Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Rockets

Darius Soriano —  March 15, 2017

The final score was 120-114. One of the game clinching plays was a defensive stop which came after a switch onto a league MVP frontrunner. The bench was a shining light in helping to secure the win, but the starting group — which featured new FA additions — had their moments as well, with two key young players posting strong numbers.

Man, the Lakers win over the Rockets on opening night seems like it happened years ago at this point.

Fast forward to today and so much has changed. D’Angelo Russell may or may not start after being moved to the bench in favor of Jordan Clarkson who the coaches want to get some extended looks at PG against starting units. Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng aren’t just out of the starting lineup, they are racking up DNP-CD’s as healthy scratches. Lou Williams has been traded and Nick Young’s role has been reduced, not playing in recent games at all (but likely to get some run tonight). More than all that, though, the fun that was the signature feeling around the team has been replaced by the despair and frustrations of losing as the team puts itself in better position each night to retain their lottery pick.

Houston, on the other hand, is the 3rd best team in the west and found their identity as an offensive juggernaut under Mike D’Antoni. If MDA is the architect designing the plan, James Harden is the master builder who executes the vision and keeps everyone in-tune and humming down the same path together. This team is a legit contender, able to score with/on anyone and with enough defensive ability to rank in the top half of the league. That combination is a scary proposition to contend with, especially as injury and malaise infect the other top title seekers.

Just reading the above, then, you can imagine how this game will play out. Houston may very well score 150 points if their shots are falling. The Lakers, struggling terribly on both ends of the floor, seem destined to not only fall behind early, but not be able to make a game of it at all. Sure, they may have a few nice runs (this is the NBA after all), but it feels more inevitable than just likely that the Lakers will be blown out early and close simply going through the motions.

If all this sounds despondent and overly pessimistic, I don’t know what to tell you. I suppose the Lakers could always surprise or the Rockets could play poorly, but the fact that those are the circumstances which dictate this game even being close pretty much says it all about the state of both teams right now.

So, sure, I want to see the young guys play well. I want to see how Clarkson defends Harden. I want to see if Russell can find his stride again after having a couple of down games. I want to see Zubac contend with Capela and whether Randle can take advantage of a favorable match up against Ryan Anderson. These things are worth watching in a vacuum. But the bigger picture is what it is. The Lakers are overmatched and that most likely means another really rough defeat. And no matter how much you want the team to keep their pick, I would imagine keeping your eyes tuned to this one will be difficult.

Where you can watch: 5pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet


Darius Soriano

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to Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Rockets

  1. Randle is murdering this Houston frontcourt. Might top his career high by halftime.

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  2. Fun game,..Randle is smoking on offense and an excellent game for Ingram as well !

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  3. D’Angelo Russell has just fouled out with 5 points (2-10 shooting; 0-5 from 3), 7 turnovers (!), 2 rebounds, and 2 assists. I hate to say it, but it looks as if he doesn’t care.

    I think he and Luke Walton might have a talk after this game. It’s probably time for that.

    2+

  4. Ugh. Can we end the Clarkson experience already? He stalls the offense and is the worst defender on the team. A pair of 28 and 39 point losses, 6 total assists in 75 minutes (DAR averaging 5 in 26 minutes) shooting 7-18 in both games. He doesn’t call any plays other than a pick with his head down.
    Randle was great on offense but he’s the worst off ball defender.
    Lakers should prioritize Ingram, DAR, and Zubac.

    6+

    • But DAR’s defense is as bad as Clarkson’s. He is better at running the point than Clarkson, though…

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  5. So DAR can’t handle a little adversity?
    Is this what we are seeing?

    1+

  6. Forgot they were playing tonight. Just as well. Looks like DAR had another stellar game, poor shooting and 7 turnovers in 25 minutes before fouling out. Got to go. Would be good for both player and team at this point. Wonder if he kicked any balls out of bounds tonight.

    I know he’s white and slow on D, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see what Josh Magette could do for a spell? Couldn’t do any worse.

    Still a Clarkson fan. Solid 2 guard when his role is defined.

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  7. Another nearly 40 point beat down. When do we start to question the coaching staff? Byron was taken apart with criticism this time last year. Has this team made any real progress this season? To be fair, there has been some individual progress. But overall this season has been a disappointment even with their extremely low expectations.

    The D’Angelo drama is just a distraction. The media psychoanalyzing one player doesn’t explain why this team has made such little progress this season.

    1+

  8. I remember when Luke was the ‘team goat’ to fans, then Fish was, then Kobe. Now it is Russell. Thank goodness fans don’t have anything to do with Laker basketball decisions, whether it’s Jim at the top or Magic.

    Russell is a young 21 yr old who has been told he is the 2nd coming all his life. Now he is having problems and we think his is lower than poop. He probably will never be a superstar, but he can still be quite good, but that is all in the future. Just like we are ill advised to make a final decision on Ingram at 19, we are not in the best place to judge an NBA point guard, running an entire team, at 21. Our issue is that we simply demand the Lakers have an identifiable superstar to take over for Kobe and our team is too young to have such a talent on the team (there are very few Lebron’s or Magic’s around and even Kobe had those airballs).

    This time is for the actual basketball people to observe our players in a number of different situations and be prepared to make some decisions this summer. There are some things I might think are best, but I don’t think all the analysis is in yet.

