The Lakers beat the Hornets on Sunday night 120-101. And while the final score doesn’t necessarily reflect the the tone of the game for the first 30 minutes or so, a nearly 20 point victory over an over matched opponent is exactly what the doctor ordered and builds on what the team did on Friday in dispatching the Jazz.
No long narrative explaining this game from me today. My one paragraph summary is, basically, as follows:
The Lakers rode Anthony Davis in the first half, rode LeBron James in the 2nd half, and won the game. The first half showed a bit of indifference towards an over-matched opponent and with the Hornets bombing away from 3, the game was close. When the Lakers ramped up their defensive intensity and LeBron got aggressive as a scorer in the 2nd half, they pulled away to win comfortably. Flanking the stars, Dwight Howard played fantastic overall and Alex Caruso was a spark for the 2nd straight game. A nice, mostly professional win, from a Lakers team still clearly finding its way.
Now, for some notes:
- As mentioned above Anthony Davis was great in the first half, scoring at will and making his presence felt on defense and the backboards. He caught lobs and had some transition chances, including an open court chance where he inside-out crossed his man and got to the rim for a layup. What was most important, however, was that Davis found his jumper this game. After a preseason and 2 regular season games that saw him shooting under 20% on shots outside of 3 feet, Davis got comfortable shooting from the outside and the result was some early made 3’s that served as a nice reminder of the true all-court scoring threat Davis is.
- I said it above, but it bears repeating: Dwight Howard was fantastic this game. 16 points on 8-8 shooting, 10 rebounds (3 offensive), 4 blocks, and +23 in the boxscore. He rotated early defensively, was fantastic in establishing rebounding position on both ends, and finished extremely well on dives and cuts (and even hit a jump hook on a late clock post up). I get that most national observers don’t believe in Dwight as a player. There’s too much baggage. I’m honestly not sure what to make of him either. But he’s playing really, really well and I’d rather just acknowledge that and appreciate this effort than continue to make jokes about him or fans rooting for him simply because the narrative of him from recent seasons is so strong. I don’t know whether this will last, but the things he’s doing to be so effective really do seem totally repeatable if he remains this focused.
- Like vs. the Jazz, Alex Caruso got a DNP in the 1st half against the Hornets and then make a 2nd half appearance when, coincidentally, the Lakers started to turn the game in their favor. Caruso’s defense was really strong (again) and his skill set, more than whatever success he actually has in deploying it, continues to be a net positive for this team. Caruso’s ability to be a secondary ball-handler to LeBron allows other players to be better slotted as finishers (while also alleviating LeBron from having to initiate every set). The result is better balance and better results. The Lakers went on a 15-2 run after Caruso came in and while he was not the driver of that, his play on both sides of the ball helped grease the wheels to help it along.
- Speaking of Dwight and Caruso, in the 9 minutes they were on the floor together, the Lakers had an Offensive Rating of 115.8, a Defensive Rating of 47.1(!!!!!), and were +14 in the boxscore.
- Give KCP some props for this game. 10 points on 4-8 shooting, including 2-4 from behind the arc. He played strong defense, too. He was on the floor during some of the Lakers best stretches as a team, reflected by his +21 in the boxscore. Ultimately, though, it was just nice to see him hit some shots and play with confidence offensively. I said it after the Jazz game that the Lakers need KCP to hit shots and he did that this game. Good on him.
- LeBron James racked up 7 assists in the first half, but only scored 2 points in those first 24 minutes — both at the foul line. He ended the game with 12 assists, but also with 20 points — showing once again that there are few players in the league better at simply finding ways to get some baskets and impact the game at the same time. Late in the game when the Lakers trying to salt the game away, LeBron called for ball screens from guards on back to back possessions. The Hornets didn’t hedge/contain well either time at the point of attack and LeBron got all the way to the rim on fairly easy drives for dunks both times. Just really smart plays that helped put the game out of reach and also helped LeBron get some numbers. A win-win.
- This game didn’t particularly stand out to me as a great “ball movement” game, but the Lakers still tallied 30 assists on their 49 made field goals. During the preseason Vogel said that he’d like to see 25 assists a night and that 30 or more would be considered a very good night, so it’s good to see the Lakers clear that second bar.
The Lakers are back at it again on Tuesday. When, hopefully, Kyle Kuzma will be back into the mix. See ya’ll soon.