There’s an old saying that says, “Don’t dwell on the past.” Luckily for the Los Angeles Lakers, they were given no time to dwell on Tuesday’s blunder, as they dropped a game to the then-winless Philadelphia 76ers in Kobe Bryant’s final game in his hometown.
Less than 24 hours after one of the lowest, most embarrassing moments in the franchise’s rich history, the Lakers are in the nation’s capital to take on the 7-8 Washington Wizards in game No. 2 of their current eight-game road trip.
Tonight is a back-to-back for the Wizards as well, who are coming off a 97-85 win last night in Cleveland against the Cavaliers. John Wall led the way with a monster performance, pouring in 35 points (14-of-24 shooting) and 10 assists.
Wall and backcourt running mate Bradley Beal will provide another difficult test for the young Lakers duo of D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. Wall’s blazing speed allows him to attack the basket at will in both a half court and transition setting, while Beal — a career 39.8 percent three-point shooter — can make teams pay for giving him space on the perimeter.
The Wizards went with a small lineup against Cleveland, starting Jared Dudley and Otto Porter at the two forward spots. Both players are natural small forwards, but together can provide some more floor spacing and can run the floor. Julius Randle will likely be guarding Porter, given that he is less of a perimeter shooting threat than Dudley. Randle should look to exploit his size and strength advantage tonight.
Marcin Gortat mans the middle for the Wizards, and although he only averages 1.2 blocks per game, he exhibits defensive prowess on a consistent basis. He has a high motor that generally always brings energy on defense and on the glass. This season, the big man is averaging 11.6 points and 8.6 rebounds in 28.4 minutes. Obviously not All-Star caliber numbers, but solid overall.
Keys to Victory
Limit Dribble Penetration: Wall can cause so many problems with his ability to break down a defense by getting into the paint to get easy buckets inside, or free up shooters on the perimeter. The Lakers will need to show a concerted effort to keep him out of the paint, and communicate effectively with their pick and roll defense.
Transition Defense: Are we noticing a theme yet? Take away Wall’s strengths. The 25-year-old is among the league’s best at creating offense in transition, so it will be vital for the Lakers to take care of the basketball and get back on defense. If they can minimize his transition opportunities and maximize the amount of jump shots he has to take in a half court setting, Los Angeles’ odds of picking up the road victory will exponentially increase.
Facilitator Kobe: Despite tonight being the second game in as many nights, Kobe Bryant is going to give it a go, according to Mark Medina. As special as Bryant’s moment was at the beginning of last night’s game, the onslaught of missed shots that immediately ensued was a killer for the Lakers in the second half. Kobe can still provide a big impact on games, but not as the scorer that we have all been accustomed to. Instead, he needs to use the defense’s attention for him to set up his teammates. The same Bryant that we saw against the Detroit Pistons (17 points, nine assists and eight rebounds) is the one that the team needs for the rest of his final season.
Los Angeles Lakers (2-15) at Washington Wizards (7-8)
Tip time: 4:00 PM PST
TV: TWC SportsNet