The Lakers enter the home stretch of the season with an east coast swing this weekend. They start with a back to back on Thursday and Friday against Miami and Charlotte respectively. After a day of rest, the Lakers face an Orlando team that they beat in January despite Kobe Bryant shooting 4 for 19. Let’s take a closer look at each of these matchups:
Thursday, Miami Heat
Most of us can clearly remember the last time these two teams squared off- Kobe drained what he called his “luckiest shot” to win the game as the buzzer sounded. Dwarfed by the game-winning shot was the fact that the Lakers were out-rebounded (47-43), out-shot (48.7%-43%) and out-assisted (21-19) by the Heat. D-Wade was just shy of a triple double with 26 points, 8 rebounds and 9 dimes. Kobe shot just under 50% from the field and made two of three 3′s. With Kobe’s recent shooting problems, it becomes questionable whether or not he can match his 33 points from the last meeting and/or save the team with a game-winning “lucky” shot. This matchup is much tougher than most people think it is.
Friday, Charlotte Bobcats
The Lakers beat the Bobcats February 3rd at the Staples Center. Kobe went 2-12 from the field for only 5 points and Lamar Odom led the team in points with 19. The Lakers out-assisted the Bobcats 24-15 but were out-rebounded by the Bobcats 45-38 with Gerald Wallace on the bench with an injury. The Lakers main source of victory was the turnover ratio; the Lakers only gave up the ball 7 times while the Bobcats gave it up 13 times. With the Lakers winning at home against this team by only 2 points, watch out for this trap game between two other opponents percieved as more difficult. Add Gerald Wallace to the floor and this becomes a VERY different matchup than the first meeting.
Sunday, Orlando Magic
In an interesting turn of events, fan-favorite Shannon Brown emerged as the Lakers main source of points against last years Eastern Conference Champion in the rematch of the 2009 finals. Brown‘s 22 points doubled Bryant’s 11, and Andrew Bynum only contributed 8 points in 21 minutes. Due to the surging Shannon Brown and a solid effort from Farmar and Odom, the Lakers bench scored 42 points while the Magic’s bench only scored 15. The Lakers first team struggled against the Magic, even going 6+ minutes without a basket at one point on 11 missed shots in a row. That produced a 20-2 run that erased what had been a 13 point lead for the Lakers earlier in the game. It is worth noting that this game starts at 11:30am PST. The Lakers will be on day 5 of their east coast trip, but 11:30am is simply 8 hours earlier than they are used to playing.