According to the LA Times' Ben Bolch, the Lakers (34-20) have thrown more alley-oop passes than their crosshallway rivals Los Angeles Clippers (32-21) coming into their final regular season meeting tonight. But the Clippers do hold an 82-72 advantage on made dunks over the purple and gold.
Interesting stats but ultimately useless for either team unless the result of tonight's game comes down to which team out-lobs the other.
That's probably not going to be the case, I'm sure. But after fooling around with the Hornets, Warriors, and Nets, which are the latest in a series of games this year, the Lakers better put on their serious faces tonight against a team breathing down their necks waiting to knock them off of their 3rd seating in the west.
The Clippers are only 1 1/2 games back of the purple and gold thanks to their first 6-game winning streak in 2 decades.
It looked like they were starting to head in the wrong direction in March by starting off with a 7-9 record, including their first 3-game skid of the season. Head coach Vinny del Negro took the brunt of the blame until management stepped in and confirmed that he's not going to lose his job. At least for the time being.
Behind Chis Paul's 18.8 PPG and 9.6 APG the last 6 games, the Clippers climbed out of that deep hole and are back in the hunt for the title. Funny how teams sometimes suddenly can put it together after they find out their coach will be sticking around longer than they had hoped.
The Lakers are also having some issues with their own head coach, well at least that's the angle the media is trying to sell lately. After benching Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, stories of the players not giving their complete effort because they don't respect Mike Brown because he was never an NBA player and doesn't have the ring as a head coach to back it up started populating the internet and broadcasts.
Oh really? Ever heard of Rudy Tomjanovich?
Did his Lakers team led by Kobe and Lamar Odom fully commit themselves into breaking out of their Triangle mold? Hardly. I guess his 2 championship rings as a head coach and complete support from all of the NBA greats who played for him weren't good enough either.
But concerned about their progress as a team or not, a loss tonight could send them closer to a first round bout with the Memphis Grizzlies. That team just handed the first place Thunder a rare home loss after holding them to 88 points in their victory. Memphis is healthy again and have proven that they can be a deadly team for anybody in the playoffs last season.
A win tonight, however, should give the Lakers more confidence as a team against a playoff contender. Not sure if it'll help much in correcting their season-long problem of losing that drive and focus they start a game with, but it will solidy their #3 status in the west longer.
Hopefully, skipping last night's game against the New Jersey Nets will ensure Bynum's return in the lineup. If not, Pau Gasol and Ramon Sessions will need to step up once again in his absence. More importantly, a good offensive night from Kobe will be crucial to everything the Lakers will try to accomplish tonight regardless of Andrew's availability.
That may not sound too appealing for Laker fans, but that's been the case for the Lakers since the start of the season.
But if the Lakers struggle to maintain their attention and energy tonight, none of that will matter.
There are only 11 games left until the playoffs after tonight's matchup. Five of those are at Staples Center. Dallas, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City highlight 3 of those remaining home games so losses are as big as wins the rest of the way whether or not the Lakers want to prepare themselves for the playoffs beginning tonight.
These 2 teams have a win each in this year's season series. The Lakers won the series last year 3-1.
The Clippers are 20-8 at home where they've taken their last 5 games. The Lakers are 11-15 on the road and are 4-1 in their last 5 games as the visiting team. They defeated the Clippers 96-91 in their last meeting.
Should be a good one!
Matchup of the Game
Ramon Sessions vs. Chris Paul: Games against teams with one of the top point guards in the league is the reason why the Lakers traded for Sessions. He couldn't do anything to stop Russell Westbrook last week so you could say he has some making up to do tonight. But he has a major task ahead of him against CP3. The main thing is for him not to back down and stay aggressive all night long.
Keys for the Lakers
1. Defense: Either at the rim or from behind the arc, the Clippers can score anywhere on the floor. Paul and Randy Foye only scored at a combined 9 points in their last game, so expect that to change in a big way tonight. The Lakers will need to cover shooters and keep Paul out of the paint as much as possible if they want to notch their 12th road win.
2. Bench: If Andrew Goudelock hadn't put up 14 points last time versus the Clippers, the Lakers lose that game. Well, he's no longer part of the regular rotation now and is replaced by Steve Blake as the main guard off of the bench. Much like the team, Blake's offense is iffy at best so it would be wise for the bench not to rely on his shooting and contribute to the team as a group in every way they can. In other words, the bench have a big say in a W or L tonight.
3. Sessions: Can't express the importance of Ramon stepping up his game against CP3 enough. His defense is a priority but his ability to get into the paint to score and set the table for his teammates are equally a necessity for a Lakers win. If he helps spread the floor and make things difficult for the Clipper defense, the Lakers become that much tougher to beat.
@ Los Angeles Clippers
Tonight at 7:30 p.m.
TV: KCAL (local), ESPN (national)
Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN
Click for TICKETS
LAKERS: Andrew Bynum (mild left ankle sprain) is day-to-day. Availability will be game time decision.