As the Los Angeles Lakers (10-6) are set to take on the Orlando Magic (10-4) on Friday night here are a few things to look for in tonight’s match-up:
1. The Big Men – With Dwight Howard wanting to be traded and Andrew Bynum being one of the main players considered for Howard, it will be interesting to see how the two giants play against each other. Normally Howard faces double teams against most teams. However, against a solid defender like Andrew Bynum, he may not see as many double teams tonight. This should be a classic “big man” battle, and possibly the only true big man head to head match-up in the league. Will Bynum’s length be able to disrupt Dwight Howard’s production (20 points, 15.6 rebounds per game)?
Similarly, how will Andrew Bynum (16.5 points, 14 rebounds) fare against the reigning 3-time Defensive Player of the Year? Will Bynum be able to stay out of foul trouble against the aggressive and supremely athletic Howard? With recent comments by Shaquille O’Neal claiming that Andrew Bynum is the best big man in the league, both players should be fired up and have something to prove.
Not to be overlooked, however is the power forward match-up. With Ryan Anderson averaging a career high in points and rebounds this season (18 points, 7 rebounds), how will Pau Gasol (16 points, 9.5 rebounds) perform after being the Lakers’ bright spot (26 points, 8 rebounds) in a 98-87 loss to the Miami Heat last night?
2. Kobe Bryant – After having an off night offensively against Dallas on Monday with just 14 points on 7-22 shooting, and struggling much of the game last night against Miami (24 points on 8-21 shooting), how will Kobe respond? History would tell us that Kobe should be poised to have a big offensive night. But with a torn ligament in his shooting wrist, and perhaps heavy legs at this stretch of the condensed season, it may be hard for him to get going. Smart money would go with Kobe having an efficient night, though.
3. Bench play – With Steve Blake still out, can the Lakers find any consistency amongst the Peace Corps? So far this season, the bench has been inconsistent at best (consistently bad being the alternative). Will the bench have any players make an impact on the game? Josh McRoberts’ hustle and highlight plays have been one constant for the Lakers’ bench, but after a zero point performance against Miami in limited minutes (12:49), will he be able to bounce back and make an impact? More importantly, can he make an impact in limited minutes should he only get similar minutes against Orlando? Metta World Peace had seven points off the bench in 22 minutes against Miami, and played active defense on LeBron James when he was out there. What will World Peace bring L.A. tonight? Troy Murphy was 4-4 for eight points last night, but most came in garbage time. Will he have an impact, or even get the minutes to make an impact?
With the Lakers dead last in 3-point percentage this year, Jason Kapono has a chance to help spread the floor. Although he is only shooting 30 percent this year (as opposed to his career average of 43 percent), Kapono can help the Lakers where they so desperately need it. The question is will he get into an offensive rhythm in limited minutes (12 per game) and contribute. Rookie Darius Morris is getting significant minutes (18) right now with Blake out, but was scoreless against Miami with two turnovers and one assist. Can he learn to play under control and allow Derek Fisher to sit comfortably when he’s on the bench?
No matter who steps up off the bench, the Lakers need some contribution tonight to build momentum on for the rest of the season.
4. Matt Barnes – Ever since Matt Barnes earned his starting spot, he has provided a much needed boost to the Lakers’ starting line up, providing defense and quickness on offense; averaging 8.5 points and 5.3 rebounds. However, after scoring just three points on 1-6 shooting last night and committing three turnovers, Barnes tweeted “I played like $h!t 2nite, it won’t happen again!” Will Barnes make good on his promise, and bounce back from a sub par performance?
These are just a few things to look for in tonight’s match-up against the Orlando Magic.