The Lakers are playing the worst team in the Eastern Conference to end 2013. One would surmise that the Lakers should win, but wins haven’t been coming easily for this squad who recently lost to the bottom dwelling Utah Jazz. The Bucks are a team who have the third worst net rating differential (-9.1) which means they give up 9.1 more points than they score for every 100 possessions. In case you’re curious the Lakers clock in with a net rating of -3.3. That being said, all these insightful advanced stats are moot when the leather meets the hardwood. This Lakers squad will need to give maximum effort if they hope to close out 2013 with a win.
Frontcourt: The Bucks have seemingly tried as many starting lineup combinations as the Lakers due to injury issues. The center position has been in flux for the Bucks and they’ve tried Udoh, Raduljica and Henson at the five. Henson, a second year player, has blown up this season and is doing his best Larry Sanders impression with 2.3 blocks per game. He’s a much more polished offensive player than Henson and is a double-double threat every night. Speaking of Larry Sanders, he just returned from injury last week and slotted right into the starting center position. Sanders is a freakish blocking machine and if he shares time with Henson the two could form the Great Wall of Lanky Arms in the paint.
The Bucks acquired Khris Middleton as part of the Jennings/Knight trade with the Pistons and it seems that they found a diamond in the rough. Middleton has firmly asserted himself as one of their starting forwards. He is a rangy shooter who can knock down the three point with ease; he makes 44.9% of his attempts from beyond the arc. He’s also the Buck’s only forward who can consistently create his own shot.
Backcourt: If there’s one Bucks player I’m excited about watching tonight, it’s the Greek Freek Giannis Antekokounmpo. Giannis is a physical specimen who stands at 6’9’’ and has a 7’3’’ wingspan with hands that look like giant oven mitts. He was recently inserted into the starting lineup and his ceiling seems limitless. Some experts have described him as a hybrid of Kevin Durant and Paul George. He has the ability to stroke it from all over the court, but seems to lack confidence in his shot at this point.
O.J. Mayo is the leading scorer for the Bucks with nearly 14 points per game but he’s been relegated to the bench due to his poor shooting (39.2%) and sub-par defense. The Lakers would be wise to keep Mayo in check since he can go off for more than 20 if he’s given the opportunity to score. Starting point guard Brandon Knight had a slow start to the season due to injury, but has come on strong lately. He’s the undisputed floor general of this team and if he is limited the Bucks offense will sputter.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Limit Brandon Knight: Knight is not a natural point guard and his passing is a learned skill that he’s still developing. He’s also not a very good shooter and is only hitting 38.4% of his field goal attempts. That being said, the Bucks offense runs through Knight and the Lakers should seek to limit him. The Lakers need to pressure the Bucks young point guard and force him into making poor decisions.
Share The Rock: I think most Lakers fans can conclude that Nick Young isolation plays are not very fun to watch. In the wake of Kobe’s injury Young has returned to his ball chucking ways. He needs to realize that dribbling in place for 15 seconds then hoisting an off balance jump shot is not a smart play. Young is much more efficient and benefits his team when he plays off the ball and is fed for an open jumper. With that in mind the Lakers need to swing the ball around and find the open man for a good shot attempt.
Pau Gasol: With Kobe out many expected Gasol to step up and lead the Lakers since he’s clearly the second most talented player on the roster behind number 24. Gasol has been disappointingly inconsistent and has not shown the ability to lead the team. I’d expect Gasol to get 20 and 10 on any given night especially with Kobe out. It’s no coincidence that when Gasol plays well, the Lakers find success. Hopefully Gasol can get it together especially on offense and knock down the jump shots that many defenses are conceding to him.
Milwaukee Bucks (6-24) at Los Angeles Lakers (13-19)
7:30 PM PST, December 31, 2013
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Bucks Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Brandon Knight
SG: Giannis Antetokounmpo
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Khris Middleton
C: Larry Sanders
Key Reserves: PF: John Henson G: O.J. Mayo PG: Nate Wolters
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Farmar
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Nick Young
PF: Shawne Williams
C: Pau Gasol
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