Archives For Game Preview

The Lakers are now 3 games under .500 at 10-13. They have lost 3 in a row and 4 of their last 5 games, their lone win coming against the Bulls in what was a pretty unexpected performance considering how shorthanded they were and the fact they were on the 2nd night of a back to back.

The team, of course, remains shorthanded. Though the recent update on D’Angelo Russell is somewhat positive, he’s not likely to return until early next week. And the team is still without Nick Young and Jose Calderon for longer than that while Tarik Black is out at least against Houston with Larry Nance questionable to play.

None of that is good news. Not against a Rockets team which is playing very well of late. Houston has won 5 of 6, including a double OT victory in Oakland against the Warriors last week. That win snapped the Dubs’ double-digit win streak and showed how the Rockets can compete against the best teams through their high powered offense which is piloted by James Harden.

Harden is an MVP candidate and is a nightmare for any team to contain, but especially these Lakers. In the first matchup between LA and Houston, Luke Walton put Nick Young on Harden for most of the night and while Young battled hard he ultimately didn’t stop James from getting his numbers. Harden’s ability to get into the paint allowed him to set up teammates for good looks and his shooting ability meant there were no ways to shade or cheat on him without giving up a play he is more than capable of making.

Without Young available tonight, it’s unclear who Walton turns to now. Deng? Ingram? Does he break up his backup backcourt duo of Clarkson and Williams in order to have JC track the Beard? Harden is of such quality, but none of these sound like good solutions.

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Crushing headaches do not mix with writing game previews. This is something I knew already, but am reminded of today as I try to type words onto a white screen reflecting light which might as well be Shinobi ninja stars being guided right into my eyeballs.

So, forgive the brevity.

The Lakers play the Jazz tonight in a return to Staples Center. After going 1-3 on a road trip which saw them play those four contests in five nights, the team is back in action after only a day off. The “rest” may help, but I doubt it. The first game back from a road trip can often be just like another road game. Players have to settle in, attempt to get back to their regular routines, and then get right back on the court to play basketball again. At least they get to sleep in their own beds.

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I’m going to keep this one short because, honestly, I’m as tired as the Lakers probably are. Well, that’s probably not true. Not when I remember that tonight’s game in Memphis will the Lakers’ 4th in 5 nights and has them traveling from Toronto where they were spanked on Friday by the Raptors. Before traveling to Toronto, the Lakers were in New Orleans and Chicago the two previous days, which, considering these are people who rely on performing athletic feats for a living, probably isn’t ideal.

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The Lakers improbably climbed back to .500 on Wednesday, beating the Bulls in an ugly game which saw both teams struggle to score. Of course, ugly wins count the same as the most beautiful ones so I’ll take the result happily. Underscoring/what led to the poor aesthetics was that the Bulls game offered some of the best defense the Lakers played all season. So, I guess if you’re 90’s Knicks era Pat Riley, you might have found the game to be prettier than most.

Wednesday is long gone, though. Or at least it needs to be when the Lakers are now in Toronto to play the Raptors on the first night of another back to back that has them in Memphis on Saturday. Regardless of how good the Grizz are (and with Mike Conley out, they are much worse than they were just a few days ago), that game will be the team’s 4th in 5 nights all in different cities while crisscrossing the continent (New Orleans to Chicago to Toronto to Memphis).

So, if the Lakers hope to go (at least) 2-2 on this trip, getting a win in Toronto is likely to be the best way to make that happen. Of course, considering the Raptors are 12-6 (2nd best in the East), that is easier said than done. When you consider their personnel and how they like to attack teams, the chances decrease further.

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As I wrote in my game preview, Tuesday’s game vs. the Pelicans was a real threat. Jrue Holiday’s return has added a legit two-way player who is also the team’s best playmaker (yes, even better than Davis). Adding him to the lineup has made them formidable in ways that are even greater than his individual talent as he helps them slot their lineups appropriately while also bringing out the best in teammates due to his playmaking and scoring ability.

The Lakers saw that first hand and were not able to overcome. Yes, Davis was brilliant in his typical ways. Any time a player goes for 40+ points and 15+ rebounds, he is the guy who put his stamp on the game. But I thought it was Holiday’s 22 points and 5 assists which were also difference makers in the Pelicans’ attack. His scoring ability opened up the floor more for his teammates and being a threat from the perimeter in general helped Davis get more 1-on-1 opportunities against Lakers’ defenders who could not handle him.

Ultimately, games like these happen and while they are discouraging, I won’t be too upset. The Lakers are now 9-10 on the year which, if we’re being honest, is pretty good. Not only within the context of the expectations heading into the season, but within the context of the current standings for the conference.

One thing that is harder to live with, though, is Nick Young’s injury. After challenging a fastbreak layup attempt, Young landed and instantly hopped around with a lower leg injury. He did not return after being diagnosed with a strained achilles tendon. An MRI will be performed today and the hope is that it’s nothing too serious. But Young will not play tonight in Chicago and that only further compromises the Lakers’ wing depth.

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The Lakers continue to show grit and fighting spirit — there’s really no other way to explain their 9-9 record at this stage of the season, their latest win coming against the Hawks without D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. The team simply battles hard, does their best to execute the gameplan, and finds ways to either keep games close or pull ahead with timely runs (mostly by the hands of their destructive all-bench unit).

Tonight is another test, though. The Lakers are in New Orleans to play the Pelicans, starting a 4-game road trip and the first night of a back to back which lands them in the Windy City Wednesday. The Pelicans’ record is poor, but have been playing better lately after Jrue Holiday returned to action after managing family health issues. The Pelicans also have that Anthony Davis fellow. I hear he’s pretty good.

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After losing to the Warriors in back to back games, the Lakers are now 8-9 and under .500 for the first time since they were 2-3 on November 2nd. That day they played the Hawks on the final game of a 4 game road trip and surprisingly won even though they played without Timofey Mozgov to anchor against Dwight Howard.

That game served as a bit of a turnaround for these Lakers, not only rewarding them for their hard play, but because it served as the 1st game of the team’s new rotation which saw them scrap playing a traditional backup PG in favor of giving Brandon Ingram more ball-handling duties and riding a Clarkson/Williams tandem in the back court.

It’s a bit ironic, then, that the Lakers get the Hawks again tonight, though under vastly different circumstances. Tonight the Lakers are playing their final game at home before going out on a 4 game road trip, are now featuring Jose Calderon as a rotation mainstay due to D’Angelo Russell’s sore knee which will keep him out another week and a half, and have lost 3 of 4 before facing this team. Wait. Sorry, that last part is exactly the same as the match up in Atlanta almost a month ago.

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I’m going to keep this brief because it is hard to write and think clearly while in a food coma for nearly a full 24 hours. Those extra pieces of pie then cheesecake then going back for more honey baked ham seemed like a good idea at the time. It really did.

I wish I could say the Lakers are doing better than I am, but that doesn’t actually seem to be the case.

At shootaround today, Randle apparently tried to run but his hip tightened up on him. Young, meanwhile, sat out the session in order to receive treatment on his toe. Considering the Lakers are already without D’Angelo Russell, if neither Young nor Randle play the team will be without 3 starters and their vaunted depth pretty much evaporates.

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