You’ll have to pardon the condensed preview today…
The summer league playoffs started on Wednesday and the Lakers, as the 3-seed, got a 1st round bye. Their opponent Thursday night will be the Cavs who beat the Celtics for the right to move on. So, randomly enough, the Lakers will face the summer squads of the NBA Finals teams in back to back games.
In any event, we’re now at the point where I’m not just interested in how individual players perform or the general performance of the team within the context of the schemes, but whether or not the Lakers actually win. I’m all for team building and the confidence of the young guys growing and, at this point, a nice little run in these playoffs would help in this area — even if only slightly.
With that, a win would be nice. Per the previous games, there is a formula for how the Lakers win in this environment. It’s really a 3 step process:
1. D’Angelo Russell goes off at some point. The earlier the better, but if at any point during the game Russell scores 8-10 straight points or 13 out of 17, the Lakers have a good shot of taking control.
2. Defense and Rebounding. With Nance, Zubac, Brown, Ingram, and Russell the Lakers have a ton of length in their starting group. Then they bring in guys like Auguste, Varnado, and Fall and they actually get even bigger and longer. These guys can disrupt passing lanes, contest shots, and clean up misses.
3. Get in the open court. A few highlight reel plays not only gets the players going, but the fans. Vegas has been filled with partisan Lakers’ fans who love nothing more than to see their team win. This type of energy really helps the Lakers get going.
If any of two of these three things consistently go the Lakers way, they are likely to win. If it’s all 3, they likely do so by double figures. Can they do it again tonight? Here’s hoping. Now, a few more things I will be looking for…
- Can Brandon Ingram get it going some? Ingram has said he is letting the game come to him. The coaches have praised him for this. I too am on board with him not forcing the issue. That said, I would like to see the flow of the game tilt more towards him to see if he can get some easy looks and knock some shots down.
- More Zubac, please. I love how this kid plays. His enthusiasm, his work defensively, the way he’s being assertive offensively. More of the same from him tonight would be great.
- Bounce back from Nance. In Monday’s game against the Warriors, Nance only played 17 minutes and didn’t really make an impact. I’d like to see him return to the form he showed in the first two wins. The hustle is always there, but more activity with the ball, more impactful plays. He’s more than capable.
- Russell keeping his confidence high. He’s been the best player on the floor every game. Continuing that trend is what I’m looking for.
- Zach Auguste minutes. Auguste got squeezed in favor of Varnado and Fall in the last game. Hopefully he finds his way back into the rotation in this one. His activity on the glass and in attacking the rim in the P&R offers a nice spark.
- Two or more 3’s from Anthony Brown. We’ve written how his offense is a work in progress, but he’s a capable shooter who just hasn’t hit shots yet. I’d love to see that change tonight.
All in all, a good game is what I’m hoping for. A win would be the added bonus. Getting both would make my night.