It may not cure all, but the Lakers getting a win sure does make things go down a bit smoother. The night wasn’t perfect, but perfect can wait for another day. The Lakers needed a win severely, if only to ease some of their own frustrations.
Regardless of how good a win makes the fans feel, I can guarantee it feels better for the players. It is difficult to put all that work in and not see the reward on the court with actual wins. As much as performing well as an individual matters, these guys aren’t out there playing tennis or golf. They want their team to win. One only needed to see the look on the face of D’Angelo Russell in the closing seconds of this game (even though he was on the bench — more on that later) or the look on Julius Randle’s after the four previous ones (even though he’d played well in most of them) to recognize the difference.
Man, it feels good to see a Lakers win. I said this a lot last year, but these guys work hard. They have pride. Glad they got this for THEM.
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) November 7, 2015
As for how the Lakers got to this win, I think Mid-Wilshire summed it up well in the comments of the game preview:
Randle: 14 pts. (5-9 shooting), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Clarkson: 16 pts. (6-12 shooting), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
Russell: 16 pts. (6-9 shooting), 4 rebounds (but zero assists), 3 steals
Could this have been a glimpse of the future?
Were there mistakes? Of course. They’re young. Was the level of competition very high? No. The Nets are horrible.
Even so, our three young players who (hopefully) are the core of the Lakers’ future just combined for 46 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 assists while averaging 29 minutes per game between them tonight. Considering that this is only their 5th regular season game together, I’d say that this is encouraging.
Even though they have a ways to go, isn’t this what we were hoping for?
Yes, this is what we are hoping for. Especially the stat line from Russell.
While he did not have any assists, Russell’s offense looked polished with his jumper falling in a way that reminded of his time at Ohio State. After missing his first two shots — both inside looks — Russell hit 6 of his next 7 shots. The only miss came on a heat check 3-pointer early in the clock to see if he could keep his hot shooting going in the 2nd half after his 2nd quarter spurt. I was especially happy with his overall aggressiveness, especially in how he is starting to get a feel for how to go away from screens in the P&R and shaking free to get into open space. He did that on one of his misses — a finger roll attempt over Brook Lopez — and he’s did it a couple of times against the Nuggets last game too.
Russell wasn’t the only rookie who had a nice game, either. Larry Nance Jr. saw his first action of the season and had a solid and productive night. Nance had 6 points, 5 rebounds, and was a +9 in his 15 minutes of action. He was active on defense, moving well all over the floor and showed enough range on his jumper – which is important if he’s going to be on the floor. If he can hit the 18 foot baseline jumper — both his field goals came on this shot — he can offer a semblance of spacing and be an release valve for open passes when his man helps in the paint.
Adding Nance to the rotation wasn’t the only change, either. Metta World Peace also got minutes and added a nice boost to the Lakers’ defense. The Nets didn’t have the type of quick-twitch athletes on the wing which give Metta problems at this stage of his career and Metta took full advantage working well on an island against guys like Joe Johnson and Bojan Bogdanovic. Metta’s quick hands and good position defense added to Nance’s more athletic movement around the court proved to be a nice combination when flanking Tarik Black’s paint protection.
All in all this was a good win. The Nets aren’t a good team, but neither are the Lakers right now. So why worry about the strength of the opponent? The important part of the game is that the young players did well and that, in the end, the Lakers came out on top. Everything done wasn’t exactly how I would have done it, but that’s every night.
Now, for some additional notes…
- If you look at Kobe’s final stat line you’ll see another poor shooting night (5-16), only marginal work on the glass or with assists (3 of each) and think he was bad again. And, in some ways he was, I guess. But he also went to the FT line 8 times (though 2 of those were technical foul shots) and did better in trying to get into the paint. Yes, he still settled for a lot of jumpers, but two of his 5 baskets were at the rim and he had a nice assist to Tarik Black on a drive where he drew extra help.
- One of the major storylines recently is that D’Angelo Russell hasn’t played down the stretch of games. Tonight he did get some late 4th quarter burn, but was pulled out in the final minute in favor of Lou Williams. This is likely going to be a thing for the immediate future so getting upset about it isn’t going to change much. As I said on twitter, I think Byron really wanted this win and did whatever he thought was best to secure it. I wish he thought that meant playing Russell in the final minute.
- Nick Young didn’t shoot well, hitting only 3 of his 9 shots on the night. But all three of his makes came on consecutive possessions in the 4th quarter, where he had a nice open court layup sandwiched between two 3-pointers.
- Julius Randle is really fun to watch. He’s also going to be really good.
- Roy Hibbert had another 3 blocks on the night. For the season he’s averaging 2.8 a night.
- Huertas and Kelly were DNP-CDs. Bass only got 3 minutes of action. For one night, at least, it looks like Metta, Nance, and Black have replaced those three in the main rotation. We will see if this continues. After a win, I would imagine it would.