There’s nothing like the big stage of Hollywood.
For the Charlotte Bobcats, their losing streak is a bad movie they’re hoping ends tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers are coming off their second straight win at Philadelphia for a one-game stint back home, and hoping to for more encouraging signs tonight. Pau Gasol will return to the lineup, after missing games with knee tendonitis. Gasol has been cleared to play without any minute limits, as he’ll rejoin Dwight Howard to form a tough Lakers frontcourt.
Gasol is struggling this season, averaging just 12.6ppg, 8.8reb on 42% from the field with a 15 PER. A game against the Bobcats though could help him get out of his slump, as the Bobcats are 28th in opponents frontcourt scoring. Combine that with the Bobcats being 30th in frontcourt scoring, and the Lakers size and frontcourt scoring could be a big problem tonight for Charlotte.
Gasol, who’s at the center of trade rumors because of his struggles, will be the Lakers player to watch.
The Bobcats defense will be the biggest concern, as the team has given up 100 or more points for nine straight games. Defending won’t get any easier on the road, against a Lakers team that’s scoring the ball very well. The defensive matchup I’m looking forward to is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor getting opportunities to defend Kobe Bryant. Both MKG and Taylor are good individual defenders, and it will be the ultimate challenge as rookies to take on Bryant, who’s having a stellar year.
That leaves the Bobcats offense, which hasn’t been good either, but will be facing a Lakers defense that’s been mediocre under new head coach Mike D’Antoni. This month the Lakers have given up 100 or more five times in eight games. If the Bobcats are going to test the Lakers offense, it will be through their league-leading backcourt scoring and Kemba Walker.
Walker is averaging just under 22ppg this month on 48.5% shooting and is the Bobcats player to watch tonight. Walker’s offensive turnaround this season has been a great addition to the Bobcats after struggling with efficiency and consistency last year. He should be able to take advantage of the Lakers point guards defensively, but there’s also the possibility that Metta World Peace or Kobe Bryant guards him defensively should he start being too much to handle.
The Bobcats could also use a big game from Ramon Sessions or Ben Gordon, who’ve struggled as of late. Sessions will make his return to Los Angeles, after leaving the team in free agency. The Lakers decided not to re-sign Sessions, and go a different route in Steve Nash, who’s currently out with an injury. Sessions played well as a Laker for the last half of the 2011-12 season, and could use a game like this as a boost for what’s been a rough December. Sessions is shooting just under 39% from the field in December.
Playing the Lakers has always been one of the more interesting matchups for the Bobcats, so we’ll see how their lone visit to Hollywood turns out tonight at 10:30 p.m.