Lakers take on the Wizards in second game of back-to-back

The Lakers are coming off an emotional win against the Clippers on Wednesday night.

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers and Lakers Nation are likely still buzzing over that 21-point comeback win over their in-city rivals, the Clippers. It was a fitting end to the final game of these two teams as co-tenants of Staples Center/Crypto Dot Com Arena. But as we know in the NBA regular season, the league moves very quickly and the Lakers will be back at it on Leap Day 2024.

Beginning on Thursday, the Lakers will be at home for 10 of the next 11 games (if we include their match-up against the Clippers, they’re in L.A. for 11 of 12 games). The home invaders for Thursday night? The Washington Wizards.

The Wizards are tied for the worst record in the league at 9-49 (with the equally hapless Detroit Pistons). After their only two-game win streak of the season, the Wizards have lost 12 in a row. They’ve become the laughingstock of the league; we see all those Jordan Poole lowlights on social media.

So yes, this is a huge trap game for the Lakers. I’m sure the Lakers don’t want to be the team that loses to the Washington Wizards.

It’s not like they don’t have the talent. Former Laker Kyle Kuzma is having a career year at 22.1 points per game while also grabbing 6.5 rebounds and dishing out a career-best 4.1 assists. We can never deny how good the aforementioned Jordan Poole is but let’s face it: he honestly hasn’t been the same since THAT incident with the Warriors (you guys can figure that out). Deni Avdija is also having his best season to date (13.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists); he actually scored 43 points against the Pelicans two weeks ago. Tyus Jones is also there as a starting PG while Corey Kispert, Bilal Coulibaly, and Landry Shamet provide support off the bench. Marvin Bagley III (only known as the guy picked ahead of Luka Doncic in the 2018 NBA Draft) came over in a trade from Detroit. Just a wild season for Bagley.

What do the Wizards do well? For one, they play the fastest pace in the league, which probably suits the Lakers just fine. The Wiz are second in fast break points per game, which might be trouble for the Lakers since their transition defense sucks. They are third in points in the paint and the Wizards actually are in the Top 10 in assists.

But predictably, they’re not good at a lot of things. Washington is the fifth worst in offensive rating (points per possession), last in defensive rating (points allowed per possession), last in rebounding (per game and percentage), and fourth worst in three-point percentage. On paper, it sounds like the Lakers should be feasting on these dudes.

Still, while the Lakers did defeat the Clippers in an impressive comeback, let’s not forget the first three quarters of that game. Seemingly every game this season, we bring up their energy. Are they going to be the team that looks like they’d rather be somewhere else? Or are they going to be that team that just shuts out their opponents? I’m not going to go so far to say that the Lakers will be title contenders but at their best, they are still a scary team. And as long as Anthony Davis and LeBron James (are you kidding me about that 19-point fourth last night?) are roaming the courts, they can do a lot of damage. Witness the damage Davis did against the Wizards last season when he scored 55 points against them.

Davis is probable for this game; he has really gone out to shake the narrative of him being injury-prone by playing as many games as possible this season. LeBron James, as expected, is questionable, especially after he willed the team to that comeback win. As for the Wizards, Avdija is questionable while rookie Coulibaly is out.

Like I said, this is the trappiest (is that even a word?) game for the Lakers. No matter what the record of the opponent is, they have to be taken seriously or else, it’ll result in a humilating loss.

The problem is that the Lakers tend to play down on their competition. And they’re probably a bit spent physically and emotionally, which makes them perfect fodder for the Wizards, who badly want a win.

So beware of this game.