The Lakers have lost three straight and are searching for a win against the Wizards tonight. The Wizards goal this year was to make the playoffs and it looks like they will achieve that with a record only a few games above .500. They’re currently sixth place in the Eastern Conference but are looking to improve their pole position going into the post-season. Meanwhile the narrative for the Lakers this season has been to look forward to the draft and hope for the future. I don’t think anyone would accuse the Lakers of purposely tanking, but given the amount of injuries this season, the team is not able to put a consistent roster on the floor capable of winning many games. Kobe Bryant is done for the season and Jordan Farmar is still out. There is some good news on the injury front as Steve Nash and Nick Young are expected to join the line-up tonight. On that positive note, let’s jump into the analysis.
Frontcourt: Marcin Gortat anchors the Wizards frontcourt and has been a consistent force in the post. The Wizards expected Gortat to pair well with Nene, but unfortunately Nene went down with an injury in late February and will not be back until the playoffs. Gortat is a nightly double-double threat and he could wreck the Lakers on the offensive boards. At the four, Trevor Booker has emerged as a the starter but has struggled. He’s not very developed offensively, but is athletic and gets most of his points off of dunks or put-backs. Veteran Drew Gooden was recently signed on for the rest of the season which looks to be a shrewd move by the Wizards. Gooden is averaging 19.5 points and 7.5 boards over the past two games and seems to be completely locked in.
Former Laker, Trevor Ariza, has been holding down the small forward position for the Wizards this season. He’s the team’s third leading scorer and is also one of their most active defenders. Ariza is like a more developed Wes Johnson and it’ll be interesting to see those two go at it tonight.
Backcourt: John Wall has established himself as one of the premier point guards in the NBA. He’s the Wizard’s franchise star and is averaging a career best 19.7 points, 8.7 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Wall has added a three-point shot to his arsenal this season and his knocking down 1.4 threes per game on 35.8% shooting. The Lakers guards will have their work cut out for them in containing Wall tonight. Shooting guard Bradley Beal has improved in his sophomore year and is the team’s second leading scorer with 17.1 points per game. He’s a superb three-point shooter (41.2% from beyond the arc) and will need to be marked on the perimeter. The future is bright for these two young guards and if they continue to develop they could be one of the top backcourts in the NBA in a few years.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Dare Wall To Shoot: John Wall’s weakness is his jumper which has improved since he entered the league but still not great. He’s shooting 43.2% from the field which doesn’t tell the whole story. Wall is just 33.5% in two point shot attempts beyond five feet from the rim. Beyond his poor jump shooting, Wall is also dangerous when he can penetrate the paint and create for his teammates. The Lakers should play off Wall and force him to shoot long two pointers. Even if they’re forcing him into taking three’s it’ll probably a net positive than the alternative. When Wall gets near the rim he finishes on 63.8% of his shot attempts.
Defense: Clearly the Lakers don’t have any trouble scoring, but their defense gives up 107.1 points per 100 possessions. The only teams that have a worse defensive rating than the Lakers are the Jazz and the Bucks. For the month of March, Lakers opponents are averaging a whopping 123.5 points per game. That’s just sick. Ultimately if the Lakers can’t figure out how to stop their opponents, they’ll continue to lose which may not be such a bad thing at this point. Think of each loss as a step closer to a higher draft pick in June.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are 4.5-point underdogs according to Sportsbook.
Washington Wizards (35-33) at Los Angeles Lakers (22-45)
7:30 PM PST, March 21, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Wizards Projected Starting Line-up
PG: John Wall
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Trevor Ariza
PF: Trevor Booker
C: Marcin Gortat
Key Reserves: SG: Martell Webster, PF: Drew Gooden
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ryan Kelly
C: Pau Gasol
Lakers Practice: Coach D’Antoni On Kobe Bryant’s Return And Plans For Nick Young