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The Lakers stopped their five-game skid as they trampled the Indiana Pacers, 108-96. It’s too bad that it came with a price.

D’Angelo Russell was lost for the game after he sprained his MCL on his right knee. He also has a calf strain to add to those pains. D’Angelo will have an MRI tomorrow. We also received a scare from Nick Young as he hyperextended his knee but he ended up returning to the game.

In the meantime, the game wasn’t exactly pretty as the game was mired with turnovers. The Lakers had 23 while the Pacers had 20. What the Lakers had the edge on, though, was hustle as they outboarded the seemingly-disinterested Pacer team, 51-37.

We saw a litany of missed transition hoops and dunks throughout the game. But the Lakers went on two separate surges in the second half that broke them away from Indy. They went on a 12-0 run in the third to give themselves a double-digit lead then L.A. countered with eight straight points after a Pacers bucket to start the fourth. The Lakers outscored the Pacers, 35-22, in the third as Indy stumbled their way in that period with seven turnovers.

Lou Williams led the Lakers in scoring with 27 big points; the Pacers simply couldn’t stop him. Julius Randle broke out of his offensive slump with 16 points. Brandon Ingram looked smooth as he sank three shots from behind the arc on his way to 15. Nick Young also had 15 despite being slowed by the knee. Jordan Clarkson was chaotic in the game with 7 turnovers but he did get 12 points and 5 steals. And Tarik Black contributed greatly with 8 points and 13 rebounds. We’ll forgive Timofey Mozgov for missing like 20 dunks but, at least, he grabbed a ton of boards (11), set some mean picks, and did his job inside the paint.

In the first half, the Lakers couldn’t stop Al Jefferson, who scored all 20 of his points in the first half. But the Pacers never really got it going in the second half. Paul George did end up with 21 points but Ingram essentially played him to a draw as George got some of his buckets late. Myles Turner scored 15 points but he had a hard time stopping Tarik Black. Jeff Teague had six turnovers and Thaddeus Young was mostly invisible. If anything, Sue Storm would be envious on how invisible the Pacers were in the second half of that game.

The Lakers are one win short of matching their season total from last season and we’re only in January so the team has that going. L.A. will play the Mavericks next on a Sunday matinee in Dallas. Hopefully, they can continue to build momentum there. If you still have postseason hopes, they’re four games behind the 8th seed Nuggets. Hey, if the Sixers can suddenly go on a surge, why not the Lakers?

Let’s all wish D’Angelo a speedy recovery. Let’s hope his injuries aren’t too serious.

The Lakers were like ice cubes in the middle of the Sahara. The Blazers took advantage of the Lakers clanking everything late. Portland won with the final tally, 118-109.

L.A. overcame cold shooting in the first quarter as they got to the line 15 times (making 13). The bench came in and got hot; they blazed through the second quarter (har har!) with 38 points. They got hot shooting from Jordan Clarkson and the Blazers had trouble with the combo of Tarik Black and Thomas Robinson. L.A. led by as many as 14 points but the halftime lead was reduced to 9 points.

Portland came back with an 18-4 run and it was a back-and-forth affair for a while. But I like what D’Angelo Russell did. He went to the post and made some great turnaround jumpers. He scored 10 of his 22 points in that all-important fourth quarter.

Unfortunately, that shot by Russell was the last field goal for a while for the Lakers.

Evan Turner took advantage of Lou Williams and was straight fi-yah in the fourth quarter. At the same time, the Lakers played like they were in the freezer for the next few minutes. L.A. went 5:09 without a field goal. On the other side, Turner, Damian Lillard, and C.J. McCollum couldn’t stop making shots. By the time Julius Randle made a lay-up, it was too late.

I question a bit of Luke Walton’s rotation choices. Would’ve liked to see more of Tarik/Robinson on the floor in the second half. Lou Williams got stuck against a hot Evan Turner (15 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter); it would’ve helped to have a better defender on Turner (Ingram?). But once again, panic reared its ugly head on the youthful Lakers core. They started putting up quick shots when they couldn’t get anything down. It was discouraging, to say the least. Yet another blown lead by the Lakers.

