Archives For Game Recap

So remember four years ago when Steve Nash and Dwight Howard had that magazine cover and it said “NOW THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN”?

Well, it definitely wasn’t fun that particular season but if I was good at photoshop, I would mock up a cover of the Laker kids with that same exact headline. Yes, this season is going to be really fun. And it was off to a good start with a 120-114 mild upset against the Houston Rockets.

No, we’re not expecting the Lakers to be challenging for the playoffs, let alone the title. But boy, was this fun to watch. Sure, it helped that the opposite team thought that defense was equivalent to chicken pox. But Luke Walton had the guys playing loose and it was like a new feeling for most of them. Players had to no longer look over their shoulders or worry about being pulled for a mistake; Luke let them play through it.

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The Lakers lost their 4th straight preseason game — and 2nd straight to the Warriors — on Tuesday night, but that L doesn’t quite tell the entire story. While several key players did not play as well as one would hope (Russell and, especially, Clarkson), there were some positives displayed from others.

Brandon Ingram had his best game of the preseason, taking over ball handling duties in the 4th quarter and acting as the do-it-all wing the organization (and fans) hope he can develop into. Even when paired with Russell, Ingram initiated the offense while still being aggressive in looking for (and making) his own shot. He finished the night with 21 points on only 10 field goal attempts, 7 rebounds, with 4 assists to 0 turnovers.

Beyond Ingram, Nick Young played another good game starting in place of Luol Deng who got another night off. Nick hit 7 of his 13 shots, including 5-10 from distance, to score 19 points. He also, again, played hard defensively in doing his best to try and slow Kevin Durant. That didn’t happen, but Young played good position defense, fought through picks, and contested shots well. Durant just did what he typically does anyway.

Beyond those guys, though, there was even more to talk about so after the game I joined Danny Leroux of Real GM, the Sporting News, and The Athletic NorCal for his Locked On Warriors Podcast. We covered a wide array of topics, discussing everything from Tuesday’s game action to team building to league-wide trends. Give it a listen after the jump.

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The Lakers returned to the court to play an actual…uh…preseason basketball game on Tuesday night and, what do you know, they won! Luke Walton for President! This team is a juggernaut! Break up the Lakers. BREAK UP THE LAKERS.

In all seriousness, it was nice to see these guys back on the floor and showing off some of the new things they have been working on in training camp. They were far from perfect and the overall flow of the game was shoddy for a lot of the night. The starters especially looked like they were having a hard time finding a rhythm and never quite found a good footing.

However, the team did pull away in the 2nd half. As we noted in our preview, I don’t think there are any real takeaways to latch onto after this contest — other than, maybe, the Lakers in spots 6-12 look to be better than the Kings in spots 6-12. That does not mean we do not have some thoughts from the game, however. In fact, here’s 10 of them:

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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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