The Bobcats are coming off of a gutsy road victory against the Denver Nuggets. Meanwhile the Lakers are floundering – losers of five straight and only registering three wins in all of January. A win tonight would help get the Lakers out of the Western Conference cellar. But perhaps that is exactly where the Lakers want to be so that they can move up in the draft. While I don’t believe the Lakers are trying to intentionally lose games, a combination of injuries and coaching style have resulted in a dismal season. A loss to the Bobcats tonight would further the sentiment that the Lakers have fallen into the basement of the NBA.
Frontcourt: Al Jefferson has been beasting lately and he’s the only reliable scorer and rebounder on the Bobcats roster. Jefferson is averaging 19.5 points and 10.5 boards this season and is coming off of two consecutive 30 point games. Pau Gasol will need to stay on his feet and hold his position since Jefferson loves to employ fakes in his post moves.
Former Laker Josh McRoberts has found a steady starting job on the Bobcats roster. He’s a stretch four who is knocking down the long ball at a 37.7% clip this year. McRoberts is also a very capable passer for a power forward. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist completes the Bobcats starting frontcourt. The 2012 number two overall draft pick has been a disappointment and continues to struggle with his shot. While Kidd-Gilchrist is limited on offense he’s a stellar defender and will surely give Nick Young a tough time.
Backcourt: The Bobcats starting point guard Kemba Walker has been out with an ankle injury and is questionable to return for tonight’s game. In his absence Ramon Sessions, another former Laker has assumed point guard duties. If you remember from his days with the Lakers, Sessions is not a great shooter, but he can get to the rim and finish in the paint. He’s also a decent ball distributor and has racked up 18 assists in the past two games.
Gerald Henderson is a smooth shooting guard who is not afraid to fire from anywhere on the court. Remind you of somebody? (hint: Nick Young) With Kemba out, Henderson is the team’s second leading scorer with 15.1 points per game although he’s not very efficient (41.9% from the field). Regardless of his inefficiency, Jodie Meeks will have his hands full guarding Henderson who can get hot in a hurry.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Defense: The Lakers have given up 100+ points to opponents in the past 13 games. The last time the held an opponent below a 100 was on January 3rd against the Utah Jazz (they had 99 points). A quick look at the Lakers defensive rating tells us that they give up 106.2 points per 100 possessions. Basically the Lakers defense stinks and they probably won’t be winning too many games until it’s fixed.
Rebounding: Another area greatly contributing to the Lakers losing ways is it’s lack of defensive rebounding. The Lakers rebounding differential is dead last in the league at -5.9 which means their opponents out-rebound them by about six rebounds per game. Lack of defensive rebounding has led to easy second chance points by opponents. Given the Lakers struggles on defense they really can’t afford give up easy points to opposing teams.
Limit Al Jefferson: With Kemba Walker likely sidelined the Bobcats will be leaning heavily on Al Jefferson to shoulder scoring load. If the Lakers can somehow limit Big Al they’ll have a fighting chance to win the ball game. Chris Kaman may make an appearance tonight since he matches up physically with Jefferson better than anyone else on the Lakers’ roster.
Charlotte Bobcats (20-27) at Los Angeles Lakers (16-30)
7:30 PM PST, January 31, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Bobcats Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ramon Sessions
SG: Gerald Henderson
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF: Josh McRoberts
C: Al Jefferson
Key Reserves: F: Anthony Tolliver C: Cody Zeller PF: Jannero Pargo
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wes Johnson
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Pau Gasol
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