The Lakers have lost 4 games in a row — a topic covered extensively in the latest podcast — so I won’t get too much into it now. Just know the team could really use a win, for no other reason than they have a couple of more games at home before going on the road again for 9 of 11 games before the all-star break. Some of those games are winnable, but with the way the team is playing right now and the fact that they’re 5-20 in their last 25 games, the idea that the Lakers should actually be favored to win any of them is becoming more and more of a stretch.
Which brings us to tonight’s game vs. the Nuggets. Denver is currently 16-23 and the 9th seed in the conference. I’ll save my rant about the Lakers playing 6 more games than the Nuggets at this point in the season, and focus instead on the idea that if the Lakers want to make any sort of push towards even contending for a playoff spot (note: this does not mean make the playoffs), games like this are important. The Nuggets are better than the Lakers, but they aren’t so much better that a win in Los Angeles should be out of the question.
Getting it is another story, but the Lakers do have the tools to win.
If they’re to get it, though, it will mostly come down to slowing the Nuggets starting lineup. Now, Gary Harris might not play, which throws things off somewhat since he’s an important part of this group and numbers I’m going to cite include him. But, the Nuggets group of Mudiay, Harris, Gallinari, Chandler, and Jokic have put up an offensive efficiency of 122.6 in 177 minutes played together of their last 15 games (of which, they’ve appreared in 12). Of lineups which have played 150 minutes or more during this same stretch, is ranks 2nd to the Warriors who, you know, are the Warriors. In other words, the Nuggets have been destroying defenses with this group.
You can call this the Mudiay + shooters lineup, but that doesn’t really do all that this group can do justice. All of them can pass, put the ball on the floor to drive, shoot from the perimeter (save Mudiay who continues to be inconsistent from distance), and they’re all just smart offensive players. They cut well, screen well, and understand spacing which allows Mudiay to get into the paint and gives their shooters that extra split second of time to get off looks. They’re just fun. I mean, look at some of the things Jokic is doing now that he’s back in the lineup and getting the chance to handle the ball more:
Nikola Jokic averaged 7.0 assists per 36 minutes in December. Here are some of my favorites. (h/t @3ball_) pic.twitter.com/omHY5hAY9e
— Nicholas Sciria (@Nick_Sciria) December 31, 2016
I mean come on, man.
So, the Lakers’ defense is in for some trouble — even if Harris does not play. The combination of Gallo and Chandler at the forward spots means that Randle will need to effective guard the weak side while also being put in P&R situation where he must hedge and then recover to the perimeter for “pop” actions by either of the shooting forwards. This type of action will also put a bigger burden on the wings who will need to sink and slide into help positions earlier and then still recover to their own man quickly enough to not give up open shots but under enough control as to not allow dribble penetration. If that sounds difficult, it’s because it will be.
The good news is even though the Nuggets have been scoring extremely well with their starters, that unit has also been giving up points in bunches with a defensive rating of 119.0 over that same stretch. The Lakers, then, have the opportunity to match the Nuggets basket for basket if they can leverage their own advantages.
I mentioned Randle having a difficult defensive assignment, but whoever guards him has just as tough a time. Randle will have strength advantages against either Gallo or Chandler and should be able to shoot over the top of both should he be able to get into the paint. Randle has struggled from the field lately, but this is a game where he might be able to get back on track.
Further, the Lakers should be able to effectively run the P&R against Jokic and back up big man Nurkic by looking to turn the corner against either soft drops or hard hedges. Should the big man drop and Mudiay struggles getting over the pick, D’Angelo Russell should be able to get into the mid-range and then either attack the basket or shoot the little pull up jumper he was knocking down against the Pistons. Ditto for Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson when they get matched up against Jameer Nelson, Will Barton, and Jamal Murray.
Overall, I expect a game played with good pace and one that, potentially, turns into a shootout. The Lakers have not fared so great in those games lately, but it seems like they’re due to have their shooters get hot at the right time and pull one out. Maybe it all comes together in this game. We know they certainly could use it.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet and nationally on NBA TV.
