Written by: Devin Ugland
The Lakers (43-19) and the Bobcats (26-34) are on opposite ends of the basketball spectrum. The Lakers, winners of five straight, are coming off of a very short but impressive two game road trip where they went into the Ford Center and won a hard fought game against the Thunder, and they also had a nice victory over Minnesota this past Tuesday night. The Bobcats have lost 3 out of their last 5 games, including an embarrassing 40-point loss at the hands of the ‘Melo-less Nuggets.
Maybe the Cats overlooked their game in Denver in anticipation for their matchup with the Lakers at Staples Center on Friday, especially since we all know how much Charlotte loves playing the Lakers. Since the NBA decided to bring a franchise back to Charlotte, the Lakers and Bobcats have met 13 times, with the Cats winning eight of them. Charlotte has had plenty of success against the Lakers home court as well; three of their eight wins against the purple and gold came at Staples.
Charlotte made a surprise deal at the trade deadline, sending do-it-all F Gerald Wallace to Portland for C Joel Pryzbilla. This deal bodes well for the Lakers for this matchup, but having Wallace in the Pacific Northwest may pose future problems. The Lakers cannot look ahead, however, and must focus their efforts on stopping the offensive machine who goes by the name of Stephen Jackson.
Jackson (19.2 ppg) sat out Thursday’s practice with a hamstring injury, but is expected to play tonight against Lakers; and he usually saves some of his best games for his head-to-head battle with the Mamba. Despite his lackluster performance in Charlotte’s big win at home over the Lakers (nine points on 3-10 from the field); Jackson is always a threat to put up 30+ points on any given night.
A guy who the Lakers must also keep an eye on is rookie G Gerald Henderson. Henderson had a great game in the first meeting between these two teams. Henderson slashed his way through the non-existent Laker defense to the tune of 18 points on 6-9 from the field.
With the departure of Wallace and Nazr Mohammed, who they dealt to Oklahoma City, and the transition of getting newly acquired Joel Pryzbilla acclimated to their system, the Bobcats are left very thin up front. Kwame Brown provides decent low-post defense, but as many Laker fans know first-hand, he doesn’t have much when it comes to offense. Boris Diaw, who thrived in Mike D’Antoni’s system in Phoenix, has yet to find his niche in Charlotte.
It has been less than a month since the Lakers ugly 20 point loss in Charlotte, and they should be looking to avenge that defeat. Kobe and Co. need to come out and bury any confidence that the Bobcats may have.
Three Keys to a Laker Victory:
1. Jump on ’em early – The Lakers need to start out fast, and keep the pedal-to-the-metal.
2. Keep Jackson under wraps – With Wallace gone, Captain Jack will be looking to get shots early and often. If the Lakers can keep Jackson under control, it should be an easy W.
3. Don’t play down to the competition – This seems to be a very common problem with these Lakers. Charlotte is not a team to take lightly, obviously, and hopefully the Lakers understand that.