The Lakers are 1-1 after losing a hard fought game against the Jazz which saw the team battle back and keep it close, only to struggle in the closing minutes. It was a winnable game and head coach Luke Walton noted after the contest this was one he wished his team would have gotten:
Luke Walton: "When you’re on the road & you have the opportunity to win the game you have to go take it."
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) October 29, 2016
I like Walton’s framing here. He’s not down on his players for not finding a way, but he’s not absolving them from coming up short either. I also like the emphasis placed on it being a road game — after all, the Lakers’ opening win against the Rockets showed how his team could find a way to close out a game at the end. These two points are related, of course. His team just did what he wanted a game prior, reminding them of that isn’t the worst thing.
Walton is trying to build a good basketball team, a team which forms the types of habits needed to win in any environment. That means late game execution and winning the game within the game on those key possessions which can be the difference between a W and an L. His team is not there yet, of course. But that doesn’t mean he lets a teaching moment escape without trying to impart some knowledge on his young group.
The NBA grind continues, though, and there is no time to stick with any one outcome for too long. The Lakers are back in action today, in Oklahoma City, game two of their four game tour.
Heading into this game there is some good news on the injury front. Brandon Ingram’s knee soreness which kept him out the entire 2nd half vs. the Jazz has been deemed tendonitis and he should be ready to play today. Jose Calderon”s calf strain has also healed up enough for him to make his return to the lineup and, if he’s called on, to make his season debut. Calderon’s presence has the potential to be especially meaningful as his shooting ability can help space the floor in ways that Huertas — whose passing and creativity in the P&R has been useful too — cannot.
With those players’ returns, I am interested in seeing how Walton deploys his lineups. This is the first game all season the entire roster will be available to play. I am guessing Ingram will still see some minutes at backup PG, but with Calderon also back I want to see if the rotations stay the same and how the wing rotations shakeout now that everyone is available.
Walton has done a fair job of mixing lineups, but we’ve yet to see lineups with Russell paired with another PG or too many minutes with Russell and Ingram (only 7 minutes over two games). With Calderon back, in theory, he can space the floor in lineups without Ingram and that may allow the latter to find a few more minutes with Russell.
Getting back to today’s specific opponent, the Thunder offer specific challenges for this Lakers’ group. For one, they have a big, mobile Center in Steven Adams who will threaten the rim via P&R actions. Even though the Thunder don’t have the shooters to punish a collapsing defense, LA’s paint coverage will need to be on point to deal with Adams (and Kanter when he enters).
Then, of course, there is Russell Westbrook who has been dynamic in OKC’s first two games. He too will threaten the rim, especially in transition. The Lakers’ bigs will need to worry less about offensive rebounding and more with getting back to build a wall against Westbrook’s onslaught. In the half court things will be somewhat easier, but that is a relative term. Westbrook is explosive and the Lakers do not have an individual defender who can stay in front of him. Shading and early help will need to be the norm, lest the Lakers want to get torched.
Offensively, the Lakers would do well to excel from behind the arc. OKC is a poor outside shooting team but have done well defending the arc too (teams are only shooting 23% from distance vs. them through their two games). If the Lakers can buck that early trend, they might be able to get up on this team and make them play from behind. Considering the Lakers have played from behind a lot through two games, this would be a nice alternative.
Lastly, I am interested in seeing how D’Angelo fares this game. During the preseason — small sample alert! — he did a good job of bouncing back from poor games but also struggled when facing other top guards (Lillard and Curry specifically). Those trends come to a crossroads in this game after D’Angelo struggled last game, but will now face Westbrook.
Where you can watch: 4pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.
Mid Wilshire says
All the young guys struggled last game (except for Tarik Black who was superb and probably should have played more minutes).
I’m eager to see how — and to what extent — Russell, Clarkson, Randle, and Ingram bounce back today. All players in the NBA have off games from time to time. The good ones, or those who are becoming good, somehow manage to pull themselves together and rebound the very next game.
