Wednesday , Jan , 23 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

Do the Los Angeles Lakers Need to Keep Bruce Bowen from an Offensive Explosion to Win Tonight?

Do the Los Angeles Lakers Need to Keep Bruce Bowen from an Offensive Explosion to Win Tonight?

“Wow,” was the only reaction I could muster when I read this.  Bruce Bowen, while averaging 5.8 points this season is averaging 22.5 against the Lakers.  His shooting percentage is also through the roof.  Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant is slightly below his PPG average against the Spurs (24.0 versus 27.4) – which is probably expected against the San Antonio Spurs.

The fact that the Spurs can rely on different players to come through at different times is nothing new.  That’s the way they have been winning for a long time.  The cast of characters has not changed.  However, some in San Antonio are wondering whether a change is needed, asking how many times can the Spurs go to the same well in the upgraded Western Conference.

I’ve counted these guys out too many times in the past to think the current downtime is anything important.  We’ll get a sense of their strength in February – maybe March.  If they are in the same state then as now, then San Antonio fans may want to start think about being worried.  Until then, though, go back into your winter hibernation and don’t worry about it.

In the few games without Andrew Bynum, we are also learning that, while he is an asset, his absence appears to be something the Lakers have been able to overcome – at least for the time being.  The Lakers beat Denver and narrowly lost to the Phoenix Suns.  Tonight, though, will become the test for the Lakers without Bynum.

Although it appears the crowd is less prone to booing Brown these days, that could change when he returns to LA after tonight’s game in San Antonio.  Not only does San Antonio have The Big Fundamental, but they have several serviceable big men that can defend, rebound and know when to shoot.  Kwame Brown could be in trouble. 

After this, the Lakers’ schedule includes games against Dallas, Detroit, Toronto, Orlando and Phoenix on the road – all without Bynum.  There are several other road games against lesser teams sprinkled in there as well.  The only remaining homes games are against Cleveland and New York this month, until they return home on February 19 for a game against the Hawks (and then fly to Phoenix the next day).

It would seem that Bowen will get another opportunity to light it up tonight with the gaping hole in the middle of the Lakers defense.  Will LA focus on Duncan or let him run amok over Brown or whichever other hapless defender is draws the short straw?  When was the last time a defensive scheme needed to take Bruce Bowen’s sharp-shooting into account?  I know he’s able to hit his open shots, but it has always been opportunistic and not designated.  For some reason, though, he’s been scorching the Lakers.  It will be interesting to see if it continues tonight.