The Lakers lost what I thought turned out to be a very winnable game despite the score.
The Wolves had a very Merry Christmas at the expense of the Lakers as the team from Minnesota won at Staples Center, 121-104.
Lakers didn’t have Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball for this big Christmas game. And remember that Brook Lopez is still out so the team was out three regular starters. The starters for the game were Jordan Clarkson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, and Andrew Bogut.
They looked lost early. The Lakers had a lot of plays where they would just make one pass and put up the first semi-open shot. On the other side, the Wolves were seemingly making everything. Even though it is baffling to me that the Wolves would choose to slow down the game when they’re a young and athletic team.
The second quarter was much better for Los Angeles as they played a little more organized and had a bit more movement. Plays by Tyler Ennis and Alex Caruso helped boost the Lakers. The Wolves started to miss a few shots and the Lakers would hold a lead for a moment after three straight threes (KCP and Kuzma) and being down ten. Still, Minnie led at the half by a point. It was noted that Coach Luke Walton mentioned that they should’ve been up double digits but bad shot selection and missed opportunities (easy lay-ups on both halfcourt and transition) got them to that position.
The third was sloppy with Lakers turning the ball over a bit more and the Wolves playing some disjointed offense. Minnesota tried to break away and led by nine but Lakers stabilized their offense a bit as Julius Randle did his work inside.
Minnesota once again tried to break the game open in the fourth with a 16-1 run. Lakers made one final push and got the lead down to six points. But a block by Karl-Anthony Towns on Josh Hart’s lay-up gave the momentum back to the Wolves. One infuriating KCP three later and the Wolves turned a respectable and close game into a blowout.
To be honest, we should give the Lakers more credit even if it was a pretty bad Christmas loss. They were out three starters and they kept it close for most of the game. Kuzma is just a topnotch scorer (31 points). He, Clarkson (17-6-7 and four steals), and Randle (16 points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes) were the only ones capable of making reliable offense (even if Clarkson loves to call his own number too much). Josh Hart played admirably; he had 12 points and six boards. And Ennis and Caruso put in some good minutes (although Ennis seemed overwhelmed in the fourth).
Like I said, it was baffling that the Wolves tried to slow down the game, play a little Mike Fratello ball by whittling down the clock, and putting up a three. Minnesota finally used their size and athleticism in the fourth to get on that big run. KAT, Butler, and Taj Gibson all scored over 20 points. Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score 19 points and Andrew Wiggins, even though he seemed invisible, scored 16.
Lakers were very inconsistent on offense. There were times (especially in the first quarter) where they would take a super quick shot and there were times (the fourth quarter) where they would just rush up shots in an attempt for quick points. And at times, it looked easy. The Lakers play beautifully when they move the ball around. It was good to see cuts made by guys like Corey Brewer, Randle, and Kuzma. But there needed to be more, especially when they were going against a decisively more talented team in Minnesota. It was tough to stop the Wolves team although they probably would’ve had an easier time had they just let them run.
The Lakers go to 11-21 and have lost their third straight game overall and fifth straight game at home. They do have a shaken Grizzlies team coming in on Wednesday so maybe the Lakers can stop their skid there. And hopefully, Brandon Ingram can come back next game as they need all the help they can get.
(P.S. On a personal note, some of you know that I’ve been doing recaps for Forum Blue & Gold for a number of years now. I’m glad that I’m actually doing it again. I had a car accident last September, which opened up a Pandora’s Box of stress and health issues. I had hypertension that sent me to the ER and suffered a heart attack afterwards. It’s been a long road but I’m so happy that I’m healthy enough to take on a few things again, including recapping on this site. I want to personally thank Darius for saving my spot and the entire staff for continuing their excellent work as well as covering for me. Also, thank you all for reading everyone’s work here, including mine. I know the rest of the staff here do a magnificent job here and I hope I can do half as well as they can. Thank you.)
(Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and you all have a safe rest of 2017.)