Last night's humiliating loss to the Celtics was simply one of those nights when the Lakers (23-27) played terrible and Boston couldn't do anything wrong even if they tried. And just like clockwork, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard were blamed for the loss.
But Howard was aggressive on offense and on the boards despite clearly still favoring his right shoulder. Foul trouble prevented him from staying on the floor as long as the team needed him to be. Bryant had zero assists, the first since New Year's day against the 76ers, and of course, his shooting came under fire again as a perpetrator for the loss. Mind you that he only took 15 shots (making 9) and was actually dishing the ball to open teammates. The problem was none of the teammates he passed it to converted any of the shots they've taken. Can't have an assist without your teammate making the shot. Can't win a lot of games when the rest of the team shoots a combined 24-of-64 (37.5%) from the field.
The good thing is the Lakers can still end this 7-game road trip on a high note if they win tonight and on Sunday versus the Heat.
They are considered one of the NBA's doorstep team, but the Charlotte Bobcats (11-37) are actually one of just 2 teams (other than Boston) in the league that does not have a losing record against the purple and gold. Before their heartbreaking 101-100 loss to the Lakers back in Dec. 18, the Bobcats were leading the franchise series, 8-7.
The Lakers were actually down by as much as 18 points in that game before a 28-4 run got them back in the 3rd quarter. Had Gerald Henderson converted a left-hand layup with a just a few ticks left in the game clock, the Lakers lose that game. So, tonight's matchup is by far not an automatic win for L.A. despite Charlotte having the worst record in the league and the worst team playing at home at 6-18.
Just like the previous meeting, the Lakers have to stop Kemba Walker and former Laker Ramon Sessions in order to win this game. Walker leads his team in points (17.5 PPG), assists (5.6 APG) and in steals (1.9 SPG). He is, without a doubt, the heart and soul of the Bobcats. Allowing another 28-point outing from him again, or 20 points from Sessions, will not serve the Lakers well. It's a must for the Lakers to close open lanes to the basket and make both point guards playmakers rather than layup drill instructors.
This is the final meeting of the season for both teams. The Lakers have taken the last 3 albeit at Staples Center. Tonight is the first visit for L.A. at the Time Warner Cable Arena since Feb. 14, 2011. The Lakers have lost the last 3 games in this building and are 2-5 overall on the road against the Bobcats.
Matchup of the Game
Steve Nash vs. Kemba Walker: Nash didn't go up against Walker in the previous game at Staples Center, but it's important for him to fight through screens and make Kemba work on the defensive end. Steve doesn't need to match Walker's scoring production, but he'll need to look for his shot tonight.
Keys to the Game
> Come Out Aggressive: The Lakers were flat from the start in Boston. They're playing one of the youngest teams in the league, so they better be active from the get-go on both ends of the floor.
> Make Your Shots: It's important for the Lakers to look at this game as a chance to make up for their dismal shooting last night. The Bobcats may be the worst defensive team allowing 103.4 points a game, but they can look like gangbusters on that end of the court if the Lakers keep putting up brick after brick.
> Kobe Bryant: We're not sure which Kobe we're going to see tonight. Hopefully, we'll see "Kobe Johnson" who will not hold his teammates' aweful shooting last night against them in this game. If Bryant goes back to being the facilitator, the Lakers should be alright.
Watch Out For
LAKERS: Role Players: I think the Boston game put a really bad taste in everyone's mouth when you consider how far they've come as a team since beating Utah at Staples Center. Look for the role players to have a better game tonight.
BOBCATS: Byron Mullens: This guy was a force for the Bobcats last time. He finished with 13 points, 17 rebounds and 4 blocks. He's an active big body and has a nice touch from behind the arc. Needless to say, the Lakers can't ignore him.
Tonight @ Charlotte Bobcats
Tip-off: 4:00 p.m. (PST)
Time Warner Cable Arena
TV: TWC SportsNet (Southern California)
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW
LAKERS: Pau Gasol (foot) is out indefinitely. Jordan Hill (hip) is out for the season. Dwight Howard (shoulder) is questionnable.
BOBCATS: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (concussion) is game-time decision.