I’m going to keep this short because I honestly don’t think there’s much to say about the Lakers right now. They lost their last game with a very poor 2nd half performance, one which saw their offense struggle mightily and their defense play just okay for stretches and struggle more later when the pressure to try to get stops led to gambles and miscommunication which cost them.

I know some would like to make the Blazer game more than that, but I don’t really see it that way.

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The Lakers are have won 2 games in a row and 3 of their last 4. This recent stretch — dating back even a few games farther —  even if not better than the level of play exhibited at the beginning of the season, is more meaningful since it has been driven mostly by the play of D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle with Brandon Ingram also playing very good basketball in the last week.

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Which team would you rather be?

Team A

Offensive Rating: 104.3, 13th in the NBA
Defensive Rating: 107.4, 27th in the NBA
Net Rating: -3.1, 21st in the NBA
Winning Percentage: .500

Team B

Offensive Rating: 108.9, 12th in the NBA
Defensive Rating: 108.5, 19th in the NBA
Net Rating: +0.4, 13th in the NBA
Winning Percentage: .400

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In this week’s episode of the Laker Film Room Podcast, Pete and I discuss the Lakers recent winning ways and improved play over the last week or so. We especially look more closely young trio of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram, discussing the gains they’ve made on both ends of the floor and how they are impacting games.

In the 2nd half of the pod, Pete and I welcome former video coordinator for the Clippers and Spurs, @theJumpBallnet, and talk the life and role of an NBA video coordinator, how he watches games, and what advice he might give to someone trying to break into that field and find a career in the NBA.

Click through to listen.

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After beating the Miami Heat on Friday, the Lakers are back in action tonight to take on the Magic. Orlando, like the other Florida team, are on a Western Conference trip with tonight’s game the first of a 6 game venture away from Disney World. Orlando is currently 12th in the East, certainly not where they’d want to be after bringing on Frank Vogel as coach and several new players — including Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo — in an attempt to make the playoffs.

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It was the Lakers’ first game after a nice Christmas win and D’Angelo Russell really wasn’t shooting the ball that great. The opponent was the Jazz and Russell closed the game with only 4 points on 2-11 shooting. Fans were in my twitter mentions telling me I was being overly praiseful of the Lakers’ 2nd year point guard because I had the audacity to tweet this.

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Getting back to Portland, just because the Lakers have the chance to do some of these things doesn’t mean it will happen easily. The Blazers are a bad defensive team, but have enough offense to turn the tenor of a game into a shootout where they can thrive. Further, that type of game tends to throw off game plans and get players into the type of mindset where they think everything will come easy. Until it doesn’t. Which is how a nice chunk of Lakers’ leads have been blown of late.

That is from yesterday’s game preview for the game against the Blazers. A game the team lost after going cold in the 4th quarter and struggling with general flatness and poor execution to start the 3rd quarter. It was a game the Lakers had a double digit lead in (again), but lost (again). This is frustrating for many. I know. I have a comments section and a twitter account where people like to show that frustration.

Anyways, I block quote the above because it’s sort of what happened in the game. The Lakers had a nice flow in the 1st half, getting to the FT line to stay in the game through the 1st period and then opening up a lead when their attacking of the Blazers’ soft defense finally started to result in made baskets during the 2nd period. All was good. Until it wasn’t.

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The Lakers were like ice cubes in the middle of the Sahara. The Blazers took advantage of the Lakers clanking everything late. Portland won with the final tally, 118-109.

L.A. overcame cold shooting in the first quarter as they got to the line 15 times (making 13). The bench came in and got hot; they blazed through the second quarter (har har!) with 38 points. They got hot shooting from Jordan Clarkson and the Blazers had trouble with the combo of Tarik Black and Thomas Robinson. L.A. led by as many as 14 points but the halftime lead was reduced to 9 points.

Portland came back with an 18-4 run and it was a back-and-forth affair for a while. But I like what D’Angelo Russell did. He went to the post and made some great turnaround jumpers. He scored 10 of his 22 points in that all-important fourth quarter.

Unfortunately, that shot by Russell was the last field goal for a while for the Lakers.

Evan Turner took advantage of Lou Williams and was straight fi-yah in the fourth quarter. At the same time, the Lakers played like they were in the freezer for the next few minutes. L.A. went 5:09 without a field goal. On the other side, Turner, Damian Lillard, and C.J. McCollum couldn’t stop making shots. By the time Julius Randle made a lay-up, it was too late.

I question a bit of Luke Walton’s rotation choices. Would’ve liked to see more of Tarik/Robinson on the floor in the second half. Lou Williams got stuck against a hot Evan Turner (15 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter); it would’ve helped to have a better defender on Turner (Ingram?). But once again, panic reared its ugly head on the youthful Lakers core. They started putting up quick shots when they couldn’t get anything down. It was discouraging, to say the least. Yet another blown lead by the Lakers.

C.J. McCollum led Portland wih 27 points while Lillard (who played his first game in a while) scored 21. Turner (20 points) and Allen Crabbe (14 points) were able to counter the usually deadly Laker bench. In fact, Portland tied L.A.’s bench in scoring at 39. On L.A.’s side, Russell had 22 (although he went a gross 0/8 from three) while Jordan Clarkson had 21 points. Randle didn’t shoot well but he did finish with 17 points and 9 boards. We know Lakers were without Larry Nance, Jr. but Luol Deng was also scratched out. Brandon Ingram replaced Deng in the starting line-up. He played very well in the first half; that spin move in the first half he did was pretty.

Lakers continue to have a tendency to leave those three-point shooters; the players continue to melt on those back picks and those high screen-and-roll plays. Also, I wish that the Lakers would make an immediate change if they see a match-up problem (going back to Evan Turner here). On the positive side, they took care of the ball (11 turnovers). It’s too bad that their offense just… died in the last six minutes of the game.

The Lakers are 13-26. If you’re still looking for that 8th playoff spot, they are 4 games behind the Sacramento Kings for that ever-so-coveted spot. It’s too bad that this wasn’t a blowout either way; the Lakers are back at Staples Center tomorrow night as they take on the Miami Heat. This could be a schedule loss but the Miami Heat aren’t exactly a good team so they have a chance here.

Growing pains. That’s what the Lakers have to go through. And I don’t mean the Seaver family.