According to coach Mike D’Antoni, the Los Angeles Lakers are 1-0 on the season. Following Friday night’s game against Oklahoma City, D’Antoni told his team, “…Our season starts Sunday”.
The Lakers responded with a win over Cleveland on Sunday night, which ended the Lakers six-game losing streak. In the win, Dwight Howard returned to the floor putting up 22 points, and pulling down 14 rebounds. It is imperative that Howard gets to 100% healthy if the Lakers still dream of making the playoffs, much less winning the NBA Finals. Howard’s production on offense will be a plus but his dominance on defense is what the Lakers have played without thus far this season. D’Antoni leaned on Kobe Bryant to lead the Lakers on defense Sunday night, putting Bryant on Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving. Bryant held Irving to 15 points and 7 assists and will probably guard Brandon Jennings or Monte Ellis tonight. Despite the relief of a much needed win, it was a victory over an inexperienced Cleveland squad.
Tonight, the Lakers have a tougher assignment, the Milwaukee Bucks who sit in the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee is led by one of the best backcourt duos in the league in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. The Bucks are a solid team that sits in the middle of the NBA in most statistical rankings, 15th in points per game (96.5), 10th in rebounds (43.2), 15th in assists (21.9), and 16th in points allowed (97.4). They have played inconsistently but have big wins over teams like Boston, Brooklyn, Miami, and Chicago. The Lakers defense must key on Brandon Jennings, the Los Angeles native, who averages 18.5 points, 5.9 assists, and 2.0 steals per game. Los Angeles has notoriously had trouble with speedy point guards, especially ones that can shoot, like Jennings.
The Lakers will again be without Pau Gasol, who has yet to be cleared to play after suffering a concussion on January 6. Earl Clark will once again start at PF in place of Gasol. Clark has stepped-up tremendously in place of Gasol, scoring 10.4 points, and 8.2 rebounds in the last 5 games. Los Angeles needs to get a win tonight to continue building momentum going into the matchup with the Miami Heat on Thursday night. The game tonight tips-off at 7:30PM PT at Staples Center on TWC SportsNet and ESPNLA 710.
#15 World Peace SF #12 Mbah a Moute
#6 Clark PF #7 Ilyasova
#12 Howard C #8 Sanders
#24 Bryant SG #11 Ellis
#10 Nash PG #3 JenningsTags: Basketball, Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, ESPN, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, NBA, Oklahoma City, Pau Gasol, Staples Center