It may not have been against an NBA team, but the Lakers got their first win of the exhibition season by dominating Israeli League team Maccabi Haifa 126-83. The score pretty much reflects the nature of the game as the Lakers jumped out to a 33-16 lead after the 1st period and never looked back.
This win is exactly what the Lakers needed, even if the opponent wasn’t one they’ll see during the season. A team can only go so many games where moral victories are the only wins earned. The Lakers, 0-3 to before this game, had seen plenty of that — especially the last two games — but this contest was different.
The defensive rotations, were crisper and paid off when the backboards were cleaned thoroughly. The ability to win off the dribble and draw the attention of multiple defenders led to easier ball movement and also paid off with made jumpers. For one night, then, everything (mostly) went the Lakers way and the scoreboard showed the fruits of their labor.
Onto the notes…
*In previewing the game, I mentioned the hope more three pointers would fall this game and I got my wish. The Lakers made 14-26 shots from behind the arc, many of them coming off great ball movement that we simply have not seen to this point in the preseason.
*Kobe and Nick Young were especially sharp from distance, both hitting 4-6 from three. Kobe’s makes were especially telling since they were most all of the catch and shoot variety where he simply moved into shooting position and had a teammate set him up for the attempt. Kobe has long been a strong catch and shoot performer, but this game showed how lethal he can be.
*After early reports had D’Angelo Russell sitting out this contest, game time brought the pleasant surprise of him being active. Russell came off the bench and played a smooth 18 minutes which saw him make his only two shots (one layup, one three pointer) while dishing out 11 assists to only 2 turnovers. The assists came in all forms, some very simple reads within the flow of the offense, others of the more spectacular, next level variety which highlight his gift of advanced court vision and ability to deliver.
D’Angelo Russell: "If you’re open, I’m going to get it to you. Half the time, you won’t know you’re open."
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) October 12, 2015
*He’s not wrong.
*Once is a chance, twice is a coincidence, a third time is a pattern. Julius Randle has now had three straight good games, this time offering up 14 points and 9 rebounds while making 7 of his 12 shot attempts. While I do not expect Randle to keep shooting as well as he is, he’s making the types of moves with the ball to get him into positions to score which produce gaudy percentages. When you add in his movement off the ball and the ability of his wings to set him up well, he’s also feasting while not creating his own shot.
*Anthony Brown got the start at SF in place of Russell (and next to Kobe and Clarkson) and the rookie did well for himself. His box score would make it seem like he did little on the floor, but that would be false. He shadowed his man well defensively, rarely found himself out of position on either end of the floor, and just worked hard the entire time he was out there. Surrounded by other play makers he didn’t have to do much with the ball in his hands, but that suited him just fine.
*Jordan Clarkson only shot 3-10 from the field, but still had a 10-4-4 night while looking totally capable of doing more if asked to.
*The Lakers’ defensive scheme asks their guards to chase over the top of picks a lot and their inability to disconnect from the screen man is compromising the integrity of the team’s defense. Too many times Hibbert is left on an island and the guard who got picked ends up having to defend the screener all the way into the paint. This opens up the Lakers to deep post ups and creates mismatches on the glass. Haifa wasn’t able to take advantage of this much, but the openings were their for them.
*The Lakers had 22 turnovers. Nothing like having a sour point for the coach to hammer on even in a 40 point win.
*Ryan Kelly hit all three of his 3-point shots, made 5-7 from the field overall, had 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 assist, and 1 block. He was also a team high +31 on the night. Some of the Lakers’ best offensive basketball came with Kelly stretching the floor while Kobe, Lou, and Russell pinged passes to and around him in 4-out-1-in sets. Kelly still has his flaws, but when he’s on his game is still very useful and that fact will make it hard for the Lakers to cut ties with him.