It’s been repeatedly said from NBA analysts and from star Kobe Bryant that the Lakers are both “old” and “slow”. Whether or not Kobe is trying to motivate his team or simply just stating the facts is up for debate; but what’s certain is the Lakers are 15-17 and showing little sign of improvement.
Heading into Sunday night’s campaign against the Denver Nuggets, the Lakers will need to prove that they’re lack of youth doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of team defense. Slowing down Denver’s balanced attack, as well as, getting Pau Gasol more integrated into the offense are two keys for the Lakers to come out victorious tonight.
Lakers on Defense
In the first meeting between these two teams, the Nuggets simply torched the Lakers, especially on the offensive glass. The Nuggets didn’t rely on one player to do the damage either - it was a balanced approach in which each Nugget starter scored in double-digits and Corey Brewer came off the bench to score 27 points.
The catalyst of this offensive outburst (a 132 offensive rating) was likely an offensive rebounding barrage, led by Kenneth Faried with nine ORBs, that led to a 43 percent team offensive rebounding percentage. The Nuggets are undoubtedly a quicker team than L.A., but the Lakers can neutralize that quickness by solid defensive rebounding and help defense. After all, the Lakers have two 7-footers manning the middle, so it’s inexcusable to let another opponent grab 20 offensive boards in one game.
What happened to Pau?
Pau Gasol is arguably a future Hall of Famer. He’s one of the best foreign players to ever play in the NBA and has two championship rings to go along with it. However, this year has been his worst to date. His 12.8 points per game and 105 offensive rating are both career lows. And interestingly enough, he also isn’t being used much at all - his 18.8 usage percentage is by far a career low.
It could be Pau’s injuries or D’Antoni’s offense to explain this drop in effectiveness, but the Lakers need Gasol if they want to contend for an NBA title. The Lakers rank sixth in Numberfire’s nERD power rankings (which measures a team’s overall efficiency to predict ultimate winning percentage) without an effective Pau Gasol; just imagine how much better they could be with the real Pau.