The walking wounded Lakers may have reinforcements coming. Both D’Angelo Russell (at least 2 weeks) and Nick Young (2-4 weeks) are in the window of time in which they may be ready to return and it looks like it will happen for both sooner than later:

Luke Walton also noted that Nick Young practiced fully on Saturday, with the implication he too should return shortly. So it looks as though Sunday’s game against the Knicks is a realistic target for Russell, with Monday looking almost close to certain. Young could potentially join him on Monday.

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A Quick Note on Progress

Darius Soriano —  December 9, 2016 — 11 Comments

The Lakers are in the midst of a 4 game losing streak. One of the key reasons for the losses are the injuries to key players they are dealing with, missing their starting back court, they next point guard up in the rotation, and their back up center. The team’s starting and backup PF’s have also been in and out of the lineup for a game or two over the last couple of weeks.

For a team which depended on depth and continuity to jump out to the stronger-than-expected start to the season, the types of injuries detailed above have a cascading negative impact on the team and the on-court results. Either out of rotation players are leaned on for minutes and production or established rotation players are stretched farther and for longer than they were when their production was being maximized.

These are imperfect solutions. They are also the solutions every team turns to in these situations. Ask the Grizzlies or the Mavs or the Nuggets. Next man up, as the saying goes.

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This game couldn’t be over quick enough. The Lakers got smashed in their game against Houston. The final score? 134-95. I haven’t seen them get messed up like this since… well, okay, Friday. But this was just a massacre.

The downfall could be traced all the way back to the first quarter (which really has been their downfall throughout the season; it’s like the Lakers play every game like they’re climbing K2). While the Lakers were keeping up with the Rockets’ extraordinary run-and-gun offense that basically outlaws midrange shots, L.A turned the ball over so much that it was like they were being all Santa Clauses 18 days early. 9 turnovers in the first quarter won’t get it done. The Rockets scored 43 in the first 12 minutes while the Lakers scored 27.

Houston cooled off in the second and Brandon Ingram (12 points), Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Lou Williams all made some shots to cut the deficit to seven points. But that was as close as they got. Lou made an incredible shot from afar before the halftime buzzer to cut the deficit to 12 but that was really just a small bandage that stopped the bleeding temporarily.

L.A. couldn’t stop the Rockets from getting into the paint (68-52 edge by Houston). They were already bad at closing on shooters and we know Houston specialized on three-pointers. Rockets went on a 22-6 run in the third that ballooned the lead to 28. That basically put away all the hope the Lakers had on winning this game. The Rockets kicked the Lakers while they were down and they put a boulder on them to make sure they didn’t recover.

The Lakers shot well early but they got really careless after halftime (they only shot .391 at the end while the Rockets finished at .543). They ended up having 28 turnovers, which ties an NBA season high (the Rockets had 20 but their talent was so overwhelming compared to the Lakers). Houston also outboarded the Lakers by 13. Eric Gordon (26 points) made 8 of the Rockets’ 15 three-pointers. Patrick Beverley had a double-double (10 points, 12 assists). And James Harden did his usual damage (25 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists). Seven Rockets scored in double figures. The Lakers were led in scoring by Lou Williams once again (24 points) and Randle had a double-double (21 points, 10 rebounds). But the Lakers defense was so bad and they were so careless that you might as well have five poodles play on the court.

Luke Walton started Marcelo Huertas and Jordan Clarkson in a more conventional line-up (instead of Brandon Ingram and Metta World Peace, which they did against Utah in a giant line-up). But besides a fleeting moment in the second quarter, Clarkson never got going (3 for 13, 7 points). And Huertas was just overmatched despite a pretty good statline (10 points, 7 assists, 5 steals).

The Lakers are now 10-14. They’ve lost four straight and the injuries have really taken a toll on them. They were without D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Jose Calderon, and Tarik Black. It was good that Larry Nance, Jr. was back but that obviously wasn’t even close to being enough against Houston. All they can do now is throw another game in the garbage and focus against Phoenix on Friday at Staples.

Let’s just hope they don’t throw too many games into the garbage bin if they wanna keep the playoff dream alive.

The Lakers are now 3 games under .500 at 10-13. They have lost 3 in a row and 4 of their last 5 games, their lone win coming against the Bulls in what was a pretty unexpected performance considering how shorthanded they were and the fact they were on the 2nd night of a back to back.

The team, of course, remains shorthanded. Though the recent update on D’Angelo Russell is somewhat positive, he’s not likely to return until early next week. And the team is still without Nick Young and Jose Calderon for longer than that while Tarik Black is out at least against Houston with Larry Nance questionable to play.

None of that is good news. Not against a Rockets team which is playing very well of late. Houston has won 5 of 6, including a double OT victory in Oakland against the Warriors last week. That win snapped the Dubs’ double-digit win streak and showed how the Rockets can compete against the best teams through their high powered offense which is piloted by James Harden.

Harden is an MVP candidate and is a nightmare for any team to contain, but especially these Lakers. In the first matchup between LA and Houston, Luke Walton put Nick Young on Harden for most of the night and while Young battled hard he ultimately didn’t stop James from getting his numbers. Harden’s ability to get into the paint allowed him to set up teammates for good looks and his shooting ability meant there were no ways to shade or cheat on him without giving up a play he is more than capable of making.

