The Lakers were able to finally pick up a win in their last game, providing a nice Christmas gift to their fans by beating their Staples Center co-tenants. After the game Luke Walton expressed happiness at the win, but also warned his players against feeling too good about a game which saw them nearly surrender another lead while going through another stretch of uninspiring play in the 3rd quarter. Walton’s message was one of support and of teaching, a message that might have gotten lost on his guys if he hadn’t built up the positive capital earlier during the year.
After doling out those sobering messages, though, Walton also reminded the press corps that his team does have what it takes — when they’re dialed in and focused. He cited the big leads against good teams and how accomplishing those things are not easy. He used this message as a reminder and to attempt to coax his players into doing the right thing more often, to bring the correct level of focus for more minutes. This is teaching. This is coaching. Walton too has a learning curve, but I’m happy to see him trying to hit the right notes with a team he’s trying to sculpt into a winner over the long haul even though they are not yet there right now.
Tonight his team is back on the floor against a Jazz team which has given the Lakers fits lately. This Utah team has a top flight wing in Gordon Hayward, two impact big men in Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, and a solid (and sometimes dynamic) backcourt in George Hill and Rodney Hood. And though Hill will not play tonight, the rest of the aforementioned players should be available and that spells trouble for this Lakers’ team.
Favors gives Randle problems, Hood and Hayward always seem to raise their respective games against the Lakers, and Gobert is the type of disruptive defensive force which throws off the Lakers’ entire offensive attack. This means a lot of things will need to go the Lakers’ way for them to get a win against this specific team. There is a formula, though:
1. Slow down Hayward. Deng isn’t the defensive ace he once was and Hayward’s youth, athleticism, and complete floor game causes all sorts of problems. Still, though, if Deng can contest Hayward’s shot well, limit his penetration, and turn him into a passer to the perimeter rather than an interior passer to Gobert and Favors for easy finishes, he will be on the right track. Hayward may still win the matchup, but the goal is to make his life harder.
2. Get to Hood early to avoid a hot start. Hood has a knack of getting his shot going early and then riding that momentum the rest of the game anytime these teams play. Getting him off track early in the game will, hopefully, never let that rhythm establish and keep him from doing too much damage.
3. Get through picks better so Mozgov can keep a body on Gobert easier. Gobert has developed other parts of his game nicely, but he still does a lot of his damage in the P&R as a dive man and/or when hitting the offensive glass. If the Lakers’ guards and wings can get through screens better than they typically do, Mozgov’s hedges can be less pronounced and he can then body Gobert earlier to (hopefully) avoid the types of lobs and free lanes to the rim which allow Gobert to use his length and athleticism to get easy baskets.
The Jazz have other weapons — including the aforementioned Favors plus a nice bench of established and emerging role players — but slowing the above three players is the Lakers’ best chance of winning this game. If that comes along with good performances from Russell, Young, and any two of Randle, Lou, and Clarkson the Lakers will be right there in the game with a chance to win.
Like I said earlier, that’s a lot that has to go right. If the Lakers have the appropriate focus and effort level, though, they can do it.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet and NBA TV.
Gordon Hayward is a bad dude.
So far so good,.. the Lakers are in the hunt.
Deng on pace to hit double figures for the 6th straight game and the 9th in 10. Nothing earth-shattering but at least he’s providing <i>some</i> value on the offensive end now.
The thing with Russell at PG is not about his ability to see the floor or run the offense, its about his size relative to his speed that puts him at a disadvantage guarding smaller/quicker guards. This spells trouble as the bigs are now prone to defend what he leaves from the perimeter.
Speaking of his size, 6’5 and his “bulk” is very much ideal for today’s NBA’s 2-guard. He isn’t the quickest player on the floor but his sheer size and length can defend in itself.
I would venture using part of the 21M space we have in the summer of 2017 to get a quick/fast PG that would also benefit in catch-and-shoot rather than someone who has to create to score. Patty Mills is someone I’m particularly impressed with this year.
Lakers starting guards 2-11 with 4 points, LA is 1-10 from three but a balanced effort has the Lakers leading at the half. Keep up the good effort.
Wishing Mark Madsen a quick recover after he underwent an emergency appendectomy.
Also, looking at the FA pool, there is no absolute star in free agency. Unless you want to count in Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin. Curry, a no-brainer to stay in GSW and Blake Griffin, if you consider his many options, would be perfect in OKC beside Westbrook.
If you consider the amount of money going around with too little talent to “buy” then you see guys like Bogut commanding more than Mozgov’s pay probably at 3yrs 60M; Serge Ibaka would command 100M 4yrs minimum; Jeff Teague and George Hill each get contracts above 18M starting.
This is going to be crazy overpay summer, but it also makes Deng and Mozgov’s contracts decent.
