Archives For Game Preview

The Lakers return to action after two days off, facing off against the Knicks in the 3rd of their five game Grammy road trip. The team is 0-2 so far, losing a competitive game against the Wizards on Thursday then a hard fought game against the Celtics a night later. The game against the C’s saw the Lakers win every quarter but the 2nd, but the 12 point defeat in that period was too much to overcome.

After the game, Luke Walton harped on the team’s poor play in those 2nd 12 minutes, bringing up one of his favorite critiques of his team: “In the second quarter as a team, I thought we got selfish. We stopped moving the ball, we stopped trusting each other. Because of it, we’re not making shots and then our defense gets lazy.” Again, this isn’t new and, I think, reflects what Walton really values philosophically. He wants his team to play together, to move the ball, to play unselfishly. He believes that when you play this way, everyone will feel involved offensively and this will translate to defensive engagement too.

One could argue whether or not this is actually true, but I don’t think the Lakers, as a whole, really give these ideals an opportunity for extended stretches. I have commented on this before, but they have only so many natural ball movers on this team. Beyond that, they have guys whose natural games are to want the ball either to shoot it right away or to find a way to do something with it so they eventually can shoot it. When you look at who typically plays in the 2nd quarter, you’ll no doubt make the connection as to why some might rank higher on my list of veterans the team should explore trading.

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The Lakers are on the 2nd night of a back to back after a tough, but competitive loss to the Wizards on Thursday. In many ways that game reminded me of the game against the Pacers in Indiana earlier this year. In that game, the Lakers played well enough to win, but saw Paul George play to his all-star status by sinking shots down the stretch to pull out the win. In Washington, George’s role was played by John Wall who sunk several key jumpers in the closing minutes to fend off a Lakers team that battled back from a large deficit to put themselves in position to win.

The fact the Lakers couldn’t close isn’t a surprise, even if it is somewhat disappointing. The team didn’t do enough to put themselves in position, committing 20 turnovers and not showing enough defensive discipline earlier in the game when the Wizards started to pull away. Again, disappointing even if, at this stage of the season and with their level of play what it’s been, not surprising.

Heading into Boston, then, the Lakers have some things to feel good about even if their chances of winning this game are about the same (if not worse) than what they were Thursday. Boston is one of the better teams in the East and, though flawed, has a slew of really good players and another all-star PG who can do a ton of damage offensively in Isaiah Thomas. Slowing the diminutive PG becomes priority #1, but just like with Wall it is easier said than done.

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The Lakers are starting their yearly trek to the east coast while the Grammy’s are being prepared for in Los Angeles. The team will begin its trip in Washington and will conclude in Milwaukee with stops in Boston, New York, and Detroit in between. They will not return home for 8 days when they face the Kings on the 10th of February.

That’s the bad news. The Lakers are nearly .500 at home, posting a 12-13 record for the season. They are, however, only 5-21 on the road. That’s not shocking for a young team who has been bad in recent years. That said, lack of being surprised does not equal it being something that can be lived with. For the long term trajectory of the team, they must find a way to snare some wins in opponents’ buildings.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Lakers snapped a 5 game losing streak with their win over the Pacers on Friday, a sorely needed win after not only that recent skid but a longer stretch of only 5 wins in 26 tries that lasted over a month. The win did not come without its “losses” though. D’Angelo Russell suffered a “mild” MCL sprain and a strained calf after tough fall in the game’s 2nd minute. He’ll be out 1-2 weeks and did not travel to Dallas. Nick Young also suffered a hyper extended knee, but did return to the game and, presumably will not suffer any lingering affects.

Losing Russell is a blow to the team, no doubt. He’d been struggling with his individual game lately and I was hoping to see him respond with a strong game against Indy. Still, though, as I (and others) have harped on throughout the season, Russell is the lone guard who offers an ability to score at all three levels of the floor, can organize the offense, is a deft passer, and a good ball mover overall. That diversity of ability means the team rarely struggles to get at least a somewhat respectable look in the half court when he’s in the game. Considering the dearth of individual shot creators in the starting lineup, this matters.

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There’s no getting around it: the Lakers are bad right now. You can add the context of injuries, the league catching up with them, general youth, or any other number of valid reasons which contribute to the slippage and I’ll nod along in agreement. But, ultimately, the team has not been playing well enough to win and, at the end of the day, that’s why you play the game (*extreme Herm Edwards voice*).

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