So, Friday’s loss against the Bucks was probably the exact game the coaches want from this team even if the final result wasn’t a W. The team played well enough to win, competed throughout, and when the game got physical the team didn’t fold and instead (literally) pushed back and stood up for each other. That skirmish may have led to Nick Young and D’Angelo Russell getting tossed, but afterwards coach Luke Walton spoke highly of his guys for sticking up for themselves and one another.
The hope is that type of effort and togetherness can be carried over through the rest of the season. Let’s face it, this team isn’t going to win many more games this year, but they need to start to find a way to play well together and build a chemistry which can carry into the off-season and then be the foundation for next year’s team. When Walton spoke after Saturday’s practice, he noted that one of key things his team needs to do more of is trust each other and play a style where they know they can depend on each other to do the right things. Walton said that’s how a team can get through adversity together and that it will be the foundation for positive growth from his team.
Tonight against the Cavs, then, this is worth watching for. Let’s face it, Cleveland should win this game pretty easily. After sitting their top players against the Clippers last night, the LeBron/Kyrie/Love trio should all be in the lineup tonight. With JR Smith also back and Deron Williams added after being waived/bought-out by the Mavs, Cleveland has their full team back and should now be starting to refine their game to make a defense of their championship. Even after a night in Los Angeles to…keep them busy, I fully expect them to be ready to play at a high level and to dispatch the Lakers.
However, if the Lakers just show some fight and togetherness, I’ll be happy. It’s clear to me that the young guys are making strides and even when certain aspects of their games aren’t going well they still make an impact (or at least show flashes). Randle’s work on the glass and open court play, Russell’s passing and showing an ability to get into the paint more, Ingram’s finishing in the paint (sometimes with authority), Clarkson’s driving and finishing in traffic…these are positives we’re seeing more of game to game.
Against the Cavs, I’d like to see these things continue even if shots aren’t falling or even if the Cavs jump out to an early lead. Show me that much and I’ll be good. And I have a feeling the coaches will be too. Even if, as is expected, this game is just another L in the end.
Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet and NBA TV.