Again? AGAIN? Look, I’m tired of the Lakers facing by the Thunder. This will be the 3rd time the Lakers have played OKC in the past 20 days. The two previous times the Lakers lost by 40 and 35 points. So, yeah. Instead of a game preview, I should include a map to the nearest underground shelter so fans can take cover.
To be honest, I don’t want to talk about the Thunder game anyway. Not when I can talk about the game against the Kings. That game was a loss, but I honestly couldn’t care less. And while there are some things that came out of that game — namely D’Angelo Russell’s ankle injury and Kobe’s continued issues with his shoulder — may impact today’s availability, the game itself was pretty much what most fans are looking for out of a Lakers’ game these days.
The game really did hit all the right boxes (or at least most of them):
- Kobe played well and was not overextended with his minutes. In 30 minutes he scored 28 points on 10-18 shooting. He also had some really finishes and even had an alley-oop dunk.
- D’Angelo Russell was fantastic, especially down the stretch and looked like the multi-talented #2 overall draft pick who could be an offensive force. Russell had 27 points on 11-16 shooting, including 19 points in the 2nd half on 7-9 shooting.
- Jordan Clarkson had a rough turnover on the last possession, but he was otherwise his consistent self again with a 15/5/4 line. He also had a couple of highlight level drives and finishes.
- The youth movement carried the day in the 2nd half and turned what was going to be a blowout loss into a game the Kings probably should have lost. A lineup of Russell, Clarkson, Brown, Randle, and Bass was amazing down the stretch of the 3rd quarter and all of the 4th with their strong play only broken up by Russell’s ankle sprain.
You can put whatever qualifiers on the game you’d like (quality of opponent, the let-their-guard-down nature of the 2nd half after the big lead was established), but that should not minimize what they actually did. The group defended well (not perfectly, but well), got good shots offensively, and played with a combination of urgency and poise that stood out.
And while they didn’t win, those who side with process in the results vs. process battle got a bit of fulfillment. This doesn’t mean everything went right — there were still a bunch of possessions where the Kings just King’d it up which had little to do with what the Lakers were doing — but rarely do things. You still have to find a way to compete and get into positions to win and the team did just that with the young guys driving the bus.
What does this have to do with tonight? Nothing, really. But you can’t blame me for wanting to talk about that than the very probable thrashing the Thunder are about to administer to the Lakers tonight.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.