Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Cavs

Darius Soriano —  March 19, 2017

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.

Darius Soriano

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26 responses to Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Cavs

  1. I can live with that.

  2. Uh-oh. The Lakers lead at halftime. Calm down D’angelo.

  3. Whew! Overall, perfect loss in Lakerland. UCLA on to the sweet 16 and more serious challenge.

    We still have hope for a great draft if we have 2 first round picks.

  4. Now that was a fun game,.. the kids were lighting the cavs up.
    Especially D’Angelo, career high 40 points, 6 assist, only 1 turnover.
    Come on now, let’s hear it for him, otherwise your negative posts will hold no water.

    • Interesting rules : ) An optimist can predict playoffs, 50 win seasons, Super Star status for youngsters, and overall great things for the team, and they are never discredited. One 40 point game however wipes out 4 years of the pessimists being correct : )

      • Playoffs, 50 seasons, any the proclamations, are not mine.
        Potential, and possibilities hinted at by flashes, Yes,..makes for a better discussion.
        Or are you labeling a whole group as one?
        As for Russell,.. if all you can see from his body of work, is a 40pt game, that’s amusing.
        Lastly if you truly feel an opinion, talking from behind a fence, is a weak way to express it.

      • D’lo has only been here for two years…

  5. Two straight excellent games from DAR. I must tip my hat to him. He showed he has his teammates back, and now a fine game vs the Champs. Not bad, kid.

  6. Luke must have thought a loss against the Cavs was in the bag….so he made the unwise decision to start Russell. Please don’t make that mistake again Luke. You were doing a good job tanking before today. Fortunately, the Cavs found a way to win at the end.

    • IMO at this point people could stop worrying about losing more than anything else. There are 12 games left to play and all but two other teams have at least 5 more wins. Regardless of how the Suns and Lakers continue to play, it’s essentially gonna be a coin toss for us at the lottery.

      Again, if those extra 8.9% came for free, it would be great to have them. Since they don’t, their impact should not be overestimated.

  7. DAR youngest Laker with 40 point game. Already has set the Lakers record for most 3s by a rookie. His per36 stat line is better than Wiggins and Booker (so is his PER rating), he’s barely 21 yet everyone talks about him as a bust. Porzingis is almost 2 years older and with his size more equipped to make a more immediate impact yet his PER is only a hair higher too. DARs per36 line and age compares favorably to most of the elite guards in the league when they were his age. The difference is they were handed the keys from day one. Didn’t share the court with Kobe and didn’t play on a team where coach plays 10 deep and everyone 25 minutes with usage rates spread out instead of 36 from day one as the focus.

  8. Very nice game by the kids. Zubac and Ingram are going to be good. Randle is still a question mark unless his right hand develops. DAR’s hesitation dribble and shooting accuracy is improving and it’s always a good sign. Clarkson will be a scoring guard off the bench.

    However, my point remains. The DAR-Clarkson pairing simply doesn’t work on defense and one of them needs to be traded. DAR would grant a better player in return but, if we manage to draft Jackson, I would trade Clarkson. If the starting lineup for next season was Zubac, Randle, Jackson, Ingram and Russell, I think the Lakers would be on the path to becoming a contender again.

    So, in order to ignore DAR’s (lack of) defensive accumen, I would like to note the following about his offense: He’s not a floor general. He’s a good passer and good shooter but he isn’t a player that dictates the tempo of the game. That can improve with experience and he seems to be on the right path there. People complain too much about his lack of athleticism but he doesn’t need to be an explosive player. He’s able to score points and defenses respect his shot and his dribble enough. If there’s one thing I would like to see him improve on offense is his release. His release point isn’t high and he doesn’t create that much separation due to the lack of athleticism so I would like to see a faster release in order to force a tighter coverage. These are very small issues about his offense that will keep improving throughout his career, so there is nothing to worry there. If anything, I think that DAR would be the perfect young point guard to play the triangle offense.

