Archives For Game Recap

It should be noted, at the top, that few people thought the Lakers would win many games. In my season preview I wrote the following:

I think this team tops out at 38 wins and that’s with everything going right. When was the last time any NBA team had everything go right? When was the last time the Lakers did? That said, if this team wins over 30 games, they will simultaneously improve on last season’s win total by 10 wins and beat their over for Las Vegas.

A 10 win improvement on the 21-win dumpster fire that was last season might seem too optimistic right now. That’s where we are after the Lakers lost 120-109 to a Nuggets team missing one of their better wing scorers and their entire rotation of Centers.

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The Lakers lost their third straight game to open the season, a hat handing by the Dallas Mavericks by the final count of 103-93. Depending on your outlook, the game was either closer or not as close as the final score. I fall more on the latter side.

The Lakers started the game on the wrong side of a 15-0 run — an interesting response to Byron Scott’s criticism that the team was soft and not ready to play after losing to the Kings two days prior. After falling down by so many points early, the Lakers tried to battle back but could never get over the hump. Several times they cut the deficit to 8 points, but never really got closer than that; never really threatened the Mavs in a way to make it seem the outcome was seriously in doubt.

Recapping every detail of the loss is not important. I tell you this not because I’d prefer to avoid typing the words, but more because the reasons for losing are the exact reasons why the team lost the previous two games of  the year. Or at least variations of them.

The team cannot defend well. They have droughts of really poor offense. Rather than getting a key stop, the possession instead ends in a foul or an offensive rebound or a perfectly (poorly) timed mental mistake defensively which surrenders the bucket. Not enough players play well — in this case, Julius Randle needed more help — while too many players didn’t just play average, but very poorly.

The last part of the last sentence there is really me pointing my finger at Kobe Bryant. The 20 year veteran is not playing well. In fact, “not well” is generous. He’s been bad. Very, very bad. Don’t take my word for it, though. Take his. From ESPN’s Baxter Holmes:

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There is not really much to say about Friday night’s game against the Kings. The Lakers were bad, the Kings were not. The 132-114 margin of defeat reflects that, but also all the little things which go into winning, or, in this case, losing, basketball.

The missed rotations, the easy allowance of dribble penetration, the lack of helping the helper, the shoddy work on the glass, the bad shot selection, the sloppy execution, the poor screens being set, and so many other things that I’m just going to stop trying to explain it. When you give up 132 points, you did too much wrong. Scoring 114 may look nice, but it’s really just the shiny object on the ground to distract you from the fact you’re about to walk into a wall.

Analyzing this game for what it was, then, isn’t important. The Lakers were bad. Why they were bad are reasons we already knew about — or at least had strong hints at after opening night:

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It’s hard to be too upset after the Lakers Opening Night loss – at least it is for myself. I spent the night at Staples Center in the 300 level, taking in a night of hoops, a wealth of youth, and an energy I hadn’t felt in the arena in over two years.

The lack of electricity is understandable. The team racked up 48 wins over the last two years – a total that the Lakers reached or exceeded 36 times in single seasons in the franchise history. An apparent lack of solidarity in the front office, a lack of consistency at head coach, and a general lack of health among the players led to the two worst seasons in Lakers history. And while all of the problems weren’t resolved heading into this season, there are clear signs that the Lakers are starting to move out of their funk and into a more promising era of Lakers hoops – and it was definitely felt in the 45 minutes leading up to tip-off.

Staples was near capacity before the start of the game, and the fanbase was eager to see these new-look Lakers. “I’m just happy Kobe is healthy, man,” said David, a 19-year old fan who sat in my section. “I’m excited to see the rookies, too. But I’m here to see Kobe’s return.

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Talk about a punch to the gut. On a night where the Lakers played a pretty good first half and had a 16 point lead in the 2nd half, they gave it all away over the last 15-plus minutes to lose their season opener to the Timberwolves 112-111.

While the story of the night was the collapse, the devil, as always, is in the details. The game started with a lack of flow for both teams. Coming off an emotional start to the game with an extended moment of silence for the recently passed, former T’Wolves coach and GM Flip Saunders, both teams were somewhat skittish. Shots weren’t falling, the ball wasn’t moving very freely, and guys seemed like they just couldn’t find a great rhythm.

As the minutes passed, though, both sides found their stride and an actual NBA game broke out. Fueling the Lakers was their 2nd unit. After D’Angelo Russell picked up his 2nd foul with 6 minutes left in the 1st quarter, he and Kobe went to the bench in favor of Lou Williams and Nick Young. Soon after that, Marcelo Huertas replaced Clarkson with Bass and Kelly subbing for Randle and Hibbert.

It was this bench crew that opened up the game, giving the Lakers a sorely needed boost. The ball whipped around the floor, but, more importantly, the wings were hitting shots.

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In the game preview I mentioned my only wish for the Lakers’ preseason finale was that they leave the game as healthy as they entered it. Well, if only wishing made it so. In the 2nd quarter, Jordan Clarkson injured his right shoulder and did not return. And if that wasn’t bad enough, post game, the news isn’t so great either:

Further reports from the post game locker room state Clarkson felt a sharp pain, though he thinks it’s “minor”. Either way, an MRI with the prospect of him not being available opening night is a tough pill to swallow on the final day of the exhibition season.

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Maybe both the Lakers’ preseason wins will have asterisks next to them. After beating a non-NBA team for their first W, the Lakers beat the Warriors 85-70, but in a shortened game when the refs and both head coaches decided to call the game after wet floor conditions caused multiple players to slip and fall over the course of the game. Player safety is still king and, while unfortunate to the fans who showed up, ending the contest was the right move.

The game itself offered some good moments for the Lakers, however. And while the Warriors by no means whole — Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Andrew Bogut all sat out — Steph Curry still had a fantastic game and offered a nice counter to the good the Lakers were able to accomplish. All in all, then, the fans who went to the game might not be happy about the ending — even with an ability to get a refund — but the game still offered plenty of entertainment for the time it lasted and gave us a couple of other evaluation points on some players.

On to the notes…

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The Lakers are now 1-4 in the preseason after falling to the Kings 107-100 Tuesday night. And while most of my mind is still on Lamar Odom and his current struggles in the hospital, the game too is worth a discussion. Even if only to point out how, in the span of two days, the Lakers could look like an entirely different team than the one that defeated Maccabi Haifa.

A lot of that is the talent level of the two opponents, for sure. Facing a bonafide NBA team rather than an Israeli League one isn’t just a step up in talent, but one in strategy, execution, understanding of tendencies, and so many other small details which contribute to the flow of the game and how easy/difficult any given possession is.

However, while crediting the Kings is important, it would be silly to ignore the things the Lakers did and did not do which contributed the differences in their own quality of play. The team simply did too much poorly and took an approach within possessions which is not conducive to winning basketball.

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