For the second time this season, the Lakers (12-14) are shooting for their 4th win in a row and 3rd straight on the road. They will have to get it against one of the most improved teams in the leauge, the Golden State Warriors (18-9), the team that happens to be sitting in front of the purple and gold for the 2nd spot in the Pacific Division.
The Warriors are playing better team basketball on both ends of the court under 2nd-year head coach Mark Jackson. Last year, they averaged 97.8 points per game while allowing 101.2 from their opponents. This season, however, they are putting up 101.3 points and giving up 99.6 points per outing. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games and 4-1 in their last 5 games at the ORACLE Arena.
Much of their offensive success comes from their starting backcourt. Stephen Curry is averaging 20.2 points and 6.4 assists per game this season while teammate Klay Thompson is getting 15.8 points shooting at 45.3% efficiency the last 10 games.
But what makes the Warriors a dangerous opponent for the Lakers is they have plenty of guys who crash the boards and are filled with shooters in every position, Combine that with their willingness to share the ball and play hard on defense, and you can see why they're enjoying so much wins this early in the season.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are starting to emerge from their dire need to have consistency in the way they play defense and maintaining their energy the entire 48 minutes. A lot of that has to do with their supporting roles stepping up their game.
Metta World Peace continues to be an indispensible asset on both sides of the floor while Darius Morris is becoming to be a pest for the other team on the defensive end. But Jodie Meeks has caught the eye of Mike D'Antoni as the one who deserve to be in the starting lineup in place of MWP.
Meeks is often seen giving his all on the defensive end and seems to have understood that his hustle and activity on the floor can be more infectious to the team than his ability to shoot the 3. But D'Antoni continues to experiment with his lineup preferring quicker perimeter players over post-players.
Jordan Hill and Antawn Jamison have now seen their playing time drastically reduced. That hasn't exactly been a popular decision by D'Antoni among Laker fans mainly because Hill has proven that his energy and hard work around the glass is what the team needs more of. And while Jamison is currently struggling with his shooting, he only needs more playing time to get back to becoming a force on offense.
Give credit to D'Antoni for having the guts to make brow-raising changes for the good of winning. But at the end of the day, every decision he makes affects how the Lakers play down the road for better or worse. He still has time right now to try what works and what doesn't. But he has to understand that whatever answers he comes up with better pass the final exam when it's all said and done.
Matchup of the Game
Jodie Meeks vs. Klay Thompson: Two shooters will go at it tonight but Thompson will have the benefit of the doubt that he has the edge in this matchup until Meeks says otherwise. While Meeks has the foot speed advantage, Thompson has the size to shoot over him. Meeks can attack the rim but so can Klay. And it's possible that we'll him post-up on Jodie a few times during the game. This will increase the importance of Meeks making his open shots.
Keys to the Game
> Defense: The Warriors is still isn't a team known for their post-offense. But that doesn't mean the interior defense for the Lakers have the night off considering the Lakers perimeter defense have yet to prove that it's worry-free regardless of what they've done the past 3 games.
> Rebounds: Against a jump-shooting team that gobble up rebounds as a team, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol better not snooze under the rim. But the Lakers also need to work together in boxing out and going after missed shots if they want to secure another win.
> Inside Game: The Lakers still have arguably 2 of the best post-players in the game today...and the Warriors have no single answer for either one of them. Logic says the Lakers should go inside each time down to open up the entire floor for them. But logic isn't always a popular subject for this team. We'll see what happens.
Tonight @ Golden State Warriors
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. (PST)
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW
LAKERS: Steve Blake (abdomen - out until Jan.) and Steve Nash (leg - will return Tuesday)