Lakers as a team channel their energies, and focus on the defensive end of the
floor they will continue to gain game leads in the first and second quarter and
watch them vanish in the fourth quarter when their challengers exert more
to manipulate the starting lineup by benching Randle and Nick and replace them
with Clarkson and Ingram. Both Jordan
and Brandon are offensively versatile and offer the Lakers a more rigorous
effort on defense. Play Zubac, more and
Mozgov less to see if the youngster warrants further development in this
organization going forward.
Clearly, I was delusional thinking that the defense would be better by the All-Star break. It is really hard to tell how much is lack of effort and how much is lack of defensive talent.
The Lakers need a new shooting coach, one more like Denver’s.
Just looks like poor effort as well as a poor approach. Why double down on Denver’s bigs and leave 3 point shooters wide open? The Lakers’ guards do that all the time. Also every team they play has absolute no respect for these Lakers. Being honest, why should they?
Mid Wilshire says
At half time, the Nuggets are shooting 64.1%, the Lakers 36.4%. Usually, when that happens you end up behind. Frrankly, I’m surprised the Lakers are only down by 12. Tarik Black is looking good for the Lakers tonight with 8 pts. and 5 rebounds in 12:14. But Randle is 1-7 from the field and Russell is 1-6.
Poor Walton,..at this rate of frustration,..he’ll be bald by seasons end.
Black and Zubac doing work. Russ and Randle have disappointed so far. If you can’t win your matchup against Mudiay and Faried, how can you expect to win? Basketball is a team game, sure, but winning the individual battles matters.
new rr says
I have the game on radio instead of TV, and Thompson and Ireland were talking about the schedule lightens up a lot soon, and that there will be time for more practices. Of course, Thompson and Ireland were saying that the focus should be defense.
Finally, in the 4th, the Lakers defense heats up.
Possibly too late,..
That was a nice 3 by Lou to cut it to 8 and force a timeout but he missed a wide open Zu rolling to the hoop.
Really encouraged by Zubac’s play. He seems to have a sense of how to play. Even when he didn’t execute certain plays, he was in position to do so. This was a game where even if the Lakers had come back and won, the poor effort of the starters would have tainted it. Russell and Randle need to wake up and play better, if they can. Maybe they are not as good as we fans hope they are.
I only was able to watch the fourth quarter, but it reminded me of the hustle they showed during the first twenty games of the season. When the team fights like that they are a joy to watch, regardless of the result.
Zubac looked really good. Maybe Zubac, Ingram, Randle and Nance could form a solid core for the front court.
Russell looks so sleepy out on the floor sometimes. Very disengaged, even uninterested. Definitely lazy at times on both ends of the floor. He could learn a thing or two from Ingram, who looks like he is always involved and active. The second half of the season is going to speak volumes about Russell’s leadership and heart.
Still R says
LKK I noticed Z’s positional awareness during Summer league; sounds like it translates to regular season play which gives one hope.
Exactly, Russell and Randle need to lead by example; seniority is meaningless without the action to back it up. This shooting, slump, effort, and poor decision making period has gone on too long imo.
At this rate, both Ingram and Zubac may take over leadership of the team, and it that occurs, some trading could follow, or in the case of need, one or both may end up being a support pieces, which I’m sure neither imagine themselves being at this point.
_ Robert _ says
This is a link to a report by Ramona who has historically been friendly to the FO.
This is getting very serious and as I said a while back – I think it is over and major changes will come at year end (thankfully).
In reference to Kev and others that think there is no point thinking about this. I get it, but discussing micro issues such as how we play the pick and roll and what the rotations will be are only important if we get the big picture correct. We can’t debate what the band is playing on the deck of the Titanic and ignore the discussion of the gaping hole in the hull down below. Well we can – but I am not sure that is full logical. And the passengers (us) can’t do anything per se about the hole, we can’t really do anything about what songs the band is playing either
In any case – here we are – a new low. Can it get worse? Well – I don’t know but I know what the answer has been the last 8 times I have asked that question.
Mid Wilshire says
Well. this was a very good game and a very bad game.
