In the big picture, if you would have told me the Lakers would go 2-1 on their 3 game road trip I would have taken it happily and not even thought twice about it. I think it important to remind myself of that right now because the Lakers’ 125-99 loss to the Wolves was as ugly as the score implies. In fact, it might have been worse.
As I wrote in my game preview, I thought there might be a chance the Lakers came out sluggish and that’s what happened. The starting group wasn’t just flat, they were slow in pretty much everything they did. Slow in getting into their sets, in moving the ball, in setting screens, in closing out on shooters, in rotating to protect the paint. The result was an early hole for the bench to try to dig out of.
Typically, that’s not an issue for the Lakers’ reserves, but this game they weren’t able to really get anything going either — at least consistently. They did have a nice spurt in the 2nd quarter where they were able to apply some defensive pressure, get some stops, and then get some baskets on the other end. For that brief stint, it looked like it was going to be business as usual but then things dried up again which allowed the Wolves to take control back and close the half with a run.
It was a similar story in the 2nd half and, in reality, it’s really not worth getting into. The Lakers simply didn’t have it this game and, in the grand scheme, that’s not the biggest deal when you consider the circumstances of the game. Now, if you want to dig in and say the 1st unit hasn’t played particularly well of late and then use this game as a data point in a larger issue, I won’t offer too much resistance. It’s true that the starters haven’t been doing as well as I think everyone — including them — would want and if that continues there may be some worrying to do.
But as of now, I’m going to chalk up this loss to what it was: a bad night. Now, some additional notes:
- I won’t harp on any single player’s struggles too much, but D’Angelo Russell’s general slump continues. While had good numbers against the Pelicans, some of that production came in garbage time. Against the Wolves, though, he was back to looking off in all aspects of the game, not finding a way to threaten the defense consistently as a scorer/playmaker and getting beat too often defensively. I wish there were easy answers for his recent play, but he’s just not playing well.
- One area where the Lakers as a team really struggled was in 50/50 balls. The rebounding margin was only 5 at the end of the game, but that number doesn’t do justice to how often the Wolves got to loose balls. Any time the ball got poked away or if there was a scrum in the paint it seemed Minny came away with possession.
- On my twitter timeline I saw a lot of fans complaining about calls going against the Lakers and the discrepancy in fouls (31 for the Lakers, 19 for the Wolves) and FT’s (30 to 42) does offer some reasons to be upset. That said, the Lakers still foul too much and that has little to do with unevenness from the refs. Against the Wolves, they reached in too much, weren’t in good position to defend the rim often enough, and generally were too handsy. Maybe the Wolves got away with some contact on plays, but that happens. The Lakers, in general, need to just be better at not initiating contact. The refs seem to view them as a team who fouls and they will not get the benefit of the doubt as long as that’s the case.
- Tarik Black was the only Laker with a positive plus/minus. He was on the floor during that 2nd quarter push, but never really got back into the flow of things after being pulled when the team was struggling on the glass.
- I thought Brandon Ingram looked good and that he played a very nice floor game. Besides his shooting efficiency (3-5 shooting for 10 points), none of his boxscore stats stand out, but he was assertive when he had the ball while still playing within the flow of the game while also showing good fundamentals with his positioning on both sides of the ball. In games like this one where the team as a whole is so bad, it’s good to see Ingram do well.