Last Friday night the Lakers went into New Orleans and put up a valiant effort ultimately falling 96-85 to the Pelicans. The Lakers followed that showing up with a disappointing outing as they gave up 47 points in the first quarter on their way to a 113-90 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves that dropped their record to 3-5.
Tonight the Lakers get a chance for a little revenge, and to get back on the winning track as they host the New Orleans Pelicans. Steve Nash continues to struggle with health problems after re-aggravating his back issues in Sunday’s loss and is out for at least two weeks.
The first time these teams played the Lakers were led by Chris Kaman’s 16 points, four rebounds, and two blocks. Nick Young also added 13 points. The Pelicans come into this game with a record of 3-4.
Nothing more needs to be said about Anthony Davis after his showing against the Lakers on Friday. He is easily one of, if not, the best young star in the NBA. In the midst of his 32 point, 12 rebound, six block game he showed a range of skills including his ball handling, athleticism, speed, and jump shooting. He is also an absolute terror defensively as he averages more than two steals and nearly four blocks per game on the season.
Lost amongst Davis’s outstanding game was the play of Jason Smith. Smith added 14 points, almost all of them from the elbow where he is lethal as a jump shooter. The Lakers must keep a hand up on him as, even though he is a center, he does all of his damage from the 15-foot range. Al-Farouq Aminu is the starter, but plays less than 20 minutes a game. He is a decent rebounder and defender but poses very little danger offensively. The Pelicans usually go small for the majority of the game with Tyreke Evans or Anthony Morrow at this position.
One place the Lakers have to improve from the last game is their transition defense. Davis flew down the court and consistently beat the Laker bigs, even after blocking a shot. It is also imperative for Gasol to get going offensively. He shot only 3-12 and many of those were blocked by Davis. He has to challenge Davis in the post and maybe use some pump fakes to possibly get him in foul trouble. One of the Laker wings will also need to step up offensively. Young, Xavier Henry, and Wesley Johnson combined for only 15 points against the Timberwolves and have struggled as a whole in the last week.
The Pelican’s tandem of Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon form one of the best young backcourts in the NBA. Holiday is the engine for this Pelicans team and is a true point guard. He tallied 13 points and 13 assists against the Lakers and was constantly in the paint creating offense for the Pelicans.
Gordon is a deadeye shooter and the Lakers were actually fortunate in that he only made one three-pointer as he is a 48 percent shooter from deep. If Nash is unable to go, it will most likely be Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks starting for the Lakers and they must focus defensively as both Holiday and Gordon can get in the paint or hit from deep.
They are both also excellent defensively reading the passing lanes for steals. While the Lakers did a good job taking care of the ball in the first game, down the stretch they were continually careless with the ball leading to numerous fast break points. Blake and Meeks have arguably been the Lakers two most consistent players this season and they must keep up their good play if the Lakers plan on picking up the win.
Keys To Lakers’ Victory
Wings Offensive Output: Outside of Jodie Meeks, the Lakers wings have been extremely inconsistent. Xavier Henry got off to a great start, but has fallen off recently, Wesley Johnson is shooting only 32 percent, and Nick Young has yet to produce one of those explosive scoring games that he is known for. With Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Anthony Morrow all capable of heating up quickly, the Lakers young wings have to be able to match them.
Young in particular has to get going. He has been relying too much on isolation plays and must start moving better without the ball to get himself some open set shots. Blake and Jordan Farmar are willing passers but the wings have to start doing their work before they get the ball as opposed to after.
Transition Defense: The deciding run that clinched the first game for the Pelicans was full of transition layups and dunks. Holiday is excellent at running the fast break and has dangerous shooters running the wings, making the fast break even tougher to guard. But the key to the Pelicans’ fast break is Davis.
Many of their breaks started because of a Davis block or rebound and even after making those plays, he would still beat Laker bigs down the court. The Lakers didn’t improve any in the next game as they gave up 19 fast break points to the Timberwolves. The whole team must rush back on defense, but Kaman, Gasol, and Jordan Hill in particular must do everything they can to prevent the Pelicans from getting easy fast break points.
Return Of The Spaniard: Pau Gasol has been recovering from a respiratory infection and has struggled to regain his conditioning and lift. It showed in the first matchup against the Pelicans when Anthony Davis sent back five of Gasol’s shots. Davis’ athleticism and wingspan will give Gasol troubles, but he still can overpower the youngster.
The offense is best when it is running through Gasol on the block or elbow. But if he isn’t a threat offensively, the offense doesn’t click as well as it should. It was Chris Kaman who provided the offensive output from the block in the first game. If the Lakers plan on changing the outcome tonight, they will need Gasol to go at Davis and make him work on both ends.
New Orleans Pelicans (3-4) at Los Angeles Lakers (3-5)
7:30 PM PST, November 12, 2013
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPNLA
Pelicans Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Al-Farouq Aminu
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Jason Smith
Key Reserves: SG/SF Tyreke Evans SG Anthony Morrow PG Brian Roberts C Greg Stiemsma