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Wizards vs. Lakers game preview: Filling the void

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L.A. Lakers (7-7) at Washington (5-8)

November 26, 2013 at 7:00 PM
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
TV: CSN Washington
Radio: 106.7FM The Fan

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Projected starting lineups:

Washington Wizards
C- Marcin Gortat, PF- Nene, SF- Martell Webster, SG- Garrett Temple, PG- John Wall

Los Angeles Lakers
C- Pau Gasol, PF- Jordan Hill, SF- Wesley Johnson, SG- Jodie Meeks, PG- Steve Nash

Key matchup:

Marcin Gortat v. Jordan Hill

’m sure this wasn’t exactly your idea of a key matchup but I believe it is one that will be very important for the Wizards tonight. If there is one player that has been making things click for the Lakers it’s Jordan Hill. The younger guards and small forwards on the team contribute buckets and occasional stops but Jordan Hill has the one thing that nobody else on the team can replicate in the same fashion, which is hustle. Hill finds his way to the offensive glass by constantly maneuvering into position. He dives for loose balls and does a great job of boxing his opponent out. Whether he can cover Gortat out in space remains to be seen, but will inevitably be figured out. Hill does like to play off on forwards that usually start out in the midrange, which means Gortat will have a lot of room to show off his jumpshot that he said he will and has been working on. If Gortat can hit a few early, he can force Hill to play up. Once Gortat gets past Hill, the last line of defense is Pau Gasol, which isn’t too daunting to opposing players anymore. Gasol’s feet haven’t left the floor since Bush was in office. The rest of the Lakers players pose threats from downtown, but once you take that away there isn’t much else they can do. The second chance opportunities that Hill creates are what the Lakers stay afloat by.

Spotlight:

8313_Wall

John Wall. He has been on an offensive tear lately and Wizards fan will feel better about this inconsistent season if he can put up another 20+ point game. Steve Blake is a stout defender but is out of his league in many departments as a guard. Jordan Farmer has more athleticism than Blake but doesn’t have the defensive tenacity that Blake has. Unless the Lakers can play 6-on-5 and use Blake and Farmar both on Wall then there isn’t much reason that Wall shouldn’t get a lot of easy shots for himself. If Gortat can keep Hill out of the paint, there won’t be much resistance if and when Wall drives into the lane. The Lakers have historically struggled against the screen and roll also (maybe not as much with this new team) but if they show that tonight then the Wizards need to run it early and often with Wall and Gortat. If there has been anything the Lakers do historically worse than guarding the P&R, it is rotating defenders. If the Wizards can force the Lakers to inadvertently double off screens, they can have their way offensively when they swing the ball and make the Lakers try to recover. This whole process starts with John Wall and his execution of the pick and roll.

The X-factor:

3-point shooting Both teams like to shoot the three and both of them feed off of that production. If anything, both teams can also become reckless with the “money ball.” One of these teams will get hot from downtown. The other will shoot themselves out of the game. The key tonight will be not forcing the ones that are contested. The key tonight will be who makes the extra pass to get the more “in rhythm” shot from downtown.

Bench production. The Wizards have been getting none of it, namely from the backup guard positions. The Lakers reserves lead the league in bench points with 46.2 per game.

What happened last time they played?

The Wizards beat the Lakers on the road back in March, 103-100. The Lakers built a 16 point lead in the first quarter, which dwindled down to 2 by the 4th quarter. The Wizards took the lead and preserved it on the back of Trevor Ariza’s seven 3-pointers. Wall dished out 16 assists. No Lakers player scored over 21 points. The Lakers have won 6 out of the last 7 meetings at the Verizon Center. The home game the Wizards won out of the set was in 2012. Ironically, the Lakers were also up by 20+ in the game, and the Wizards came back to defeat them late in the 4th quarter.

Who’s hurt?

Chris Kaman remains questionable for L.A. Kobe Bryant will not make his debut in this game. Martell Webster was averaging 14.8 ppg in over 40 mpg since Ariza’s departure from starting to inactive with a hamstring injury, but Ariza is expected back from a hamstring injury. Bradley Beal will be out for an extended time with a leg injury.

Outlook:

Both teams have been wildly inconsistent this season. The Lakers are in an odd, semi-rebuilding mode. They are without their best player and have been relying on a bunch of busted lottery picks from years past that are fighting to restore their careers, or lack thereof.

The Wizards are young and on the rise, lead by their two young lottery picks that are slowly turning into studs but still struggling to find a consistency in their skill sets. Gasol and Gortat have some similarities. Nene and Hill have some similarities in their game. Both coaches have tinkered with various lineups throughout the season. Both teams go into every game with a certain gameplan in mind. However, both teams’ fans have no idea what to expect on a night to night basis from their respective squads. The Lakers have been on fire lately, but have struggled on the road all season. Jerry West used to say that Shaq loved to play at home because the cheering from the crowd hyped him up. He also said Kobe Bryant loved playing on the road because he loved to silence crowds, making shots that instilled looks of despair on the faces of opposing team’s fans.

Kobe Bryant will not be on that court tonight, and none of the Lakers have that killer instinct that helps the team make huge plays on the road. The Wizards have guys like Wall and Beal who are slowly but surely displaying they will lay it all out on the court, win or lose, efficient or not, home or away. Sadly, their homecourt doesn’t help much when the crowd is always full of purple and gold jerseys whenever the Lake Show comes to the Verizon Center.

Bradley Beal's sudden injury leaves Wizards nation stunned and stupefied.
Bradley Beal’s sudden injury leaves Wizards nation stunned and stupefied.

And more sadly, Bradley Beal was a late scratch for this game and will be out an extended amount of time with an injury. If the Lakers can get hot from downtown early, then they could build an insurmountable lead. If the Wizards can take that dimension away from the Lakers offense, they stand a better chance. If Beal was playing tonight, I’d give a major advantage to the Wizards in this one. Luckily, Ariza could re-enter the lineup tonight. The Ariza/Webster combo has been very productive for the Wizards, which is a silver lining of sorts. The question is, will Wittman put them on the floor at the same time? Your guess is as good as mine. Filling the void of Bradley Beal’s reliable production could take a few games for the Wizards to figure out.

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