I’m going to keep this brief because, well, I just am.
The Lakers went for their 4th straight victory on Tuesday night, but fell short against the Mavs. The game itself was a back and forth affair and one where the Lakers found themselves “in it” until the end. If going down a certain road of analysis, this is a good sign. This team competes and finds a way to either hang around or be in control long enough to make wins possible. In some games they’ve pulled it out, in others they haven’t.
Tuesday was one of those nights and there’s nothing wrong with that, really. This team was projected to win around 27 games this year. The expectation, then, should be that more often than not Tuesday’s result will be the default, not the exception.
In saying that, Tuesday night should also be seen as an opportunity for this team. There were several things the team simply did not do well and, in the future, can correct to help ensure the result does not get repeated. The team committed 16 turnovers, many of the careless variety which spoke to a lack of attentiveness the team has not often showed. They had too many breakdowns defensively, not shading players correctly, not helping early enough, and not helping the helper when the first line did step up.
They got befuddled by the Mavs’ zone defense and were not as precise as they needed to be in moving themselves or the ball into positions to be a threat. And down the stretch they looked like they were trying to outscore their opponent rather than hold them to fewer points than they were able to get. That last point is a subtle, but important distinction.
This team, though, will learn. And one of the reasons I believe this is because games like last night’s happen. The path to becoming a good team is filled with games like the one the Lakers just played. One where you think they should win, but don’t, and the reasons why have as much (or more) to do with the things you did wrong as what the other team did right. Those games become the teachable moments which smart players and teams can take lasting lessons. Those lessons, the hope goes, become part of their DNA to the point that, more often than not, result in better play in similar situations.
I’m sure the coaches will be stressing these things to the players. I hope the players soak it all in, too.
With that, a few extra notes from the contest:
- I thought the Lakers really missed Larry Nance, Jr. While I do not think Nance would have been a great defensive option against Harrison Barnes, his defensive instincts as a helper, rebounding, and ability to threaten the paint in the P&R would have helped.
- Speaking of Nance’s absence, I thought him being unavailable totally threw off Walton’s rotations. While Thomas Robinson got some burn (which was to be expected), Jose Calderon did too. I think the latter only got burn because Ingram go slid up to PF in certain lineups which meant the need to play another wing. I suppose Walton could have just extended the minutes of Clarkson/Russell/Lou, but that’s not what happened.
- When Barnes started to go off, it again showed the team’s lack of anyone resembling a defensive stopper is. Walton tried every wing defender he had on Barnes, even bringing in Metta at one point to try and slow him down. Nothing worked and Barnes hurt the Lakers severely down the stretch.
- I think the Lakers need to actively try to get D’Angelo Russell going earlier in games. In the 1st half Russell only took one shot which is not nearly enough. Some of this is on Russell, of course. But in a game where he was being guarded by Barrea to start, a quick post up action or something that would allow him to work 15 feet and in would have been nice. In the 2nd half, the aggression (and buckets) came after a post-up and-1, which was good to see. It just would have been nicer to get some of that earlier in the game.
- That said, Russell did have 5 first half assists and did finish with 7 on the night. I do like that he’s getting his teammates involved and that he’s showing more comfort in how to set up his teammates in positions where they can get baskets.
- I was happy to see Jordan Clarkson hit a couple of three pointers last night and, maybe even more importantly, shoot them without hesitating. I would still like to see him up his three-point rate, but I believe that will come when his confidence in that shot returns to preseason levels. Seeing the ball go through the hoop will help.