I’m eager to see how the young guys perform today. In that respect, this could be an interesting game.
It will take a monumental defensive team effort to slow down Westbrook. He’ll get his, we just have to not let anyone else have a killer game.
I expect Russell, Clarkson, Randle, Nance and Ingram to step up tonight. Lou, Deng and Swaggy have been steady; Calderon is available which should also help our guard situation.
We have to get better on the glass to compete with OKC. It’s going to be a challenge but if Randle and Mozgov bring their “A” game and if Black continues to produce we could make it interesting.
OKC sans Durant resembles Houston a lot more now with Westbrook and Harden facilitating and shooting. We couldn’t stop Harden, but limited the damage that others were able to do. Expect OKC to test how much the Lakers have learned about PnR defense since playing Houston.
Current odds are OKC -9. Hoping Westbrook is a little tired from his (impressive) OT win against PHX. Maybe we pull one out with everyone back. Go Lakers!
Julius is just abusing Sabonis off the dribble
Randle very active to start the game, Nice block by Mozgov.
The Lakers are going to have to do a better job recovering to the 3pt line. The difference in the game right now is that the Thunder and hitting 3’s and the Lakers aren’t.
The Calderon-Williams backcourt did not work out well there.
Russell draws the charge on Westbrook, nice defense on that play.
It isn’t like the Thunder perimeter defense is doing anything special, the shooters are just missing open shots all around the arc
Russell Westbrook get his triple double.
Lakers get close in the 4th quarter but turnovers hurting their chances.
I get that Luke is experimenting, but there’s really no reason to play 12 guys in a game. Cut the rotation to 9 or 10 and let’s move forward.
Nick (I guess)
Lou (hope he ups his value so we can move him)
Valdosta and Huerta don’t need minutes (unless or until Nick or Lou are moved)
Ron is a de facto coach
Zubac is learning and should play a bit when possible.
Robinson is an emergency big
new rr says
This is the first game I have seen all the way through. Thoughts:
Deng: Looks old and dead-legged and like he is no longer an NBA 3. Maybe he is hiding an injury.
Mozgov: He is useful as a rim protector and interior presence who can make the occasional shot. Much better than Hibbert. I am still not seeing that he is worth what they paid him, especially playing 22-26 minutes a night.
Randle: He will get his points and boards, but I still do not see him as likely to be exceptionally valuable two-way long-term. Is very useful and occasionally exciting.
Russell: Very talented on O and will be bad news in a couple of years. Still do not see him as the kind of elite athlete that can anchor a team as a two-way PG–like the guy OKC has. Still think DAR can be an All-Star in his prime.
Ingram: Same as Russell, but younger and has a better chance to be That Guy. .
Young: I give him and Walton a lot of credit for adjusting his game, but the fact that he is starting and going 30 minutes is not a good sign for the roster.
Clarkson: No change from what I thought two years ago: 6th man combo guard.
Williams: Still the same guy and would be better off on another team.
Coaching: Seeing plusses to Luke all over the place. Tactical moves, like going to the press and posting up DAR in the 4th. Team consistently generates off-ball action and always has guys spotted up at the arc. Breakdowns on D are more due to youth and personnel.
Big Picture: Exactly what I and most expected. Team is reasonably fun to watch and competes, and is headed the right direction. Some vets don’t fit.
Tonight was a good example of why the NBA is still a stars’ league. Biggest difference was obviously Westbrook.
new rr says
Yeah, I agree that the rotation is a little heavy right now. But I think that is in part a roster construction issue, although Walton decides who plays.
D’angelo Russel has cold ice in his defense. Well, it is the 3rd game of the season and we are lethargic defensively. Can’t help but sigh with so many moments in the game. U0001f60c
I’m fine with Mozgov but i hate how they fail to rotate when Mozgov goes after the ball. Gosh so much work to do