    1+

  9. DAR was the second guy in the last 17 years to foul out, have 5 points or less and have 7 or more turnovers. When I read this, I thought it was just one of those meaningless statistical things, which it is. However it is also really – really Bad. 2 for 10 shooting is a just an add on item.

    This was another game where the team just gave up. We do that way too often and it reflects on the staff and the players. Giving up and getting pasted does not help development.

    4+

    • Robert,
      Unfortunately, I think this is a product of tanking and environment it creates. At this point the players know the entire organization wants to lose as many remaining games as possible. The team’s best player was traded. One of their best shooters in Young had been taken out of the rotation (until yesterday). Deng and Mosgov have been shut down for the rest of the season. And then Luke starts “experimenting” with the line ups in ways that throw off the guys left playing.

      When the remaining players know the goal is losing it has to affect them. And for Randle, Russell, and Clarkson this was the same goal at this time last year.

      Tomorrow night the young Lakers will take the floor against the Bucks knowing full well all of their superiors would prefer they lose. I don’t how the best habits can be learned under those circumstances.

      1+

  10. Funny to see current comments from folks that were big time Jim/Mitch supporters. There was so much venom thrown at those of us who saw through the failed coaching decisions, the thin rosters designed keep cash free for failed elite free agent pitches and the senseless free agent signings (looking at you Mozgov/Deng) that were made. Boy how they have changed their tune.

    Now we face the grim realization that the kids Jim/Mitch drafted may not be the foundation of anything special. The team’s record is reflective of the limited talent on the roster. There is a good chance that the Lakers will be irrelevant for the balance of the decade — as it may take that long for Magic/Pelinka to unwind the mistakes of the previous regime.

    This is not sour grapes, this is not an intentional pessimistic view of things — this is a clear headed assessment of where we are in relation to where we need to go. When Jeanie replaced Jim/Mitch she apologized to the fans for likely waiting too long to make a move. That is a statement that will haunt the franchise for the foreseeable future.

    6+

  11. The Lakers may be paying a price for all of the late season FO theatrics. It is still not clear why Russell was benched to start games after having a string of his best games of the year. On the outside it looks like the Lakers are airing their dirty laundry wrt Russell in public. That does not appear to be working if that is the case. The Lakers still need to start Russell and Clarkson and see if they can figure out how to play better defense together. They should also be the two best guards for Luke’s free flowing offense where the ball finds the open man. Wins and losses are not the main focus, player development is. Luke has already commented that lack of practice time during the season means that development needs to happen during the games and that certainly is not an issue this season with respect to W/L. In many ways, the last two games were opportunities wasted to move the team further along.

    2+

  12. The most important thing the Lakers must do for the remainder of the season is to lose, and lose constructively. They managed to avoid the trap game at home against Philly, but clearly went too far against Denver–losing not only the game, but their composure. Despite the score at the end, this game fit the profile much better. The second and third quarter were close. Twenty five points of the nearly 40 point score differential happened in the fourth quarter.

    On the plus side, they saw what Julius could do–and what Clarkson/DAR couldn’t do. On the minus side, they were reminded how continuously bad they have been defensively. Nwaba and Brewer don’t seem to help much.

    These games now are as much setting the table for trades and acquisitions as they are true evaluations of individual players IMO. Clarkston needs to shine to justify his price tag; Corey needs to remind everyone that he can play. DAR, Randle, and maybe even Nance are still trying to show where they might fit in, and Nwaba, Robinson, Ennis, and Black are trying to show they belong or could fill in if someone were traded.

    1+

    • Isn’t this part of the problem though? Lose, just don’t lose too badly? I know this their hand and they have to play it. But extensive losing causes its own problems. The losses and embarrassing blowouts could be causing problems that keeping their pick won’t solve.

      1+

  13. Reality check: some of these guys only have 14 or less games to play in the Blue & Gold.

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  14. darius: I think the Houston pick will tell us more the direction magic will be taking in laker’s future; ie., whether he drafts for team need or uses it to trade for or move up to enhance the number one draft position and that should give one an indication of who’s expendable in the for seeable future.
    And then there’s the lottery. with less than a month to go in the regular nba season, every indication whether overt or covert intended says the lotto balls favor the lakers in the 2nd position. Losing hurts now just like it did last year and the year before and the year before…….third times the charm in the second position?? we”ll see. Magic will be there for sure.
    Go lakers

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  15. I find it amusing that during a tanking period, and one which we have decided to play our youngest least experienced players, that people are complaining about the losses, and using them to justify preconceived notions about certain young players.
    Funny too are the ‘I told you so’ comments regarding Russell, when he’s played some fantastic basketball prior to being put on the 2nd unit, thus it could be that he’s been moved to help oil the tank.
    Complaints are valid only if you also give praise when praise is due. Otherwise it’s simply ‘hope’ that your original opinions about a player come true: and that’s just ugly.

    1+

  16. Once upon a time the Warriors had Steph Curry and Monte Ellis – two starting guards who couldn’t defend.

    In that case, Ellis went public with something along the lines of “this can’t work” and apparently the Warriors FO agreed because he was gone in relatively short order.

    I’d be a little surprised if both DAR and Clarkson are in Lakers Blue and Gold next year. I’d love to know what Magic’s thoughts are regarding keeping DAR and potentially drafting a wing vs.. potentially shipping Russell and drafting Fultz or Ball. If DAR stays, what happens to Clarkson? If Clarkson stays, what happens to … ?

    1+