The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of a eight game losing streak and tonight they have the task of facing the second best team in the East. The Washington Wizards are one of the most surprising teams in the Eastern Conference. Last season, the Wizards rode their five seed to the Eastern Conference semi-finals where they were defeated by the Indiana Pacers. They have risen to unprecedented heights this year and are trailing only the red hot Atlanta Hawks in the East. Meanwhile, the Lakers are floundering without Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott seems to be determined to give the younger guys more playing time. Brace yourselves Lakers fans, tonight may not be pretty.
Frontcourt: The veteran Paul Pierce plays the role of elder statesman to many of the Wizards young players. Pierce is entering his 17th season and is still finding meaningful ways of contributing to a legit Eastern Conference contender. Deceivingly athletic and crafty, Pierce uses his body well and has averaged 12.8 points this season. He’s a solid rebounder and has probably given the Wizards more than they expected when they signed him this summer.
The Wizards have an imposing frontcourt with Marcin Gortat anchoring the defense at center. He’s a double-double threat on any given night and his size will cause problems for the Lakers. Gortat had 21 points and 11 rebounds against the Lakers earlier this season.
Nene Hilario is quite large for a power forward standing at 6’11’’ and weighing in at 250-260 pounds. Hilario is a great defender and a talented post-player. He provides the Wizards with consistent scoring in the paint and is a beneficiary of many John Wall assists.
Backcourt: The Wizards success is largely due to their dynamic backcourt duo — John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall has fully embraced his role as the facilitator of the Wizards offense — he averages a double-double with 17.2 points and 10.2 assists. His defense has also improved his year as evidenced by a career-high two steals per game. Wall can glide into the lane with ease with his extra long strides and he’s especially dangerous when he gets into the paint.
At shooting guard, Beal leads the team with 1.8 three-pointers made per game and he’s shooting a very efficient 44.6 percent from deep. The budding young star is the second leading scorer behind Wall. Beal has the ability to put the ball on the floor and create for his teammates as well. The Wizards have two very talented guards who can orchestrate the offense and put the ball in the hoop. The Lakers guard will have their hands full tonight.
Off the bench Rasual Butler is a three-point specialist who chips in 1.5 threes per game at a 45 percent clip. Butler is a pure shooter and provides the Wizards with energy and instant offense.
Keys to Victory:
Does Byron Scott Want To Win? For some reason, Byron Scott seems to be upset with his most productive players. Nick Young, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and Wesley Johnson have all been relegated to the bench. It seems as if Scott has conceded the season is a loss and is experimenting with his younger players. The tanking is in full effect. If Scott continues to give the younger players burn, it’ll be really tough to see them having any chance against the Wizards. At least tonight, we’ll get to see how Lakers rookie Jordan Clarkson matches up against the All-Star John Wall.
Defense: This may sound redundant, but the main reason for the Lakers struggles this season is their poor defense. They rank near last in defensive efficiency giving up 108.2 points per 100 possessions. It’s especially surprising that the Lakers defense has regressed under Byron Scott, who early in the season stated that his primary goal was to establish the Lakers as a defensive-minded team. If the Lakers can’t improve their defensive effort and scheme, it’ll be tough to see them triumphing over a very dangerous Wizards team.
Washington Wizards (30-15) at Los Angeles Lakers (12-33)
7:30 PM PST, January 27, 2015
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: Paul Pierce
PF: Nene Hilario
C: Marcin Gortat
Key Reserves: PF: Kris Humphries SF: Rasual Butler
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Ryan Kelly
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Robert Sacre
Byron Scott Reacts To News Of Kobe Bryant’s Surgery