The Lakers are home for the next three games before a mini road trip to the east coast. They open up the second half of the year against the Timberwolves on Wednesday night. Expect the Lakers to be rusty at the start of the game from having a week off. The break is coming at a great time for the Lakers as it gives them a chance to rest and heal up minor injuries. The Timberwolves are a scrappy team in the sense that they battle hard for 48 minutes. The Lakers are going to have to control the rebounding aspect of the game, limiting the Wolves to one shot per possession. This should be win for the Lakers, if they take care of business, and a good game for them to shake off the rust as they start the second half of the season.
Friday night the Sacramento Kings travel down to take on the Lakers. The Kings are another feisty team but live and die by the three. While they have a great core of young players, this is a team not yet ready to be a contender. They play a perimeter style offense to suit Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton. While they do have a solid power forward in DeMarcus Cousins, he has been a bit inconsistent this year. Like the Minnesota game, if the Lakers take care of business and play their game they should beat the Kings.
Sunday afternoon marks the game most Lakers fans circled on their calendar. The Miami Heat and their “Big-3” roll into town for the second meeting between these two teams. The first meeting did not go well at all for the Lakers as they trampled on from the start. This is a must-win game for the Lakers. It not only will give them confidence going into the second half of the season, but it will truly prove not just to themselves but the rest of the league that they are a contending team.
Keys to this game for the Lakers will be controlling the tempo, limiting turnovers and Miami Heat offensive rebounds, rotating on defense quickly and efficiently, and pounding the ball inside to Drew and Pau. The Heat is a team that loves to get out and run, so for the Lakers to slow down the tempo of the game by not rushing on offense and turning the ball over will limit the amount of chances the Heat has to get quick and easy fast break points. The Lakers also must control the boards. If they give up too many offensive rebounds, the Heat will make them pay by converting on the second chance opportunities. Finally, for the Lakers to be victorious, they must feed the post. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol need to have a lot of touches because they are the strengths of the Lakers offense.
The All-Star break gives an older team like the Lakers the ability to rest up, heal minor injuries, and refuel their tanks as they head into the second half of the season. Two games on Wednesday and Friday against non-playoff contending teams give them opportunity to shake off the rust before they get ready to battle the best team in the east, the Miami Heat.