C.J. McCollum led Portland wih 27 points while Lillard (who played his first game in a while) scored 21. Turner (20 points) and Allen Crabbe (14 points) were able to counter the usually deadly Laker bench. In fact, Portland tied L.A.’s bench in scoring at 39. On L.A.’s side, Russell had 22 (although he went a gross 0/8 from three) while Jordan Clarkson had 21 points. Randle didn’t shoot well but he did finish with 17 points and 9 boards. We know Lakers were without Larry Nance, Jr. but Luol Deng was also scratched out. Brandon Ingram replaced Deng in the starting line-up. He played very well in the first half; that spin move in the first half he did was pretty.

Lakers continue to have a tendency to leave those three-point shooters; the players continue to melt on those back picks and those high screen-and-roll plays. Also, I wish that the Lakers would make an immediate change if they see a match-up problem (going back to Evan Turner here). On the positive side, they took care of the ball (11 turnovers). It’s too bad that their offense just… died in the last six minutes of the game.

The Lakers are 13-26. If you’re still looking for that 8th playoff spot, they are 4 games behind the Sacramento Kings for that ever-so-coveted spot. It’s too bad that this wasn’t a blowout either way; the Lakers are back at Staples Center tomorrow night as they take on the Miami Heat. This could be a schedule loss but the Miami Heat aren’t exactly a good team so they have a chance here.

Growing pains. That’s what the Lakers have to go through. And I don’t mean the Seaver family.

Well, I had mentioned it in the preview. The Lakers have trouble playing consistently in all four quarters. In fact, this game was a tale of two halves. The Mavericks bulldozed them in the second half and went on to win, 101-89.

Los Angeles started off well enough. They had runs of 15-0 and 10-0 and looked ready to break the game open; L.A. led by 11 at one point. The Mavericks hung around, though, as they kept forcing the game to slow down every time they got the ball. The Lakers countered by trying to turn it into a track meet. They ran out on breaks and in the halfcourt, they passed the ball around. Nick Young made all four of his threes, D’Angelo Russell scored 13 in the first half, and the Lakers led by seven at the half.

Then good Laker ball stopped after halftime.

The offense stalled and we saw the same frustrating rock pounding and lack of movement. On the other side, the Mavericks picked them apart with high screen and rolls all night. I said that the Lakers had to communicate often on defense as they tend to get lost in switches, which leaves for open threes. And I also mentioned that Dallas shoots a lot of threes. The Mavs made them pay as they cashed in on 14 of their 31 shots behind the arc (Lakers only made seven). The Lakers have played like this all month but this seems to be the most glaring loss out of all of them.

Going iso for the Lakers really played into the hands of Dallas. Mavericks wanted to play it slow and it’s exactly what they got in the second half. Dallas made the most out of their possessions and they outscored Los Angeles, 31-13, in the third quarter. For a 5:19 stretch in that period, L.A. did not score. The Lakers would only go on to score 32 points overall in the second half.

Wesley Matthews led the Mavs in scoring with 20 points. Harrison Barnes wasn’t as great in this game but he still did damage when he got the ball on the block; he had 17 points. But I had mentioned the guards that didn’t play in their first meeting that could have big games. Devin Harris went for 14 points while Deron Williams had 11 dimes. Dwight Powell energized the Mavs with 14 points and Dorian Finney-Smith made some big shots on the way to 12 points. Andrew Bogut was on a minutes restriction (he played 22) but he was immense in stopping the Lakers from doing damage inside the paint. Dallas also outboarded the Lakers, 42-34. (By the way, Dirk Nowitzki was a late scratch due to an illness.)

As for the Lakers, Julius Randle led the squad with 18. Nick Young started off hot but didn’t really put up too many shots after the first quarter; he had 17 points. Russell only scored two points in the second half after going for 13 in the first half. Jordan Clarkson actually played decent with 15 points and Thomas Robinson seemingly was the only guy hustling with 8 points and 10 boards. They probably could’ve gotten more points if… oh, I don’t know… they moved a little bit?

As we’ve seen in a lot of games this month, the Laker players seemed to be content to just stand there and pretend like they’re lampshades. Yes, I know they’re young and inexperienced. Heck, they’re probably even overconfident after they went 10-10. It’s like they think they can rest on their laurels and win games. No, they won games because they all worked together and weren’t being lazy and careless on both ends of the floor. You can’t make a delicious dish without putting the work in the kitchen. You can’t get the woman or man of your dreams by just watching and not talking to her or him. And you can’t win a basketball game by being flat-footed. A lot of basketball is predicated on movement. But everyone knows that and the Lakers should know that.

