After a loss to the Kings on Thursday, the Lakers are now 2-3 in the preseason. Thursday’s game saw a fantastic offensive performance from D’Angelo Russell undone by bad defense across the board. The Lakers couldn’t contain dribble penetration, didn’t tag cutters, had slow rotations back to the 3 point line, and gave up open jumpers all over the floor. Luke Walton said the team just didn’t have good defensive energy which was a nice way of putting things.
That defensive intensity will, of course, be even more tested tonight against the Warriors. I don’t need to go into how good they are on that end, their personnel makes it obvious. Anytime you add Kevin Durant to a team, you are going to thrive on offense. When you add him to a team with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, you are going to demolish teams on that end of the floor.
The Lakers are not going to stop this team tonight. That said, they can do some things to make the Warriors’ lives more difficult. They will need to communicate well, switch when necessary, rotate hard to the 3 point line, and help the helper. The Warriors will still score against these tactics, but what I am looking for is good effort and sticking to the scheme as outlined by the coaches. In other words, the Lakers need to focus on process and try to execute every possession. If the results don’t come, you live with that. The Warriors are going to have a season of gaining their own results regardless of their process, but based on their quality of coaching, they will also have fantastic process.
Tonight, then, I couldn’t care less about a win or a loss. Even if a win would be great for confidence and to reward a team working hard to improve, my focus is still on doing the little things better and having the team make the small, yet important, strides forward which help establish their program and who they want to be over the long haul.
With that, a few things I will be watching for tonight:
- With Lou Williams getting the night off, I am interested in seeing if Clarkson finds his way to the starting lineup. The only alternatives to Clarkson would be Nick Young or Anthony Brown. While Young has been playing well and Brown could use more minutes this preseason, I would like to see Clarkson with the first five. If for some reason he doesn’t start, I think we can all assume, at this point, he is destined to be a reserve when the year begins and, maybe, even longer.
- Can Russell have another good game? When Russell played against Lillard — the only real top flight PG he’s faced this preseason — he struggled. Well, tonight, Curry is on deck and there’s no one better at that spot then the reigning MVP. I’d love for Russell to compete not just hard, but well against Steph. I don’t need a super explosion like he had on Thursday, but a good scoring game with a handful of assists would be great to see.
- More movement on offense, please. The first half of the Kings game was as bad an offensive stretch the team has had all preseason. A lot of standing around with little ball movement plagued their attack and it created a stagnant, generic approach with bad results. I know the team is still learning what they want to do on that end, but in listening to Walton talk what he wants is for guys to cut, screen, and relocate rather than just standing and watching. The sooner this group can get used to adopting this philosophy, the better.
- More Tarik Black, please. Last game was Yi’ Jianlian’s chance to be the key backup C and he did okay. He hit some shots, was mostly quick in making his reads after catches, and moved into open spaces well enough. He’s still not rebounding or defending well enough, but we know that’s going to be the case with him. My hope is Black gets his turn in the lineup tonight and can take advantage of his minutes with his high motor and willingness to attack in the paint on both ends of the floor. Too often the Lakers’ offense stalled because there weren’t enough players threatening the paint in ways that draws help defenders. Black, in the P&R, will try to get to the front of the rim which can help open the floor for the wings.
- Can Larry Nance find his offensive game? Nance has been pretty quiet on O the last few games. It’d be nice for him to become a bit more aggressive, taking open jumpers when they are there and attacking the rim out of the P&R. We know he can defend and rebound (though more work on the glass would also be nice), but if he’s going to be a more reliable rotation player, more consistency on offense is going to be needed.
- Better screening by Julius Randle. I am a believer in Randle’s talent, but doing the little things better are going to help his talent shine through more. On offense, one thing he really needs to improve on is making contact on his screens in order to free up his guard. When he does that, he’ll find he has more space to operate in too. Stop slipping every screen and just body up a few guards with his strong frame.
Again, I know there will be a certain amount of hype around this game. Luke Walton vs. his former team! A measuring stick game for the Lakers’ young guys! It’s better not to get caught up in any of that though. The Lakers have a long, long way to go before they even approach the Warriors’ lower gears. Tonight just needs to be about execution and cleaning up some of the mistakes they’ve been making in recent games.