Archives For Game Preview

I’ve written it before, but I’ve not been the biggest fan of the Lakers playing on Christmas. This is mostly for selfish reasons — I’d much prefer to just relax with family and not have to be the guy who shuns everyone while totally investing in another Lakers’ game. I do that 81 other times a year, one day off — on Christmas no less — isn’t too much to ask for.

This year, though, I don’t have that same feeling. And, again, it’s for selfish reasons. This will be Kobe Bryant’s final game on Christmas and I want to see him perform. If his recent level of play holds up, it should be a good final game too. But even if it doesn’t, I still want to watch him do his thing.

Kobe’s the NBA’s all-time leading scorer on Christmas day with 383 points on his resumé. His filled highlight reels with some amazing moments that are engrained in my memory. You know, ones like these:

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My apologies for the lack of a preview today. Real life intervened and that’s that. In any event the Lakers face the Thunder tonight, looking to play less “scared” and/or “in awe” than a few days ago when they got drubbed by 40.

The good news is that everyone is healthy and ready to go. Hopefully Kobe’s presence can help stabilize the lineup and he can continue his good play of late. Enjoy the game folks.

Heading into any game between the Lakers and Nuggets, the first note for the foreseeable future should be about the young guards on each side. Unfortunately for fans tonight, though, it looks like Emmanuel Mudiay is a scratch for tonight’s game with a sprained ankle.

As I was writing that last bit, the shift in attention struck me. For the better part of the last two decades, the first question heading into any Lakers game was who might be matched up against Kobe Bryant so long as he’s healthy. By all accounts, he is “definitely” playing tonight. So it struck me as odd that he wouldn’t be the first aspect of a Lakers game in this, his final season.

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I’m still pretty much bedridden with a cold, so excuse the short preview today. I’ll try to catch the game, but more than likely will not. Thanks for the understanding. Hope you enjoy the game.

While the Lakers’ record accurately reflects the type of team they are, it should also be noted that they are also changing from what they were early in the year. Over the first 20 games or so, the Lakers’ record was mostly the product of Kobe’s struggles, the inability of the young players to find any consistency, a team not grasping its schemes, and truly bad defense.

Over the last 5 or so games, things have subtly shifted. Kobe is playing better — in some games much better — than he was earlier in the year. The young players are still struggling with consistency, but are better grasping the schemes and are experiencing higher highs (especially Russell) than at any point in the first 20 games. However, the rotations are still dodgy and the defense is still awful.

In other words, the Lakers are still a bad team but are a different type of bad than they showed earlier. I’m not honestly sure how much this matters, but I’m sure it does. At least they’re more watchable.

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The Lakers won their most recent game, a demolition of the Bucks that saw nearly every player do well. This has been a rare enough occurrence that this in and of itself is worth still feeling good about. Yes, even two days later. Beyond the final margin and the individual players doing well, the team did some good things on offense that inspire thoughts that maybe they are starting to get it. They are far from fully formed, but some hints of progress are there.

This leads us into Thursday’s game against the Rockets. These teams played less than a week ago, the Lakers losing on the final night of their 8-game road trip which was also the second night of a back to back. That game did have some positives…err, a positive. Kobe played well, scoring efficiently (25 points, 9-16 shooting) while also stuffing the stat sheet in other ways (7 rebounds, 6 assists).

That was not enough, though. And it won’t be tonight, either. Not if James Harden has another big night, Dwight Howard and Clint Capela control the paint on both ends, and one (or more) of the non-Harden perimeter guys knock down shots. That was the formula the Rockets used to win the last game and if they are able to lay down the same blueprint, I expect the same result.

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The Lakers are finally back in Los Angeles after an 8 game road trip that lasted nearly two weeks and saw them only grab a single win. The conclusion of the trip saw some key players doing well – Kobe, D’Angelo Russell — but saw the rest of the team mostly struggle, including Julius Randle’s last two games in his native Texas.

The last two games also saw Jordan Clarkson sit out due to a sprained ankle, but he is expected back tonight against the Bucks. Clarkson’s return to the starting lineup sends Russell back to the reserve ranks to captain the 2nd unit and reunite him with Randle. Here’s hoping some home cooking and getting to play together can allow Russell to keep his groove and Randle to rediscover his.

I am also interested in seeing whether Kobe can continue his good play. The last three games saw him turn somewhat of corner with his shooting efficiency while also marking a shift in his approach. A reduction of his three-point attempts and a more concerted effort to avoid the high difficulty contested shots in favor of making a few extra passes helped boost his efficiency. A reduction of minutes also played a role as Byron Scott found ways to keep his HOF guard’s minutes below 32 minutes.

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Wednesday’s game against the Timberwolves offered what a good portion of fans into a 3-19 season would accept as a perfectly fine result. The Lakers young players offered some moments to remember with crunch time providing a learning/growth opportunity and…the Lakers lost in the process. The latter helps with the lottery odds (something that I vow not to discuss much, if at all, this early in the season) and the former is an important part of this season’s plan.

The sting of losses can be dulled this way. Not every game can follow this format, of course, but the more of them that do, the easier this pill of a season will be to swallow. It will still be sloppy on some nights. Kobe’s farewell tour complicates things. So does the fact that the young guys will not always play all that well. Add in other veterans who are viable rotation players and Byron’s own vision on how this should play out — at least in the short term — and…you get the point.

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The Lakers, after a day off, are back in business tonight against the Timberwolves. We’ve already done this dance once already, so there is somewhat of a blueprint here. That game, on opening night, was a tough loss to swallow, but showed some promise on what could be this season. It seems, though, what has transpired is that the losing of the big lead and the Lakers not recovering was more foreshadowing than the getting the big lead in the first place.

In any event, the Lakers come in 3-18 on the season and if I’m being completely honest, the frustrations — not from the losing, necessarily, but from mechanics of how those losses were achieved — leaves me with little of substance to say.

With that, here is my quick-take-of-little-substance-game-preview*. I hope you enjoy it.

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