After beating the Miami Heat on Friday, the Lakers are back in action tonight to take on the Magic. Orlando, like the other Florida team, are on a Western Conference trip with tonight’s game the first of a 6 game venture away from Disney World. Orlando is currently 12th in the East, certainly not where they’d want to be after bringing on Frank Vogel as coach and several new players — including Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo — in an attempt to make the playoffs.
The Lakers are also in 12th in their conference, but things are (somewhat) looking up. The team has won two of their last three, but have been truly competitive in their last 7 games even though they’ve only got 3 wins during that period. They are defending better by the eye test even if some of their numbers don’t show it and their offense has been showing more flashes of what it was to start the season.A strong driver behind the offensive bounce back is due to D’Angelo Russell. He’s been playing more minutes, showing more aggression in looking for his own shot, and has been threatening the paint more consistently. That last point is important, as it has opened up easier scoring chances for him and his teammates, while also earning him more trips to the foul line.
The other key to the team’s recently improved play is Julius Randle. Over his last 10 games, Randle is averaging 17.1 points on 52.5% shooting, 8.0 rebounds, and 5.4 assists a night. He’s been engaged on defense and, in general, has been more in tune with what the team has been wanting to do on both sides.
A key in this, I think, is the combination of Luke Walton challenging Randle to do even more on the floor while empowering him to do so by putting the ball in his hands more often to be a playmaker in the half court. Randle’s jump in assists is mostly due to improved effectiveness creating shots in the half court, where he’s been initiating more sets in early offense and being a secondary play maker out of the team’s elbow sets and when he posts up on the shallow left wing.
Regarding tonight’s game vs. the Magic, then, Russell and Randle are keys to how this game will go. If both continue to play well, the Lakers have a good chance of winning. That’s stating the obvious, I know, but what’s becoming more and more clear is that those two, specifically, are the drivers to the first unit and have the ability to prop up the starting unit because of their ability to be both scorers and playmakers for others. The rest of the starting group are not really creators of their own offense (though Young has that ability, he’s done his best work coming off screens and then shooting without dribbling), so Russell and Randle will need to elevate that group through their own individual play.
On Orlando’s end, the strength of their team is the front line, so I am interested in seeing how the Lakers’ stable of big men match up. Since his return from injury, Tarik Black has been playing well and when he is paired with Thomas Robinson the impact they can have on the offensive glass is substantial. When you add in Mozgov’s recently steadier play and the aforementioned Randle, there are interesting match ups up front which could turn the tide of the game — especially if Lou and Clarkson bring their normal level of production.
Ultimately, this is a winnable game for the Lakers and it would be good for them to continue some of their positive positive momentum by not only playing well but by getting the victory.
Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.
Good first quarter by the Lakers with 40 points as they punish Orlando (34 points) with 14 points off 6 Magic turnovers. Lakers had 2 turnover and doing a better job taking care of the ball. LA 66.7% and Orlando 60% from the field in the first quarter.
The team is doing well tonight,.. if they win.. it may indicate that they have turned a corner,..
LOL Augustin guarding Ingram, that’s working out well for Orlando
new rr says
Nice sequences for the team after it got to 12.
Some good effort in transition defense tonight.
Randle with a great block shot. Nice effort Julius.
All of our core players are key to our future !!!
Who is this Mozgov kid?
new rr says
Excellent win for the team, with the young guys doing the job late.
new rr Yes! I like that Luke is finally playing the youth extended minutes, although that may just be him riding the hot hand. The last few games, Lou and Nick have been struggling to find their shots, and Luke seems to be responding through line ups. The most notable example was during the sequence where Lou took a couple bad shots and turned the ball over in consecutive plays. Russell was swapped in quickly. That would not have happened last year, where the vets generally were given the green light.