Without Young available tonight, it’s unclear who Walton turns to now. Deng? Ingram? Does he break up his backup backcourt duo of Clarkson and Williams in order to have JC track the Beard? Harden is of such quality, but none of these sound like good solutions.

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The Lakers are the proverbial walking wounded right now. Nick Young is out with a strained calf. Jose Calderon is out with a strained hamstring. In Monday’s loss to the Jazz, Tarik Black sprained his ankle and did not return to the game. Larry Nance, Jr. sat out the game vs. the Jazz with a knee contusion. And, of course, D’Angelo Russell has been out with knee soreness and the resulting PRP injection he took to stimulate healing. That’s four key rotation players and the point guard who has replaced Russell while he’s been out.

There may be some good news on the horizon, though. At least in terms of Russell.

Russell’s initial diagnosis was that he’d be out at least two weeks. We are approaching that mark now, so it’s good to hear that he is (essentially) on schedule. Though he will not travel on Wednesday (which would be 14 days since the injection), the fact that he is progressing enough to get back on the court is promising. This doesn’t mean he will be ready to play by weeks end, though.

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Crushing headaches do not mix with writing game previews. This is something I knew already, but am reminded of today as I try to type words onto a white screen reflecting light which might as well be Shinobi ninja stars being guided right into my eyeballs.

So, forgive the brevity.

The Lakers play the Jazz tonight in a return to Staples Center. After going 1-3 on a road trip which saw them play those four contests in five nights, the team is back in action after only a day off. The “rest” may help, but I doubt it. The first game back from a road trip can often be just like another road game. Players have to settle in, attempt to get back to their regular routines, and then get right back on the court to play basketball again. At least they get to sleep in their own beds.

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The Lakers cannot catch a break on the injury front. After leaving the Grizzlies game with a hamstring injury on Saturday, an MRI has confirmed a strain in the muscle per a team release. Calderon will be out 2-4 weeks, joining D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young as other guards who are not healthy enough to play.

Calderon had performed admirably as a fill-in starter for Russell, averaging 6 points and nearly 4 assists while shooting 47.8% from the field (42.1% from distance) in 17 minutes a night. These aren’t world beater numbers by any means and he had his (predictable) issues defensively, but considering he’d not been in the rotation at all following the first Hawks game early in the year, he did well to step in the way he did.

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Well, the Lakers fell short in a tale of two halves. The Grizzlies were able to trip up the Lakers in a game that ended in a wacky manner, 103-100.

Memphis was depleted as they were without Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Vince Carter, and James Ennis. The Lakers, who were playing their fourth game in five nights, were without Nick Young, D’Angelo Russell, and Larry Nance, Jr. Early in the game, Jose Calderon pulled up lame. He left the game with a right hamstring strain.

The pace was frenetic in the first half. The Grizzlies did their best to keep up as Troy Daniels (fourth-year player out of Virginia Commonwealth) had the green light to shoot from the outside. With Julius Randle in foul trouble, Lou Williams and Luol Deng (playing at the 4!) carried the scoring load. While Daniels surprisingly led the Grizzlies with 23 points, Lou was scorching with 28 points in the first half.

The Grizz slowed the game down and the Lakers, with the possible combination of fatigue and the Memphis defense, succumbed to a lot more isolation and one-on-one plays. Memphis was able to bear down and cause turnovers in the halfcourt. Still, Lou and Lu stayed hot in the fourth. Luol Deng played his best game as a Laker with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals. Lou Williams went for 40 points on 20 shots.

It was a little back and forth before Troy Daniels made a key three to give Memphis a four-point lead. Marc Gasol would follow it up with a sweeping hook before Williams made a three-point play. After a Grizzlies miss, Lou put up a quick three that missed badly with 20 seconds left on the game clock and 16 on the shot clock. In the ensuing possession, Deng stole the inbounds pass. Randle got fouled on a three-pointer by Gasol with 5.9 seconds left. Julius missed the first two free throws before missing the third on purpose. Still, the Lakers got the offensive board but Jordan Clarkson missed a corner three. Memphis got away with the win.

We can look at this as a schedule loss. They might have ran out of gas; we know how much the Memphis defense can take out of teams in addition to the Lakers playing their fourth game out of five nights. The Lakers only scored 38 points in the second half and only Timofey Mozgov scored double digits (13 points) other than Lou Williams and Deng. We hardly saw the ball movement that Coach Luke Walton preached in the second half. We all know the Grizzlies like the grit and grind. Grounded. Grimy. Gross. Growl. The Lakers turned the ball over 18 times.

You’re probably not familiar with most of the Grizzlies players other than Marc Gasol and Tony Allen. Gasol did a lot of playmaking (19 points, 8 assists). But you gotta watch guys like JaMychal Green (16 points, 13 rebounds), back-up point guard Wade Baldwin IV (7 points, 9 assists), and the aforementioned Daniels (31 total points!). Just because you’re not familiar with them doesn’t mean you should just leave them firing away. There were so many breakdowns defensively by the Lakers in the second half. It could be fatigue or whatever but Memphis is not going to blink an eye and feel sorry for them just because their opponents are tired.

Just remember that the Lakers got beat by this guy:

No disrespect intended, Troy. You played a hell of a game. For tonight, Elvis Presley is not the king of Memphis and neither is Jerry Lawler. It’s Troy Daniels.

It’s back to the Staples Center on Monday after a 1-3 road trip for the 10-12 Lakers. We’ll see if they can get it right against the Utah Jazz.