Lakers vs. Wizards Preview: Lakers Looking To Get Above .500

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Washington WizardsOn Sunday night, the Lakers were able to get able to get their third consecutive win when they defeated the Sacramento Kings 100-86 in front of Lakers fans at Staples Center. The win would place the Lakers back at .500, knotting their overall record at 7-7. This team continues to impress and show excellent signs of continuity as they continue to play without their starting point guard and shooting guard.

The Lakers received another stellar performance from their second unit, which leads the NBA in bench scoring (averaging 46.7 points per game).  Xavier Henry came off the bench and led the Lakers in scoring for the evening, finishing with 21 points on 7/11 shooting from the field. Pau Gasol has had a sudden resurgence in his play over the last few games, as he has scored at least 20 points, and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Lakers last two outings.

Tonight, the Lakers are out on the road against the Washington Wizards. This will be the first game of a short three-game road trip in which the Lakers will travel to Washington, Brooklyn, and Detroit.

While the Wizards may not have the most impressive record (5-8) coming into tonight, they’re a young team that certainly gets excited to play against a team like the Lakers. As has been the narrative for every road game this season for the Lakers, a bad start can really bury this team very deep into a deficit, so it’s going to be key for the Lakers that they start the game with strong effort and energy if they want to be successful on the road.

Frontcourt The Wizards bolstered up their frontcourt this season when they acquired former Phoenix Suns starting center in Marcin Gortat. The big man has proven to be the solid post presence that the Wizards have been longing for, as his size and length has proven to be effective for this team on both the offensive and defensive end. The Wizards start Nene alongside Gortat. The veteran big has always been a pain to deal with for the Lakers, and we can expect Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill to have their hands full with him tonight. At the small forward position the Wizards start Trevor Ariza, who once wore the purple and gold, and had the prized opportunity to be a main contributor on a championship team.

Backcourt The young phenom in John Wall leads the Wizards backcourt, and he shares the backcourt with another rising star in Bradley Beal. Wall is one of the toughest guards to match-up against in the NBA, as he plays the point guard position yet has the size and athletic ability of a shooting guard. Beal is panning out to be one of the better young guards in the league, and certainly has a bright future in this league as a scorer. The Lakers may have dodged a bullet tonight though, as reports are indicating the Beal may miss some time due to lingering injuries in his leg.

UPDATE: Bradley Beal has been ruled out for tonight’s game with a leg injury. He is expected to miss two weeks.

Keys To Lakers Victory:
Transition Defense: John Wall is always a tough player to guard because of his ability to alter the pace of a game with his speed and athletic ability. The Lakers must force the Wizards to operate in the half-court, as they aren’t one of the most efficient teams in a half-court set (ranking 19th in offensive efficiency).

Big Boys Must Battle: On a night like this, the Lakers must count on Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol to carry them to a victory. A lot of those shots that some of the Lakers guards convert are a result of the attention that these two big men attract. Hill has to continue being aggressive on the glass, and Pau has to assert himself on the block. It’s not secret that the Lakers have been most successful when they can get a good effort from both Gasol and Hill. The team goes as they do.

Bench Mob The reserves have been phenomenal so far this season. The effort and intensity that they bring really serves as a catalyst toward the Lakers either closing in on a lead or building one. Another interesting aspect of the bench is that there’s been a different guy each night. We saw last week that Farmar, Henry, and Young all can be special on any given night, and those type of performances are going to be needed as the Lakers try to tread above water without Kobe Bryant.

Washington Wizards (5-8) vs Los Angeles Lakers (7-7)
4:00 PM PST, November 26, 2013
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Wizards Projected Starting Line-up
PG: John Wall
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: Nene
C: Marcin Gortat

Key Reserves: PG: Eric Maynor SG: Martell Webster PF: Jan Vesely

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