After the losing to the Nuggets on Tuesday to fall to 0-2 in the preseason, the Lakers are back in action tonight vs. the Kings. The game is at 7:30, on NBA TV nationally, and at STAPLES Center.
With the logistics out of the way, let’s get to the meat of the matter. The Lakers should have won their last game, but didn’t. Their starters played well, the bench played better than on Sunday, and the deep reserves were…deep reserve level. The game was lost in the final quarter. No big deal.
Tonight, then, all I’m really looking for is a building on top of what the team has done well to this point and progress towards cleaning up some of the things they’ve been less good at. What are those things? Well, here’s a quick list:
- Foul less. The Lakers want to play physical, but they must be less hands-y when doing so. Less clutching and holding off the ball, less reaching and swiping on the ball. The Lakers have length and relatively good athleticism across their main rotation players. Leverage those strengths more and do less of the things the refs have made a point of emphasis of to call fouls. Easier said than done, I know, but thems the rules. Deal with it.
- Keep moving the ball and playing unselfishly, but don’t turn down a really good shot to hunt a great one. Getting a great shot vs. an NBA defense is hard. There are ways to manufacture them, for sure. And the Lakers will do that plenty with the level of shot creators and passers they have to break down a defense. But when you have an open shot, take it and live with the results.
- Rebound better. This will be an ongoing point of emphasis from me until I see the guys on the floor actually taking measures to do better. Box out, close down the FT line area, and chase out of area rebounds. This team wants to run, but to do that you need the ball. Rebounding is the best way to secure the ball. Do that.
A few other things…
Neither Lonzo Ball nor Rajon Rondo will play tonight. Ball is still being held out as he ramps up to being game ready. Luke Walton continues to stress this is just the team being cautious. I’m going to take him at his word until it seems like that’s no longer believable. Rondo is being given a night off to rest. As a veteran guy, this is expected and fine for the preseason. I expect LeBron will be given a game (or more) off soon too.
With Rondo out there will be a new starting lineup. Ingram will be slotted in as the “point guard” and Kyle Kuzma will replace him as the forward next to LeBron. When laying out the positions, Walton called LeBron the “small forward”, so let’s just go with that. I don’t want to read into this much, if at all, but I find it interesting that we thought LeBron would be the full time PF and that he’d slide up to C in certain lineups. Instead, Kuzma (and Beasley) have been the nominal C’s and when Kuz and JaVale both start next to LeBron, it’s the latter who slides down.
The two final things I think worth monitoring this game are team defense and 2nd unit offensive flow.
Regarding the defense, the Kings project to be a bad team but they have some shooters worth marking. Buddy Hield hit 43% of his 5 attempted 3’s per game last year. Bogdan Bogdonavic hit 39% of his 4 attempted 3’s. Frank Mason hit 36% of his 2 attempts per game. Versus the Nuggets, the Lakers closed out short on Sunday and missed several rotations on Tuesday (but didn’t pay for those mistakes with Nuggets’ makes). I want to see better this game. Run these guys off the line and make them finish from the mid-range.
On the 2nd unit offense, in his media availability Luke said Lance Stephenson will get a fair amount of the PG duties with this group. After saying this, he then spoke about how they are asking him to play a style that’s not necessarily used to, but also want to maximize his strengths as a playmaker by putting him in more P&R’s. Luke’s not dumb. He sees what we all do. Lance has been fond of dribbling a lot. Maybe the best way to pull back on those habits is to give him more responsibility? We’ll see if that works…
Have a good game, folks.