Open Thread: Regular Season Game 46

The essentials:
Lakers (29-16) at Wizards (24-21)
12 p.m.
Verizon Center

Last year:
December 17: Wizards 147, Lakers 141
February 3: Lakers 118, Wizards 102

Notable Lakers numbers this season
7th in expected win percentage (.677)
5th in pace factor (95.6 possessions per game).
6th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (111.9)
8th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (106.1).

Key links (drop any others in the comments)
Forum Blue and Gold
Lakers Blog
Lakers Library
Lakers Nation
Nick Young will probably be a little star-struck today.

Starting lineups:
Lakers (this is a pure guess)
PG: Derek Fisher
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Vladimir Radmanovic
PF: Lamar Odom
C: Ronny Turiaf

PG: Antonio Daniels
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Antawn Jamison
C: Brendan Haywood

Tonight's lines:
Lakers at Wizards: I've looked everywhere and I can't find a line for this game, probably because no one wants to put a line down with two key players as game time decisions. So for today's game there's no spread. Just pick who you think will win.
Over/Under on total scoring: 205
Super Bowl XLII (yeah, that's right!): Patriots by 12

So who exactly is playing today?:  By now everyone knows that Pau Gasol is a Laker and Kwame Brown is teaming up with Darko Milicic to form a (insert adjective here) frontline for the Grizzlies.  I don't think I can add anything to the discussion that hasn't been added already, but if you're looking for added analysis, I recommend checking out this post at Forum Blue and Gold, which breaks it down nicely.  While you're at it, make sure to check out this interview with FB&G, most of which was conducted pre-trade.  I'd also encourage you to check out Stephen A. Smith's comments on the trade, since everything he says is important.

With all that said, don't expect to see a lot of the Spaniard today.  Mike Jones (who!) has the scoop:

But don't expect to see the 7-foot Spaniard on the court at Verizon Center on Sunday. Gasol had to fly to L.A. to take a physical and hasn't practiced with the team. Wouldn't be too great an idea to throw him into a complex offense like the Triangle without a little prep work.

If this was any other team, they'd probably just pound it inside to take advantage of the Lakers' lack of bodies in the post.  Unfortunately Brendan sucks, so he won't be able to take advantage of it.

The Lakers are probably going to be shorthanded, are we? All signs point to yes.  Here's Ivan's update on Caron's health:

It looks as though the Wiz will play a fourth straight game without Caron Butler tomorrow when Kobe and the Lakes are at the VC for a rare noon tip. Butler did not practice today but did go through some shooting drills afterward. He didn't say that he was in our out, only said that he's feeling better today than yesterday and will have to see how it is tomorrow.

Coach Eddie Jordan sounded like a guy who wants Butler to miss at least one more. "He didn't do anything that was high impact and physical. He didn't get into a four or five or six minute scrimmage and that's why I'm very hesitant. I have not seen him get contact and I haven't seen him change direction in competition. As a coach, you always like to see a guy get through practice."

How are we going to know if we're slowing down the triangle offense?:  TrueHoop recently interviewed Lakers' assistant coach Kurt Rambis (yes, that Kurt Rambis) about how the Lakers and how the triangle offense works.
If I'm a fan watching on TV, how can I tell if the triangle is "working?" How can I tell if you're running it well?

Any time you see that ball is not being dribbled a lot in the half-court set, it's probably working. If you see the ball being moved around, and players making their respective cuts, those are good signs.

That said, within the triangle, you can do almost anything that you see other teams do, whether it's a high screen and roll or a wing screen and roll.

You can do all that within the triangle. We can do it, however, without yelling out "FIST UP, FIST UP!" and then the opposing coach is screaming to his players "HIGH SCREEN AND ROLL!"

We can get into a high screen and roll through the reactions of our players.

Basically, if the Wizards can cut off the passing lanes and force the Lakers to dribble a lot, then they'll be taking them out of their element.  If you caught the Cavs-Lakers game last Sunday, you saw how the Lakers bogged down offensively when the Cavs forced them to use dribble penetration to move the ball in the 4th quarter.

Bench production: Friday night the Jazz's bench just destroyed the Wizards' bench all night long.  4 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists is acceptable for a bench player, but it's pretty bad if that's the production from the entire bench.  The Lakers are stretched thin at the moment, but they still have one of the better benches in the NBA.   If the Wiz want to stay in this one, the bench is going to have to play much better than they did on Friday.

Key to the game: Your guess is as good as mine.  A lot of it is going to come down to which players suit up tomorrow.  A good recommendation for tomorrow would be to have Stevenson stick tight on Kobe.   He's pretty good.

As always, this an open thread.  If you want to talk about the Lakers-Wizards game, or that other game happening today, you can do it here.

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