Either way, that’s the last game for the Lakers in 2016 (2-14 in December! Ouch!). Hopefully, 2017 will be better for the Lakers (and for a lot of us; I understand a lot of people have lamented how bad 2016 was). So Happy New Year, people, and stay safe.

I’ll be honest here. This isn’t exactly the most must-see game for either team, let alone for any NBA fan. The Lakers have the Dallas Mavericks for the third of their five-game home stand. This would’ve been a marquee match-up in 2011. Not so much in 2016. The Lakers are 2-13 in December since their 10-10 start. The Mavericks are tied for last place in the West at a sparkling… 9-23 record.

These days, when you think of Dallas pro basketball, you think of Harrison Barnes (maybe not but work with me here). He’s done a good job as the #1 option for the Mavs (20.4 points per at under 47 percent shooting!). The Laker fans remember that; the former Warrior scored 31 points as he led them to a 109-97 victory over the city of angels in their first meeting early November. But if you haven’t cared about the Mavs this year, a familiar face should be playing tonight. Dirk Nowitzki has played only eight games this season due to his lingering Achilles injury and he’ll probably only see about 15 minutes of action. But to all of us hoop fans, 15 minutes of Dirk is better than no Dirk. We all know the game is that much better with him.

As for another player to watch out for, Steph Seth Curry should not disappear from the Lakers’ radar. He scored a career-best 23 points in that first game, including four three-pointers. High-energy big man Dwight Powell caused the Lakers some headaches as he had 10 points and five steals. The Mavericks still have ace defender Wesley Matthews and former all-stars Deron Williams and Devin Harris (neither guard stepped on the court in the first meeting), who are all capable of big games. They’ll get more energy from wingmen Dorian Finney-Smith and Justin Anderson and former Warriors center Andrew Bogut is ready to bruise up anybody like this is Tekken 6. Unfortunately for Dallas, J.J. Barea (who went for 18-7-8 in their first game and has historically been a nuisance to the Lakers) will not suit up for them as he has an Achilles injury of his own.

As mentioned before, this Dallas team hardly resembles the perennial playoff team of the past. This edition of the Mavericks team would rather make the game feel like it’s being played underwater; they are second to last in pace in the league. The goal here is to take their time and get a good shot but, unfortunately for the Mavs, they have trouble scoring. Dallas averages 94.8 points per game, which goes for last in the NBA. As for offensive rating, they score 103.3 points per 100 possessions, which is good for 27th. More proof? Mavs are 29th in field goal percentage (.428). They do put up a lot of threes but they’re 21st in percentage (.344). Lastly, they’re last in free throws attempted at 18.1 per game. Scoring for the Mavericks feels like a trip to the dentist for them. They can’t even counter their lack of scoring with good defense; they’re 23rd in defensive rating (109.7 points per 100 possessions).

Which should make this game a cakewalk for the Lakers, right?

No, of course not. After all, Dallas beat them by 12 in November 8th. We all know that the Lakers’ defense is porous this season (29th in defensive rating to the tune of 112.1 points per 100 possessions). The culprit of last game was the turnover battle (Lakers had 16 compared to 11 by the Mavs). So, really, the Lakers can make the Mavericks look like the Steve Nash Suns teams of old.

The good news for the Lakers is that they’ve played a little better in the last couple of games. They beat the Clippers on Christmas Day and barely lost against a strong Utah Jazz team on Tuesday. The problem right now that they’re having trouble playing a consistent four-quarter game. They tend to bog down to isolations in stretches and, sometimes, the Lakers seem content in staying at their spots daydreaming instead of making cuts, weaves, and helping out their teammates by setting screens. That’s when they lose the lead and, in most cases, the game (we all witnessed the last play against Utah, right?).

It’s about keeping their energy and staying with the game plan for all four periods. The Lakers play their best when they’re making the defense chase the ball instead of pounding the rock like awful drummers on a Rockband game session. It’s been proven that for this team, as the Big Aristotle said, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I may have given the credit to the wrong person but nevertheless, they are so much better together.