Mid Wilshire says
At half time, the Lakers have 24 rebounds vs. 19 for Utah. Also, they have 10 assists against 6 TOs vs. Utah’s 9 assists and 11 TOs. These are the micro-battles that the Lakers must win if they want to come up with a W tonight (or any other night).
These are crucial stats. Right now they seem to be doing the right things. Now, if they can just control Hayward a bit…
Great point guards need not be great defenders; history and even current point guards prove it.
Only if we give him the time and patience to learn the most difficult position in basketball,..can he fulfill his vast potential.
I think what galls people about D’Angelo is that he goes at his own pace in learning, and doesn’t allow anyone to rush his process.
I understand the impatience after all these years of frustration, to where everyone is expecting him to move past the flashes into consistency.
Yet, imo, it’s not realistic to compare players against other players, or force personal timelines.
In my opinion, D’Angelo has demonstrated enough of what he’s capable of, he’s already made two marks on Lakers rookie history.
I for one am going to stay patient until I know otherwise; top two picks don’t come around often enough for us to waste them, before we know what we have.
My bad, I would offer all of our cap for unrestricted FA Gordon Hayward, who’s just killing us right now.
Mid Wilshire says
If Larry Nance, Jr. were healthy tonight, I’d put him on Gordon Hayward. But…we don’t have him. Utah is also a bit banged up. So I guess it all evens out.
It’s like November again!
Russell and Randle making some plays in crunch time.
How do you not foul Gobert in that situation?
That sequence on both sides of the floor show how this team is so painfully green. On the offensive side that was a putrid possesion and in the defensive end lackadaisical and left Ingle all by himself on the corner…
Because Gibbert can hit his fts
fern16 He shoots 67%.
That last possession was beyond stupid. They could’ve push the pace and see if they got the Jazz off balance. If not try to get the ball inside, it was a 2 point game!! No need for damn 3 unless it was open. Get the ball inside and try to either score or get fouled. Maybe we would’ve been lucky and get an and 1. Hated this loss, we had this damn game!!!
Mid Wilshire says
Tough loss. I would have had Clarkson in the line up at the end. He had 12 points on 6-10 shooting for the game whereas Russell was a dismal 2-11 for only 4 points. Also, the Lakers didn’t need a 3. A layup or closer range shot would have sent this into over time. I almost always bet on the home team in over time.
In any event, it’s clear to me that the Lakers still don’t have a “go to” guy. Once upon a time, of course, it used to be Kobe. But now it’s anyone who has his hands on the ball at the end. The leadership is still lacking on this team as is the experience (obviously). Although losses like this sting, next year at this time the Lakers will have a better idea as to what to do to win games like this.
Their youth shows. But then again, this is all part of the growing process.
Now it’s on to the next challenge.
Look, I’m an amateur fan, and probably not able to assess his ability as well as many of you knowledgeable folks, but I really get po’d at Russell and what seems to be his tendency to play hero ball. Like tonight – with seconds on the clock and a chance to win, he holds the ball instead of passing, and the next time takes a shot himself even when others are having a better night. And it’s not the first time. Yes, he has talent, but I wonder if he hasn’t got too inflated an impression of his own abilities.
How long is this blind acceptance of Russell going to last? Last 2 times down court looked like a 12 year old. He lost game. Why is guy 2 for 11 who is worst shooting guard at 39% holding ball. Enough of this BS. Avg 4 assts and trying to be Kobe. He is much worse this year and is not even Smush Parker. Maybe Bryon was right on. If he sits out they win. 2-13 worst record in NBA this month. Teams suppose to improve Luke?
A Horse With No Name says
Proud of the sustained effort and determination to win. They fell short to a better, deeper team. No shame at all. Randle was a stud, and is figuring out how to attack a long shot blocker like Gobert. Great progress there, as he played under control the whole game. Deng and Mozzy both provided solid veteran play. Too many turnovers (especially Lou) that hurt them in the end. Hayward is pretty damn good: he’d look even better in the purple and gold running Luke’s offense.
Mid Wilshire says
I really like Luke. He is, himself, of course still a rookie (as a head coach). But I think he has a great future ahead of him.
Even so, I think he may have over-managed this game. At about the 4:10 mark, he substituted Russell in for Clarkson. I would never have done that. Russell ended up with 4 points (on 2-11 shooting) with one rebound and 4 assists. Clarkson, meanwhile, bounced back nicely from a bad game with 12 points (6-10 shooting), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block (with 3 TOs). Clearly, JC had the hotter hand tonight.
Furthermore, the more productive backcourt tonight was by far the Lou-JC combination (34 points overall). Nick and Russell, on the other hand, had only 8 points together (with a combined 4-19 shooting). As a result, I would have had Lou and JC play the entire 4th Quarter. I think that would have been appropriate.
To be fair, let’s bear in mind that Luke is still figuring things out himself. I still maintain that this team will be much improved in the 2nd half of this year. That goes not only for the players but the coaching staff as well. In February and March, very possibly, the Lakers will win games like this. I believe that next year, they almost certainly will begin winning the close games. When they do, they’ll be seen as a much more dangerous team…which would be a good thing.
