The conclusion of the road trip means the Lakers can seemingly get back to winning as they are one of the best teams in the league playing at home, boasting an impressive 11-2 record. However, just because they are home does not make a victory guaranteed. Tuesday night the Lakers host the fourth-best team in the east, the Atlanta Hawks, who have an 18-9 overall record and a 9-5 road record. The Hawks are weak at the center position because of injuries suffered by both Al Horford and Jason Collins. Atlanta signed 15-year veteran Erick Dampier to a 10-day contract.
Friday’s game against Orlando will be the first time this season Dampier has played, and he’ll be out of shape. With Josh Smith at the power forward spot, the Lakers must take advantage of their height in the post. Pau Gasol towers over Smith and should have no problem scoring at will. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol must score 15 or more points apiece for the Lakers to be successful over the Hawks.
Then the Lakers square off against the Phoenix Suns for the next two games in a home-and-home series, Friday night being at the Staples Center while Sunday is at the U.S Airways Arena in Phoenix, AZ. Once again, the Lakers need to dominate the paint with Bynum and Gasol in order to be victorious as the Suns have no one who can match strength, height, and skill with the Lakers’ big men. Also, they must slow the tempo of the game, making the Suns play a half-court game rather than a fast pace up-and-down game as to not get into a 3-point shooting contest with them. As the absolute worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA at 28.4 percent, if they are to get into a shootout with the Suns, who are 13th in the league at shooting 3-pointers, the Lakers will be embarrassed. They are too good in the paint to try and out-shoot a team in the NBA.
Almost half the season is in the books, and despite the way the Lakers have been playing, mostly on the road, one must still feel a little comfortable with where the team stand at this time, and that is having a playoff spot if the season were to end today. There is really only upward for this Laker team to go. In spite of everything that has happened thus far, it truly seems like this is the worst that this team can play. They have too much talent and experience to not make the post-season.
With the short week ahead of them, a week consisting of three games versus two teams, and no back-to-back games, look for a well rested and determined Lakers team to get back on track.