Coaches around the NBA often remind their players of one of the toughest games on the schedule: the first home game after a long road trip.
There’s a tendency to let the proverbial guard down and relax in the comforts of one’s home, which the Lakers are finally experiencing after a 13-day trek across the country. But as assistant coach Brian Shaw told us, that’s the last thing L.A. can do against a gritty Charlotte Bobcats team that has long had the Lakers’ number.
One major blow to the ‘Cats for Wednesday’s game was to lose All-Star Gerald Wallace to a hamstring injury, which allows the Lakers to push Ron Artest over to Stephen Jackson and Kobe Bryant on Flip Murray (once Murray enters for starter Steven Graham).
Shaw explained what the Bobcats like to do on offense, how to attack them defensively and detailed their most dangerous lineup heading into the 7:30 PM tipoff.
The Magic haven’t been playing their best basketball of late.
In fact, they haven’t been much worse in the last two seasons: they come into Los Angeles having lost two straight, 4-of-6 and 6-of-10 to fall to fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Yet as we discussed with assistant coach Brian Shaw, the Magic will have a 4-1 Lakers beating in the 2009 NBA Finals on their minds on Martin Luther King Day. Translation: throw everything out of the window; Orlando’s coming to play.
Just as Utah, Houston and Denver have all exacted playoff revenge on the Lakers this season (as L.A. did against Boston), the Magic have plenty to motivate them.
Shaw broke down what to expect in the above video (one key: get the bigs back quickly in transition), which you can view for every home game on the Lakers Gameday page.
The Clippers had been on impressive run last week, winning four straight games – including a 102-91 victory over the Lakers last week – and pushing for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Then came tough news about No. 1 overall draft pick Blake Griffin, who will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, and a two-game road losing streak through Memphis and New Orleans.
The Clippers will look to bounce back against a Lakers’ squad that is getting a major boost with the return of Pau Gasol, who went through Friday morning shootaround without incident and is expected to start.
Assistant coach Frank Hamblen joined us on LakersTV to look at how the Lakers hope to contain Baron Davis (who was terrific in last week’s game), how to better operate in the low post through Gasol and Andrew Bynum and more.
On Sunday at STAPLES Center, the Lakers and Bucks will meet for the second and final time of the 2009-10 regular season; assistant coach Frank Hamblen joined us on LakersTV to break down the matchup.
Hamblen detailed the success of Milwaukee’s high-pressure, high-turnover defense, explained the importance of center Andrew Bogut and talked about the way L.A.’s coaches would like the Lakers to attack the Bucks’ defense.
With the Lakers having faced Houston 11 times last season and twice already during the current campaign, assistant coach Jim Cleamons has a pretty good handle on what the Rockets like to do.
He highlighted the importance of winning the glass battle (which Houston dominated 60-38 in L.A.’s Nov. 15 loss), containing the penetration of Aaron Brooks and repeatedly pounding the ball inside regardless of Houston’s defensive pressure.
The Dallas Mavericks, who surprised the Lakers with a 94-80 victory in the season’s second game, return to STAPLES on Sunday for the final time in the 2009-10 regular season.
Dirk Nowitzki is producing as usual to the tune of 25.0 points per game with 8.0 rebounds, while Jason Kidd ranks fifth in the NBA in assists (9.0) to lead Mark Cuban’s squad.
Assistant coach Jim Cleamons also noted the important contributions of Shawn Marion and Josh Howard on the wings, as well as sixth man Jason Terry, who have combined to help Dallas to the West’s second best record (23-10).
Though the Golden State Warriors just welcomed big men Andris Biedrins and Ronny Turiaf back into the fold, their attack centers upon guard Monta Ellis, who leads the team with 25.6 points, 5.2 assists and 4.37 turnovers per game (clearly, he has the ball quite a bit).
The Warriors also like to work through Corey Maggette, among the league’s best at getting to the foul line (11 attempts per game), and utilize the shooting talents of Anthony Morrow (45 percent from three) and and rookie Stephen Curry (40 percent).
Assistant coach Brian Shaw joined us on LakersTV to break it all down.
Clem Breaks It Down
As the Lakers brace for their third meeting already this season against Oklahoma City, assistant coach Jim Cleamons joined us to talk about defending Kevin Durant, how to best utilize Pau Gasol and what L.A. plans to do with the Thunder defense (see above video).
Last Time They Played
When L.A. defeated the Thunder 101-85 on Nov. 22 in Gasol’s third game since returning from injury, the purple and gold jumped to a 35-16 lead to basically bury OKC right out of the gates. Cleamons warned that the Lakers can’t expect such a slow start from Scott Brooks’s team on Tuesday night. One other nugget: that Nov. 22 meeting was also the night that Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas sand “I Got A Feeling” at courtside while Fergie, Alex Rodriguez and B-Real from Cypress Hill stood nearby.
The Thunder are led by Durant’s 27.2 points, which ranks fourth in the NBA behind Carmelo Anthony (30.5), Kobe Bryant (28.8) and LeBron James (28.6). Point guard Russell Westbrook adds 15.9 points and a team-high 6.6 assists (ninth in the NBA) while power forward Jeff Green contributes 15.1 points and 6.2 rebounds. From a team perspective, OKC ranks 23rd in scoring, 14th in rebounding and eighth in steals, but they are one of the league’s better defensive teams, allowing the seventh fewest points in the NBA and the sixth worst field goal percentage.