A week ago, it was D’Angelo Russell putting on a show against the Cavs and scoring a career high to carry the Lakers (though, it came in a losing effort). Friday against the Timberwolves it was his backcourt partner’s turn. Jordan Clarkson poured in a career high in points (35) and made three pointers (8), in a fantastic shooting performance which propelled his team to a win. Watching him knock down shot after shot really was a sight:
— NBA (@NBA) March 25, 2017
Clarkson really was on fire and it showed a different way he can start to get going than what he has most of the season. Typically a downhill player who loves to turn the corner and get into paint for floaters and layups, Clarkson defied his 33% connect rate on threes for the year by nailing 8-10 from distance. He shot with confidence and when the defense started to adjust he then went back to his dribble-drive attack based game to counter.
JC wasn’t the only one to have it going, though. The Lakers shot 52.3% from the field overall, hit 14-23 from behind the arc, and posted a 116.8 offensive rating. The ‘Wolves aren’t the best defense, but they were a top 15 team heading into the Lakers game and did give the Lakers problems throughout the night with ball pressure and by clogging passing/hand-off lanes which are keys to how the team wants to attack. The Lakers, though, found a way:
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 25, 2017
Beyond the offensive success the Lakers found, the key to me was how the Lakers were able to hold down Minnesota’s O in the 2nd half and overtime. After surrendering a 40 point 2nd quarter, the Lakers held the ‘Wolves to 52 points the rest of the game. Minnesota only shot 41.5% in the 2nd half to surrender their 13 point lead and allow OT, then only hit 33% of their shots in the extra frame while being outscored by 11.
That 24 point turnaround over the game’s final 29 minutes had a lot to do with what the Lakers were doing on both ends, though I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how confused I was by the Wolves’ penchant for avoiding Towns for long stretches while letting Kris Dunn and Ricky Rubio take jumpers. By the time they started to involve Towns, he settled for 3-point attempts and had his only interior shot blocked by Julius Randle.
I know there is a large portion of fans who will be upset that the Lakers won, especially when the Suns lost their 7th straight game on the same night. The combo of an LA win and a Phoenix loss means the Lakers only hold a half-game “lead” for the 2nd worst record and the teams are now tied in the loss column. We all know the lottery protections on the Lakers’ pick and how important it is to keep this pick, so shifts in those odds are like shifts in the San Andreas fault line for fans. I get this completely. Even though if the Lakers “fall” to 3rd it is still pretty much a coin-flip for them to keep their pick, it’s not lost on me that it’s still better to have increased odds at retaining the pick — even if it’s “only” a 9% difference in odds.
However, as I noted last night, seeing how happy the team was after getting a win after losing 6 straight games isn’t lost on me either. It’s good for them to be rewarded for the work they’re putting in. It’s good for them to see that when they play well, stick to the game plan, and don’t quit they can experience team success. As fans who are removed from the work and preparation time these guys put in, it’s easier for us to look at lottery odds and bemoan wins as counterproductive. But, for the players and coaches, they need to know that work can actually pay off.