First, the Bad. The starters, for the most part, were lousy, especially on defense. They allowed points in the paint. They left 3-point shooters wide open. They weren’t on their toes and didn’t really seem to care if they won or lost. (I’m sure they wanted to win. They just didn’t show it.)
Now, the Good. The 2nd unit (including Ingram) was awesome. They almost won this game by themselves despite the first unit’s sleepwalking tendencies.
Lou Williams had 24 points (8-17 shooting), 7 assists, 4 rebounds, one block; Jordan Clarkson: 19 points (7-16 shooting), 3 assists including a couple of gorgeous feeds to Zubac, 2 steals, a team high in minutes (35:51), solid defense, and his 4th good game in a row (in his last 4 games he’s scored 14, 21, 16, and 19 points in a combined 28-53 for 52.8% shooting; in fact, he is now shooting 45.3% from the field, best among the Lakers’ guards and wings); Tarik Black: 14 points, 8 rebounds, and one block in 19:47; Brandon Ingram: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals; and, of course,Ivica Zubac: his first career double-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and 3 blocks in 26:01. Nick Young also shot well and had 22 points although I thought he was not fully engaged on defense.
All in all, this is actually very encouraging. Zubac is particularly intriguing. He has a gorgeous touch around the basket, knows how to use his length, and can alter shots against anyone. Also, big kudos to Clarkson and T-Black both of whom played on bad wheels. (They both sprained ankles in the previous game and were listed as “questionable” against Denver.)
As frustrating as this season has been (and I’ll be honest, it’s been an emotional roller coaster for me), there is, I think, true cause for hope. Brandon Ingram is 19 years old. Ivica Zubaz is 19 years old. Neither will be reaching his prime for another 5-6 years. Russell, although he’s been playing lousy, is, let us recall, only 20 years old, soon to turn 21, and should still be a junior in college. Randle, the new father, is 22. Grizzled veterans such as Clarkson and Nance are all of 24. And Tarik Black, who looked excellent against Denver’s big front court, is only 25–geriatric only if your a gymnast.
If you think of it, they’re almost frighteningly young. The ultimate question, then, is: how good will they be in 3 or 4 yeas? It may take a while for them to develop. But I trulyl believe that we have something to look forward to.
_ Robert _
Interesting article ! Thanks for posting.
Mid Wilshire Hey Mid – Nice write up! Haven’t been able to watch many games this year, but I did catch the fourth quarter last night. I thought Nick was very engaged defensively when things got rolling, but I can’t speak to quarters 1 to 3. What I loved even more was the way the Nuggets altered their shots around Zubac; his presence made a big difference defensively. As you note, he’s young and has a long way to go. If he can improve like Ingram has been improving… but alas, I dream! [On another note, I’m not sure why Mozgov doesn’t have a similar effect. Is it him, his perimeter, or a combination?]
_ Robert _
Thanks Robert. Yesterday, I got some push back from a poster for making a comment about Jeanie’s role in Jim/Mitch’s future.
Then later in the evening the news broke about Jeanie and Magic’s meeting. What was even more interesting was Ramona’s insight that Jeanie has been in the process of soliciting opinions on the direction the franchise should take moving forward.
Change is a part of life and it’s no difference if your part of the FO of the LA Lakers. I agree with what Darius tweeted, “I don’t care who Jeanie talks to. I care that, if a change is made, leadership & real vision is shown.”
ESPN’s Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton rank NBA sophomores by
Kevin Pelton’s picks:
8.Larry Nance Jr.
Chad Ford’s picks:
mattal Up to this stage of the season, I would put Booker, Winslow and Mudiay above DAR. All the analysts were saying Russell had the highest ceiling, but was also a bigger risk to be a bust. His lack of athleticism and inconsistent effort, while showing the ego of a baby Kobe (what player tries to invent his own signature reaction and talks trash to a superstar like Lillard before he’s even made one All-Star game?) have made him a polarizing figure.
He has games where I think he’s just young but is on the right path, but his recent poor decision making has landed him on the bench in crunch time, and that’s not a good sign.
