D’Angelo Russell returned to the starting lineup in Sunday’s matchup vs. the Cavs and he brought an offensive explosion with him. Russell shot the lights out, scoring a career high 40 points while dueling with Kyrie Irving the entire night. It was quite the sight to watch Russell score almost at will and from all three levels of the floor:

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So, Friday’s loss against the Bucks was probably the exact game the coaches want from this team even if the final result wasn’t a W. The team played well enough to win, competed throughout, and when the game got physical the team didn’t fold and instead (literally) pushed back and stood up for each other. That skirmish may have led to Nick Young and D’Angelo Russell getting tossed, but afterwards coach Luke Walton spoke highly of his guys for sticking up for themselves and one another.

The hope is that type of effort and togetherness can be carried over through the rest of the season. Let’s face it, this team isn’t going to win many more games this year, but they need to start to find a way to play well together and build a chemistry which can carry into the off-season and then be the foundation for next year’s team. When Walton spoke after Saturday’s practice, he noted that one of key things his team needs to do more of is trust each other and play a style where they know they can depend on each other to do the right things. Walton said that’s how a team can get through adversity together and that it will be the foundation for positive growth from his team.

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Sometimes it’s just fun to revel in the potential of one of the young players. Russell’s ice in my veins shooting, Randle beasting and showing an ability to put together counters to pet plays, and, well, Brandon Ingram fully extending with a go-go-gadget dunk over Malcom Brogdon after driving by Giannis Antetokounmpo:

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Yes, there are still games to play. And while there is a growing agitation from fans about the on-court product and some of the machinations involved with producing that product, there really is no escape. The Lakers are not a good team right now and some of the decisions which are going into this final stretch of games for an evaluation period only serve to exasperate some of this team’s short comings.

To be clear, I don’t think this is solely a coaching or players issue either. I don’t necessarily agree with D’Angelo Russell coming off the bench. I don’t think shifting the starting lineup seemingly every game is to any of the players’ benefits. I also don’t think the players should be let of the hook for making some of the mistakes they do, for not playing hard for longer stretches, nor for some of their overall poor play. More than one thing can be wrong and from more than one side in all this.

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There are usually very few positive takeaways from the type of 39 point loss the Lakers had to the Rockets on Wednesday night. After the Lakers trailed big early and found themselves down 18 points heading into the 4th quarter, the Rockets poured it on, nailing 8 of their 13 shots from behind the arc and scoring 46 points in the process. That offensive explosion led to frustration and anger from players and head coach Luke Walton following the defeat. More than one person implied the team just sort of quit.

While that macro view is more than justified, there were some positives in the micro. One, in particular, was the play of Julius Randle who scored a career high 32 points while grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing out two assists. It was a well rounded night by Randle, who was able to bully his way to the rim and finish through contact and over length — especially when playing C and in match ups against Clint Capela.

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The final score was 120-114. One of the game clinching plays was a defensive stop which came after a switch onto a league MVP frontrunner. The bench was a shining light in helping to secure the win, but the starting group — which featured new FA additions — had their moments as well, with two key young players posting strong numbers.

Man, the Lakers win over the Rockets on opening night seems like it happened years ago at this point.

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In our latest Laker Film Room Podcast, Pete and I discuss the lineup change which moved D’Angelo Russell to the bench, Jordan Clarkson’s play, Luke Walton’s tinkering, and more.

Click through to listen to the entire episode.

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Honestly, I could have just embedded the above tweet from Mike Trudell and called it a day. The Lakers are very likely to lose this game simply based on the travel aspect — especially since they are coming from the West Coast, where they lose an hour in the air going to the Mountain Time Zone (which is in addition to the hour they also just lost due to daylight savings). In other words, the Lakers are going to be tired in this game and it’s very likely to affect their play.

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