Lakers guard Kobe Bryant adjusts his protective mask during the first half… (Jeff Kowalsky / EPA / March…)
1. The Lakers need to bring better focus against Washington. The Lakers overreacted to their signature win Sunday against the Miami Heat. They can't overreact to their 88-85 overtime loss Tuesday to the Detroit Pistons, but they need to bring sharper focus.
Questionable shot selection, stagnant ball movement and poor transition defense all caught up to the Lakers, and allowed bottom-dwelling Detroit contending in a game that should've been a blowout. Even against the lowly Wizards, the Lakers can't afford to stray away from playing fundamental basketball. It's a huge reason why they entered last night's game against Detroit winning eight of their last ten.
2. How much will fatigue be an issue? The Lakers hardly enter tonight's game with fresh legs. Bryant, who rarely complains about fatigue, admitted feeling tired against Detroit. Lakers Coach Mike Brown played his Big Three at least 40 minutes, including Bryant (42), Andrew Bynum (41) and Pau Gasol (40). And they're coming playing on the second night of a back-to-back. The Lakers are 4-9 in those games this season for that very reason.
3. What further adjustments does Bryant need to make on his mask? Bryant wore a lighter black mask against Detroit because he said he felt like he was in a "sauna" when he wore the clear plastic one. But Bryant went one-of-six in the new mask, which often slipped off of his face. Bryant then opted for a lighter version of the clear mask, but his seven-of-20 clip wearing that one hardly made things better. Don't be surprised if Bryant makes further tinkerings.
4. The Lakers will have their hands full with John Wall. His numbers have jumped substantially from January to February in both points (16.6, 19.2), field-goal percentage (41.4%, 48%) and assists (7.3, 8.6). So, as always, it's likely the Lakers will face another challenge at defending their opponent's backcourt. It's a much better strategy for the Lakers to force Wall into hitting jumpers than driving to the basket. According to Hoopdata, Wall has shot 59% from the rim, but only 38.9% in shots from 16-23 feet.
5. Nick Young could have a big performance. In his five-year NBA career, the USC product has averaged 25 points per game on 48.7% shooting against the Lakers. That far exceeds his career average of 11. 5 points on 43.2%. Even if he remains a one-dimensional player, it wouldn't be surprising if Young suddenly looks like an All-Star against the purple & gold.
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