Defensively, the Mavs shoot a lot of threes and the Lakers tend to leave the shooters open. If the Lakers communicate more often and don’t get lost in switches, they should be fine. Also, the Mavs are very good at taking care of the ball (third fewest with 11.4) so it would be great if L.A. can put more pressure on them. And let’s hope anyone can stop Harrison Barnes. Barnes was so unstoppable in that first clash that Luke Walton even sent in Metta World Peace to defend him. I love MWP but this isn’t 2004 and I hope it doesn’t have to come to that.

It’s not like the Lakers shot badly in their previous game against Dallas; they shot just under 49 percent. Jordan Clarkson, who was a completely different player in early November, scored 22 points. Nick Young scored 20 in that game and, shockingly for all of us, we don’t have to worry about him not giving his all; he’s been the Lakers’ most consistent player on both ends. Julius Randle has been great since coming back from seeing the birth of his child. Lou Williams will probably get to the line another dozen times. We’d also like to see D’Angelo Russell have a great game and for Brandon Ingram to hopefully get more points on the board.

By the way, if the Lakers win, they’d only be three games behind the 8th spot in the Western Conference! So maybe this game has some implications, after all!

Forget what I said on the top of this preview.

Where you can watch this grand spectacle: 7:30 PM on TNT. National television! And if you somehow live in the East Coast and you love the Lakers, it’s 10:30 PM for you guys. Hope you can function on little sleep the next day!

Oh, and if you have (only) access to talk radio, you can listen to the Lakers at ESPN Radio Los Angeles 710 AM.

This was a Christmas miracle in some way. The Lakers snapped their four-game losing streak as they beat the Clippers, 111-102.

And quite frankly, they didn’t look energized to start with as the Clippers, without their two big studs Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, played some crisp offense. It got J.J. Redick some open shots, who scored 12 in the first quarter. But the Lakers picked it up at the end of the first as they finished the period with a 9-2 rush.

It became messy in the second (especially at the end of the half), which somehow sparked the Lakers a little bit. The Clippers also became a little listless and the Lakers took advantage. They cut the deficit to three by the half.

Then in the third, the frontline got the Lakers going. They burst through with a 13-0 run and we saw some defense that we seemingly hadn’t seen in weeks. The Lakers would go on to have an overall run of 28-9 and would lead as many as 18 points. But I’m sure in the back of the fans’ minds that they would blow this lead.

And there it went as the Clippers rang off 13 straight points. But they never got closer than four points. D’Angelo Russell made a corner three. Then Lou Williams (14 points) got hot as he helped hold off the Clippers with some big buckets of his own. Nick Young put away the pesky Clips with one final three-pointer.

We got some balanced scoring from the Lakers as seven out of the nine guys that played had double figures (Mozgov and Young had 19 each). Brandon Ingram played a really good floor game where he was able to direct traffic for the offense. Russell played alongside Ingram late in the game and he did a good job playing off the ball. Thomas Robinson was one of the two players that didn’t reach double digits but his energy helped the Lakers within reach when they were trailing. Luol Deng had another double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds) to go along with his two steals and two blocks. Julius Randle returned to the line-up and went for 13-7-8.

The Clippers looked pretty good early before their offense somehow bogged down; this is where they really needed either Chris Paul or Blake Griffin to settle them down. While they had their moments where they were hitting shots, the Lakers did a good job forcing some turnovers (Clippers had 15 compared to the Lakers’ 13). When they weren’t switching wildly, they did a better job playing some positional defense in the second half. It helped that the Clippers were missing Paul and Griffin. The Clips also lost Redick, who didn’t play in the fourth due to a hamstring injury. The Lakers shot just under 48 percent while the Clips were under 44 percent.

The Lakers get their second win in December. Sure, the Clippers were undermanned but no one’s going to feel sorry for them; the Lakers will take any win. The Lakers didn’t play a complete game but at least, it ended well for them. As for what’s next, they’ll take on the grimy Utah Jazz on Tuesday. We know the Jazz would rather keep the game’s pace like they’re playing in quicksand. The next month will continue being tough for the team as Larry Nance, Jr. was diagnosed to have a bone bruise on his left knee. Injuries are never good. Hope he can recover sooner than later.

As for all of you readers, please stay healthy. Hope you guys had a Merry Christmas!

