FO’ with the FOES: LA LAKERS

This Friday , over-hyped blizzard 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 Champion Los Angeles Lakers. 

Is it wrong to root against Philadunkia’s home team?  Is it even more of a basketball sin to hope that the 76ers (22-35) get their doors blown off by the Lakers tonight?  Well if it is wrong, then we don’t want to be right.  Here’s why…We have to figure that a blow out loss to the Lakers tonight would be the final nail in Eddie Jordan’s coffin.  Numerous Sixers insiders and beat writers were proclaiming this current road trip, which ends against the Lakers tonight, as some sort of last stand for Jordan.  If the Sixers did well on this trip, then Jordan holds onto his job until the end of the year.  If the Sixers soil the bed on this trip then allegedly Jordan is done.

Well, if the Sixers get pummeled tonight, then the team would end this road trip 1-3 and it would not be a pretty 1-3 either.  In Chicago the Sixers got simply embarrassed to the tune of a 32-point beat down.  Then at Golden State, the Sixers let a 24-point 2nd half lead slip away to the pathetic Warriors only to miraculously pull the game out by the skin of their teeth.  In Phoenix the next night, Jordan’s crew got worked by the Suns.  Don’t be fooled by the 106-95 final score, it was never that close in the second half.  The Suns ran out to a 22-point lead in the 3rd Q, thanks to all-world guard Steve Nash and his maestro-like skills at the helm of the Suns offense.  Nash did not see a single tick in the 4th Q and Amare played only 2:07 in fourth, yet the Sixers never got closer then 11 points.

If you combine the above evidence with a lopsided loss to the Lakers tonight, then in our opinion Jordan’s demise would finally be sealed.  Hallelujah !!  We for one have been calling for his firing since right before New Year’s.  So if we have to root against the Sixers tonight to rid ourselves of Eddie Jordan and begin to move the 76ers ever so slightly forward, then that’s what we’re going to do and we’ll do it with passion.

For a little more insight into the Lakers team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Darius Soriano 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 :  Since we last saw Lakers at the end of January, Kobe & Co. have had an interesting stretch.  The LAL are 7-4 in their last 11, with losses to teams they could face in the post season like Boston, Dallas and Denver; but they also played without Kobe for a 5 game stretch which obviously was huge.  What is your breakdown of the Lakers recent play and the results?

Darius Soriano @ :  The Last 11 games have been interesting to say the least.  In that time we’ve beaten and lost to both Boston and Memphis, played 5 games without Kobe (winning 4), and also seen Kobe hit a game winner (first Boston game) before his absence and another game winner (2nd Memphis game) on his first night back. 

I think the performance of the team over that stretch is up and down which is indicative of the team’s record over that stretch.  The loss to Denver was a low point for this team as they just got torched down the stretch.  But then, the very next night, the Lakers win in Portland for the first time in 10 games and do it without Kobe for the entire game, without Bynum for the entire 2nd half, and do it in convincing fashion by 17 points.  I thought that Portland game was a spring board of sorts for the other players on the team andthey reeled off 3 more wins after Portland (including a game against the Spurs and a red hot Jazz) and fought hard against Boston while just falling short.  So, I was quite pleased with that stretch of Kobe-less basketball as I thought the team showed true grit and mettle and really played together to win some tough games.

Overall, I’ve been pleased with the Lakers play – especially on defense, but I’d be lying if I said I was completely comfortable with where the team is at at this point in the season.  Yes, the stellar record is there and I still do think that this team is one of the 2 or 3 teams that can win the title (along with Cleveland and Denver for starters), but I’d like to see more consisentcy from night to night in both offensive execution and in a focus on doing the little things that win games.

Philadunkia :  The Sixers beat the Lakers in LA during 2008-09 and we gave Phil’s group a serious scare back in January at our place, but thanks to the refs you pulled it out.  So, any chance you’re worried about the Lakers losing this one tonight? 

Darius Soriano @ :  I’ll just ignore the comment about the refs if that’s okay.  Personally, I respect all opponents.  I always say that the other team is made up of professional players too; they have coaches that watch tape and scout too.  So, on any given night the Lakers can and will be challenged – especially since they are the reigning champs andare bound to get the opposition’s best effort.  No team has ever gone 82-0, so losses are inevitable and on any given night the other team will make the plays that beat you.

However, tonight is a night where the Lakers do have more talent and several matchups in their favor.  I think the key for a Lakers win is working the ball inside to Pau and Bynum and letting them work against Brand and Dalembert.  The other key is taking care of the ball on offense and not making silly passes that lead to open court opportunities for the Sixers.  However, if the Lakers guards decide that they’d prefer to over dribble and take long jumpshots instead of feeding the post or if the Lakers are sloppy with post entry passes or on ball reversals, I could see this game being close.  And as we saw last season when Philly visited LA, a close game can lead to that final shot by the opposition that sinks you.

Two Points of Analysis from Darius  @ :

1)  The Lakers are not the offensive juggernaut of years past.  They have hovered around 10th in offensive efficiency all season, whereas in the last two seasons they were in the top 5.  Most people think of Kobe and Pau and the Triangle offense and just think that we outscore teams to earn our wins, but that is just not the case this season.  The Lakers do have individual talent that can hurt you on offense with Kobe, Pau, and Bynum.  But for the most part, the fluidness of the Triangle has been missing for long stretches this season and it has effected the Lakers offensive efficiency.

 2) The flipside of that coin is that the Lakers are a top notch defensive team.  LA is currently tied with Boston as the top defensive team in the league when measured by points per 100 possessions.  A lot of people have thought of the Lakers as a soft or finesse team and one that doesn’t particulary excel at defense.  And while the Lakers are not the most physically imposing team, they do have strong individual defenders (espcecially with the addition of Artest) and they have played much better team defense this season by using their incredible length and size to contest shots in the paint while also closing out on shooters with more consistency than in years past.

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