In a chain of events that nobody could see coming, the Los Angeles Lakers and their revamped roster have opened the season 0-2. After losing to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, the team traveled to Portland Wednesday and not only lost the game 116-106, but also lost point guard Steve Nash to a bruised calf.
Needless to say, Friday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers just got a lot more important for Kobe Bryant and his teammates. Yet, despite their slow start, the Lakers can easily come away with a victory.
Granted, both the Lakers and Clippers have a lot to play for in their first game against one another. The Lakers are looking to avoid an 0-3 start, and the Clippers want to build off of their tremendous 106-94 road victory against the Denver Nuggets. Lob City was in full effect as Blake Griffin finished with a double-double and Chris Paul dished out 12 assists.
Though it may not seem like it at the moment, the Lakers are a far stronger team than their rivals. They can play stronger defense than the Clips and also feature a more balanced attack on offense now that Howard and Nash are on the team, though Nash's status for Friday remains uncertain.
More importantly, the Lakers won the season series against the Clippers last year, two games to one. That includes a game in which Paul and Pau Gasol shared a tense moment that further fueled the rivalry.
However, simply building off of last year's renewed rivalry is not how the Lakers can beat the Clippers. To come away with the victory, the solution is simple: take full advantage of Lob City's predictable offense.
Don't get me wrong—the Clippers are a talented team and a top contender, but they're an offensive team whose sole defense lies with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan. Griffin may be a lock for a double-double each night, but he is slow on his feet and has a hard time keeping up with more athletic power forwards like Gasol.
While the key to the Lakers beating the Clippers is playing good defense, the real challenge lies within keeping up with them on the scoreboard.
Though this goes against everything head coach Mike Brown may stand for, the only way that this can happen is to let Steve Nash, assuming he plays, be Steve Nash. For those who haven't followed Nash's career, this means running a fast break offense from the get go and allowing him to take his shots as he sees fit.
Look at it this way. Nash is talented, but his Lakers tenure thus far has been disappointing. Over two games, he has averaged just 4.5 points and four assists while logging 25 minutes per contest. Holding career field goal percentages of 49 percent from the floor and 43 percent from long range, he has made just 33 percent of his shots this year while shooting a mere 20 percent from downtown.
Unfortunately, the reason for Nash's struggles with the Lakers are because he just doesn't fit Mike Brown's system. The veteran floor general is an offense-first player who does best in a faster game, and Brown is more defense-oriented. Seeing as how Nash has averaged less than a steal per game for his career, this is a problem.
Thus, though it may be hard for Brown to do, he needs to let Nash be Nash in order to beat the Clippers Friday night. Nothing against the Princeton offense, but it becomes just as predictable as the Clippers' offense. Seeing as how the Clips made a key addition in guard Jamal Crawford during the offseason, this is a game that the Lakers cannot afford to lose.
By trusting Nash with the offense and not just choosing whether it will be the Kobe/Dwight/Pau show on any given night, only then will the Lakers get back on track.