After losing to the Warriors in back to back games, the Lakers are now 8-9 and under .500 for the first time since they were 2-3 on November 2nd. That day they played the Hawks on the final game of a 4 game road trip and surprisingly won even though they played without Timofey Mozgov to anchor against Dwight Howard.
That game served as a bit of a turnaround for these Lakers, not only rewarding them for their hard play, but because it served as the 1st game of the team’s new rotation which saw them scrap playing a traditional backup PG in favor of giving Brandon Ingram more ball-handling duties and riding a Clarkson/Williams tandem in the back court.
It’s a bit ironic, then, that the Lakers get the Hawks again tonight, though under vastly different circumstances. Tonight the Lakers are playing their final game at home before going out on a 4 game road trip, are now featuring Jose Calderon as a rotation mainstay due to D’Angelo Russell’s sore knee which will keep him out another week and a half, and have lost 3 of 4 before facing this team. Wait. Sorry, that last part is exactly the same as the match up in Atlanta almost a month ago.
The Lakers are still banged up, but there’s hope reinforcements are on their way. After sitting out against the Warriors on Friday, Nick Young is expected to play tonight. Julius Randle wants to play and his coaches do too, but he will not be rushed back into the lineup while dealing with his hip pointer. My guess is that he does play tonight, but it would not surprise me if they gave him another day off with the intent of him returning on Tuesday against the Pelicans.
If Randle and Young do return, they’ll be a welcome sight against the Hawks team who has some talent at those spots. Paul Millsap is one of the better two-way PF’s in the game and offers the type of skill set versatility coaches love. Meanwhile, on the wing. Young will be matched up against Kent Bazemore — a player who will look to attack offensively and get downhill in the open court to create chances at the rim. He’s also capable of hitting the 3 ball (though he’s struggled in that area this season).
Beyond those two, though, the Lakers face other challenges at PG and C. Dennis Shroeder and Dwight Howard are the team’s 2nd and 3rd leading scorers and will both threaten the paint consistently. Shroeder is a fine playmaker and killer penetrator, so Calderon (and Lou Williams) will need to try and keep him in front and shaded towards help so he is not getting up the types of shots which are either high percentage or force bigs to rotate and surrender crucial offensive rebounding positioning.
That last point is key, especially when Dwight is in the game. Lakers’ fans have their opinions about Dwight, but he’s doing well this season — shooting nearly 60% from the floor on lobs, easy finishes from quick entries, and, yes, offensive putbacks. Dwight grabs nearly 5 offensive rebounds a game and he must be accounted for consistently on the backboards. If for some reason Mozgov (or Tarik Black) are forced to help off Dwight consistently, the Hawks big man will flourish with easy dunks.
Offensively, this is a game where the Lakers will really miss Russell. In their first match up, Russell scored a team high 23 points by using his post game and mid-range shooting coming off the P&R against the Hawks’ soft hedge/drop coverage. Calderon is a different type of player and can be effective as a spot up shooter or by hitting pull up jumpers if his defender goes under screens, but it will be on the other Lakers’ to create good shots and get the Hawks into help situations where easier shots can be generated.
This is where Lou, Randle (should he play), Clarkson, and Young come into play. These are the Lakers who can not only create their own shots, but can threaten the defense in a way which leads to the Hawks needing to get into their defensive rotations. If the Lakers can get Dwight, Millsap, etc into situations where they are worried about help, it can open up the types of passing opportunities which stretch out the defense and lead to open shots.
Lastly, the Hawks are a good team — likely better than the Lakers at this point considering personnel availability and how banged up the Laker are in general — but they are not playing their best ball right now. They have lost 4 of 5 and this is their 3rd game of a 5 game road trip. They also play the Warriors on Monday, offering them a chance to look ahead a bit going into Oakland on the 2nd night of a back to back. The Hawks are a veteran team, so I don’t expect them to take the Lakers lightly (after all, they did lose to them just a few weeks ago), but I do think the Lakers have a better chance in this game than they are likely being given by most.
We’ll see how this game plays out, but I think we could be in for a good game.
Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.
Young is playing but they are holding Randle out.
No word yet other than if they go small, Ingram will start.
new rr says
Ryan Kelly is on the Atlanta roster. He has played 27 minutes all year, but he is in the league.
