Originally written on Purple and Gold Blog | Last updated 2/6/12
The Lakers (14-10) will try to get their second win in this 6-game roadie against the Philadelphia 76ers (17-7) but they will have to do it without their head coach. Mike Brown was suspended by the NBA for tonight's game for bumping referee Zach Zarba in his protest for what he believed is a non-call on Earl Watson as he stripped Pau Gasol of the ball during Saturday's loss in Utah. Assistant coach John Keuster is slated to take Brown's place.
Despite the team's Jekyll and Hyde personality this season, Kobe Bryant still thinks the Lakers are going to be title contenders come playoff time. That may be a possibility but that won't happen unless the core takes it upon themselves to show what it takes to win it all every single game. By doing that, there's a great chance that the entire team will develop a gritty yet fluid identity necessary to be that contender Kobe is talking about.
With already 24 games out of 66 total in the record book, time is fast becoming a commodity the Lakers won't have.
After 2 frustrating years under Doug Collins, the 76ers are showing signs of life this season by capturing first place in the Atlantic Division and third in the east overall. Much of that success come from their surprising defense that happens to be tops in the league allowing just 86.5 points per game.
The Lakers are putting up 93.3 (19th) points per game and have only reached at least 100 only 3 times so far. Need less to say, they better make their shots consistently tonight or this game could turn out another ugly one for them.
Lou Williams leads Philly in points (15.1 PPG) with Andrew Igoudala at the top of the steals (1.8 SPG) and in assists (5.2 APG) and Spencer Hawes their block expert (1.6 BPG) and best rebounder (8.5 RPG).
With Brown absent, Kobe, Gasol and Andrew Bynum need to raise their level of play and make sure the team plays the game the way Brown would want them to — with energy, toughness and smarts. In fact, that's also how Laker fans want them to play every minute of the game. We'll see how the Lakers take on that challenge tonight.
The 76ers are coming off of an 11-point victory in Atlanta and are 4-1 overall in their last 5 games. They have a record of 12-3 at home.
The purple and gold are also 3-5 in their last 5 games but are a disappointing 3-8 away from home. However, the Lakers have taken the last 2 season series against the 76ers and haven't lost in Philadelphia since 2009.
Matchup of the Game
Kobe Bryant vs. Andre Igoudala: They play different positions but it's hard to think that Collins will allow Jodie Meeks defend Bryant unless he puts Thaddeus Young in the starting lineup. But no matter who eventually guards him, Kobe will need to be patient but aggressive on offense since he should see plenty of doubles and challenged shots tonight. Surpassing 'ol buddy Shaquille O'Neal as the NBA's 5th all-time leading scorer by getting at least 24 points shouldn't be his priority unless the rest of the team sleeps on offense again.
Keys for the Lakers
1. Offense: Facing the best defense require lots of ball movement, crisp passing, and aggressiveness on offense. The Lakers must work inside-out to pressure Philly from stopping their post-players first before they can even worry about Bryant around the perimeter.
2. Role Players: Whether it's Metta World Peace, Derek Fisher or the entire bench, someone else need to have a big game other than the Big 3 to carve out a win.
3. Boards: Whether it's crashing the boards or doing the fundamentals around the basket, the Lakers cannot allow the opposition to win the battle in the glass on both sides of the floor. But this doesn't apply to just Pau and Andrew.
@ Philadelphia 76ers
Tonight at 4:00 p.m. (PST)
TV: KCAL (Los Angeles)
Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN
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