After earning their first win of the preseason on Sunday against the Kings in Las Vegas, the Lakers are back in Los Angeles tonight to face off against the Utah Jazz. This is truly the “home stretch” of preseason, with only two games remaining before the regular season starts.
In saying that, I’d imagine the coaches are going to want to play things a bit more “straight” when it comes to lineups, personnel groupings, and rotations, some of which is evidenced by the team waiving VJ Beachem and Stephen Zimmerman on Monday. So, it could be noteworthy that the starting lineup for tonight’s game is unchanged from the one against the Kings:
Nance, of course, replaces Randle with the first 5. He’ll lineup with Ennis (I think), KCP, Ingram, and Lopez. Lonzo Ball remains out with his ankle injury. Andrew Bogut remains out with his strained groin.
Randle did continue to play well and was the team’s best player against the Kings. The hope, of course, is that this level of play continues whether he’s a starter or a bench player. But this is something that is worth keeping an eye on.
Regarding the game itself, the Jazz are a changed team from recent years with Gordon Hayward now in the East playing for Boston. The team also lost George Hill, but traded for Ricky Rubio and drafted a potentially dynamic wing in Donovan Mitchell. These new faces join established vets in Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and Rodney Hood to form a nice enough nucleus, but also one that could struggle to make the playoffs in the powerhouse West.
Much like previous games, though, I’m less worried about the Jazz and more concerned about what the Lakers are doing. Against the Kings the team played better defense, but struggled to score on the other end. This made for a rough game to watch, but one that also could be defined as their best effort to this point. Not just because of the W at the end, but because the focus and energy needed was sustained for longer.
The team will need the same tonight. Especially against the methodical and precise execution of Utah. Good communication, sharp rotations, and finishing possessions are going to be important. That last point is especially crucial. The Jazz are a big, physical team. They will hit the offensive glass and punish you for not boxing out or initiating contact early. Lopez and Nance both can have issues on the defensive glass (in different ways), so they’ll need to be sharp in this area tonight. The guards and wings will also need to help in this area.
Lastly, before the Kings game I spoke about Brandon Ingram and hoping he played well after struggling to that point in the preseason. Then, you know, Ingram proceeded to shoot 1-6. And while he played well defensively — which is GREAT, I should add — his general play remains an issue overall. Heading into tonight’s game, then, I again hope that Ingram plays well but I say that with a bit more context beyond him just making a higher percentage of his shots.
At Monday’s media availability, Luke Walton basically tried to walk back some of the expectations surrounding Ingram. Walton’s basic message was, and I’m paraphrasing, Ingram’s put in so much work and is eager to prove that he’s actually improved. With that, Ingram might just be pressing and the results which come from pressing are usually not good. Ingram, then, needs to “let the game come to him” more instead of doing what he has been doing.
First, I applaud Walton for saying this. Not just because it’s obvious, but because it needed to be said. Ingram being cast as a go-to scorer in his 2nd season as a 20 year old was not the best approach for him. Ingram needs to get back to moving the ball generally and then attacking when the defense is compromised. His coaches need to help him do this, too. This needs to happen in tandem, not just Ingram trying to adjust. If he’s going to be put in spots where isolating for a basket is his first read, that’s as much a coaching issue as it is Ingram then going out and trying to do that.
So, I want to see Ingram play better. That is on Ingram. It’s also on the coaches. Let’s see if any adjustments are made against the Jazz.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet and ESPN.