In the best team effort of the season, the Lakers routed the Pistons 113-93 to get their 3rd win of the season. The W moves the team to 3-4 on the year, giving them a nice bounce back from consecutive defeats on Friday and Saturday against the Raptors and the Jazz. In a way, this game reminded me of the Toronto game, only the Lakers were able to carry their strong play from the first half into and through the final 24 minutes to close out Detroit.
While the 113 points are great to see — especially for a team that’s struggled mightily on offense the first two weeks of the season — we should not ignore the role the Lakers defense played in getting the win. Detroit shot 43.6% from the field and only 30.3% from behind the arc (on 33 attempts), but it was more than contesting shots to force misses.
The Lakers racked up 9 steals and had 5 blocked shots, while only 14 fouls all night. Detroit only shot 3 FT’s all evening, and two of those were in garbage time. When you can defend without fouling while also extending your defense and pressuring passing lanes, you can do major damage on that end and the Lakers did just that.
Offensively, the Lakers were fantastic at attacking the Pistons defense with hard drives and then expertly moved the ball when the help came. The team had 30 assists on 45 made baskets with only Zubac and Ennis (who came in with 2:22 left for garbage time) the only players who saw game action to not record a helper. This type of passing, especially via drive and kicks from Ingram, Lonzo, and Clarkson the Lakers offense hummed and Detroit had little resistance to offer once the ball started pinging around the court.
With such a team effort, I could get into the individual performances of multiple guys, but honestly, the play of three guys really stood out to me.
First, is Brandon Ingram. The 2nd year forward really seems to be finding his way and tonight was his best all-around game of the year. He’s had bigger scoring nights than his 13 vs. Detroit, but he shot efficiently (6-12) and never once seemed out of control. Further, it was his best night as a ball mover, using those aforementioned drive and kicks to tally 6 assists and his general activity to also grab 5 rebounds. Add to this his wonderful work in the passing lanes (4 steals) and generally good on ball defense (1 block, several other really good contests against shooters), and it really was a wonderful night for BI.
Next, Lonzo Ball was really good this game. 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists really don’t do his night justice. He controlled the flow of the game offensively, made really good pass/shot decisions, and played a really good defensive game both on and off the ball. He also showed some real savvy in the P&R, snaking his dribble to occupy multiple defenders several times and even flashing some ability to put his man “in jail” by sealing him on his hip/back in order to gain advantage. Lonzo’s a 6’6″ guard and finding more and better ways to leverage his size is a work in progress, but he showed some strides in that area this game.
Lastly, give Julius Randle some love. His 17 points led the team and his 7 rebounds were 2nd only to Nance’s 12. Beyond the production, though, I was just super impressed with Randle’s aggression as a scorer and how he ate up every overmatched Pistons reserve big man sent his way. Whether working in the half court off the dribble or breaking out his open court game against an unsettled defense, Randle took advantage of every inch of space given and then bulled his way to take a few inches that weren’t even there.
Some might point to this being the end of a west roadie or that the Pistons spent a few days in LA before this game as contributing to the result. And, I guess, it’d be naive to think that stuff didn’t play a part in how this game went down. That said, the Lakers played with energy, locked in defensively, shared the ball offensively, and withstood a couple of emerging pushes from Detroit by making key plays to squelch out runs. The Lakers played smart and like a veteran team, even though they’re filled with a bunch of guys 25 and under.
This was a really good win and something the coaches can point to and say “see, this is how we need you to play” when going to the film room. And now, on to the notes…
*I mentioned Nance’s 12 rebounds, but he also had 14 points on 5-10 shooting, 2 assists, 3 steals, and several hustle plays. I think it’s easy to look at Randle’s recent play and say he deserves more minutes (he does), but Nance has shown he can play too and I like the effort he’s bringing nightly.
*Speaking of other PF’s, summer league Kyle Kuzma was back. The rookie forward hit 6 of his 8 shots, including all 4 of his 3-pointers, to score 16 points. He showed some really good chemistry with Randle, too, when playing in the team’s small lineup — hitting Julius with several nice passes and being the recipient of some from JR as well.
*Oh, and that small-ball lineup of Clarkson, Hart, Brewer, Kuzma, and Randle? They had an offensive rating of 120.4 and a defensive rating 100.0 in their 10 minutes on the floor together. This made a big push in the 2nd quarter to open the game up and really played well on both sides of the floor.
*Some decent minutes from Andrew Bogut this game. Luke dusted off the Aussie to get some minutes against Drummond and he did well against Detroit’s bruiser. He also set some good screens and had a nice catch and finish inside on a Lonzo dime. I think it would have been fine to play Randle these minutes, but Luke decided to stay big and it mostly worked out fine.
*Reggie Jackson played like he was Ricky Davis only if Ricky Davis was Wes Johnson. If this doesn’t make sense, I’m sorry, but it’s the only way I can really describe the level of ball-hoggery and bad finishing Jackson exhibited for long stretches this game. I know not every point guard is going to flash passing acumen or instincts to move the ball. That’s fine. If your job is to get buckets, go get ’em. But, at least act like you enjoy hitting your teammates sometimes, man. Especially when they’ve got a match up advantage due to a switch.
*KCP’s first game against his former team didn’t offer a huge stat line — 13 points, 4-10 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 assists — but he played hard and looked really engaged the entire time he was on the floor. He just seemed ready to and to want this one a bit more. Which, even if expected, was nice to see.