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Bobcats @ Lakers Preview: 3-on-3 with Forum Blue & Gold

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Lakers Home Game

When: 12/18/2012 at 10:30 PM ET

Where: Live at Staples Center

The Matchup:

Record Offensive
Los Angeles Lakers 11-14 106.6 (5) 102.1 (14) 96.5 (4)
Charlotte 7-16 98.5 (25) 107.3 (30) 95.4 (8)

Previous Meetings:

Los Angeles Lakers: Pau Gasol (QUESTIONABLE)
Charlotte: Tyrus Thomas (OUT)

Starting Lineups

Lakers Bobcats
PG Chris Duhon Kemba Walker
SG Kobe Bryant Gerald Henderson
SF Metta World Peace Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF Pau Gasol Byron Mullens
C Dwight Howard Bismack Biyombo
6th Man Antawn Jamison Ramon Sessions

3-on-3 TrueHoop Network
Darius Soriano of Forum Blue & Gold joins us to preview the Bobcats matchup with the Lakers. You can also follow him on twitter at @forumbluegold.

1. STATS: The Lakers have the highest rebounding rate (53.2) in the league while the Bobcats are dead last (47.4). On that same note, L.A. is top-5 team with their own offensive efficiency (106.6) and Charlotte is 25th (98.5). These two categories, alone, suggest this shouldn’t be too close of a game. Any reason for us to see a divergence from the mean, statistically, for either of these teams tonight?

Darius: If the Lakers had a middle name, it would likely be “divergence from the mean”; their mean performance is actually the result of multiple up and down performances. So, nothing would surprise me with this team. Where things could get interesting is if the Lakers take a lot of three pointers but do not make them — something that would not surprise me, even though they rank well in 3 point FG%. Long rebounds off these misses could result in a lower offensive efficiency, decreased offensive rebounding rate, and give the Bobcats running chances that allow them to exploit L.A.’s transition defense.

Mathew: I don’t think so. The Bobcats really struggle matching up against the NBA’s elite big men, a list Dwight Howard finds himself at the top of. I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled down 25 rebounds tonight.

Greg: It doesn’t look good for the Bobcats, but there are a few small silver linings. The Lakers are very poor at protecting the ball, ranking next-to-last in turnover percentage. That should hopefully give the Bobcats some easy buckets on fast breaks. In addition, the Lakers are below average at defending shots within 5 feet. Opponents convert 59.5% of their shots from that range, which rates 19th in the league. That could help the Bobcats, which needs to get to the rim to score efficiently.

2- HACK A HOWARD: Will the Bobcats take the approach to foul Howard and send him to the foul line for the majority of tonight, or does Dunlap just trust his over-helping style of defense and make the Lakers beat Charlotte from outside?

Darius: The Bobcats would actually be better off not fouling Howard, but instead helping at strategic times. Howard can be turnover prone when swarmed in the paint, especially when he has his back to the basket when the double team comes. Rather than foul him and put him on the line (where he’s made 30-48 FT’s the last 6 games), trying to disrupt his game through hard, quick doubles when he gets the ball deep is likely the better strategy. If you end up fouling him, fine, but don’t just send him there when he’s not in a threatening position.

Mathew: I think Dunlap will stick with his system tonight, though Howard will more than likely still get to the line 15-20 times given his prowess on the offensive boards. The problem with forcing the Lakers to beat you from the outside is that they’re more than capable (7th in the NBA at .374 from behind the arc) of doing so. However, as evidenced by the bevy of 3-point attempts the Bobcats have forced/allowed (depending on how you look at it) up to this point (allowed the most attempts in the League) there’s no reason to believe things will change tonight. Ken Pomeroy is shaking his head.

Greg: Hopefully Dunlap watched footage from the team’s games against Orlando last year; Biyombo’s defense on Howard was one of the brightest spots from an up-and-down rookie season. I’m sure he’ll use the Hack-A-Howard strategically (Diop has six fouls to give, after all!), but I doubt he’ll lean on fouling too much.

3- PICK IT: Lakers or Bobcats? What’s going to sway this game for either team?

Darius: Lakers. They’re likely to get Pau Gasol back tonight which should give them a boost. Add to the fact that the Lakers’ role players typically play better at home and the formula is in place for them to build on the momentum they established by winning the final two games of their road trip.

Mathew: LAKERS. As long as Los Angeles doesn’t turn the ball over 25 times tonight, I don’t really see a way for the Bobcats to escape with a win. Their rebounding advantage should already net them 5-10 more shots than the Bobcats, so it’s conceivable even a turnover-prone night could still result in a W for the home team.

Greg: Lakers. All seven of the Bobcats’ wins this year came against teams with below-average offenses; they just don’t seem to have the personnel to keep up with teams that know how to score. The Lakers obviously know how to do that. I’m mostly hoping Charlotte can avoid a blowout like they suffered in games against OKC and San Antonio.