The Lakers played their 2nd preseason game on Tuesday, again vs. the Denver Nuggets. And, again, they lost. This time, however, did not mirror the 124-107 blowout from Sunday. Tuesday’s effort was much better and closer to what the Lakers are trying to build towards.
They led for most of the night and it wasn’t until both teams were playing mostly end of the bench players that Denver got hot and took the lead. Even then, though, the Lakers had a chance to win at the end, but Isaac Bonga passed up an open 3-pointer to make a pass to a more open teammate right as the regulation buzzer sounded. Certainly a teaching moment for the rookie and one that he should be able to learn from. But the result was still a 113-111 loss.
With that, I thought I’d keep with my now 1-game tradition of offering a handful of thoughts on the game. So here we go…
- We start with LeBron, of course. James was more assertive and successful as a scorer Thursday, tallying 13 points on 5-6 shooting. He had a thunderous open court dunk, hit his only 3 point attempt, and was deadeye on another jumper. He was also stellar as a passer, though only notching 3 assists. Overall, LeBron was great…but even more than that he inspired a sense of comfort in me. There were a couple of possessions where he was pushing the ball up the middle of the floor and I thought about how confident I, as a fan, felt in whatever was going to happen next; with whatever decision he was going to make. It didn’t always work out — he botched a lob attempt to JaVale, for example — but having this dude on the team you root for offers a feeling of comfort and knowing that I’ve not felt in some time.
- Josh Hart replaced KCP in the starting lineup as the SG and immediately had a game which showed why things should probably stay this way. The 14 points on 13 shots was okay and the 2-8 shooting from behind the arc needs improving, but it was all the little things he does and how in tune he remains with how the team wants to play and how he can push that agenda forward that stick out. A good box out, a hard drive and finish off a DHO, the way he’ll stand up a bigger opponent when defending the post…Hart battles and is smart and just knows what the hell he’s doing out there. This isn’t to say KCP doesn’t…he just doesn’t do these things as well as Hart. So, yeah, keep starting Hart please.
- Not quite the same impactful game from Brandon Ingram as Sunday, but not as bad as the boxscore might imply. No, his 4 points on 2-5 shooting isn’t great. And he has to clean some things up defensively as 4 first half fouls and 5 overall aren’t conducive to staying on the floor. But I liked his 6 rebounds and his passing remains a truly underrated quality that is going to help this team a bunch this season.
- Rondo? RONDO. Three made 3-pointers from Rondo in this game on as many attempts. 11 points overall to go with his 7 assists. Good and enduring chemistry with LeBron offensively and the general know-how to facilitate good team offense by picking out guys in open spots where they can do damage. His defense runs hot and cold, however, and it’s those cold moments that will need monitoring. He likes to dig to the paint, play a bit too much free safety, and on a couple of possessions didn’t hug (or, to speak in terms of what’s actually legal, stick to) the big man screening him to disrupt passes to the dive man in P&R situations. This allowed for easy baskets inside. We’ll talk more about defense as we get more data, but needless to say, I’m very interested in seeing how veteran legs respond to the needs of making the extra effort on a lot of plays.
- Luke Walton played a 10 man rotation in the first half: Rondo, Hart, Ingram, LeBron, Javale, Caruso, KCP, Lance, Kuzma, and Beasley. Swap out Caruso for Lonzo and I think that’s the 10 man rotation to start the season. Long term I the battles to watch are how the Hart/KCP/Lance minutes shake out and whether Svi will do enough to cut into Lance’s minutes/role. I also wonder of rookie Mo Wagner will be called on eventually to take up some of the backup C minutes that are currently going to Kuzma and Beasley.
- Speaking of the C spot, JaVale had another good game as a finisher in and protector of the paint. He finished with 5 blocked shots and altered a few more with his length and activity. What’s also clear to me is that McGee is the only player on the roster who can do what he does and the rotation behind him as a true C who can defend the paint is, basically, non-existent. Zubac looks increasingly shaky and everyone else is too small. Again, maybe Wagner becomes that guy. But he’s a rookie. The Lakers have an open roster spot. I’m just saying.
- I cannot wait until Lonzo is cleared to play in actual games. I think he’s going to help in a myriad of ways. On the glass, defensively, as another assertive three point shot taker, as a ball mover…his impact can be felt in both main ways and on the margins that I think this team will need desperately.
- I do not like to play armchair psychologist, but KCP looks like he’s in his own head a little bit. He seems to oscillate between indecisiveness and over-aggressiveness, but never in that middle that is the true sweetspot for a role player. He does not look super confident in his jumper right now, either — which is maybe a part of the problem. I know it’s only preseason, but I hope this gets sorted out soon. The Lakers need him productive and in-tune with the rest of the group.
- Lance knows how to get his. He also knows how to set up teammates. What he’s not doing is…making this happen quickly. As Pete mentioned on our recent podcast, Lance conjures images of Jordan Clarkson isolating up high and really looking to break down his man. This, of course, is useful. It also needs to be channeled and come to the surface in more narrowly defined situations. If, 8 out of 10 times the ball comes to you your first instinct is to break your guy down off the dribble, that does not align with a quick decision, ball moving offense. Which, I think, is what the Lakers are trying to build. We’ll see how this develops.
- Here, watch LeBron’s dunk in slow motion. My goodness.
— NBA (@NBA) October 3, 2018