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The Lakers may be back on the mainland after eight days in Hawaii, but they did not fare any better against the Raptors than they did versus the Jazz. In their third preseason game, the Lakers fell 105-97 to the Raptors and remain winless in the exhibition season.

As we touched on in our preview, the team was a little shorthanded, but much like the game on Tuesday, there are positives to take away from the contest. The team competed on both ends of the floor for long stretches, got continued good play from key players, and good long looks at both Robert Upshaw and Jonathan Holmes for the first time this preseason. All in all, then, there was a lot of good to happen even though the final score brought another loss.

On to the notes…

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The only reasonable hope for the Lakers this preseason is seeing progress as the exhibitions transition to the actual season. From that respect, though the team lost 117-114 in overtime to Jazz on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, the team is on the right path.

As we discussed in the game preview, the hope was to see some better offensive execution, a shift in the rotations, and, in general, getting the players more on the same page on both sides of the ball. For the most part, these things all occurred. It wasn’t perfect — far from it — but it was better. I’ll take better over the alternative any day of the week.

And now, some notes on the game…

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As I wrote before the game, the preseason doesn’t carry a lot of meaning, but the Lakers were going to come out with their best foot forward by starting out well. And while it may not be reflected in the final score, the game did offer some good glimpses of what the team is hoping to be while also being reflective of what they currently are.

Some notes from the contest:

* Byron Scott treated this game almost like a scrimmage in how he did not mix his lineups much, instead giving both his 1st and 2nd units long runs together to start each quarter. The starting group of Russell, Clarkson, Kobe, Randle, and Hibbert played almost entirely together — save for Kobe (more on him in a minute) — giving them almost the entire 1st quarter and about half of the 3rd to find a rhythm together. Similarly, the 2nd unit of Lou Williams, Jabari Brown, Nick Young, Brandon Bass, and either Robert Sacre or Tarik Black played most of the rest of the game.

*No one shot well on the night which is reflected in the team shooting a very rough 26-90(!!!) from the field. Nick Young’s 4-10 from the field was easily the best shooting performance on the night, which basically says it all. Kobe went 1-5, Randle shot 2-10, Russell 2-8, and Clarkson 4-13. Off the bench, Lou Williams went 4-12 and Bass went 2-9. Jabari Brown gunned his way to a sad 1-6. Again, just horrid shooting.

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The Lakers finished their weekend as many who travel to Las Vegas typically do: quietly. They lost to the new York Knicks and aside from a few bursts, were never particularly close. Winning or losing in the summer league isn’t a huge issue, the more important outcome is progress, and it’s kinda hard to find progress in a game where the Lakers scored five points in the first quarter.

Russell took a minor step back in this game, still looking tentative in attacking quickly. It’s fairly obvious he’s till getting used to creases in the defense closing as quickly as they do at this level. Mark Madsen opted for Jabari Brown instead of Russell down the stretch of a single-digit game.

Read that sentence again. That’s not ideal.

The rotation on the whole was confusing. Part of that might have to do with getting a rotation player back, so figuring out how to dole those minutes out can take some adjusting by the coaches. One would think it’s at least fairly simple, though. Dwight Buycks’ minutes should go to Jabari Brown. We’ll see how that plays out as the team gets into the tournament format.

Brown did play pretty well. He hit the open threes he’ll need to if he wants consistent minutes. It would be nice to see him improve his decision making in transition. He tends to put his head down and charge forward, versus keeping his head up to find a teammate with a better chance at scoring than he has jumping into defenders.

One thing stood out more than anything else: When the Lakers play with pace, they looked like a much better team. Madsen and Byron Scott’s Princeton sets move at a glacial pace, so when the play doesn’t work out, guys are forced to run isolations, which rarely went well. Tarik Black’s inability to find outlet guards severely slows the team down, so he and the rest of the Lakers’ bigs will have to work on getting the pass out more quickly moving forward.

Julius Randle again struggled to finish at the basket today. It’s great to see him get to the spots he wants to attack from, but the finishing has been an issue all weekend. We could chalk it up to rust, which is completely fair, but if the issue continues, running isolation sets for him won’t make much sense. As the game went on, it become clear defenders were comfortable giving Randle space, so at some point, Randle will probably need to add some kind of midrange jumper to keep defenses honest.

Stat of the Day: Jabari Brown and Louis Labeyrie combined for one of the most random NBA feuds of all time. On a day where Peja Stojakovic was walking around the arena, it was pretty hilarious to find Labeyrie draw the ire of Lakers fans.

Final Score: Lakers: 68, Sixers: 60

I guess we could call this one a defensive struggle. Both the Lakers and Sixers looked like two teams who met just outside the gym before the game. The end result: Some of the ugliest basketball you’d continue watching.

There were bright spots, though. For one, D’Angelo Russell looked a lot more comfortable for longer stretches of the game. As I said yesterday, rhythm should continue to improve as the players he runs pick-and-roll sets with are come accustomed to the spots he prefers on the court. A minor criticism is his tendency to dribble himself into awkward situations. He’ll need to adjust to the smaller attack spaces as he competes more against NBA athleticism.