The Lakers can compete in this game. I hope they do.
Too many coconuts have hit him right on top of the skull (about Mychal Thompson) Chick Hearn was the best.
Lakers’ defense is just getting carved up repeatedly.
What Luke is doing is amazing, no DAR no Julius? No problem, the team hasn’t miss a beat, at least tonight. When this young core matures and we get more talented this team will be REALLY REALLY good. It’s just so obvious. Also the thing that is a blessing in disguise is that this last couple of games has been Brandon real trial by fire. Still has ways to go but he has the tools. He is going to be impressive. Still amazed with what Luke has done with this team.
Mid Wilshire says
Without DAR and Randle the Lakers are up by 7 at half time, 55-48. And they were down by 13 at one point. They outscored Atlanta 34-16 in the 2nd quarter.
Something tells me that Clarkson is going to have to play heavy minutes in this game. He’s the only Laker who can stay with Schroder.
Mid Wilshire says
Also, the Lakers have 12 assists vs. 3 TOs in the 1st half. That is very good.
Allowed 16 points in the second.
The Lakers can take this one.
Send Howard away again with bloody nose.
Was wondering when Lou would draw his customary BS foul… 😀
Looks like the Lakers might have the Hawks number,…
Hey Look it’s Ryan Kelly,..
In N Out for Nance Jr, he has a Double Double with grilled onions.
Good to have 2 wins already banked early on in this murderous stretch.
It’s Chick’s b-day and this game is in
Never understood why people here wanted to get rid of Lou. Even during Byron’s regime he was one of the most dependable guys off the bench. He has done his job from day one.Especially with his bargain of a contract. But people wanted him gone smdh. The Lakers wouldn’t be near 500 if Williams wasn’t here. He is a line for 6th man of the year right now. That’s why you need savvy veterans in a young team. Some people…
Mid Wilshire says
A very satisfying win.
Now, for some interesting stats: the Lakers’ 2nd unit had 65 points (!) tonight, the starters 44. The Lakers had 4 players score in double figures tonight, 3 of them from the 2nd unit (Lou with 21, Clarkson with 18, and Larry with 12). Nick Young had 17.
Nance had a double-double (12 and 10), Clarkson a solid all-around game (18 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, solid D), and Tarik Black and Brandon Ingram both had 7 points and 8 boards for the night. Black also had 2 steals and 2 blocks. And to think that last year Tarik (for some reason) was in exile.
Finally, the minutes of the 2nd unit were as follows: Nance, 32:24; Clarkson, 32:01; Ingram, 28:34; Black, 27:52; and Lou Williams, 27:25. They had more minutes than each of their counterparts on the 1st unit.
I would venture to say that no other team has taken the strategy of loading up their 2nd unit like this. This throws other teams off kilter and makes them adjust to the Lakers’ bench in ways that may throw off their own rotations. This is a very interesting strategy. So far, it seems to be working.
Kudos to Luke Walton. This is obviously a very different team than the one we followed last year.
Finally, a question for Darius: what was our record last year after 18 games?
Well, the Lakers are missing 30ppg from their starting 5 with DAR and Julius out. Kudos to Luke and the second unit for compensating for that.
I could be mistaken but i think it was 3-15
new rr says
If the goal is to win as many games as possible, then keeping Williams and playing him a lot makes some sense. Walton is obviously running the team to compete, and Williams has always played pretty much the same way no matter what situation he has been in, and has some definite and clear skills that can help win games.
If OTOH the goal is to give Russell and Clarkson as many reps and shots as possible, build for the future, and not worry about the Ws and Ls, then cashing Williams in made/makes more sense.
The performances of Young and Williams are tributes to Walton’s skills as a coach. They are overperforming in some key areas even though they are 31 and 30, respectively. Whether the heavy reliance on them at this nascent stage in the rebuild will be a boon to the team long-term remains to be seen.
BTW, Deng and Mozgov played a total of 39 minutes tonight and were a combined -16 and and 4/10 from the floor. It may well be that the stability and veteran presence that they are providing, as well as the way it allows Walton to use the bench, is worth 34M a year, but what they are actually doing on the floor isn’t, and they are only going to get older.