Earlier this week we covered the type of offensive set which has too often been representative of what the Lakers do on that side of the ball. The slow developing, non-attacking, late clock, long jumper producing set is symbolic of all that can be wrong with how the Lakers operate offensively. The hope, of course, is we see less and less of that as the season goes on.
The flip-side of that type of action is a quick hitting, full-on attacking action which forces the defense to react, putting them in bad positions in the process. We mostly see this when the Lakers are in transition, but not as often in the half court.
Friday night’s Lakers’ loss to the Kings did not offer many highlights, but one play they did run epitomized the latter type of play I would like to see more of.
This play comes after a score, but the Lakers do not simply take the ball out of the net and walk the ball up. No, D’Angelo Russell quickly takes the inbound and pushes the ball up court, crossing the mid-line with 22 seconds left on the shot clock. Rather than calling their “elbow” or “chin” series which, respectively, start with an entry to a big or a guard to guard pass within their two-guard front, Russell immediately sets up a PG/SF sideline pick and roll with Kobe.
Notice the pace Russell is playing with here, too. When he approaches Kobe’s pick, he slows down to try and get a good rub, but then bursts around the edge clearly looking to attack the rim. By doing this, he turns the corner quickly and threatens the rim within one dribble of getting around the screen. Once at the rim, the help comes and Russell quickly diagnoses his options.
On the sideline, the opposite forward (Randle) is sliding down towards the corner. That hard run down the wing brings with him the top side guard who is playing free safety near the top of the key. Russell, seeing all this develop, whips a pass back out to the trailing guard (Clarkson) who is wide open above the arc. Clarkson has enough time to bobble the pass, set his feet, and fire off a jumper before any defender is even within two feet of him.
The shot falls. Three points.
While we’ve typically highlighted Russell’s highlight passes where he’s looking off a defender or threading the needle in the open court to set his man up for a dunk, this is more the type of pass point guards need to make at the NBA level. And it’s not just the pass, but everything that led up to it. The quick action towards the rim. The collapsing of the defense. The quick read within the play to know where his teammates are and then making the right pass on time and on target.
This isn’t to make this out to be more than what it is. It was a very nice play, but nothing extraordinary. That said, this is what Lakers’ fans want from Russell and, on this play, he did show he had it in his tool kit.