Jordan Clarkson continued his stellar play, again distancing himself as the best player on the court. Something I’ve noticed these last couple days: At least at this level: Clarkson in transition is good for at least a couple free throws. Usually, though, he finds a way to finish. If the Lakers do play with pace this season, Clarkson will spearhead much of that style of play.

Larry Nance’s third quarter is easily the best he’s looked all weekend. For much of that period, he was contesting everything at the rim and wreaking havoc with any kind of loose ball. If he hopes to earn a rotation spot, he’ll have to do so with all the “little things.” At one ppoint during that quarter, Nance earned “La-rry, La-rry, La-rry” chants. We can add that o the list of things I did not expect to hear in Las Vegas.

Heading into the game, I wanted to pay closer attention to Robert Upshaw. He signed a two-year deal with the Lakers last night and would be matched up against Jahlil Okafor – easily the best offensive post presence in Vegas. Okafor definitely got his, though Upshaw’s length appeared to bother Okafor, especially compared to Tarik Black, who, again racked up five fouls in the first half. Okafor definitely impressed, tallying 19 points and 11 rebounds.

The Lakers won the game, as they found ways to score down the stretch as the Sixers’ one-dimensional offense sputtered in the final minutes. The fans were out in droves again Saturday, at one point cheering “We want La-kers” repeatedly as the game before the one they were there to see apparently was taking too long to end. Gotta love Lakers fans.

Stat of the day: At one point, Clarkson and Russell combined for 23 of the Lakers 33 points.

Final Score: Lakers 68, Timberwolves 81

And so went the most-hyped summer league game in recent  memory.

The anticipation beforehand was palpable, and why wouldn’t it be? A summer league game feature at least two fifths of each team’s potential starting five and had the top two picks facing off against each other for the first time ever.

Add to that the intrigue that comes with Julius Randle’s return to the court and you had a standing-room-only atmosphere. UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center had to pull back the curtains of the upper deck to fit fans who couldn’t find a seat in the lower bowl.

To those who wondered if the Lakers “brand” could handle two years of tanking, there’s your answer, at least for now.

The game started on a high note, as the names those fans came to see lived up to the price of admission.

For the cast majority of the game, Jordan Clarkson was the best player on the court for the Lakers. His counterpart, fellow second-year point guard Zach LaVine was similarly impressive. They finished with 23 and 24 points respectively.

D’Angelo Russell started well, faded a bit and recovered well enough to finish with a stat line of 8 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. It’s hard to expect much rhythm in the first live action with the Lakers’ pick-and-rolls, and the lack thereof showed for large portions of the game (Russell tallied 5 turnovers). Watch for that to improve as various combinations running those sets grow more accustomed to each other.

Randle probably looked the most rusty of the Lakers’ “big three.” His shot looked short, as if he was aiming the ball to the basket versus releasing the shot confidently. Once he gained some kind of rhythm, though, he showcased the strength the coaching staff and his teammates have been raving about. He only played 20 minutes and will skip tomorrow’s game. He said after the game he doesn’t like it, but that he understands why the team is being cautious.

The Lakers wound up losing the game, as their offense struggled to produce down the stretch. A loss today is obviously inauspicious, given the excitement leading into the event, but there was plenty positive to take away.

All in all, the game went about as expected. Rookies Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns showed flashes, but the best players on the court were the ones who’d been there before. The Lakers will face Jahlil Okafor and the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday.

Stat of the day: Tarik Black finished with 10 fouls – he narrowly missed a triple double, notching 9 points and 13 rebounds. Welcome to summer league.

The Lakers defeated the Detroit Pistons 106-96 thanks to (for a change) a good third quarter. LAL is now 5-13 after back-to-back wins and is 4-0 against teams from the Eastern Conference while the Pistons fell to 3-15 (yuck).

The game started out as ugly as you might with both teams sporting a combined 7-27 record. Carlos Boozer provided the early offense for LA, notching 8 points in the first quarter. Kobe looked, for lack of a better word, tired in the first quarter and didn’t score until the third quarter. But as he often does when his shots not falling, he played the facilitator role and found his teammates for open looks early and often. That kept LAL close in the first period despite shooting under 40%.

The game remained close in the second quarter and the lead changed hands multiple times. The bench provided a nice spark tonight, led by Swaggy P as is so often the case. Young came off the bench looking for buckets and was successful in finding them after an 0-4 start. He finished with a classic Nick Young scoreline of 19 points, 1 rebound and a goose egg in the assist column.

The third quarter is where this game was won. Kobe came to life, scoring a quick 12 points to help the Lakers build a lead that swelled to 19 points at one point. Jordan Hill continued his strong play (particularly on the offensive glass), knocking down both open jumpers that usually came on the heels of Bryant’s getting into the lane and connected on a few nice jump hooks on his way to 22 points and 13 rebounds. He’s been a bright spot for the Lakers in a season where there haven’t been many.

