Archives For Game Preview

After over a week off, All-Star weekend, a front office shakeup which captivated the league, and two separate trades with the Rockets (Lou Williams for Corey Brewer + a 1st round pick and, later, Marcelo Huertas for Tyler Ennis), the Lakers are back playing actual basketball tonight when they suit up against the Thunder.

 

The Thunder, too, have a different look after trading Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow, and Joffery Lauvergne to the Bulls for Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson. In the short term, this deal likely helps the Thunder more than the Bulls as Gibson is the best player traded. In the long term, this trade likely comes down to who becomes the better pro — Payne or McBuckets, which is something we just can’t know at this point.

In any event, this is a match up of two teams who will look different than the versions which entered the All-Star break, which means adjustments to new/tweaked roles and incorporation of new guys. Having practiced yesterday helps, but there’s still some things to work out — something which applies more to the Thunder (adding guys who should be in the rotation) than the Lakers.

Beyond accounting for those adjustments and some potential rust due to the long layoff, I am hopeful for a good game which puts the focus back on the court and what the players can do. It’s easy to be caught up and distracted by the events of the last few days, but I think it’s fair to say those moves were (mostly) made to correct course and establish the long term plan which best fits this organization.

That means further empowering the young players and letting them sink or swim. Which is something I will be watching for tonight. Will the young guards get longer stints? Will they close the game? This isn’t to say that you can’t coach them hard or pull them for making mistakes or do whatever else is needed to establish good habits. That said, the focus should shift even more in their direction now and there’s at least one fewer excuse/impediment to them on the roster now.

With that, I hope to see a good game where the team competes hard. They should be refreshed and looking to make their mark in the last 20+ games of the year. Let’s see what they’ve got.

Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.

So, All-Star Saturday night — one of my favorite nights — wasn’t that great. The three point contest never saw a guy get insanely hot and the dunk contest was filled with too many props — human or otherwise — for my liking.

I’ve always thought the key to a really good dunk contest is really simple: get some insanely athletic guys doing really clean, highlight level dunks on their first try. That’s what Jordan/Nique did, it’s what Vince Carter did, and it’s what LaVine and Gordon did last year. This year had some of that with Robinson and Jones showing off their amazing athleticism, but I think it also speaks to their relative obscurity as players that even this wasn’t enough. Oh well. Maybe next year.

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The Lakers may be on a break for another week, but a few of their players are in New Orleans for All-Star Weekend to compete in various events. The first of those commitments is tonight when D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram join up on the U.S. Team in the Rising Stars Challenge to face off against their World Team counterparts. A full roster and background of the game can be found here.

It’s a nice honor to be included in this game, but this isn’t something which should be be taken too seriously be fans since history tells us it certainly will not be by the players involved. There will be little to no defense played, players will be gunning for highlights, and guys will be hunting for their shots. It’s less a basketball game and more a game of 2K brought to life by 19-22 year olds.

In other words, this game will have little to no intensity and we’re all (including the coaches of both teams) just going to have to live with that.

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The Lakers lost to the Kings on Tuesday, a game which saw Lou Williams go supernova in the 4th quarter to bring the team back from a double-digit deficit to nearly pull out the win. Williams’ last second heave was wide right, but his work up to that point was thrilling even though I was frustrated by the number of possessions he was using and the time D’Angelo Russell spent on the bench because of it.

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After a nice (and needed) break from games after the team’s eight day road trip while the Grammy’s invaded Staples Center, the Lakers are back in action against the Kings tonight. The game will actually only serve as a one game reprieve from the road as the team will travel to Phoenix for a Wednesday back to back before another extended break through the All-Star game and into next Friday in Oklahoma City.

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With the news breaking Thursday evening that Magic Johnson is maneuvering to be more than just an “advisor” to Jeanie Buss, instead wanting to “call the shots” for the Lakers, I almost forgot the Lakers had a game to play today. The team is in Milwaukee, playing the final game of their five game road trip in which they are currently 1-3. The loss to the Pistons on Wednesday was a stinker, but the team has otherwise competed well even if the wins have not followed.

Against the Bucks, then, it would be nice of the team could simply wash away that last game and rekindle the energy and effort they’d had in the previous few contests. Especially since, recently, the Bucks have been going through their own issues.

Losers of 11 of their previous 13 games and, sadly, just getting the news that 3rd year forward Jabari Parker tore his ACL for the 2nd time in three seasons, Milwaukee is reeling. And even though they have gotten guard Khris Middleton back from a torn hamstring which has kept him out the entire year, he is on a minutes restriction and cannot be expected to have his rhythm or game conditioning up to his normal standards yet.

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So, I know there’s a group of you that have already started to breakdown the odds of the Lakers keeping their top 3 protected pick and treating wins with a conflicted shrug of the shoulders. For me, though, Monday’s win over the Knicks felt good. Luke Walton changed the starting lineup, that group responded well, the team played better defense overall, and they were able to not only build a lead but also hold off any surges from the Knicks to keep them at more than arm’s length.

Yes, there were some things to nitpick about (Russell only playing 19 minutes, Lou leading the team in scoring), but those things mattered less to me than the things mentioned above. So, I am happy. Now, the next question: will that happiness last?

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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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