    • Not sure what Lakers you’ve been watching all season, but DAR is their best floor general, play caller, and pace dictator. His issue has been, being a young guy (lol 21), having to find the balance of facilitator and scorer. Also, he walks the fine line of looking over his shoulder. He’s at his best when he has the staff’s blessing to unleash. He’s great at reading off the PnR and keeping everyone involved. Clarkson on the other hand, is a black hole on offense and by far the team’s worst defender. DAR has shown great progress on that end and will be better defensively than Lillard, Harden, Curry, McCollum, and other guys that nobody complains about their D yet you hold DAR to arbitrary shut down standards. Glad you’re not the GM.
      Before y’all get too excited about DAR being a 2 guard, let’s not overlook that once the game starts it doesn’t mtter. It’s position less basketball. Once DAR got hot, he was essentially running the point anyway. Especially since he’s better at it than Clarkson which has been clear over the last 2 weeks.

      • Question is will the Lakers still run “positionless” ball once they have a pg (Ball or Futlz) they’re happy with?

      • Only by default … he is really a better two guard. All his best games have been when he was moved off the ball. Cavs this year and the 30+ game against the Warriors last year. I think Magic clearly sees it… A real PG will be coming this way if we retain the pick. Clarkson is solid nothing wrong with his game just better suited coming off the bench with his energy. I would not say DAR is better than Clarkson at PG… it’s more like the system fits DAR better as Clarkson is a “drive and kick” PG who would be devastating in an 1-4 offense but we do not run that. I’ve always said both are combo guards.. DAR a little more suited to the SG and Clarkson more skewed towards PG but you can use them at both for periods … nice problem to have really.

    • I agree with your assessment about the tandem of Clarkson and Russell. I give kudos to Walton trying it out again before making a final decision. However, I think he most likely knew this when he delegated Clarkson to the second unit instead of pairing him with Russell earlier in the season.

      I’m likewise somewhat concerned about the defensive pairing of Ball or Fultz with Russell. Jackson is a great defender and would at least make up for that shortfall somewhat.

      However, while Russell is the Lakers best floor general (that’s not saying much with who is behind him) his talents seem more favorably inclined to being a SG. If by the coin flips chance the Lakers keep their pick, I might want to considering trading down to get Fox or some other established PG. If the Lakers were “stuck” though with Jackson I think that would be an interesting back court pairing.

    • Good thing your not in charge then huh? The best draft for PG’s in probably the history of the draft and you want to take a wing that can’t shoot…. really? FYI… in this period of the NBA guards especially PG’s matter more than ever. The most successful combination in terms of metrics are the teams that have a quality PG, SG and Wing player… like um the Warriors. Draft Ball and kick DAR over to the 2… let Ingram mature and we will be rolling. Just trust me on this one buddy! Don’t get me wrong Jackson is going to be a player but he is too much like Ingram…. don’t need another player on the perimeter like that… we need a guy with the ball in his hand that makes everyone better… that is Lonzo!

  9. No negativity here. Been waiting for the Lakers to play DLO @ SG all year. Been telling everyone for while here the kid is better at the 2 than the 1. Doesn’t mean he still won’t get burn at the 1 but man when he doesn’t have to worry about running the offense and can spot up all over the floor or run thru picks this is a whole different team. I am happy for him because DLO needed a game like this… now build upon it! Now if we can get Randle back to posting up like he was against the Rockets we might have something people. Give Magic some credit he is taking the youngsters thru all the scenarios and I do believe they might have found Russell’s niche. Draft a top PG prospect and watch DLO become a star!

    P.S. Go Bruins & nice game Trojans!

  10. TempleOfJamesWorthy March 20, 2017 at 7:07 am

    I remember back in the 1980s, many teams tried to force large “point guards” into their lineups in response to the Lakers having Magic Johnson, the ultimate big point guard. For example, I remember the Indiana pacers drafted George McCloud…

    ..for that role. As Wikipedia notes, McCloud was largely a failure at that role and didn’t experience NBA success until he recast his game as a 3-and-D small forward.

    Perhaps DAR’s passing ability and court vision (along with more or less adequate ball-handling skills) have coaches and fans miscasting him as a point guard. Perhaps his NBA future is more Joe Johnson than Mike Conley.

    After all, Nikola Jokic is a superlative passer and the Denver Nuggets initiate much of their offense through Jokic, but nobody calls him a “point guard.” Maybe we should take a similar approach to DAR.

