This Monday 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 key upcoming 76ers games — features tonight’s opponent, the dreaded Los Angeles Lakers.
The Sixers — winning 5 of their last 6 — are about as hot as they have ever been over the last two years and outside of the 3rd and 4th quarters against the Heat, we really like the way the team is playing right now. We’re getting contributions from everyone of offense – including the rookies Lavoy Allen and “Big Nik”. On the other end of the court, we are playing the usual lights out defense that Collins preaches.
Throw in the fact that this is the 3rd game in a 6-game east road swing for the LAL as well as this stat — the LAL are 3-8 on the road this season — and we really like our chances of seeing the Sixers get their 13th home victory of the year tonight.
That being said, this will not be an easy win for Philadunkia’s home team to grab. There are a couple reasons for that statement. The first is that this group of Lakers has simply owned the Sixers in recent years. The Lakers have won 5 of the last 6 between the two teams, beat the Sixers twice last year and have won four straight at the Wells Fargo Center. So history is not on the 7-6’s side in this match-up. Of course the Sixers team that will take the court tonight vs. the LAL is vastly different then the one LA has faced in recent years, so this could be the night LA’s dominance of this Sixers roster comes to an end.
The second is the obvious one — that guy named Kobe. “The Black Mamba” loves to put up big numbers in front of the perceived “hometown crowd” that hates him so much. Much like MJ he feeds of the hatred spewing from the seats at the WFC and it drives him to put the dagger in our hearts every trip to Philly. Last season the Sixers tried Holiday, Iguodala and others on Kobe in an effort to slow him down and were met with mixed results. At the WFC in early December last season, the Sixers (mostly Iguodala) held Kobe to 9 points on 3-11 shooting. Then late last December in LA, Kobe rang the Sixers up for 33 & 4 when Dre missed the game because of injury. For the record that’s a 21 ppg. average vs. the Sixers in 2010-11. We think the 9 point effort was a rare happening for #24 in blue and gold and you know the moment the booing starts tonight you’ll see the fire in Kobe’s eyes and a wicked grin on his face – so look for another big run from Kobe tonight.
The third reason the Sixers will need a max effort tonight in order to pull of a win is the two headed monster that is the Lakers frontcourt. Andrew Bynum is back and looks great and Pau Gasol has been rock solid this season. Gasol absolutely owned the Sixers during 2010-11 as he averaged 20 & 10.5 in the two games between the teams in last year. In the first game last season Bynum had 8 & 15. Because of injury, Bynum was a non-factor in the second run last year. Just as an FYI, Bynum is hitting for 21 & 10 in his last four games. The stats say the Sixers interior defense has improved only slightly since last year, which is not good, thus we expect the Lakers to pound the ball inside and let these two go to work. Unless Hawes, Brand, Allen and Vucevic can make a surprising stand against the Laker bigs, that LAL game plan will spell tough sledding for the Sixers.
Still if the Sixers can slow down one of these two facets of the Lakers attack, while also getting out on the break and running vs. the ancient Lakers and playing up to the solid overall standards they have established for themselves over this 2011-12, a win is an absolute possibility tonight.
For a little more insight into the Lakers team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Brian Kamenetzky from ESPNLA.com / Land O’Lakers to answer four questions on this Lakers squad from an insider’s perspective
Philadunkia: While LA has won 3-of-their-last-4 how concerned are you that the Lakers are one more losing streak away from imploding?
Brian Kamenetzky from ESPNLA.com / Land O’Lakers: Well, if nothing else Lakers fans are probably one more losing streak from imploding. There is a palpable sense of nervousness around town, because people still are conditioned for titles but understand this roster simply doesn’t have enough talent as currently constructed to get it done. The top three is still Larry O’Brien caliber, with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum, but when on any given night Andrew Goudelock might prove to be your fourth best player… well, that’s a problem. The Lakers have a huge gap in between their high end talent and the role guys. Outside Bryant, particularly with Steve Blake out they don’t have anyone who can put the ball on the floor and create space for energy players like Matt Barnes and Josh McRoberts, or shooters like Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono.
As a result, they’ve had to lean on Goudelock, an undersized second round pick, to provide offense with the second unit.
As for the team, right now they’re holding it together, but after the loss inUtah,Kobecalled the team old and slow. It’s not the first time he said it, either. He knows they need help. Everyone knows they need help. But right now, the team seems to be in a holding pattern, trying to see what happens with Dwight Howard.
Philadunkia: Which Lakers team will the Sixers see on Monday – the one that lost at Milwaukee or the one that beat what we think is a very, very solid Nuggets team in Denver?
Brian Kamenetzky from ESPNLA.com / Land O’Lakers: They’ll come out hard, and I think will show good energy and effort. Even Saturday inUtah, when they ran out of gas in the second half and lost some composure down the stretch, the Lakers still played hard throughout. The real keys will be outside shooting and bench scoring. When they hit from the perimeter, which isn’t very often, the offense suddenly looks pretty good and the Lakers can put up some points. when the bench puts up points, which isn’t very often, again they put up some points. Too often, though, particularly on the road, the Lakers are completely reliant onKobe, Bynum, and Gasol to score. If they don’t, the result basically becomes a referendum onL.A.’s defense that night.
Philadunkia: Is Metta cooked? Is Mike Brown not using him correctly? Or is there some other explanation for his “struggles” this season?
Brian Kamenetzky from ESPNLA.com / Land O’Lakers: He’s shown some signs of late, at least on the defensive end. Against the Clippers last week he was huge, and he completely shut down Danilo Gallinari Friday night in Denver, then forced Al Harrington into a very difficult shot on the Nuggets’ last possession of the game. It helps that he’s finally in shape, or at least as close to it as he’ll likely get. Dude was way too heavy early on. Still, his days of guarding anyone on the floor are over, though at his age that’s not necessarily a criticism, and MWP’s days as an offensive weapon appear to be over. He’s shooting 33 percent from the floor, and 16.7 percent from downtown. He can still pass a little, and at least going to his left is surprisingly effective putting the ball on the floor, but Metta can’t finish at the rim to save his life (or anyone else’s).
The Lakers tried making him a focal point of the second unit, hoping the extra responsibility on offense would keep him engaged and goose that group’s output. It didn’t work. So at this point, it’s fair to say it’s not Mike Brown’s problem, nor was it Phil Jackson’s problem. The guy just isn’t a productive offensive player anymore, meaning his defense has to be nails night in and night out or Metta becomes a real liability.
Philadunkia: Jason Kapono could not get a second of burn here in Philly. How on earth is he getting 12 mpg in LA?
Brian Kamenetzky from ESPNLA.com / Land O’Lakers: Necessity, meet mother of invention.
Actually, in theory Kapono represents exactly the sort of player the Lakers need. They’ve been awful on the perimeter in the last few seasons, and obviously he can stand out on the 3-point line and do good things. Except the Lakers don’t have the personnel to use him effectively. He requires someone to drive, draw a defense, and kick to the open shooter.
Derek Fisher ain’t that guy, Andrew Goudelock is a rookie, Steve Blake is hurt. Kobe can do it, but it’s not always easy to have the two of them on the floor together.
With last year’s roster, where someone like Lamar Odom or (to a much lesser extent)
Shannon Brown could create a little and get inside a defense, Kapono would probably have been pretty useful. Lord knows the Lakers got plenty of outside shots.
But the bottom line is the Lakers don’t have a ton of high end talent. That helps as much as anything.