The Charlotte Bobcats knew that their trip to the Staples Center on Tuesday to play the Los Angeles Lakers was going to present them a difficult task. After all, they already knew they would be facing two of the best players in the NBA in Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, as well as a Lakers team that is in desperate need of beginning a decent winning streak.
Then, news broke this afternoon that Pau Gasol will be returning to the Lakers starting lineup tonight against Charlotte. This only added to the task at hand for the Bobcats. However, they may not be as outmatched by the Lakers as you may think.
Though the Lakers have an advantage in talent and experience, their age has been a factor in their struggles. This older Los Angeles team has struggled with transition defense throughout this season, at least partially because their older legs aren’t cut out to defend that fast-paced style of play.
This plays to one of the strengths of Charlotte. The Bobcats have been wildly inconsistent offensively this season. However, their offense in transition is one of the things that has been steady. Their young guards like Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions and Gerald Henderson all thrive off of speed in the open court. This could potentially cause problems for the Lakers.
Walker in particular is the wildcard in this matchup. Walker is coming off of a 32-point performance against the Orlando Magic and is establishing himself as Charlotte’s most reliable offensive player. More than this, the main strength of his game is his shiftiness and quickness with the ball in his hands.
Against the Lakers, Walker will be matched up with Los Angeles’ point guards that all leave something to be desired. Chris Duhon, Darius Morris and Steve Blake all are sub-par defensive players that I have to imagine will struggle to contain Walker off of the dribble. This will not only open up Walker’s game offensively, but also will open up looks for Ben Gordon beyond the arc and Bismack Biyombo, Byron Mullens and other Bobcats post-players as their matchups will have to help contain Walker.
Yes, the Bobcats will still have to worry about Bryant doing what he does best. He’s one of the most prolific offensive players in the history of the league and there are not many players in the NBA, much less the Bobcats, that can contain him offensively. But Bryant alone can’t win the game.
Yes, the Bobcats will have to tighten up their defense in the post to slow down Howard and Gasol, both of whom are terrific around the rim and in the lane.
However, Charlotte and Walker have strengths that can exploit the Lakers’ weaknesses. I’m not saying that the Bobcats are going to win. I’m saying that you can’t count them out.