The Lakers will wrap up a four-game road trip when they face-off against the Atlanta Hawks and former Laker, Dwight Howard.
In an early game scheduled for 4:00 PST on Spectrum SportsNet, the team will be looking to end a three-game skid in which they have faced off against teams that had no less than 40 wins last season.
During the madness that was this past offseason, the Hawks lost their long-time center Al Horford but were able to replace him with Dwight Howard. The Lakers will have their hands full with the front court of Paul Millsap and Howard.
Millsap is a versatile forward who is great in almost every aspect of the game, whether its rebounding, defending, scoring from inside/outside, the guy can do it all. Coincidentally, the purple and gold are looking for their young forward Julius Randle to play a similar role.
The Hawks not only had a change at center but they also moved on from long time point guard, Jeff Teague, in order to make room for Dennis Schroder to take the reins.
The fourth-year guard out of Germany had only started 16 career games before this season but showed enough flashes to warrant the switch for Atlanta. The Lakers defense will have to keep its head on a swivel as Schroder has a knack for making highlight reel passes.
Los Angeles has show flashes of the ability to be a problem for teams defensively, but seem to have an issue keeping teams off the glass. Over the first four games of the season the team has only been out-rebounded 175-167 but the rebounds they give up are usually timely and provide opponents with extra possessions late in games.
Controlling the glass will have to be a point of emphasis coming into the match-up as Dwight Howard alone has a 25.9 TRB% and 23.5 ORB%, both of which are among the top of the league to begin the year. They will also have to do this without starting center Timofey Mozgov who is out with an eye injury sustained during Tuesday’s loss to Indiana.
Luckily, in this year’s draft, the Lakers were able to snag the next Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Ivica Zubac, who might get some minutes tonight in the aftermath of Mozgov’s injury.
On the other side of the ball, the Lakers will continue to look to gel their offense together. Luke Walton is just a few games into his career as a head coach and still getting rotations down, which should lead to better execution as the season progresses.
D’Angelo Russell has gotten off to a shaky start to the season, and if the Lakers hope to have a chance tonight, he has got to be effective.
Although he has been able to impact the game in other ways, shooting/scoring the ball is Russell’s biggest weapon and one the team counts on. Fortunately, Russell and others have been blessed with many open shots through the first few games so they should start to fall sooner rather than later.
In order to continue his strong play so far, Randle will need to be on top of his game as going head-to-head against Millsap will prove to be a challenging match-up for the third-year forward.
The Hawks are an unselfish, disciplined and fundamentally sound club that won’t hand too many opportunities to the purple and gold. But if the team has shown anything to begin the season, it has been resiliency, so expect the Lakers to keep the game close and give themselves a chance to win down the stretch.