Archives For Game Recap

This was a tale of two-halves game. The Lakers controlled the first half, defending well, pushing the pace for easy baskets, and taking care of the ball. The went into the break with a double digit lead and it looked like their formula for winning was going right as planned. In the 2nd half, though, they let their foot off the gas. They stopped defending consistently, stopped moving the ball, and played with little purpose offensively.

As if losing the game wasn’t bad enough, to make matters worse, they also lost Larry Nance Jr. to injury. Late in the 4th quarter with the game just getting out of reach, Nance elevated for one of his high-flying finishes only for a Cav to step in and take a charge. Nance lost his balance in mid-air and crashed down to the floor, bracing his fall with his right hand.

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I don’t care if it’s summer league, winning is fun. And since the Lakers haven’t done much winning in recent years, I’m going to enjoy the W’s in any environment, thank you very much. The Lakers are now 3-0 in Las Vegas and after struggling in their 2nd game on Saturday, the team was back to playing well in game 3, controlling the matchup with the Warriors for most of the game to win comfortably 78-65.

The star of the night was D’Angelo Russell. After hitting a game winner vs. the 76ers two days earlier, Russell dominated the Warriors to the tune of 26 points on only 13 shots to go along with 5 rebounds and a single assist. He also had 4 turnovers, and so if you want to nitpick, I guess you can complain about the lone dime to his 4 giveaways, but…well I don’t care.

Russell was clearly the best player again and his confidence is sky high right now. He was making shots all over the floor and punishing the defense no matter what strategy they took. When his man went under screens, he simply hit a long jumper. When they tried to chase him over the top of a pick, he kept his man on his hip and hit a lean-in mid-range shot. When working in isolation he used a tight, low handle to create space. Russell simply looked fantastic all night offensively and had all the answers.

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Even in summer league the 2nd night of a back to back matters. The Lakers dealt with some heavy legs and strong ball pressure from the 76ers and looked the part of a team struggling. After having everything work out for them against the Pelicans on Friday, Saturday brought a slog of a game which looked very much like a contest the Lakers would not win.

Until, well, they did.

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What a difference a year makes. Last summer in Las Vegas, the Lakers were somewhat of a disappointing team. D’Angelo Russell did not look as good as many hoped he would, Julius Randle looked strong and healthy – but also rusty, and team didn’t look too much like a team when running some of Byron Scott’s offensive sets which didn’t inspire much ball or player movement.

On Friday, the Lakers opened up their summer play and looked far removed from those circumstances which plagued them a year ago. Yes, it was only one game and yes it was summer league. These caveats are real and should be remembered at all times. Still, though, the Lakers came out and looked like a new team who will play a new brand of basketball which does not remember the last couple of seasons.

The highlights from the game reflect that:

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It is hard to think about it this way now after 20 years of amazing play that has made the sublime routine, but Kobe has built a career, no, a legend, off defying odds. It seems strange to say this about someone whose father was an NBA player and has the pedigree he does, but it’s true.

A prep-to-pros guard wasn’t supposed to make a successful jump from highschool to the NBA. He wasn’t supposed to be an All-Star so soon. He wasn’t supposed to be a champion. He wasn’t supposed to win without Shaq. Wasn’t supposed to come back from a torn achilles. Or a broken knee cap. Or a torn up shoulder.

And he sure as hell wasn’t supposed to score 60 points in the final game of his 20 year career.

But he were are. I guess after 20 years of turning impossible moments into expected ones, we shouldn’t be so surprised. Again, though, here we are.

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Before Sunday’s matinee, the Lakers had only won 12 games and their opponent, the Warriors had only lost 5. If numbers like this were the case after 25 games they might seem normal. But we are in the home stretch of the NBA season and the Warriors are historically great while the Lakers, at least in terms of their franchise history, are historically bad.

This game, then, was supposed to be a formality. But the Lakers flipped that narrative on its head by beating the Warriors 112-95, controlling the action for much of the game and leading for the final 30+ minutes of the contest. It was, from a score and control standpoint, their easiest win of the year and it came against the best team in the league.

If we didn’t have the highlights, I might not believe this actually happened. Fortunately, though, we do.

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As I wrote in my game preview, games against the Celtics just mean more. We know the Lakers aren’t a good team and that the Celtics are battling for a playoff spot in the newly rejuvenated East, but that just makes the prospect of getting a W that much more enticing. So, to see the Lakers play one of their better games of the year and pull out the victory was sweet.

To see them do it in Kobe’s last visit to Boston was even sweeter.

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The most entertaining Lakers games as of late have been where the Kobe of old reappears to distract from any notion of an otherwise “old” Kobe. Tuesday’s win over the Nuggets was one of those nights. And, early on, tonight’s game seemed to be heading in a similar direction. Kobe earned his first two points with a vintage step back jumper along the baseline, which was soon followed by an open dunk in transition and then an infinite number of those still mystifyingly effective head fakes to bring him to the foul line.

Bryant scored 17 in a first half highlighted by a few fun-spirited back-and-forth jabs with Kevin Durant. Yet, as one would expect in the second night of a back-to-back, Kobe’s legs fell flat in the next half and this development could serve as an exemplar for the entire Lakers team on the evening.

After trailing by a relatively modest 11 points after the first two quarters, the Lakers allowed OKC to (or perhaps, more accurately, OKC chose to) go on a 23-0 run to open the second half and the deficit ballooned to 31 points by the end of the third quarter. In the end, the Lakers fell 120-85.

This is a result that, truthfully, isn’t all that surprising, especially when considering a few other factors: Julius Randle and Nick Young were forced to miss the game due to an ankle and illness, respectively; the Thunder had just beaten the Lakers by 40 points five nights prior to this one and the Lakers entered the matchup with a meager 1-5 record in games held on the second night of back-to-backs.

Perhaps the lone bright spot of the evening was D’Angelo Russell seeming to have regained a bit of his rhythm after his recent down stretch. Russell got the second-most minutes on the team Wednesday (28) and shot 37.5% from the field and 57% from three en route to a partially garbage time-aided line of 18 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.

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