I hope this becomes more of a commitment from the coaching staff, because the more they play and find success, the more confidence Russell, Randle, and Ingram seem to be playing with. Ingram, in particular, is putting it together really nicely. And the team is intentionally looking to involve him in mismatches. I’m trying not to get too giddy after only three games, but its hard not to see it.
new rr says
Tonight was what we are looking for: Orlando is pretty bad, but they are not terrible
–16-22. Lakers beat them by 16, with the three lottery picks leading the way. Doesn’t change the big-picture issues, but tonight really was a “good win.”
new rr “Doesn’t change the big-picture issues” – completely agree, the kids are all right! :).
Don’t tell anyone but we are 2 ganes out of the final playoff spot. Shhhhh, like i been saying once the team got healthy and out of that murderous stretch of the schedule they would win more games. In pace for 30 wins halfway thru the season…
Nice team win last night.
Brandon Ingram has elevated his game and is oozing with confidence at this point.
His overall development appears to be right on schedule.
Mid Wilshire says
Good win by the Lakers. Their record at the halfway point is now 15-26. Last year at the same point it was 9-32. Last season the Lakers didn’t notch their 15th win until March 22 (a 107-100 victory over Memphis). This is all very encouraging.
I sense progress.
And I still expect this team to improve over the 2nd half of the year.
Darius: as per usual, you were spot on in reference to the premises of last night’s winnable game vs Orlando’s Magic. In particular on the emergence of both Russell and Randle. It goes without saying you’ve been singing the praises of one Brandon Ingram, and to me, not only his efforts which he brings every night but it was his production in particular last night that were the difference in the ballgame.
As we’re beginning to see a healthier and wiser first unit hold their own against opposition’s first unit, look out NBA. I’m liking the confidence coach Walton continues to instill in all his players.
Couldn’t be happier with Ingrams performance last night. The way this kid glides to the hoop with PG skills, it reminds me of Gianni’s on the bucks. His stroke is back and he’s more fearless in the paint than ever. DAR and Randle had the same story for the third straight game. All while Swaggy and Lou didn’t need to run and gun it to keep us close
_ Robert _ says
Great win all the way around (well with a couple exceptions but those were with the “Vets” – so again – all good).
SlappyMc new rr Wow. The petty lasts for years.
new rr says
Kareemez SlappyMc new rr
If I had
a big deal about it, said that the FO blew it bad, etc. then this would be a
reasonable dig. What I have actually said was Randle was a safe, reasonable
pick and only offered very mild criticism of the decision to pass on Vonleh.
Vonleh was seen by many at the time as having a higher ceiling and as also
being more likely to bust. I thought the Lakers needed the ceiling. So, this
post just shows that you are a petty, hyperemo dude. I will put my posting
track record up against yours any time.
make too big of a deal about predictions and “scouting” opinions
on-line. All the regulars here have been wrong to one degree or another about
various things, and very few people go back and say, “I was wrong on
that.” I could give any number of examples, but doing so would be
counterproductive. Where I missed on Randle, since I had not really seen
him very much, is that he is more athletic than I had been lead to believe. Had
I seen more video of him, I might have expressed a different opinion about it,
and I am cool owning that. I have been wrong about a lot of stuff. Randle’s
limitations are still there, though.
Since I never paid much attention
to anything you said, I am not sure what you have been wrong on. But if you
have been nailing it on every issue for years, then I would encourage you to
post more. We always need smart posters here.
new rr says
I am liking that this is your first post in Livefyre–that you registered just to say that to me. Nice.
Geez guys we were supposed to win that game right? But again I like the fact the youngsters drove it.
The Orlando FO ruined a good up and coming team, the same way Minnesota has killed their team by hiring a coach that doesn’t fit their squad. The trades made has killed their chemistry in Orlando. Let’s hope we don’t make any nosensical trades that stunts the kids growth.
Technically, it was an evenly matched game record wise but with two different styles of play. BI’s height and length served us better with his mismatch than they had with their back up bigs on ours. We were able to move the ball and put constant pressure on them from all angles while their bigs pounded us, but just not as relentlessly as our overall team did theirs. This was just as much of a coaches’ win as our players.