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:
Jordan Clarkson (sprained shoulder) will get an MRI tomorrow. Byron says it may jeopardize his availability for Wednesday's season opener.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 23, 2015
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.
To add insult to injury, the Lakers got blown out of the water by the Warriors, losing 136-97. The 39 point margin fully reflected the difference in quality of the two teams, too. The Lakers were listless on both sides of the ball for major stretches, but were especially bad defensively. Considering I was hoping to see some of semblance of a defensive plan, the over helping/going under screens/digging in the post/dying on picks effort the team displayed was pretty disheartening. The Warriors got whatever they wanted all night on offense and made the Lakers pay to the tune of 54.% shooting from the floor including 16 of 31 from behind the arc.
Offensively the Lakers weren’t much better, making only 33 of their 80 shots (41.3%) and only 8 of their 24 three point attempts. While there were a few Lakers who played well individually, as a group they looked disorganized and uninspired for long stretches and had too many possessions that ended with one player looking to create a shot while the other four guys stood and watched. When you add in that it often took too long for the team to get into these sets, the aesthetics were even more poor.
So, overall, it was just a bad night. And that’s putting it mildly. Thank goodness this team gets almost a week off to try and sort some of these issues out and for Clarkson to heal up. Now, on to the notes…
*The difference between how the first and second units look offensively was pretty drastic. The first unit, with four players with either one or two years experience, looked lost and unsure of how to operate within the team’s offense. Meanwhile, the reserve group, with a bunch of experienced veterans (and yes, I’m counting Huertas here), moved with more purpose and understanding of how to attack the defense they were seeing. The difference in comfort level and effectiveness was like night and day.
*This is to be somewhat expected. The starters simply have so many young players still trying to figure out what they’re even good at, much less how to channel that into cohesive team play. And with so many players who like the ball in their hands, the offense can often get bogged down as a single player looks to create a shot for himself or a teammate, but does so off the dribble rather than with quick passes/reads based on what the defense is doing. Sorting this out will take time, but this is something we knew already. Watching it play out, however, doesn’t make the fact we knew it would take time any easier to deal with.
*Anthony Brown had his best game of the preseason by a mile. He hit his shots — 5 of 6 from the field, including 3-3 from behind the arc — to score 13 points, was active on defense (even though Harrison Barnes went off), and kept his head about him all game. He still made some mistakes, but his assertiveness on offense and lack of hesitation to let his shot go when given space was nice to see. The fact the shots went in was even nicer.
*Julius Randle had an okay night, but one marred with turnovers. While he didn’t shoot especially poorly (he made 4 of his 10 shots) and did okay on the glass (6 rebounds), he got caught shuffling his feet too much when trying to create off the dribble and had a few issues with a loose handle that cost him the ball. When I mentioned earlier the young players could do better to move the ball more quickly rather than hold it to create, Randle was definitely guilty of that in this game.
*D’Angelo Russell continues to play okay, but not with enough pace or urgency. It’s not that he’s not playing hard, he’s just not playing aggressively. The best way to describe it is that he’s playing a risk averse game — one much more reserved than what he was during the summer. His mistakes are down, but sometimes mistakes of aggression are more favorable than playing in a manner where omitting them leads to a lack of impact. Russell clearly has court vision, has a nice looking jumper, and can do more on the floor than he’s showing. But he seems so set on letting things come to him or only taking what the defense gives him that we’re not seeing all the ways he can impact the game.
*It’s also important to go back to what I wrote above about the young players and trying to figure out what they can and can’t do on the floor and trying to fit into what the coaches want. Russell is only 19 and is at the bottom of his development curve. Patience is key. But I’d be lying if I said I’m fully happy with his approach right now. In a way, I’d rather see more mistakes if it meant he was being more assertive and forcing the action a bit more. I’d bet I’m not alone thinking that way, too.
*Ryan Kelly had another good game and it’s to the point where I wonder how Byron is going to find time for all his front court players. Kelly shot well (4-6 from the field) and did alright on the boards (6 rebounds) in his 24 minutes. But he also played all his minutes next Brandon Bass in a “small” froncourt. Tarik Black and Robert Sacre both got DNP-CD’d against a dubs team who played without Bogut. I do not know what the trend will be during the regular season, but the Bass/Kelly lineup was porous defensively and didn’t offer any rim protection. I’d much rather have Black or Sacre behind Kelly simply because they offer more resistance at the rim than Bass, but also know neither offer as much offensively as the veteran forward. I don’t have any good answers here, but if Kelly keeps shooting the ball well, he’s going to deserve minutes.