FO’ with the FOES: LA LAKERS

This Friday edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” — Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s opponent the defending NBA Champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. 

What would you like us to say about tonight’s game against the World Champion Lakers?  We all know that the 76ers have little shot at winning this one and it’s just a matter of how bad the Lakers want to beat us tonight.  It doesn’t matter that this is game 6 of an eight game road trip for the Lakers.  It doesn’t matter that Ron Artest is hurt and playing the worst basketball of his career.  It doesn’t matter that the Lakers as a team are not playing their best ball right now (3-2 on this road trip; 7-5 over their last 12 games) .  Nor does it matter that Kobe has a broken finger on his hand that is causing issues with his shot.  The Lakers are simply a much, much better team all-around and despite all of the above “problems” LA should win this game easily. 

The Sixers one sliver of hope is the NBA’s version of the trap game theory.  The Lakers have a highly anticipated game at Boston on Sunday afternoon that will be broadcast to a national television audience.  So there is a slim chance that the Lakers could be looking past the lowly Sixers and ahead to their statement game against Boston on Sunday.  Maybe the Sixers get very lucky and LA totally sleep walks through this game and we can steal one, but it’s doubtful and here’s why…

Let’s pretend that by some miracle the Lakers sleep walk through the first quarter of the game and the Sixers are keeping this one close.  The moment the boos start raining down on Kobe from the Wachovia Center seats, the Lower Merion product is going to flip the switch, become “The Black Mamba”, hang a 40-spot on the Sixers terrible defense and carry his squad to the W.  Kobe lives to be heckled and booed — it motivates him.  He also loves sticking it the Philly fans every chance he gets.  This long-shot hypothetical situation would be just another opportunity for him to “cut out their hearts” down at the Wach and he would relish every second of it.  He’s Jordan-esque like that. 

For a little more insight into the Lakers team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Kurt Helin from to answer two questions on LA from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on this Lakers squad from an insider’s perspective. 

Philadunkia :  The Lakers are obviously the defending NBA Champions and they have all the right pieces back for a repeat run, but how do you like their chances of actually repeating given the brutally tough Western Conference competition?

Kurt Helin @ :  Honestly, the top of the East frightens Lakers fans more than the West. The West is deep with good teams — Oklahoma City is 24-21 and has a lot of talent and they are 11th in the West right now — but the only two teams that I think could bother the Lakers are Denver and maybe a hot Dallas team. And even in both those cases, I think the Lakers size up front (Denver) and Kobe (who traditionally destroys Dallas) give the Lakers a big advantage. The Lakers would need to play their best, but unless those teams make a trade I’m not sure they can top the Lakers in a seven-game series. However, Cleveland has beaten the Lakers twice. Boston (if healthy, always the caveat with them) has the size up front to match the Lakers and a PG that the Lakers would not be able to stop. I may be losing faith in Orlando, but they have all the pieces if they can fit them together by the playoffs. Bottom line, Lakers fans think a return to the Finals is very likely, but a win there again may be tougher.

Philadunkia :  There has to be more wrong with Ron Artest’s game then just his shoes, so what do you see as the reason behind Ron-Ron’s recent struggles??

Kurt Helin @ : The plantar fasciiitis Artest is battling is definitely part of this — he is moving a lot more slowly and his already not-that-impressive vertical is now nonexistent. The guy fights through it and tries — he does not roll over — but he has had to ask out of games because of the pain. But you are right, that is not all. On the offensive end, he is still “thinking” his way through the triangle offense. He is not just reacting but clearly not totally comfortable yet. Which is natural, Tex Winter (who designed the offense) said you had to play in it a season to really get it. All the other guys on the team have been doing it for a few seasons, so it’s an adjustment. But he brings a good outside shot and relentlessness on defense that should help in the playoffs.

Two Points of Analysis from Kurt Helin @ :

1)  Lately, Jordan Farmar has been the Lakers best point guard. Fisher is and always will be a Lakers legend for all his playoff heroics (including the Finals last year) but Father Time has caught up with him. In the last 10 games, he is shooting 37%, Farmar is shooting 48% (and is shooting better than Fish from three). Farmar has been the better defender, he has pushed the ball on the break and helped the team get easy baskets. Phil Jackson, however, is hard on him because he still makes bad choices in the offense and tries to do too much. He over dribbles. With the game on the line recently he called Pau Gasol out of the post to come set a high pick for him then went away from the pick for a contested long two. The Lakers need to find something new at PG (likely this summer) but for now Farmar may be the best the team has.

2) Andrew Bynum is pissed that he didn’t make the All Star team, and he could turn that into a good game against Philly. (For the record, he did not deserve to make the All Star team, but he feels he is a center while Amare, Gasol and ZeBo are really power forwards.) Bynum is 22 and plays like it at times — if he doesn’t get offensive touches early (or just misses the shot) he goes into a shell and doesn’t rebound or defend as well. His entire game fluctuates with his offensive confidence, the sign of a young player. But when he is motivated and focused by something (like the game after the Bosh rumors surfaced, or when Gasol went down, or tonight) he responds with really big efforts. When he plays like that, he is an All Star. Someday soon he’ll be consistent enough about it to make the squad.

Thanks to Kurt for his time and insights.

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