It would have been nice for the Lakers to maintain the advantage they built in the third quarter to enable to starters to rest with a game against the 11-5 Wizards tomorrow night. But that wasn’t the case, as some sloppy play allowed the Pistons to cut the lead to 8 with 5 minutes to play, which prompted Byron Scott to put Jeremy Lin and Kobe back in the game to secure the win. And that’s exactly what they did. Despite turning the ball over 10 time (!!!), Kobe finished with 12 points and 13 assists. In his last two games, #24 has totaled 25 assists. While there’s no doubt LA needs Kobe to be their first option offensively, he’s clearly the teams best passer/facilitator and it would serve the team better if Kobe played the facilitator role more often.

While two wins in a row are always nice, it’s important to keep in the mind the quality (or lackthereof) of the of opponent tonight. The Pistons have been putrid as of late- tonight marked their ninth consecutive loss. They looked lost on the offensive end, having seemingly no gameplan, and were out-hustled throughout tonight’s game. But the Lakers will take any win they can get, and they head to Washington tomorrow riding a two-game win streak.

Let’s hope the improved offensive play (all 5 starters were in double figures tonight for the second consecutive game) continues tomorrow night in Washington. The Wizards are a much, much better team than the Pistons are, and if the Lakers don’t come to play, a blowout is a real possibility.

Toronto Raptors 122 Final
Recap | Box Score
129 Los Angeles Lakers
Carlos Boozer, PF 30 MIN | 9-15 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 18 PTS | +11Boozer had another efficient offensive night, hitting his jumper with good consistency and sneaking into the paint when his man played him too tight to defend against that shot. Add in his solid defensive rebounding and this was a very nice outing.

Wesley Johnson, SF 27 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | +9Wes’ stat line doesn’t stand out as super impressive and his three pointers were not falling, but overall he had a solid game. He hit four of his six 2-point shots and had what was a game sealing dunk in the closing minute as the Raptors were making one last push by hitting a couple of threes. He did not have a big impact defensively, but he also wasn’t a minus on that end even though he had to chase around Kyle Lowry for stretches.

Jordan Hill, C 34 MIN | 6-11 FG | 4-5 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | 0After struggling the last couple of games, Hill had a nice bounce back effort against Toronto. His 16 points and 12 rebounds were strong, but more impressive was his late game rim protection. He had two of his three blocks in the 4th quarter and overtime, both of which were big plays at the time.

Jeremy Lin, PG 35 MIN | 3-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | 0Lin’s numbers look dreadful, but I liked the way he was in attack mode all night. He aggressively used his dribble to drive by closing out defenders and was good at creating shots in the paint when he got a step on his man. Those shots didn’t fall with any consistency, but getting those shots up kept the defense honest which allowed for his big men to get offensive rebounding chances.

Kobe Bryant, SG 42 MIN | 11-24 FG | 9-13 FT | 11 REB | 12 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 31 PTS | +2Kobe was the man of the match. While his shooting numbers were again under the 50% mark, he hit big shots down the stretch to put the Lakers in a position to win. Bigger than those buckets, though, was the way he whipped the ball around the court for assists. Early in the game he set up his teammates wonderfully and then late in OT he had another big assist to Young for a three pointer. His triple double tells the story of his night — a night that also saw him become the lone member of the 30K career points and 6K career assists club.

Ed Davis, PF 18 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | -9Davis’ 6 rebounds and single foul in 18 minutes were nice, but he was a non-factor offensively by only making a single FT on the night. I would have liked to have seen more cutting and activity on that end rather than looking so out of sorts. Davis also wasn’t his typically disruptive self defensively, especially when compared to Hill and Sacre. The fact that he was the lone Laker with a negative plus/minus (-9) on the night really tells the story for what his night was like.

Nick Young, SF 31 MIN | 6-11 FG | 3-5 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 20 PTS | +3Young was efficient with his shooting and, as mentioned above, had a huge three to give the Lakers some breathing room in overtime. Also big was his ability to prop up the offense when Kobe took his first breather by hitting shots and working well off the ball to draw defenders’ attention.

Robert Sacre, C 19 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-3 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +7Sacre doesn’t get a lot of love from Lakers’ fans, but he was more than solid in his nearly 20 minutes in this game. He played strong position defense and took advantage of his offensive chances. He will never wow you with his rebounding and his usage can be a bit high for his skill level, but his maximum effort and high motor are traits this team could use more of.

Three Things We Saw

  1. Though Terrance Ross and others did a nice job of stepping up, it was clear that Raptors missed DeMar DeRozan. Lowry was the lone offensive creator down the stretch and I’m sure the Raps would have loved to have been able to go to DeRozan in isolation or in the post to get a bucket or draw a foul in what was a really close game.
  2. The Lakers’ offense really had some nice movement in the first half. One of the reasons Kobe was able to get his triple-double was because when he had the ball at the top of the key or was looking to create off the bounce, there were cutters and players shifting around the perimeter to create passing angles. It also helped that Kobe was actively looking to pass, but the guys made his life easier by sliding into the open spaces and creases.
  3. I’m still not sure what the Lakers’ issues are in the 3rd quarter, but they need to try and figure it out. After leading by nine at the half, the Lakers were promptly outscored by eight in the 3rd period, giving up separate runs of 8-0 and 13-0 during those 12 minutes.