Third time's a charm? The Los Angeles Lakers certainly hope so. The battle between both of the Los Angeles' teams continues tonight in what should be a great game. Or, it could just be another painful Lakers game to watch, which has become the norm through this point in the "new era" of basketball featuring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Howard isn't 100%, Kobe Bryant's foot is still sore (in particular after a back-to-back to open the season), and Steve Nash is a game-time decision. This could get ugly, fast.
The depth the Los Angeles Clippers have at their disposal will pose a challenge for the Lakers. In their season opener Jamal Crawford went ballistic, dropping 29 points on 10-14 shooting. In comparison the Lakers bench as a unit only tallied 15 points in Wednesday night's loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. The bevy of depth, ironically, stems from a handful of past Lakers players. Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, and Ronny Turiaf will all be coming off of the pine for the Clippers, while Caron Butler runs with the starters. Then, there's Eric Bledsoe, who has shown to be an athletic back court player off the bench. As we have seen from the Lakers thus far in the season, players like Bledsoe are a recipe for disaster. Applying full court pressure to Steve Nash and Steve Blake has caused logistical issues for an offense that is still far from complete. Losing precious seconds to run the Princeton offense, or probe with pick and roll action, is problematic for a team that is still trying to find a comfort zone offensively. On the defensive side of the ball Nash has been abused by opposing point guards on an individual level, and the Lakers as a whole.
Oh, right, I haven't event mentioned Chris Paul and Blake Griffin yet.
This is going to be a tough, tough game for the Lakers. Considering just how awful the defense has looked, having a point guard with the basketball instincts of Chris Paul picking it apart makes the hair on my neck stand up. Imagine a tiger peeling an orange apart with it's claws. Now, imagine that same tiger saying forget it, and just mauling the orange with its teeth. That could very well be the Lakers fate; being orange pulp dripping off the fangs of a tiger that, for some reason, eats oranges. However, having a day away from the court after two disappointing losses, and time to get the wind back in their sails, all is not lost. The offense, despite many pointed criticisms from fans, analysts, and just about everyone (my cat has also joined the "dump the Princeton" initiative) still produced enough for the Lakers to be victorious against the Trail Blazers. This is a matter of taking care of possessions and learning to play defense together. When I say taking care of possessions, I don't just mean not getting the ball stolen away. I'm talking about Metta World Peace picking up offensive fouls by barreling into defenders with absolutely no regard or awareness. I'm talking about three in the key violations from Dwight as he watches the ball handler and tries to figure out where to position himself. I'm talking about completely errant passes that miss the target who is cutting in the opposite direction. The Lakers need to play assertive, together, and like the talented group that they are.
These Lakers, flat out, just need to get back to playing basketball tonight.
There hasn't been a great deal of joy on the basketball court shared between this group, and winning their first game will undoubtedly crack at least a few smiles. I know it will for the fans who have invested so much energy and passion for a team that many envisioned tearing the league to shreds one pick and roll at a time. I know it will for me.
So, pep up. Lakers fans! The win is coming sooner or later, this could be the day the Lakers break the seal! An entertaining game is ahead on the slate for both Lakers and Clippers fans in Staples Center between two teams that have been extra chippy towards one another since
the Chris Paul fiasco the trade that allowed the Lakers to acquire Steve Nash. DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard should be a great match-up down low. Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin are great juxtapositions of how to play the power forward position. Metta World Peace will surely do something worth writing about in the midst of this prime-time ESPN game. Kobe Bryant has been quoted as not being a "happy camper", and will likely take out those frustrations on the hardwood floors (I just ask that you do this efficiently, Bean). And Steve Nash... uh... might or... might not... play.
It's Lakers! Clippers! Friday night basketball! It's great to be back!
Don't forget to check out the game preview over at Clips Nation, and the video preview of the game as we settle into the weekend.
Tickets to tonight's game provided by our ticketing partner, TiqIQ: