The Lakers may not be a “good” team, but they’re at least as successful as last season and there are still 31 games to play. By beating the Denver Nuggets 120-116 on Tuesday night, the Lakers earned their 17th win of the year in game #51 — equal to last season’s disastrous 82 game total. If nothing else, then, this win symbolizes a bit of progress even if the dips and struggles since the team’s 10-10 start still weigh heavy.
In the tradition of Kurt Helin, founding of FB&G, it’s always good to get some good insights and thoughts from the comments. In an age where many people who frequent sites like these follow the mantra of “never read the comments”, I’ve always been (mostly) proud (you know who you are!) of the people who take the time to participate and bring grounded perspective to the comments.
So, with that, I turn to commenter Clay Bertrand who has some thoughts on tonight’s Lakers’ game vs. the Nuggets:
OT but these games against Denver have the under the radar sort of rivalry with Russell and Mudiay usually playing a little game within the game against each other. Last game, was Mudiay getting Russell benched as I recall and shooting the lights out. Denver was shooting outta their minds that game at least in the first half.
Tough to have a return from injury and have a huge performance but lets see if Russell musters some extra heart and drive tonight vs. Mudiay. Even before his injury his confidence seemed to be waning and his non chalant efforts were somewhat worrisome IMO.
Might be a good night to start Deng (YEP, our Superstar FA signing!!!) at the 4 with Randle out instead of Black and start Ingram at the 3. He can shut down Gallinari and keep him from getting going outside. Of course, starting Black opens up some real nice back up minutes for Zubac so maybe that’s the direction Luke will go in order to get Black and Zubac both decent minutes in Randle’s absence.
ALSO, Zubac vs. Jokic WOULD HAVE been a goodie to watch with Zubac likely getting increased minutes. But Jokic is OUT tonight so the SERB ON SERB match up will have to wait til the March 13 game.
D’Angelo Russell practiced in full on Saturday and the team is hopeful he will return to game action on Tuesday when the Lakers return to the court for the first time in 5 days. Russell’s been dealing with a mild MCL sprain and a strained calf, but considering the original prognosis was 1-2 weeks he is right on schedule.
Russell’s return is much needed. We have discussed it plenty this year, but the Lakers need Russell. Even more specifically, the Lakers’ starting 5 needs him. When Russell plays, the starting group of him, Nick Young, Luol Deng, Julius Randle, and Timofey Mozgov post an offensive rating of 110.9 and a defensive rating of 103.3. When Russell is replaced with Jose Calderon, the team’s offensive rating falls to 88.9 and the defensive rating jumps to 117.0. Replace Russell with Brandon Ingram and those numbers are 71.3 and 108.2 respectively.
The sample sizes of the Calderon/Ingram lineups are much smaller, but the eye test reflects what those numbers spell out. Neither of Russell’s replacements do as good a job of him at…well, everything on offense. And while Calderon works hard on defense, he’s bad. Ingram is, of course, a better defender but asking him to chase PG’s has not worked out well at all. So, yeah, Russell is important. He makes the starting group go.
If you’re looking for a reason why Russell has played 403 of his 894 total minutes this season with the starters, those numbers above would probably be the #1 reason.
A bullet point summary of Wednesday’s Lakers’ game against the Blazers would go something like this:
- The Lakers competed well for most of the evening, finding a way to keep their deficit reasonable and then come back to take a lead with 5 minutes left. This was great to watch. It really was.
- The key offensive performer was Lou Williams who, once again, showed off fantastic shot making and general scoring savvy.
- Down the stretch, though, the Lakers’ defense failed them, Williams got a bit too ball-hoggy while also missing shots, and the Blazers made a late push to take control and ultimately win the game.
- The other overarching theme was that the Lakers’ starters — playing without D’Angelo Russell — were terrible and, for stretches, lacked the needed effort. Walton responded by playing the bench heavy minutes and offering quick hooks to certain starters. The result was Julius Randle playing only 20 minutes and Timofey Mozgov only tallying 13.
After the game Walton commented that it “just wasn’t (the Lakers’) night” while also noting that Lou could have moved the ball better late in the game when the Blazers’ defense started to blitz him more. Walton was also asked about changing up his starting lineup and responded by saying it would be something they continue to look at, but did not offer specifics nor a timeline for making any potential change.
Just as they did for the Team USA Select Team, the Lakers’ most recent lottery selections will be teammates in the Rising Stars Challenge held during All-Star weekend in New Orleans:
NBA announces rosters for rookie-soph game (aka "rising stars challenge"). pic.twitter.com/ovx4uxIfQD
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) January 25, 2017
The league will again make the format of this game “USA vs. the World”, so sophomore Russell and rookie Ingram will be on the same roster facing off against the likes of Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid, and Emanuel Mudiay among others.
This is a nice honor for both players. Every year there seem to be guys left off — last year, for example, Julius Randle did not play in this game even though he’s a former lottery pick who has a high upside — who have a good argument to make the team. This year, one might even argue that Ingram might not deserve to play in this game, regardless of his draft status. I’d counter with his play in the last 15 games as an example of why he should be there, but he made it so no need. Ha.
Anyway, I like any environment where the team’s young guys get exposed to more talent and good coaching. This game won’t be “serious” nor will it count for anything, but just to have these guys invited, seeing what the all-star experience is for the guys who make the big game, and getting enough of a taste to (hopefully) continue to inspire their work ethic to some day get there themselves is a nice carrot for them.
The Blazers again? Tonight’s game in Portland will be the 3rd time in 20 days these teams have played. The circumstances in this game are different with Russell not traveling with the team due to his MCL sprain/strained calf, but besides that there’s really nothing new to add about a match up between these squads.
I mean, we can argue about whether Brandon Ingram or Jose Calderon should start, if that’s your thing. I think it’s the latter since my guess is that neither approximates what Russell brings and that Ingram’s defensive ability does not yet translate to guarding guys like Lillard or even McCollum. His length and off ball work in passing lanes matters so much more against guys more his size, not the jitterbugging, P&R heavy types in the Blazers’ backcourt. If you feel differently, though, fine.
Beyond that, though, what is there to discuss? Randle vs. Aminu? Whether Lou/Clarkson can get buckets against what has been a porous Blazers’ defense? Whether Evan Turner continues to be a thorn in the Lakers’ side with his mid-range shooting and shot creation for himself and teammates as a primary ball handler in transition? I mean, these things surely matter, they’re just not new ideas and I think it’s pretty fair to say that if these things tilt in the Lakers’ favor, they’ll win. If they don’t or if Dame/CJ score in bunches, the Lakers’ lose.
It sounds simple. But it actually is simple. Sometimes the game just is.
I know during Sunday’s 49 point drubbing at the hands of the Mavericks, many Lakers’ fans threw out a bunch of four letter words. After the game, though, the one which might have been most uttered by fans wasn’t an expletive, but rather a reference to what the team’s strategy should be for the rest of the year: tank.
With the Lakers falling to last in the West and now in possession of the 3rd worst record in the league, the draft pick ramifications of the Lakers’ position is not lost on anyone who roots for the Lakers. So, with that, in the latest Laker Film Room Podcast, me and Pete discuss the direction of the team, what approach they should take in the 2nd half of the year, and, briefly, a couple of – gulp – prospects in the upcoming draft.
Click through to listen to the discussion.
The Lakers have found their way back to the bottom of the standings. After losing to the Mavs on Sunday and with the suddenly frisky Suns beating the Raptors, the Lakers have dipped to last in the West and now, by percentage points, are in possession of the league’s 3rd worst record. That 10-10 start seems like it was a decade ago.
First, it should be stated clearly: there’s no one thing that is wrong with the Lakers. There’s no single item that, if fixed, turns their season around. They are poor defensively in a variety of ways, are prone to frequent stretches of offensive struggle, have had issues with staying healthy, suffer through general inconsistency, and have a coach who has shown to be somewhat stubborn with (certain types of) lineup decisions. All of these things have impacted how the team’s performed. Changing one thing (besides, maybe, their health) doesn’t suddenly completely change their record.