The Los Angeles Lakers were 3-1 and on the verge of a successful annual "Grammy's" road trip. That is, until they stepped into the Boston Garden last night and got steamrolled 116-95.
The loss showed they continue to struggle against physical teams, but also showed how valuable Pau Gasol is to the continuity of their team. Without Gasol, who is likely to miss 6-8 weeks from a torn plantar fascia, the Lakers will need to change their game plan to get a higher contribution from others and account for the loss of another post threat.
And while a game against the lowly Bobcats may seem like the perfect opportunity to get back on track, L.A. barely came out on top in their last meeting at Staples. Look for the Lakers' improved defensive rebounding and increased pace to be the key reasons why L.A. might cruise to an easier victory this time around.
Lakers on the Boards
In L.A.'s 101-100 victory over the Bobcats on December 18, Charlotte was able to dominate the offensive glass, which led to easy put backs. Typically a mediocre offensive rebounding team, Charlotte's 39.6 ORB% in that game is roughly 12 percenatage points higher than their average. As a result, Bobcats Byron Mullens and Gerald Henderson went off for 17 and 9 boards respectively, well above their averages.
Without the help Pau on the glass, Dwight Howard and Earl Clark will need to shoulder the load to keep Charlotte off the glass. Don't be surprised if Kobe Bryant becomes more of a low-post threat tonight, posting up smaller guards like Kemba Walker and notching a double-digit rebound total.
Pace, Pace baby
Now with Gasol out for some time, it's likely D'Antoni will revert back to a quicker pace of play to accommodate the loss of the big man. At 94.7 possessions per 48 minutes, the Lakers still get up and down the court, ranking third-quickest in the league. Yet, if you compare the 2012-2013 Lakers to D'Antoni's past squads, the Lakers could be playing.
In D'Antoni's four full seasons as the Suns head man, Phoenix posted pace factors around 96 consistently dubbing his play as "the fastest 7 seconds in basketball". In tonight's game, look for the Lakers to rely on smaller lineups with Kobe playing the 3, Metta World Peace the 4, and at times, Earl Clark playing center. And if L.A., can get some contributions from the bench, they'll hope to run Charlotte out of the gym.