The Lakers were not much competition for the Eastern-Conference leading New York Knicks last night in a 116-107 defeat. They fell behind by as many as 26 points in the second period, and it likely would have remained a blowout if Carmelo Anthony had played more than 23 minutes (He had 30 points in those limited minutes). With the Lakers having dug themselves a huge hole with 9-14 record, they have no choice but to beat the bottom-tier teams in the league.
The Wizards come in with the worst record in the NBA, and they fit this category of bottom-tier teams. The Lakers have shown the ability to lose to any team on any given night, evidenced by their recent loss to a Cleveland Cavaliers team that was sporting a 4-17 record at the time. Additionally, the Wizards boast a win over the defending champion Miami Heat on December 4th, and they will likely come out with similar energy against the Lakers as they did in that particular game. The Wizards have played without former number one overall pick in point guard John Wall the entire season, who is easily their best player. They also come in as the lowest scoring team in the NBA.
Frontcourt: Emeka Okafor, the former number two overall pick behind Dwight Howard in the 2004 draft, starts at center for the Wizards. Okafor has had a solid NBA career and averaged a double double his first five seasons. However, his production has continued to decline and this season he is averaging career lows in points and rebounds. He remains a solid shot blocker and defender, but the Wizards will almost certainly have to send a double team whenever Howard touches the ball.
Nene, formerly of the Denver Nuggets, serves as the primary backup big man right now. He has only played in eight games thus far this year, but he has proven himself over his career to be a gifted offensive player with a career shooting percentage of 56 percent. He has not been much of a factor, however, since he is only averaging 21 minutes per night as he works his way back into shape from injury. He will likely be inserted into the starting lineup once he regains his conditioning.
Backcourt: Due to injuries to both Wall and backup point guard A.J. Price, Jordan Crawford has become the starting point guard by default. Crawford has a scorer’s mentality and possesses unlimited range. He has a similar playing style to Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers. However, he has expanded his game as a distributor in his third season and is averaging four assists per game. Crawford is also the team’s leading scorer at 15 points a night. Making sure Crawford does not get hot from the perimeter is a key to success for the Lakers in this one.
Rookie Bradley Beal starts at the off-guard position and is a key to the future for the Wizards. He ranks second on the team in scoring at 12.3 points per game and is noted for his shooting ability. He started the year in a huge shooting slump, but has adapted to the NBA game of late. His presence beyond the three-point arc must be recognized. Martell Webster serves as the starting small forward, but he is really more of a shooting guard. He leads the team in three point percentage.
Keys to Victory:
Defensive Rotations: The Lakers have been simply terrible with their defensive communication of late, further demonstrated by giving up 68 points in the first half to the Knicks last night. This has allowed role players for other teams to have huge scoring nights, as they have often been unaccounted for on open jumpers. The Wizards have shooters who cannot be left open for these kinds of looks in Crawford, Beal, and Webster. The Lakers must rotate better when someone gets beat off the dribble and get out to shooters.
Points in the Paint: The Wizards started two small forwards (Chris Singleton and Webster) and an undersized center (Okafor) in their most recent game. Needless to say, they should dominate the points in the paint battle in this matchup. Dwight Howard should touch the ball on nearly every possession as he will have a huge advantage in the point and will open up opportunities for everyone else.
Washington Wizards (3-16) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (9-14)
4:00 PM PST, December 14, 2012 MCI Center, Washington, DC
CA TV: TWC Sports Network
Wizards Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Jordan Crawford SG: Bradley Beal SF: Martell Webster PF: Chris Singleton C: Emeka Okafor
Key Reserves: F Nene, F Kevin Seraphin, G Shaun Livingston