Lakers @ Hornets: Clash of the Titans

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Published: November 12, 2008

Lakers(6-0) @ Hornets(4-2)

Off Efficiency: Hornets 110.4(6th), Lakers 111.3(3rd)
Def Efficiency: Hornets 104.7(15th), Lakers 90.6(1st)

At least, I’d call this a Clash of the Titans if the Hornets were playing anywhere near as well as the Lakers are at the moment.  As of right now, this is more like Titan v Really Tall Guy.  Heavy Weight v Almost Heavy Weight.  Obama v McCain.  You see where I’m going.

It’s not that I’m down on the Hornets, though the defense does need improvement.  It’s that the Lakers have not only been beating their opponents, they’ve been embarassing them.  After six games, they have an efficiency differential of 20.7.    The 1995 Bulls, winners of 72 games, had a differential of 13.4.  Granted, the Lakers have been able to feast on the awful Clippers twice, and both Denver and Dallas gave them some trouble, but still, their numbers are scary.

So what do we need to do to beat them?  Keys to the game:

Protect the Boards

The Lakers are crashing the offensive glass and grabbing a league leading 33.3% of available rebounds on that end of the floor.  The Hornets are only allowing 24.8%.  If we can keep the Lakers big men off the glass we’ll limit their second chance points and reduce their Free Throws . . .

Foul Judiciously

The Lakers shooting hasn’t been the best in the world, but it hasn’t mattered because of their strong showing on the offensive boards – and their massive advantage in drawing free throws.  Kobe is getting his usual large number of free throws, but Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza are also proving adept at attacking the basket and drawing more than their fair share.  The Lakers have been getting 31 free throws a game, and only allowing 23 free throws a game.  Based on average FT shooting percentages, that’s a 6 point advantage per game.

Protect the Ball

The Lakers are managing to force 19 turnovers a game, 10 of those being steals.  They’ve only been giving up 15 turnovers a game with 9 outright steals.  New Orleans is doing well as usual on the turnover front, but if we let Trevor Ariza and Kobe Bryant’s fast hands start to disrupt us, we’ll have no chance in this game.

Play our Pace

The Lakers are the 3rd fastest team in the league, generating 95.8 posessions a game.  The Hornets are the 6th slowest in the league, generating 88.8 posessions.  If the Hornets can force this game into a half-court game, we’ll at least be playing Hornets ball, which should generate good shots – something other teams haven’t been able to do as the Lakers are limiting opponents to only 39.5% shooting.

That’s about it – let’s hope our home crowd and the fact the Lakers played last night gives the Hornets a nice boost too.

Injuries:

Hornets: Morris Peterson is Day to Day with a Sore Knee, Sean Marks is – Who cares?
Lakers: None

Positional Analysis

PG: Derek Fisher v Chris Paul
Advantage: Hornets
One thing I can guarantee tonight: Derek Fisher is going to body up Chris Paul and hump him all night long.  Chris Paul will get irritated and start getting nasty.  That can go either way for the Hornets – though usually I think it goes well for them.

SG: Kobe Bryant v Morris Peterson
Advantage: Lakers
Great.  Morris has a bum knee and gets to chase Kobe around.  We’ll probably see Posey here early if Peterson struggles.

SF: Vladimir Radmonovic v Peja Stojakovic
Advantage: Hornets
Vladimir is a space case, and really, really likes to shoot the ball.  He also has a tendency to try and prove that he’s better than Peja when he’s matched up against him.  I guess it’s a Bosnian v Serb thing.  It’s always seemed to be a good thing for us, since Radmonovic’s idea of being an awesome player is jacking up three pointers at really, really stupid moments.

PF: Pau Gasol v David West
Advantage: Even
Honestly, this is only even if West is on his game.  Pau’s per game numbers don’t look that impressive, but when you consider his minutes, you realize that Gasol is playing a really efficient game.  Both guys should score fairly freely on the other.  The problem for West is when you get into the Laker’s bench – which I’ll get to in a moment.

C: Andrew Bynum v Tyson Chandler
Advantage: Even
In the offseason, Bynum was hailed as the next superstar big man.  So far he’s managing 9 points and 9 rebounds a game in 28 minutes.  That is good, and his 2.8 blocks a game is great, but he’s not yet grasped how to keep his fouls down and reach the next level.  The Hornets need to get him in trouble so that Gasol shifts to Center – because Tyson Chandler has proven he can make Gasol’s life very, very hard.  Bynum, however, has already given Tyson trouble in the past with his bulk.  We’ll see what happens.

Bench
Advantage: Lakers in a big way
The Lakers bench is crazy.  Odom would start for 29 of the teams in the league, and he is custom built to make David West’s life a living hell.  Every time West has played the Lakers, the combination of Odom’s speed and length have made it hard for him to get his shots off in the post, most of which are reliant on clever post moves that Odom’s athleticism helps him contest.  As for the rest of the bench – the Lakers have a team reminiscent of those Grizzly teams that rolled out a solid 4-deep second platoon.  The Lakers second unit is made up of Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Sasha Vujacic, and Jordan Farmer – a long, lean greyhound unit that will push relentlessly.  Trevor is proving to be a nasty defender in his own right, and Sasha continuing his dead-eye shooting from last year.  The Phantom Posey isn’t going to be enough.  We’ll need at least two other bench players to contribute something.

I think it’s time for the Lakers to lose. Hornets by 2.

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