Archives For Game Preview

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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The Lakers have lost 4 games in a row — a topic covered extensively in the latest podcast — so I won’t get too much into it now. Just know the team could really use a win, for no other reason than they have a couple of more games at home before going on the road again for 9 of 11 games before the all-star break. Some of those games are winnable, but with the way the team is playing right now and the fact that they’re 5-20 in their last 25 games, the idea that the Lakers should actually be favored to win any of them is becoming more and more of a stretch.

Which brings us to tonight’s game vs. the Nuggets. Denver is currently 16-23 and the 9th seed in the conference. I’ll save my rant about the Lakers playing 6 more games than the Nuggets at this point in the season, and focus instead on the idea that if the Lakers want to make any sort of push towards even contending for a playoff spot (note: this does not mean make the playoffs), games like this are important. The Nuggets are better than the Lakers, but they aren’t so much better that a win in Los Angeles should be out of the question.

Getting it is another story, but the Lakers do have the tools to win.

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