Lakers vs. Wizards preview: There will be basketball

USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers do play basketball, are on their largest winning streak of the season, and begin a three-game road trip tonight.

Showtime: 4 p.m. PT

Plot: Hey guys. Over here. Yeah, right here. It's me, on-court basketball. Yes, all eyes are on money that isn't in our pockets as the world opines about Kobe Bryant's lucrative two-year contract extensions to remain a "Laker for life," but the team does happen to have a game tonight. (Still, be sure to check out C.A. Clark's piece on the extension which covers plenty of angles).They'll kick off a three-game road trip against the Washington Wizards, who will be without second-year shooting guard Bradley Beal. Let's call it fair with the expectation of seventeenth-year shooting guard Kobe Bryant expected to miss the game.

That could bode well for the Lakers, as the Wizards bench has been atrocious this season. Their starting lineup is doing alright, though, and John Wall has had a phenomenal start to the season. He's averaging 18.6 points and 8.9 assists per game. His shooting percentages aren't anything worth mentioning, but he's learning his way around the pick-and-roll a bit with recently acquired big man Marcin Gortat to work with.

Give Wall space and he'll pull up from mid-range. Too slow and he'll attack the rim. Contain him and he'll find the open man. This will be a real challenge for the Lakers, and Wall is on a bit of a streak with back-to-back games scoring at least 30 points.

Speaking of streaks, the Lakers are on their first three-game winning streak of the season and it might have something to do with Pau Gasol stringing together two of his best games of the season. He's had two straight games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds while shooting at least 50 percent from the field. We'll see if he can continue raising his play after a horrid start, which could be a reflection on his poor conditioning (he didn't start running until a few weeks before the season started, after all) and a respiratory infection.

The Wizards aren't particularly great in any aspect of basketball. They're around the middle of the pack in both offensive and defensive efficiency, they'll be without Beal (who is averaging an NBA-high 40.2 minutes per game, mind you) and they're 25th overall in total rebounds. Gasol and Jordan Hill should easily reach double-digit rebound totals, so long as the defense can force misses.

The focus on defense will have to be on Wall and the pick-and-roll. No easy task, but the Lakers' defensive efficiency continues it's crazy adventure toward being in the top 10 of the league. They are currently allowing 101.3 points per 100 possessions, according to the NBA's media-only stats website. For a point of reference, the Lakers allowed 106.6 per 100 last season. It's 14 games into the season and there's a whole lotta' basketball left to be played, but it's an intriguing trend no less.

Really early game time alert, everyone. Shouts to folks who can call it an early night tonight, my apologies to those who might miss some -- or all -- of the game.

Go leave some karma giving condolences for the latest Beal injury at Bullets Forever

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