The Lakers started out their preseason with a win against the Warriors, downing the Dubs 104-95. The game was choppy in areas — the Lakers scored the first 7 points of the game and immediately gave up a 15-0 run; they also had an awful offensive 3rd quarter where they couldn’t hit any outside shots — and there was clearly some stretches where the team missed having Nash or Gasol as outlets to run the offense through, but overall the team looked good in their first organized action of the year.
As for any takeaways, the one thing that stood out, at least from the team perspective, is that all the guys played hard and they really seemed to play for each other. Yes there were some defensive breakdowns. And there were also some moments where guys got too caught up in looking for their own offense. But, for the most part, every guy seemed to want to do the right thing and were getting after it in their pursuit of accomplishing their goals.
Guys cut hard. They hit the glass hard. They closed out on shooters and tried to make the second and third rotations when the Warriors moved the ball. It wasn’t always perfect and there were plenty of times where the action was sloppy and ugly. But it was the first real game action in months so some of that is to be expected. Overall, though, I was happy with the performance and I’d be saying that even if the team was on the wrong side of the final score. I’m happier that they weren’t, however. Especially after going winless last preseason.
Now, some notes:
*Xavier Henry was the big surprise, leading the team with 29 points while also grabbing 7 rebounds in 26 minutes. Henry did a little bit of everything offensively — he attacked the basket off the dribble, cut off the ball well, and even hit a couple of three pointers (including a half court heave to beat the 1st half buzzer). If one thing stood out, it was his activity and assertiveness in everything he did. Clearly he understands that he has a chance to make this team and he’s not going to waste it by not giving his all. In this game it led to a lot of success. We’ll see if that same success carries over into future games, but if he plays this hard he’ll likely continue to make some plays (even if it’s not as many as it was in this game).
*Jordan Farmar showed that in his time away from the team he really did mature as a player — especially offensively. He flashed very good feel for creating shots for teammates, throwing several good passes through small windows to guys on the move flashing into open space. He finished with 7 assists, but easily could have had a few more had guys caught the ball cleanly or been more attuned to how to finish when the defense collapsed on them. And while he didn’t hit any of his 3 three point attempts, he did make 4 of his 7 shots from two point range and also earned a couple of trips to the foul line. I also liked the way he ran the team, calling out the sets and organizing his teammates when he had to. Add in some good on-ball defense and I really liked what Farmar did in this game.
*The Nick Young experience is exactly as advertised. Young scored 17 points on 4-9 shooting (and 8-8 from the foul line). He flashed his ability to create shots both for better and for worse. There were times where he dazzled with a nice handle and shifty escape moves that ended with a made shot. Other times he simply created a bad shot off the dribble when moving the ball probably would have been the better option. One thing he did do was attack off the dribble when coming off picks and tried to get into the teeth of the defense. He earned those 8 FT attempts and if he can continue to do enough of that, he’ll have value all year long. So, all in all, Young entertained and showed that he can be a guy who gets buckets. Pretty much exactly who we thought he was.
*I was mostly pleased with Chris Kaman’s game. He showed that his mid-range shooting numbers from last season were not a fluke as he it several jumpers when both open and covered defensively. His final shooting numbers (4 for 12) really don’t tell how nice his shot looked when coming off his hand and he looks like he can be a nice weapon out of the pick and pop. He also led the team with 10 rebounds, mostly holding his own against an active Warriors’ front line. Kaman did get winded as the game progressed, but that’s to be expected considering he had a couple of long stretches of action and it’s the first game of the preseason.
*I don’t know if Robert Sacre will earn many minutes in the regular season, but he continued his solid play from the summer. He hit 4 of his 8 shots from the floor, mostly on mid-range jumpers out of pick and pops or when the ball swung his way. He was also active on D, sliding his feet well when defending the P&R and even picking up a charge when rotating against penetration. He still needs to do better work on the glass, but his limited athleticism will always mean he won’t be a great out of area rebounder. As long as he can keep his man from getting the ball, you can excuse lower board totals. In the aggregate, he was a positive tonight, though, and deserves some praise.
*No one else really stood out. Wes Johnson’s good week of practice didn’t carry over as he went 0-2 from the floor. He did, however, play some solid D even though he was a bit foul prone. It would be nice if his athleticism stood out a bit more, however. Shawne Williams couldn’t really find his outside shot, but he was serviceable on D and seemed to play within the flow of the game. Marcus Landry hit a big 3 pointer down the stretch that helped hold off a late Warriors’ surge and Elias Harris had a nice finish with a defender on his back while also catching a good lob (from Landry) out of a well designed out of bounds play. Both Landry and Harris didn’t get into the game until late, but did well when they did enter. Meeks and Blake both left off from what they were last year. Blake hustled on both ends and looked steady yet unspectacular while Meeks was streaky on O while working hard on D.