The last time the Lakers (0-2) dropped their first 3 games of the regular season happened to be the final year of Jerry West's coaching career. That team finished the year 47-35 but lost to the Seattle Supersonics in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Interestingly enough, that squad had 4 starters that averaged in double-figures scoring and had a dominant center in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. So what's the catch? Poor defense. They allowed their opponent to score 109.9 points per game which nearly matched their 112.9 points per production on offense.
Against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers (1-0), today's Laker team is still finding their way defensively while learning how to play together as a unit on offense. It's not a very comfortable situation for any team even as talent-laden as the Lakers. But is that enough excuse to lose to a Dirk Nowitzki-less Dallas Mavericks team on opening night and a very young Portland Trailblazer team the following night? Ok, they probably would've lost at the Rose Garden no matter what. But to Dallas? That should't have happened. But it did.
Many Laker fans are already calling for the head of Mike Brown but Kobe Bryant, when asked for his thoughts on the overall climate of Laker nation, says not to panic and "shut up". Kobe went on reminding everyone that the new offense will take some time for the team to get used to.
That's fine and dandy. But what about the defense?
The Lakers are currently ranked 22nd in that department giving up 107.5 points from their opponent. Most of the problem lies in their transition defense and trickles all the way down to lack of communication. If that sound familiar, it's because those are the same issues they had last year. Brown has been dubbed a defensive-minded coach but still seems to be unsure about how to properly motivate and utilize his players on defense. That's probably why a lot of Laker fans want him fired.
If the Lakers are to turn things around starting tonight, it won't be easy without Steve Nash. Nash suffered a mild leg contusion after colliding with Trailblazer guard Damon Lillard in the 2nd quarter of Wednesday's game. He hasn't been officially written as a no-go at this moment but he will be a game-time decision. If that's the case, then it would be wise for Nash to sit this one out and try it again on Sunday against Detroit. Steve is just way too important for this team down the road to play hurt in just the 3rd game of a long season.
Whatever happens with Nash, the Lakers better be prepared against a tough opponent and probably the deepest team in the NBA.
The Clippers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in their opening night at Staples Center, 101-92. The starting five for the Grizzlies actually outscored the starters for the Clippers 75-52. But the second unit for the Clippers dropped 49 points, led by Jamal Crawford with 29 points in his debut. Not that the Lakers needed a reminder on how capable this Clipper team is. It's just that in this league, knowing and doing something about it don't always happen at the same time.
Think of this as an early true test for the Lakers.
Matchup of the Game
Chris Paul vs. Steve Nash/Steve Blake: Having Nash over Blake is better for the Lakers against Paul no matter how you look at it. But dealing with CP3 should be a team proposition regardless of who ends up starting at the 1 for the purple and gold. With all of the "sonning" and all the media questions on the new roster had built over the summer, it's a good bet Paul has been waiting for tonight's matchup. Nash or Blake just needs to play their game and step up to the challenge. No superstar in this league is immune to frustration when the opposing team makes him work on both ends of the floor.
Watch Out For
CLIPPERS: Bench – The Lakers saw first-hand what the Clippers bench can do during pre-season. If they allow this second unit to outhustle and outgun them, well...
LAKERS: Kobe Bryant – Kobe sat out that exhibition game against the Clippers. He knows what needs to get done tonight. Look for him to be extra aggressive on offense early.
Keys for the Game
> Defense: Expect CP3 to test how formidable the Laker interior defense is with Dwight Howard. That means there will be a lot of dribble penetrations just to see how itchy Howard is in challenging those shots. And don't forget about those lob passes to either Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan.
> Inside: Both Griffin and Jordan are impressive athletes who can jump out of the arena with one leg. But that doesn't necessarily translate to shot-blocking on their one-on-one defense. Pau Gasol and Howard have the size advantage and post-moves to make either one have a miserable time on defense. So why go somewhere else?
> Energy: Let's face it. If the Lakers come out readily to make learning the new offense as their excuse for another lackadaisical effort tonight, they're looking at 0-3. It's that simple.
Tonight vs. Clippers
Tip-off at 7:30 p.m.
TV: TWC SportsNet/Prime Ticket/ESPN
Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN
CLIPPERS: Chauncey Billups (Achilles – out until late November at earliest)
LAKERS: Steve Nash (leg contusion – game-time decision)