-2. The Lakers picked up their second road victory of the season against a vastly improved Timberwolves team in Minnesota on Sunday night. The effort brings forth a positive light that the Lakers will need as they brace themselves for a six-game road trip at the close of tonight’s contest.

Frontcourt: Typically a thorn for Kobe Bryant is Boris Diaw, who teams with Tyrus Thomas and Byron Mullens in the frontcourt. Diaw has seen increased minutes in an effort to boost the team’s defense, which is allowing 100.6 points per game, 29th in the league. Diaw turned it on offensively last game, but his numbers were nowhere near his averages of 8.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Diaw’s teammate Thomas is a very good shot blocker, who is averaging 2.1 blocks per game. Thomas is also a very good rebounder, but not such a great scorer. His scoring average is down this season to 7.6 points per game. In fact, he has topped 10 points just four times this season. The player to keep an eye on is Mullens, who had been in a cold spell. In his last game against the Wizards, he got it together and scored 23 points in 31 minutes off of the bench. DeSagana Diop started the game, but is a liability for the Bobcats. Expect Mullens to return to the starting role.

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Backcourt: The Bobcats are without D.J. Augustin, and have a banged-up Gerald Henderson fighting a lower-back contusion. Henderson has doubled his scoring average this season with 15 points per game. His rebound output is also up from 2.7 to 4.5 boards per game. The Lakers should look to use Henderson’s injury to their advantage. He played two games ago against the 76ers and had a poor game, shooting 2-for-10, scoring seven points and turning the ball over three times. Picking up the slack has been Kemba Walker, the bright young guard out of Connecticut, where he was the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player en route to winning the NCAA Championship. Walker posted the first triple-double by a rookie this season in his last game, scoring 20 points with 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. He is averaging 12.2 points per game.

Fun Facts:

  • The Bobcats lead the overall series against the Lakers by a margin of 8-6. The Lakers won the first three games, but went 3-8 after that.
  • Andrew Bynum averages 9.8 rebounds per game against the Bobcats, the highest against any team in the league.
  • The Bobcats have lost eight straight games, and 14 of 15. They won their first game of the season, but have gone 2-18 since.

Keys to a Laker Victory:

Abuse the Injuries
Augustin is out. Henderson is slow. D.J. White is coming back. The latter two will not be able to keep up with Kobe and company. This has to be taken advantage of. Remember that Henderson averages 14 points per game. Cut that in half, and suddenly Charlotte’s 26th-rated offense falters even more.

Double Mullens, Force Diaw/Thomas to Score
Diaw and Thomas are strictly defensive presences. This forces many of the touches upon Byron Mullens, who has a lot of confidence coming off of his best performance of the season, and perhaps in his young career. With confidence comes a player who takes risks. Place Pau and Andrew on him and his momentum gets knocked down a peg or two.

Play Smart
The one thing that can go in the favor of a weaker team is an overconfident team that is looking past them. Turnovers and frequent failed three-point attempts could help the Bobcats gain confidence. Just mellow out, and play your game, and the game shall be yours, Lakers.

Prediction: Lakers 101, Bobcats 77

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