A Horse With No Name says
So Lon, Where you at the game sitting courtside and able to hear what was said bewteen D’Angelo and Damian? I mean, because I hadn’t heard that D’Angelo talked trash to Damian until reading your account here. Lillard’s comments said that he took umbrage to DAR’s “sneaky elbows,” and DAR in response, was just holding his ground.
I hope we see more Zubac going forward. I think he earned more minutes in this game. I have some high hopes on Nance, Ingram, and Zubac in the future. They have something they can hang their hat on every game. Defense.
Fans need to relax when complaining about defense and their effort level (totally subjective BTW). The bottom 10 teams in defensive efficiency in the NBA are all the young/rebuilding teams +Brooklyn. That’s what happens when it’s boys vs. seasoned men. We can either accept that a young team will be poor on defense with the hope that it will eventually come together (over 1-3 years), or drive ourselves crazy game to game complaining about every little missed rotation or whatnot. You can do the exact same thing when watching Minnesota, Phoenix, Philly etc. Just relax and consider CONTEXT!
Same thing with DAR. If somebody told you that you can have a 20 year old prospect that is hitting league average PER already and shows flashes and potential as an all-star, you would take it. Stop over analyzing. He’s 25th in PER at the PG position and rather close to 12th. Every single guy above him is either a seasoned vet with several years of experience and/or a star player. PG is the toughest position to learn. Just watch him develop and enjoy.
Five game losing streaks are no fun, especially after a 10-10 start. But let’s be real, a team this young with no current star player, is going to be a 20-30 win team anyway, which they are on pace to achieve while also progressing from last year. The playoffs were never a reality. We are in the mix with the other young teams just as expected (whom also have been rebuilding for much longer), so what’s the panic for?
Another comment…why is everyone so high on Jeanie Buss? I’m really curious as to what she has done or shown to be better than Jim Buss (or is it the fact that she’s not him)? I’m not bagging on her, I’m just really curious to understand and learn because I might have missed it.
From what I remember, she’s also one of those “old school” thinking types. I believe she was a Byron Scott backer (so was Magic Johnson) and she’s the type to say buzz words like “the Lakers way” and “heart/grit of a champion” and the City of LA deserves stars and blah blah. She strikes me as the type to trade DAR for Carmelo so we can have a recognizable name.
Why is everyone so high on her?
Still R says
Pbz06 This is speculation on my part, but I suspect that people aren’t necessarily “high” on Jeanie but rather that they are looking for her to lead the Lakers out of the wilderness by making some (arguably) much-needed changes in the way the team is managed on the operations side.
I will allow Robert to make those arguments rather than presenting them in this comment. :0)
_ Robert _ says
R:Well stated.And I have not seen anyone say they are “high”
on Jeanie.I have certainly not.What I have said (redundantly) is that Jim
(and all ownership) should be out of the GM business as is the case for 27 out
of 30 of the rest of the NBA teams.And
no other team has an owner as a co-GM.Why should we?We should
not.Jeanie would simply be a typical
hands off owner and be the Governor and a PR person.She is highly qualified for all of that.She has no GM capability which means she
would stay out of that.All of this
means she is ideal owner other than the fact that she will still have multitudes
of people with her last name to answer to – but we can’t solve that one unless
Magic and Patrick Soon-Shiong buy the team and end this nightmare.
_ Robert _ and Still R
I agree with you both — its the hope that Jeanie will really lead the organization forward. She has long said the buck stops with her so if you have been an advocate of change then the only way that would happen is if she acted.
Pbz06 Long time lurker, first time poster. This has always baffled me too. My guess is that these folks make a common mistake lots of arm-chair managers make: they mistake being liked with being competent. Let me explain.
Jeannie is widely liked in the NBA. She’s a people person, loved by fans, players and NBA owners. Hence, why she is “well liked.” With respect to her daily duties for the Lakers, however, I submit that her track record shows us someone who is less than competent.
