Back In the Saddle

Tuesday night’s buzzer-beating loss in Indiana didn’t sit well with the Lakers, a team that’s explicitly hungry to get back on the floor.

“That’s the good thing about the NBA,” said Trevor Ariza after the game. “You get to play another one tomorrow.”

Indeed, L.A.’s set to take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night, but will it be a statement game? Is this the kind of contest where Kobe and Co. show their anger at losing the team’s first road game from the tip? Will the Lakers fly around defensively like they did on Indiana’s final two possessions? Will they contest triples, body up offensive rebounders and keep guards out of the lane?

Lakers Match Up Well With Philly
On the plane from Indianapolis to Philadelphia last night, Stu Lantz told me that one reason Indy got so many offensive boards (19) was that L.A. was aggressively trapping in the corners, leaving an extra man free to attack the glass. It was often Troy Murphy, in part because he generally drifted around the perimeter, then slipped in late to clean up any garbage.

Murphy’s effectiveness got me thinking back to L.A.’s other loss, when another four/five that floats on the perimeter on offense, Rasheed Wallace, did quite a bit of damage to the Lakers … Which got me thinking about Philly, and this point: The 76ers don’t have a big man that can truly spread the floor: Elton Brand plays on the block (even though he can drop a jumper); Samuel Dalembert doesn’t play much offense and can’t shoot; Mareese Speights is a rookie without much range. Basically, the 76ers bigs shouldn’t be able to spread L.A.’s front line out as much as Detroit, Indiana and a few other teams have been able to do. But Philly does rebound well…

Board Battle
The 76ers opened the season by out-rebounding their opponents in 10-of-11 games, but since then, Philly has failed to win the board battle in four-of-seven games. Before Tuesday night’s OT win in Chicago, the 76ers had lost four straight, but they were able to claim back their board edge against the smallish Bulls, which was a key in their victory.

Similarly, the Lakers have dominated games in which they’ve dominated the glass, which they certainly didn’t do against the Pacers last night. So keep an eye on the Philly glass … It’ll most likely tell the tale, or at least be one of the game’s primary story lines.