Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Heat

Darius Soriano —  January 6, 2017 — 18 Comments

Getting back to Portland, just because the Lakers have the chance to do some of these things doesn’t mean it will happen easily. The Blazers are a bad defensive team, but have enough offense to turn the tenor of a game into a shootout where they can thrive. Further, that type of game tends to throw off game plans and get players into the type of mindset where they think everything will come easy. Until it doesn’t. Which is how a nice chunk of Lakers’ leads have been blown of late.

That is from yesterday’s game preview for the game against the Blazers. A game the team lost after going cold in the 4th quarter and struggling with general flatness and poor execution to start the 3rd quarter. It was a game the Lakers had a double digit lead in (again), but lost (again). This is frustrating for many. I know. I have a comments section and a twitter account where people like to show that frustration.

Anyways, I block quote the above because it’s sort of what happened in the game. The Lakers had a nice flow in the 1st half, getting to the FT line to stay in the game through the 1st period and then opening up a lead when their attacking of the Blazers’ soft defense finally started to result in made baskets during the 2nd period. All was good. Until it wasn’t.

Here’s the thing about the Lakers, you can ask whether they are the team which blows leads or the team which builds them. If you think they’re the former, you probably have an overall negative view of this group’s ceiling — and I don’t mean that as a group, I mean that as the team’s young foundation. If you think they’re more of the latter, you probably think a bit more highly of this group’s future. That’s a generalization, but it probably holds up well. The sampling from the comments and my twitter mentions leads me to believe this, anyway.

Me, my view  is a bit different. I think the best way to view this team is through the prism of youth, inexperience, and the ongoing attempt to build good habits. In other words, they are clearly both a team of talented players who can take a lead on anyone as well as a group of young and veteran players with some flaws coached by an inexperienced coach, who have been succumbing to their youth, flaws, and inexperience in giving up the gains made by reverting to a style which runs counter to what they did to get them the lead in the first place.

I am someone who believes they will, at some point, become more of the team who builds leads for longer stretches, ultimately finding ways to win more of the games they are currently losing. I believe that because I’ve seen bad teams play basketball and bad teams consistently play bad; they barely take leads at all and they lose games big by folding when things get hard. If this doesn’t sound familiar, I’m assuming you did not watch the Lakers last year. Or the year before that. This team plays well, takes leads, then finds ways to lose. Again, at some point they’ll stop finding ways to lose. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

Anyways, tonight the Lakers play the Heat in LA. When the Lakers played the Heat in Miami, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, they took a big lead early and then found a way to lose! I know, I am just as shocked as you. That team, though, had Justise Winslow. This team does not after he suffered a shoulder injury and has been ruled out for the year. That team also had an engaged Hassan Whiteside. I don’t know if he’ll be engaged for this game. I don’t know if anyone knows — or, even, if they can know. He may not even play due to an eye injury that has kept him out of the lineup. They do have Goran Dragic, however, who continues to play well enough. But this Heat team is depleted, is 11-26, and before a win vs. the Kings on Wednesday were losers of 6 straight.

I don’t know if this means the Lakers “should” win tonight’s game, but I know they have a better chance of doing so than some of the other games they’ve played lately. And considering the way the team has battled and continued to put in some good efforts — efforts which have led to some really good stretches and leads being taken — I’m hopeful they can pull this one out.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.


Darius Soriano

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18 comments
KevTheBold
KevTheBold

Sage read from Darius,..

I agree totally that our ability to make great runs on teams is not one to be overlooked. Holding on to, and building onto leads can be learned, if the reason for the problem is youth and inexperience; so check.

I already see growth in the defense of D'Angelo where many wrote him off. He's learning to fight through screens and is gaining strength and quickness. Randle is learning to use his head, and taking ventures into the right side of the court, and is already in an elite group of triple double holders. Ingram's shot is starting to fall, and despite his frail body, his strength is growing use to the nba jostling.

I'm looking forward to the return of Nance, to make full use of our team's capabilities.

Mid Wilshire
Mid Wilshire

Even though Miami was short-handed, this was a gratifying win. Several players played well.

Lou Williams had 24 points and 3 assists, Julius Randle 15 points and 6 rebounds, and D'Angelo Russell 19 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals in a very complete and solid game.

But the performances that stood out to me were those by Luol Deng, Brandon Ingram, and Tarik Black. There has been much hand-wringing over Luol Deng's contract. And while I have no intention of re-visiting that issue, I think it is only fair to give credit where credit is due.  Deng had his best game as a Laker:  19 points (8-12 shooting, 3-4 from three), 14 rebounds, and 2 assists.  Also, he showed his veteran cool when Clarkson and Dragic got in a shoving match by grabbing JC from behind and leading him away from the fracas so that the issue would not escalate. This was very savvy and one of the reasons why you have a Luol Deng on your team.  Also, in a highly interesting post-game interview, Luke Walton stated that the Lakers have only recently begun to find Luol on his cuts.  In fact, he noted that there is a cut in basketball that is commonly called the "Luol Deng cut."  It has actually been named after him.  Walton emphasized that this is one of the major strengths of Luol Deng and that the younger Lakers are just now starting to become aware of this facet of his game.