Why? Well, part of her job is managing PR for the Lakers. Now, look at the stories surrounding the Lakers since Phil Jackson retired. For how many years now has the story been that Jeannie is at odds with her brother? Why is it that for the last 4 years, every single time Jeannie makes waves in the news it seems to be to complain about her brother or how she is not in the loop with decisions, to complaint about the way Phil was treated, or to mention that Jim is on a deadline? How is this constructive for the team? I can’t remember a single NBA team that has publicly aired grievances between ownership and manageent in such a way as far back as I can remember (going nearly 30 years of being an NBA fan). If this were any other NBA team where Jeannie was not an owner, she would have been fired long ago for failing to maintain a united front and undermining the owners and basketball operations side.
Additionally, if Jim and Mitch have been so incompetent as some here argue, then her failure to fire or remove them from their positions is equally incompetent. Given this track record, what makes anyone here think she will pick a competent replacement for Jim or Mitch?
One last comment. I think some people like Jeanni because they firmly believe she will bring back Phil and somehow that will fix everything that has been wrong with this team. Well…. let’s ask the Knicks just how well that plan is going for them. So, please, please, I hope many here being to understand the reality of the situation: either we keep both Jim and Jeannie or we get rid of both of them.
new rr says
I will leave most of this alone, since there seems to be an issue with my comments, but I will say that Jim was chosen by the late Jerry Buss to run player personnel for the Lakers, and of course Jim is her older brother. And one more time: Jim set the “deadline”.
Also, I have not seen anyone here advocate for bringing Phil back for a long time and it has never been a widespread thing that I am aware of. Phil is not the issue here, and nor, really is Jim himself. The issue is the roster, the contracts, and the team’s performance arc. Defending those things is the best way to try to defend the FO, but it is a tough job.
The Lakers ownership needs to be in the pressbox period. No more day to day duties per se at least none that relate to Operations. I do not deny their affection for the team so that is not the issue but realism has to set in at some point. Jeanie has Business Acumen and she needs to set the emotion and affection aside and make a cold hard business decision.
Still R LKK
Ingram and Zubac look like they received some good coaching at lower levels and it shows. Cannot say the same for Russell and Randle… Calipari might be the most overrated coach in the NCAA but a great recruiter and people person. Russell went to a football school that does not get many big time BBall recruits hence he got a lot of star treatment, attention and could do no wrong. Welcome to the real world guys. This is a Professional team and you are being paid very well for your services and its time for you to produce. Tell me where in the real world you can not perform up to par and be given 2 to 3 years to do your job? Still not ready to give up on them yet but the lack of effort, attention to detail and lasse faire attitude should not be tolerated.
Personally I think most folks on this site have resolved themselves to the rebuild and are not expecting miraculous, overnight results. I know I have. What ticks me off is the lack of defensive effort at times. Not boxing out on the free throw line, dying on picks, poor transition defense… these are effort issues. That’s my beef. You’ll never hear me criticize the type of effort I saw from Zubac last night. Yes, he made mistakes, but his were mistakes of commission, not of omission.
Great call on Calipari. I agree that the one and done players learn little in college and the pros are often a rude awakening for them. JR overpowered people through high school and his AAU career. He never needed a jump hook or a right hand. Russ is being seriously challenged every night. Lazy passes by him that were pretty assists in college are turnovers in the pros. They’ve both got to put hard work with the talent that they have. Talent in the NBA is not enough.
LT Mitchell says
I lump Jeanie together with other long time Laker employees like Gary Vitti, Chick, Stu, Ron Lester, Jerry West, etal (even Kupchack to a lesser degree). They, along with Dr Buss, have been part of the organization for most, if not all of my 35 years of fandom, and I associate them with success, exhilarating playoff moments, good fortune, championships….. basically good times.
I associate Jimbo with failure, losing, ineptitude, bad luck, embarrassment……basically misery.
What I want is a qualified and respected President of Basketball Operations, someone who is an asset when it comes to attracting free agents….not a liability. Someone who has some common sense. Hiring DAntoni to coach a group of players who excel in the post or paying old man Deng $18 mil a year wreaks of someone who does not understand basketball, nor the new CBA.
I think it’s almost a certainty that Jimbo is gone after this year. The Deng and Mosgov contracts sealed his fate. This team, after spending $36 mil on two starters, is in last place…. and Byron and Kobe are no longer here to take the blame. There are no more excuses left for Jimbo.