Have the Lakers become giant killers? When the schedule was released, many a pessimistic Lakers fan predicted a doomed start for the Lakers sans Kobe Bryant. If you had told them they’d be at .500 through six games, they’d likely had told the Lakers had wins over the scrubs. Instead, the Lakers have knocked off playoff and title contenders in the Clippers (opening night) and the Rockets (last night).
The emotions of last night were high, no matter if no one would admit. You could see the Lakers reaction after Steve Blake’s dagger three pointer to give the Lakers a lead with 1.3 seconds remaining. They cared about that game. They wanted to prove to Dwight Howard he made the wrong decision. And for one night, they did just that.
But now, the Lakers have an entirely different test in front of them. With the Pelicans, the Lakers will find themselves matched up against one of the NBA’s best big men early on in this season. Anthony Davis is averaging 21.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks a game. With Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman lining up against Davis, his eyes certainly should be lighting up.
It doesn’t get any better for the purple and gold on the perimeter as they’ll see a healthy dose of Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Jrue Holiday, the latter two new additions during the summer. The trio of guards are averaging 39.2 points and 12.2 assists a night and are surely salivating at the thoughts of going against the putrid Lakers defense.
X-FACTOR OF THE NIGHT
Nick Young. Young came to L.A. this summer at a discount because he wanted to come home. While it was met with mixed feelings, his signing was certainly a good one considering the price. However, never-shy wingman hasn’t produced this season, or at least not to the level he’s capable of. His 21-point performance Tuesday night came in a blowout, rendering it essentially meaningless. After an emotionally draining win last night, the Lakers will need some form of a pick-me-up, and Young has that ability. Whether he’s coming off the bench or in the starting lineup, Young needs to play smart and under control tonight.
NUMBER OF THE NIGHT
36.5. That’s the number of points the Lakers are giving up, on average, to starting backcourts. This has been highlighted by Klay Thompson’s 38 points (15-19 FG), Kyle Korver’s 22 points (6-6 from three), Monta Ellis’ 30 points (11-14 FG), and last night’s 35 points from James Harden (14-16 FT). We know the Lakers aren’t going to be defensive juggernauts, nor do we expect them to. But right now, they’re playing matador defense, letting guards drive to the rim. And considering Pau Gasol has shown many times he has no interest in challenging anyone at the rim, the drives usually end in a pretty routine finish. Going against the aforementioned three-headed-monster in the backcourt of New Orleans tonight, they absolutely have to get that under control.
Call me a pessimist. I’ve yet to predict a Lakers victory, but does anyone know what to expect out of this squad? They get blown out by Golden State and Dallas on the road, then beat the Rockets in Houston. They blowout the Spurs, but need late-game heroics to down the Hawks. I’d like to tell you I know what will happen tonight, but no one does. My prediction is that too much of Anthony Davis and too much of the Pelicans guards will lead to fairly easy win by NOLA, but you can’t make me put money on that. For now, I’ll say a 103-98 win for the Pelicans.