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The Lakers This Week: I Think I'm Going To Boston

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After years of pressure from thoughtful mathematicians, the NBA has started keeping a new official statistic — the old plus/minus. It’s a simple idea that hockey has used for decades: How much does a team outscore its opponent (or get outscored) when a specific player is on the floor. It’s pretty simple.

Off the top of your head, who leads the Lakers in this new stat (if averaged per game)? Kobe Bryant? Nope. Lamar Odom? No. Brian Cook? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Nope, in order it is Luke Walton, Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar and Vladamir Radmanovic. All guys off the bench — which makes sense because this past week in particular it has been the Lakers bench that has driven this team to three wins and a 6-3 record.

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Against the Bulls Sunday night, it was a third-quarter run sparked by Jordan Farmar that got the Lakers the win. Two nights earlier it was Farmar’s pressure defense that sparked a fourth quarter come from behind win against Detroit. Here’s what blogger Nate Jones said over at Forum Blue & Gold after sitting behind the Lakers bench for a game:

Jordan Farmar is the difference maker on this team. When he is in the game he totally changes the way the Lakers play. He’s aggressive on defense and then pushes the ball at every opportunity. He gets everyone on the team pumped up with his exciting play. Also, in only his second year, he’s already directing everyone else on what to do. When Bynum was slow getting back off of a rotation making it so Farmar was guarding one of the Pistons bigs in the post, Farmar got on Bynum’s ass about it. Bynum got a little offended until Lamar basically came over and told him to shut up.

Farmar and his comrades have needed to be good because if there's a good team in the NBA, the Lakers have faced them in the first couple weeks of the season. Well, every good team except Boston, but they'll remedy that situation Friday.

Which is why the Lakers' 6-3 record heading into tonight's game against Indianapolis (tape delayed on KCAL at 5:30) is turning heads around the NBA. Last week the Lakers beat the Houston Rockets (6-2 coming in) and the Detroit Pistons (6-2 coming in). They also knocked off the underachieving-but-talented Chicago Bulls. So far this season, the Lakers opponents have won 61% of their games, the toughest schedule in the league.

That's not to say the Lakers don't have weaknesses. They turn the ball over on 17.8% of their possessions (only eight teams are worse), something San Antonio took advantage of in the Lakers only loss last week, a thumping at the hands of the defending champs. But that was one game, and after three wins in a row who wants to remember the bad times?

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This week the Lakers start in the Midwest -- Indiana (4-6) -- which means a bunch of "should the Lakers get Jermaine O'Neal and at what price speculation -- then the Milwaukee Bucks (4-4), led by Chinese rookie Yi Jianlian (not to mention Team USA member Michael Redd, one of the game's best pure shooters).

But what everyone wants to see is Friday, when the Lakers take on Kevin Garnett and the resurgent Boston Celtics. The trio of Ray Allen shooting from the outside, Paul Pierce slashing into the lane and KG dominating the paint has been fun to watch as well as leading to wins in a city that hasn't been this excited about basketball since the translucent Larry Bird retired. At 8-1 they have looked like the most dominant team in the NBA so far, although they have not faced the league's elite yet (unlike the battle-tested Lakers).

The thing with Boston is, they have the Big Three (who really need a nickname) then the talent drops way off. I mean waaaayyyyy off. Like not as good as the guys playing pickup at Venice Beach off. The question is, can that deep Lakers bench with Walton, Farmar, Bynum and Radmanovic overwhelm the Boston bench for another Lakers win? Tune in to KCAL at 5:30 to see.

AP photo by Jeff Lewis