The nightmarish road trip ended for the Lakers against the Magic in Orlando. And the result was pretty much the same as most of their games as Orlando thumped the Lakers, 109-90.

The Lakers couldn’t get anything going at the start as they missed their first 10 shots. Orlando got off to a 10-0 start and the team from L.A. got rejected as many times in the first quarter as I did at a club on a regular Saturday night. The Magic blocked the Lakers nine times and were up by 25 at one point.

L.A. made a couple of runs in the second half. D’Angelo Russell scored 12 points in the third and helped cut the deficit to 8. But the Magic brought the lead back to 20 as the Lakers defense continued to have holes. Jordan Clarkson then caught fire and chopped the deficit to 6 but Orlando countered with a 13-0 run to put away the game.

It felt like they’ve taken a couple of steps back since their game against Cleveland. They have trouble playing all four quarters. If they don’t blow big leads (like they did against Miami and Charlotte), they get off to slow starts. Inexperienced teams tend to do that.

But what’s really disappointing is that the Cleveland game seemed like an aberration compared to the rest of the trip. I’m not saying they’re selfish and going after their numbers but the ball movement is no longer there. In that 10-10 start, they would fly around on defense even if they overplay and we didn’t see that for much of the trip. We saw the Magic players blow by them pretty easily. And so many shooters got open. Even though Elfrid Payton isn’t known as a shooter, he got plenty of open looks on his way to 25 points. NBA players will likely make the open shots. Serge Ibaka handled the Lakers on both ends with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocks.

On the other side, Clarkson led the Lakers with 18 points while Russell scored 15 (though he didn’t score after his hot third). The Lakers turned the ball over 16 times as some of the passes looked lazy or careless. They also only shot 36 percent while the Magic shot over 50 percent. (Julius Randle didn’t play because of the birth of his child. Congrats to him and his fiancĂ©e, Kendra, by the way.)

So the Lakers still only have won one game this month (1-12 in December). What the team has to do is get back to the basics. We all understand that the injuries are part of the game. But some teams have the mentality of “next man up”; San Antonio, Memphis, and Portland have played well like that in the past few years. They don’t change their system and they thrived. The team we’re seeing now is completely different from the one that started 10-10. They gotta put forth the effort on defense and fly around, even if it means overplaying them. And they have to move the ball around more instead of trying to do it solo. Players have to play for each other instead of for themselves.

They have a big test against the Clippers on Christmas Day. We’re not expecting them to win but it would be great if they can get back to what made them good, promising, and exciting in the first place. Play within the system and they’ll be back to okay. It’s frustrating but everyone that’s invested in this team has to be patient.

Happy Holidays, everyone. Remember that this is still a game so let’s all stay happy.

The Lakers were on a back-to-back and they drew the reigning, defending NBA champions at the tail end. As expected, the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Lakers, 119-108.

But the final score doesn’t tell the story of the whole game. In fact, this was one of the better performances they’ve had this season, even though they didn’t have starting point guard D’Angelo Russell (who had a sore knee and was rested by the team).

The Lakers got off to a great start as they led the Cavs, 31-23, in the first quarter. But the Cavs came roaring back as they scored 15 unanswered points. Kyrie Irving did his thing as he was weaving, scoring, and getting his teammates involved. But the Lakers didn’t let the Cavs break free. Julius Randle and Nick Young did everything they could to keep up with the champs. Jordan Clarkson, who finally had a great offensive game, beat the halftime buzzer with a lay-up and cut the deficit to three.

The three-point barrage continued from both teams. Nick Young was hot all game; he would end with 32 points and 8 shots from behind the arc. Kevin Love and J.R. Smith would do the damage for the Cavs from the outside. Later on, Clarkson and Luol Deng would join in on the act. It was your good old-fashioned shootout. We know how potent the Cavs offense was but we saw some excellent ball movement from the Lakers. L.A. was able to stay with Cleveland.

Until the end. Cleveland was hanging on to a three-point lead, 108-105, before the Lakers finally went cold. The champs took advantage and LeBron James made a three to give themselves a cushion with 2:30 left. The Lakers wouldn’t make a field goal for more than three minutes. Cleveland ended the game with an 11-3 run. Both teams combined for 31 three-pointers.