Thank you for common sense. Wonder if its him or Jimmy forcing Russell minutes. It was issue last year with Bryon. Russell has worst shooting % of the 4 guards this year but still chose to wonder down court last 2 times. Would Pop or Riley or Phil allow that?
new rr says
Little systematic evidence exists that shows young teams are
significantly worse in very close games AFAIK. Last year, for example, Dallas
was 6-11 in games decided by 3 points or less, and Denver was 10-5. Minnesota
was 7-7 and San Antonio was 4-4. Cleveland
was 4-7 in such games last year. SA went 6-7 in these games the year before. This
year’s Lakers are 1-3 now, and Minnesota is 0-4. But OTOH, Phoenix is 4-3 and
Charlotte, a veteran squad with a solid coach, is 0-4 (their comeback win over
the Lakers was by four). There may be
some youth/close games effect, but the key to success in the NBA is not winning
close games—it is being good enough that losing them sometimes,as all teams do,
won’t hurt you that much.
Putting Russell to close that game was Luke’s mistake not Jimmy not Mitch nor sny other absurd conspiracy mumbo jumbo. Our record in this month could been better bit we have a brutal schedule combined with key injuries and still been on all the games but 2. Under Byron’s regime we would’ve been blow out on a regular basis. Im not surprised by the record. One look at the schedule for this month and one would know the Lakers would be hard pressed. Luke messed up timeout management, sometimes he is too trigger happy with the tine outs and it costed us this time. This team needed a timeout that last possession, they looked lost. Lastly,comparing Luke with PJ and Saint Rilery is beyond absurd. They both had superstar elite talent at their disposal in championship caliber teams and that talent bail them out countless times.
Agreed Ken! If he is not 100% sit him down. He just does not look right to me. DAR is never going to wow you with his athleticism but he looks like he is still hurt. What is wrong with that knee?
It was a very competitive game and fun to watch. Neither team could build much of a lead and players took turns making good and bad plays. Who would have thought that Randle would take and make a long 3 with minutes to go in the game to cut into a 4 point deficit? Randle also seemed to figure out Gobert’s defense near the rim and used his body to create space and surprisingly long left arm to shoot over him. The game ended with what we have wanted with the young players on the court and trying to make the big plays. It was also good for Luke to get more practice managing close games. Russell continues to confound with his glacial pace to close games but that is more of a team philosophy problem. Utah showed the value of continuing to your offense that got you there. That was a great play they ran for Ingles that gave him a wide open look at a side 3. It was a sharp contrast to the methodical double screen the Lakers ran for Russell. This was another learning experience for a young team that is showing signs of life on the defensive end.
Darius: had that hero ball three pointer gone in, we would have been gleefully/reluctantly (take your pick) singing his praises. we would be thinking back to that hero ball 3 he made in summer league and see the potential and confidence in him that coach Walton is trying his best to instill. And, we would be 13 and 22.
Still, all is not lost. We have 47 games remaining to see the development develop and the growth to be grown. This has been coach Walton’s plan all along. The worst thing that can happen to stunt confidence when someone wants to take responsibility is to second guess. He will never be a kobe bryant, but his air ball was kobe-esque.
Agree. Sometimes I get the sense that Russell feels he has arrived and just doesn’t understand how hard he has to compete to be successful. Keep hoping I’m wrong about him, but I just don’t see him as a go to guy. A point guard who doesn’t do a lot of driving and kicking is at a disadvantage in today’s game. I can see him playing off the ball in the future with Ingram as the primary ball handler. Ingram has a lot of Scott Pippen in him, IMO.
LKK Ingram has a lot of Scott Pippen in him, IMO. AGREED!!
wwlofficial I hereby Co-sign!
wwlofficial Blake to OKC would be lethal.
Walton said the last play was his fault. He drew something up not anticipating Gobert would miss both FT’s and Russell tried to execute it.”
KenNewport “How long is this blind acceptance of Russell going to last? Last 2 times down court looked like a 12 year old. He lost game. Why is guy 2 for 11 who is worst shooting guard at 39% holding ball. Enough of this BS. Avg 4 assts and trying to be Kobe. He is much worse this year and is not even Smush Parker. Maybe Bryon was right on. If he sits out they win. 2-13 worst record in NBA this month. Teams suppose to improve Luke?”
This sort of response so early in a young guys career, after an injury, and major change of playing style under a new coach, makes one wonder.
Especially when that young player has already clearly demonstrated his potential.
Sounds to me like a person trying to justify an emotion.
Well, emotions need no justification.
Just cease trying to tie logic to it, it’s not going to work with anyone except the knee jerk steam vent types, who react to each game as if it defines the player, the team, or the coach.
Thank you !
Blaming the player on a cold day, is as useless as feeling that a snow storm is out to get you,