Archives For Game Preview

After a game which saw a loss on the scoreboard and in Larry Nance, Jr. with a supposed broken hand (more on that in a minute), the Lakers are worse for their wear and back in action tonight in Las Vegas. After that game fans were all sorts of upset — at Nance’s injury, at the coaching staff for not playing the starting 5 down the stretch, and at the players (specifically D’Angelo Russell) for poor play in the 2nd half which cost the team the lead and then the game.

I get the frustration. At least partially. Winning games, as the team had in Vegas up to that point, generates investment and buy-in. Fans want to watch and, when they do, want to be rewarded. Seeing the team lose in the fashion they did is upsetting and inspires venting. I get it. I really do.

On the other hand. This is summer league. While the I understand the hypocrisy in trying to claim the good performances and wins matter but the losses don’t, I think it’s fair to say that what really matters is overall team progress and how it measures against tangible steps backwards. While the 2nd half of Thursday’s game wasn’t pretty, the progress from the first 3 games outpaces the steps back from that lone contest.

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You’ll have to pardon the condensed preview today…

The summer league playoffs started on Wednesday and the Lakers, as the 3-seed, got a 1st round bye. Their opponent Thursday night will be the Cavs who beat the Celtics for the right to move on. So, randomly enough, the Lakers will face the summer squads of the NBA Finals teams in back to back games.

In any event, we’re now at the point where I’m not just interested in how individual players perform or the general performance of the team within the context of the schemes, but whether or not the Lakers actually win. I’m all for team building and the confidence of the young guys growing and, at this point, a nice little run in these playoffs would help in this area — even if only slightly.

With that, a win would be nice. Per the previous games, there is a formula for how the Lakers win in this environment. It’s really a 3 step process:

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Steph! Durant! Draymond! Klay!

Wait. No. None of them. Sorry.

The Lakers play the Warriors tonight in Las Vegas and will play an interesting mix of young guys and veterans the defending world champs (oh that’s right they blew a 3-1 lead) Dubs will throw out there. You might even recognize a few names — including former Laker Xavier Henry.

But we’re not really worried about those guys, are we? No, tonight I’ll be watching the Lakers’ young guys very closely. These guys are 2-0 and had a nice comeback win against the 76ers on Saturday. That game saw some tired legs and good pressure defense bother the Lakers, so here’s hoping tonight they have recovered some and can put forth a cleaner game.

With that, a few other things I will be watching for:

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This is it. The end of a season. The end of a career. Both of these carry meaning, but only one of them really matters to me today.

Thank you to Kobe for a wonderful 20 years with the franchise I root for. There has been much written and said over the years, but there has been way more good than bad and the highs provided are ones which will stick with me forever.

I really have nothing else to add. Enjoy the game, folks. Regardless of the outcome and the final score, I know I will.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet and ESPN2 nationally. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

After losing to the Rockets on Sunday, the Lakers are in Oklahoma City on Monday for their final game of the season against the Thunder. It also concludes their three game road trip serving as the final setup to the game against the Jazz on Wednesday. Sort of amazing to think the season is already over. In a way, I liken how it’s passed to those first few months of being a new parent. The days have been so long, but time has passed by so quickly.

Though it was back in December, it feels like just the other day Kobe announced, officially, this season would be his last. Now his final game is in two days. I know the time between then and now has been filled with losses, missed shots, fits and starts from the young players, and a whole lotta #byronquotes. Those tough moments have had me, more than once, wishing for the end to finally come. Now that it’s here, I can’t say I’m particularly thrilled about it. Yes, I want the negativity and suffering to end. But saying goodbye to Kobe isn’t something I’m looking forward to all that much, even though I know it is time.

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With only 3 games left in Kobe’s career, the focus is almost entirely on the final moments of his brilliant career whether he wants it that way or not. After the Lakers were handled by the Pelicans on Friday, Kobe didn’t express much approval of his point guard saying the goal was to get Kobe the ball as much as possible. On the other hand, Kobe took 10 shots in the 1st quarter of that game, including seven 3-pointers! So if he doesn’t want the ball, he’s got a weird way of showing it.

Again, though, whatever Kobe wants or doesn’t want, isn’t really that relevant at this point. The retirement train left the station long ago and now we’re all on the tracks together. There’s no adjusting course so we might as enjoy the scenery. If that involves a few more forced passes into #24, what does that matter at this point (with 3 games left in the season and his career)?

So, we celebrate the player and his career however we want to. For some, that might mean continuing to root for his departure as quickly as possible. Kobe’s not the most lovable figure in sports — Nike has done a great job of playing that up lately — and I think Kobe is fine still wearing the black hat to a portion of fans. If that means eating up career highlights and reveling in what once was, that’s totally fine too. I mean, he has clips all over the web of him dominating every team in the league. Today’s opponent included.

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I’ll be 100% honest: I have little to say about this game. The Pelicans’ injury situation is so dire, here is their projected starting lineup: Toney Douglas, James Ennis, Dante Cunningham, Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca. Say whatever you want about the Lakers and them producing the worst season in franchise history, at least they’re fielding a roster of names you can recognize.

With that, I thought this might be the best preview available when considering all the variables.

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The Lakers face the Clippers (again) on Wednesday, a night after getting crushed by them to the point the entire 4th quarter of the game was garbage time. While the Lakers have had a few successful games against their Staples Center co-tenants in the last few seasons, most games have mirrored Tuesday’s onslaught. The Clippers get up to play the Lakers and when you have a difference in quality between teams that’s been present the last few years, it’s not hard to predict the results.

After the game, Byron Scott offered similar critiques to ones he has leveled for most of the season — and especially recently. He lamented the lack of his young players’ intensity in comparison to Kobe and Metta World Peace, mentioned when you play “soft” and are not the aggressor games like this happen, and said they will need to learn to play with the appropriate level of intensity every night if they are going to “survive in this league”.

Another thing Scott mentioned was that he has run out of tactics and approaches to jumpstart his team. This was an interesting admission, since it not only implicates his players as (seemingly) non-responsive to his attempts to get them to play better, but also himself since he’s essentially admitting he’s no longer reaching his team (or at least a part of them). Whether he meant it that way or not, it’s also how that statement can be interpreted.

There could be a variety of reasons for this, but it’s a worthwhile discussion that is worrisome on multiple fronts.

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