The Lakers have not played since Saturday and, from their last few games, they needed the break in action. After winning two of their first 3 preseason games, they’d lost their last three. And while the final score for two of those contests were close, the circumstances of the game and how the team actually looked tell a different story.
Some of the gains the team had made on both sides of the ball saw regression — especially offensively. Too much standing around, not enough ball or player movement. Some of this was lineup experimentation, some of it was quality of opponent (Portland and Golden State showed much better quality defense than the Nuggets). But a lot of it was simply the team not doing what they had done in previous games, and with less urgency.
The time off, then, hopefully did them some good. As with any team featuring young players while trying to integrate new faces expected to be key contributors, the Lakers need time to install sets and schemes and then drill them in practices. They need to scrimmage to simulate game situations to test them, then drill them some more when players make mistakes. In the last week and a half, they have not had this luxury as they’ve basically played every other day (or so).
This brings us back to tonight. Like the last game on Saturday, I do not expect the Lakers to win. The Warriors aren’t just the superior team with much better players, but they also run a lot of the same actions the Lakers do but with more experienced players. This means they are not only likely to know how to defend these actions, but have more knowledge of what the options are than the Lakers themselves. This plays out in a lot of little ways, but mostly in how to play the cuts, when to switch, and in reading where the ball should go/is actually going.
This is a problem I don’t expect the Lakers to overcome with 3 extra days of practice.
That said, I am still interested in seeing how the team has progressed since Saturday. Do they cut and screen more? Do they move the ball better? What is their defensive intensity like? If they get down early, do they still compete? These are things which are independent of the opponent, so I am looking for positive strides here.
A few other things I will be watching:
- What happens with the rotation? Does Clarkson start? Does Nick Young get more minutes now that Lou will be back? Does Black play over Yi? We are a week away from the season starting and are now getting to the point where some of these decisions might actually reflect what will happen when the real games start.
- Can Clarkson defend Klay Thompson better than the last game? Klay’s superior size and high release point allowed him to shoot over the top of Clarkson pretty consistently. To overcome that, JC needs to use better position defense and play angles better.
- Will the team go small? I am interested in seeing if we see any more of the Ingram/Deng forward pairing and, if that does happen, who plays C behind them. When that guy is Yi, the Lakers are setting themselves up for failure. I’d much rather see Black or even Nance on the back line to see if a better defender who can switch screens helps that group defend better.
- Can Russell shoot it well? This is pretty self explanatory. Russell is really fun when he’s making shots.
- The last game Randle looked more intent on driving than shooting his jumper when given space. I’d like to see him pull the trigger more, even if he’s missing. The preseason is the time to work on these things.
- More Ingram as a ball handler. If last game’s blowout gave us anything, it was garbage time with Ingram getting to handle the ball and be more of a focal point on offense. He really does have some good instincts as a passer and set up man and I’d like to see him get more opportunities in that role with the 2nd unit.
- A few minutes for Zubac would be nice. I know he’s not quite ready to play real minutes in an NBA game. But a few more minutes in the preseason would be nice, if only to get his feet wet.
A condensed list tonight, but considering the last game was such a bad performance early, I’m really just looking out to see how these guys compete. Needless to say, I hope it’s better than Saturday.