The Lakers played a more than respectable game and gave a really good effort, but could not overcome LeBron James’ triple-double in a 121-112 loss. The loss leaves the Lakers to 2-2 on their road trip which, all things considered, was a successful jaunt east.
The Lakers competed hard all night, but could not overcome the success of the Cavs deep shooting nor the play their potent bench attack. If LeBron’s 25-12-12 night was what will lead the highlights, it was the shooting of Kevin Love and Jose Calderon and a bench unit that used Kyle Korver’s shot making and attention drawing ability that will show up on the game tape.
Love and Calderon combined to make 9 of their 14 attempts from behind the arc, taking advantage of poor closeouts when the Lakers got into scramble mode. Credit LeBron for putting the defense into help situations with drives and post ups, but also the Cavs as a whole for punishing switches by attacking LA’s guards on the block and either getting good shots inside or drawing enough attention to open up the long ball for Cleveland.
Still, the Lakers were within striking distance all night. While they were not as potent as the Cavs from deep, the Lakers did connect on 9 triples — though on 30 attempts. Those misses were one of the key stories of the night, as the Lakers as a whole settled too often for the long jumper instead of working the ball around the court in order to generate better looks. The Lakers scored 62 points in the paint, but one has to wonder if they were more patient on some of their possessions if they could have flirted with 70.
Even with some suspect shot selection, it’s hard not to like what the team did overall, and specifically how Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball performed.
Ingram led the Lakers with 26 points while also chipping in 6 rebounds and 6 assists. After playing poorly in New York, it was good to not only see Ingram bounce back, but to do so early by being aggressive from the outset and attacking the rim. I’ve been saying it a lot this year, but this is the biggest growth I’ve seen in Ingram’s game. Despite previous games results, he comes out ready to carry the load and plays to his strengths to make a positive impact.
I was also impressed with the diversity of Ingram’s attack. Yes, he continued his trend of relentless attacking the rim, but he also took 4 threes (making 3), showed good confidence taking his mid-range jumper as well. It’s an obvious point, but Ingram’s shot making from distance will only open the already strong aspects of his game further and it’s that potential which has not removed “impact and dynamic scorer” from his list of possible outcomes as a player.
As for Lonzo, he followed up his strong game vs. the Knicks with another really good game in Cleveland. His 11 assists led the team and his work on the glass (8 rebounds) was, as usual, a good showing. He also threw in 13 points on 5-11 shooting, knocking down 3 of his 8 attempts from downtown. His jumper looked especially fluid this game, with him getting his feet set much better and taking his shots with good balance and in rhythm. The result was a shot that looked cleaner out of his hand with better arc. I’m not sure if this is a trend or not, but he may be starting to figure things out in games that the coaches have been saying he’s been doing in practice all year.
All in all, then, I’m not going to complain too much about the final result or even some of the big picture things. Again, the Lakers played hard and were very competitive. The Cavs are simply a better team and it showed on a night where LeBron was himself and Kevin Love was really, really good.
That said, I do have some notes…
*KCP missed this game due to personal reasons, so Josh Hart got the surprise start tonight and he played well! The rookie grabbed 10 rebounds, scored 11 points, and competed defensively. He started the game defending LeBron and while he gave up height and weight, I thought he battled hard and didn’t give up easy shots.
*Even though Kyle Kuzma scored 20 points, I can’t say his game really stood out. In fact, I thought he settled for too many 3’s — making only 1 of his 5 attempts from deep — and that he could have been more decisive as a passer when some plays were there to be made. Still, he shot 50% from the field so maybe we’re to the point where expectations are so high he can have a 20 and 7 night as a rookie and I find flaws the nitpick. Haha.
*My guy Pete said it all about Lopez’s game by not even saying anything about Lopez’s actual game.
Losses suck, but that was a really good road trip for the Lakers. 2-2 is plenty respectable, they competed in the 2 losses, and the young players played arguably their best collective basketball of the season. If Lopez was what we hoped he'd be, this'd be a much better team rn.
— Laker Film Room (@LakerFilmRoom) December 15, 2017
*I told myself that even after I wrote that Larry Nance should be the change made in the starting lineup, I was going to try to be fair with him. So, I’ll say that he rebounded the hell out of the ball on the offensive end and that his defensive activity was good even there were times it was misplaced. His offense, though, continues to be very hit or miss and his penchant for passing up shots I know he works on in practice while also missing a couple of shots near the paint on good passes from Lonzo was frustrating in this one.
*For all the love I give Randle, I thought he was only so-so tonight even though he hit 6 of his 9 shots and defended well (again) in isolation on his own man and on switches. There were a couple of times he was too lax with passes for my liking and a few other times where I thought his off-ball defense was not as engaged. He also only had 3 defensive rebounds in 21 minutes, which — even when switching as much as he does — is too low a number.
*I don’t know if Luke would admit to this, but I thought the rotation flowed better with only 9 guys playing and with Brewer only playing 9 minutes. I know the Lakers are thin on the wing, so in theory it should hurt to not have KCP. But with Hart getting more run, it worked out okay. I’d still probably prefer a swap of a big for a win so that Ingram could play a few more minutes at PF, but that’s a discussion for another day.
*Rough night for Clarkson in this one. Not only was his shot not falling (5-13, 1-7 from distance), but I thought his activity on both ends waxed and waned a bit too much. He was not as active in the passing lanes in this game and didn’t have his normal juice in the P&R.
*And, I’ll leave you with a tweet.
"Workouts start at 6am next year. I like vintage reds for dinner, except w/ fish. W/ fish I like a crisp white w/ citrus undertones." pic.twitter.com/wLA6FqpTTA
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) December 15, 2017