"Hysterical Strength" - St. Vincent
Game Overview: As most Bobcats fans know (and are quite proud of), the Lakers never seem to handle the Charlotte team with ease. It's compellingly bizarre: a team that often resides with the dregs of the league consistently competing with and more often than not, beating Kobe Bryant's Lakers for the past seven seasons. The Bobcats may only lead the head-to-head series 8-6, but the average point differential is 4.3 points in favor of Charlotte.
Can the Bobcats take advantage of a newer, healthier lineup and keep the trend alive? Anything is possible and stranger things have happened, but it seems unlikely the way the Bobcats have played lately. But we also must take into consideration how much the Lakers have fallen off without Lamar Odom and Phil Jackson.
Odom was not only a talented 6th man that could score in a variety of ways -- he could play point-forward in a necessary role to help get the Lakers' big men going. Without Odom, Derek Fisher is the undisputed point guard option. The problem here is that Fisher can't make an entry pass or much of anything else on offense besides shoot. And then there's the absence Jackson left. The offense runs nowhere near as smoothly and Mike Brown seems to neglect feeding the post, as bad as their guards are. Not to mention how absolutely dreadful their distance shooting is.
Defensively, the Lakers are above average. Derek Fisher's bones are made from smushed-together Activia containers and speedy guards can get through him like wet Kleenex. Kobe may have new knees that they took from a gypsy, but he's still not the defensive stopper he once was. The Lakers' perimeter defense leaves much to be desired, and one Laker fan I spoke to was especially worried about Reggie Williams' shooting. Their frontcourt of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum is intimidating and they back it up, helping force opponents into 59.9 percent shooting at the rim (6th best in the NBA, per HoopData.com).
Key Matchup: Gerald Henderson vs. Kobe Bryant -- The Bobcats will need Henderson's scoring back, and quickly to stay in this game. On defense, Henderson has proven he can be a good defender against Bryant in the past. He's strong, has quick feet and good positioning, quick hands and the athleticism to defend Kobe well. But Kobe is still "that dude." Maybe you are playing the best defense of your life against him. But if he's on, you're going to need more to slow him down; yes, even at age 64 or however old he is (33). Should Henderson frustrate Kobe enough (he can), Kobe might start forcing shots and picking bad spots to take them, scoring inefficiently and shutting off their huge advantage in the frontcourt.
This could be a better game than we expect.
(But now that I've said that, it definitely won't be. Crap)
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And finally, RIP Kendrick Perkins