  11. Good game, and it was the first without both Williams and Young (should have jettisoned them 1 tear ago).

    DAR played very well. Here is the question I have which pertains to who is tradable and who is not. At one point in time, there was a hope by some that we had a couple of SuperStars amongst our youngsters. Even the most optimistic have admitted now that such a result is unlikely (and hopefully one 40 point game will not pendulum the opinions to the other side). That said – we could have a couple (maybe even 3) future All Star type players. So who to keep and who not to. As discussed with RR, Ingram and Randle have demonstrated the ability to function in a non-leading role. DAR either leads or pouts. Which is true of most Alphas. So the question is (does not need to be answered by the team now – but perhaps soon), is whether we are going to have him as our Alpha or whether we are seeking two new SuperStars and therefore all existing personnel needs to slot in at #3 or lower. Who is of the right mindset for that? Seems to me that Randle is clearly a future #3 – #4 type guy. Ingram is raw and not sure we would get fair value for him now.

  12. Why do so many Laker fans love to hate their best player? Kobe was for 20 years, now is DAR. He scored 40 points against a loaded, win-driven, star-rested repeating-WC Cavs team. He is a highly skilled 21 year old whose ceiling is yet unknown. Nash and Curry didn’t look like MVP’s at 21, just good players with handles and a good shot. I have no doubt whatsoever that DAR will score again 40 or more points, this was not his peak (40 was James Worthy’s however). Chances are he will get better yet, much better.

    The implemented youth-only rotation upends the flow of the season so far. Still overall learning the system, now with all new lineups, minute allocations and experimental rotations, it’s like a new preseason in March. In each game another youngin shows us their promise, and it’s considerable. Zu, BI, JR, JC, and of course DAR are all going to be starter-level players in this league. So, we already have a legit lineup, just not enough individual experience or team reps. One or more of these guys may and probably will become stars. I am looking forward to watching their transformation.

  13. Russell passes well, shoots well, and has decent size. He needs to tighten up his body, and work on his ability to make 3s and get contact in the lane. As to last night: Cleveland is 21st in DRTG, and that is probably why they won’t win it again. Kyrie Irving’s rep was made forever based on his Game 7 performance last year, and rightly so, but he is by both the eye test and the metrics a crappy defensive player. Undersized, not that quick without the ball, not much in the way of hops, and in-and-out in terms of effort. Russell to his credit took advantage, but of course Irving actually outscored Russell, going off for 46.

    That gets back to one of my memes: look at opponent. People made a big deal out of Randle’s big game against Houston, but Houston plays human turnstile Ryan Anderson at the 4 and I’m sure MDA did not care at all about how many points Randle scored, especially since he gets his points two at a time. A couple of games later, going against Milwaukee’s length and size, Randle struggled.

    • Shumpert guarded Russell for most of the their possessions on the floor together.

      • Fair enough, but defense is also a team thing, Cleveland’s defense is pretty weak, so the overall point about opponents still holds. Also, Shumpert played 28 minutes, Irving 38, and Russell 41. JR Smith and Deron Williams were also on the floor for a combined 42 minutes.

        • Sure. But that matters for Kyrie’s 46 too. Also, I only pointed out the Shumpert thing b/c, well, you harped on Kyrie’s defense as a key factor in Russell’s scoring outburst, even going so far as to compare it to Randle’s output against the Rockets/Ryan Anderson.

          So, I agree, context matters. I’m just saying it would have been nice to get that up front rather than on the back end after I pointed out that Kyrie actually wasn’t the main defender for most of the night.

          Lastly, if nothing else, this game was another example of Russell is capable of even if, as some would like to change I know, it’s not done consistently. Yes, there’s context to this game just as there are with any other game. As someone who strives to consistently present context, I’m all for making sure it’s discussed. That said, sometimes it’s nice to just say “see, this kid can play” and have fun with that simply b/c continually trying to “context” away/diminish really good games is tiring and, I’d say, less fun than just rooting for a young guy to do well and then enjoying when he does.

  14. Rick in Seattle March 20, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    Lakers need a strong defensive player at SG. Drafting Ball at PG & moving Russell to SG is not addressing the defensive problems they have. Perhaps either draft Josh Jackson or use the pick in trade for a all-star like Butler!
    Same issue at PF where Lakers need a better defender.
    As they say in San Antonio, Defense wins titles! With that in mind, it will be interesting to watch how far MDA takes Houston in the playoffs with their matador defense!