I don’t necessarily think this was a moral victory but I do think there was some growth today for this team. They’ve lost nine out of ten, sure, but the Lakers played an all-around good game in Cleveland. They were just overwhelmed and got beat by a better team. The Cavaliers are champions, after all. LeBron didn’t get off to a great start but he still finished with 26-7-9. Kyrie distributed early then got himself going offensively; he had 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 12 assists. Kevin Love, who seems to finally have it figured out in Cleveland, went for 27 points and 17 boards.

But the ball movement was crisp for the first time in weeks. They had 12 turnovers, which wasn’t bad. Nick Young, again, had eight three-pointers, which was a career-best. And he didn’t do so bad defensively, either. Julius Randle got off to a good start and ended with 16 points. Again, Clarkson had a good offensive game and scored 20 points (he didn’t pound the ball as much like dribbling was going out of style). We’re encouraged by Luol Deng. He scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Deng made some big shots to keep the team in it. And Brandon Ingram flirted with a triple-double (9 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists). He showed some leadership out there in the point guard position; you could see him directing traffic out there. It was good to see. Larry Nance, Jr. only had two points and five boards but playing in front of your dad must feel pretty awesome. Timofey Mozgov didn’t play a great game but he did receive his championship ring (he was mobbed by his former Cavs teammates before the game started).

If they keep playing like this in the future, they should win more often than not. When they get more experience playing together, cut the little mistakes, tighten up defensively, and consistently play well in four quarters, then the Lakers will be a team to watch. Hopefully, they do most of the same play in their next game, which is in Charlotte on Tuesday.

The Lakers will be fine if they continue to make progress like this. With the expectations tapered a bit, the wins would certainly be good but the playoffs, at this point, would be gravy.

The national nightmare is over! Okay, not really a national nightmare but the Lakers finally win a game for the first time in the month of December. The Lakers beat the lowly Sixers, 100-89. L.A. got off to a 13-0 start and never lost the lead.

It’s not a pretty game by any means but the Lakers did answer to Luke Walton’s challenge. He said that the players were “mentally soft” after their disappointing loss against the Nets.

The Lakers were energized on both ends of the court early. L.A.’s defense led to a lot of transition plays (27 fastbreak points by the Lakers compared to 8 by the Sixers). And the ball movement that was lacking during the losing streak showed up mostly in the first half. The Sixers struggled to shoot from the field and the Lakers led by double digits going into the second half.

L.A. boosted the lead to 22 in the third quarter before everything that plagued them during that losing skid returned to them. The Sixers went on a 9-0 run to end the third and the deficit was down to 10 points. Philly got it down to seven twice but timely buckets by Jordan Clarkson, Luol Deng, and Julius Randle snuffed the rally. The Lakers would hold on despite a mostly lackluster fourth quarter.

We had some good balanced scoring from the Lakers as there were five players in double figures. Randle scored a season-best 25 points to go along with 9 boards, 4 assists, and 3 steals. Lou Williams continues to score well off the bench with 18 points. D’Angelo Russell (15 points) didn’t shoot well but he rebounded well (7 rebounds), made the offense go, and was telling his teammates their spots on defense. Nick Young (15 points) only played 21 minutes but he continues his good play on both ends of the court. Jordan Clarkson (10 points, 4/9 from the field) has struggled in the losing streak and he’s trying to shoot his way back, which has been detrimental to the team’s ball movement. Larry Nance grabbed 11 boards and was all over the court. And welcome back, Tarik Black, even if you only played 205 seconds.

The Sixers don’t have much offensively but we know how talented Joel Embiid is. He had 15 points to lead Philly. But Philly only shot 36 percent from the field (they went 6 for 31, .194, from three). They were scrappy enough to cut into that 22-point lead so you have to give them credit for that.

But at least, the Lakers finally snapped their eight-game skid. The NBA doesn’t stop, though, as they play the world champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in about 20 and a half hours. They should take note and build on this win against the Sixers. No one is expecting them to beat the champs on the road but we want to see the fighting spirit and the ball movement that defined the Lakers in their first 20 games. Maybe Luke did wake the team up a bit.

Even if it was a bit scary, good win by the Lakers.

(Also, rest in peace, Craig Sager. #SagerStrong forever.)