Another excellent performance was that of Brandon Ingram:  17 points (6-9 shooting), 6 rebounds, 4 assists.  It's performances such as this that lead me to imagine a 24-year old (as opposed to a 19-year old) Brandon Ingram slashing to the basketball and slicing through NBA defenses like a stiletto. 

Finally, major kudos to Tarik Black.  He had his first double-double of the year (Deng now has 5, Julius Randle has 10) with 10 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and excellent defense in 25:07. For someone who was claimed off waivers by the Lakers 2 years ago, he has evolved into a solid contributor and, I believe, an important part of the rotation.  And he's only 25.

Finally, the Lakers as a team had an outstanding 62 rebounds with 22 assists and 11 TOs.  Teams should always strive for a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio (or better).  Whenever the Lakers win, they often achieve or exceed that goal. It's a vitally important statistic and should never be undervalued.

This is a good game to feed off of.  Hopefully, they'll do more of the same on Sunday.


new rr
new rr

@Mid Wilshire


"Hand wringing" is not a fair characterization. People oppose the Deng (and Mozgov) deals for specific, obvious reasons and the deals were not and are not well-thought of by most people, with the exception of a vocal subset of Lakers fans. The FO may be proven right about these decisions, if it seems apparent that Deng and Mozgov are able to make a substantive difference in the development arcs of the young guys, and if the deals do not negatively impact the FO's ability to add high-end talent within the four-year window. But the facts on the ground do not support either deal at the moment, and the fact that you are using an extremely common NBA occurrence--one teammate dragging another teammate away from a fight--as evidence to defend Deng's value demonstrates as much. 

FredP
FredP

@new rr  @Mid Wilshire Nice summary by Mid and a good catch about the Luol Deng cuts.  He did not start on fire last season and this season has been the same.  Lately, he has looked better.  What is ignored with Deng and Mosgov is their influence on practices.  They come from winning teams and cultures and know what it takes to advance in the playoffs.  They did not come with emotional baggage and instead are solid citizens.  Given how pathetic the Lakers have been the past few years it is amazing how fast the culture is turning around.  Deng and Mosgov are an important part of that change.

LordMo
LordMo

Deng looked good im sure he wanted to take it to his old team. Lakers might need to manage his time and rest him more often to keep his legs lively.

KermitWashingtonKilla
KermitWashingtonKilla

Great win, noted with the absence of Whiteside. Good to see they closed this one out for the 4 quarters. Obviously developing that step on your throat killer inspect will be a team process going forward. Again the team is buying into Luke's message of attacking the paint to open the 3 ball. Continued solid minutes from T-Rob who has shown that Nance motor and athleticism. It will be interesting to see the front court rotation when everyone's heathly.

fern16
fern16

What a difference Whiteside absence made huh? Good win!!!

new rr
new rr

A home game against Miami minus Whiteside should be a W, but the team still gets credit for getting it done. 


8th double-digit win of the year. Had only 4 all last year. 

LordMo
LordMo

Nice win Lakers! Good hustle and energy especially in the 2nd half.

KevTheBold
KevTheBold

The game is in the refrigerator !

30twhite40
30twhite40

Clarkson and Dragic in a confrontation. Both ejected from the game. Clarkson might be suspended for Sunday's game. 

30twhite40
30twhite40

Lakers in their Hollywood Night alternate jerseys (love them) off to a 10-0 start as the Heat call the time out. 

LonShapiro
LonShapiro

I agree with most of your take on the team, especially about the young players. But the elephant in the room is a starting rotation that features two sub-average veteran players with really bad contracts. Unless the team is able to get some really good FAs to fill these spots, the Lakers will always be playing at a disadvantage. 


new rr
new rr

@mattal


Near as I can tell, the Deng/Mozgov argument goes: 


For: Stabilizes roster/stabilizes team defense/builds professional culture, all of which contribute to better development of young players. Deals can be traded as salary ballast if need be when the time comes. 

Against: four-year guaranteed deals to two non-star players for age 30-34 and 31-35 seasons. One of the two players is simply not all that good and has limited utility in today's game as a physically massive old-school 5. The other was good but has a lot of mileage and is best used at a position where the Lakers already have several young guys needing minutes. Both deals will be hard to move and will severely limit the FO's flexibility in FA. 

Deng actually was great tonight, but I was opposed to the deals at the time and have not changed my mind. 


And of course the cynical interpretation is that Deng and Mozgov are mostly here to help the Lakers make a Quixotic run for the 8th seed and save Jim Buss' job. 



mattal
mattal

Thanks to the Mozgov/Deng contracts the FO has little flexibility to sign good to great FAs going forward. They have a short window, however, to get things done before the kids are up for their 2nd contracts.

As a note, Randle, Russell and Nance will get their 2nd contracts before the Mozgov/Deng deals expire. Ingram then gets his the following summer. After that the Lakers will be virtually capped out with their own players with little room to add external talent (assuming the Lakers keep all of the kids).

Last Summer, after signing Luke and drafting Ingram, the Lakers knew they owed picks and knew their vets had little marketability (aside from Williams) yet they had cap flexibility -- which at least gave them an avenue to improve the team. Then they traded that flexibility away for Mozgov/Deng. It's a real head scratcher.