The Lakers close out their preseason tonight with another game against the Phoenix Suns — the same Suns the Lakers beat on Wednesday when Bron and AD returned to action, Kuz showed up with another strong offensive game, and THT closed out the game as the lead ballhandler by making plays for teammates to get easy shots.
It was another strong performance from the team on the whole, with everyone who played contributing in some way to the win. From a big picture standpoint, this exactly what you’d want in the season that the Lakers are about to embark on. With uncertainties about health (hello, COVID) and the general need to ensure optimal readiness for the postseason after such a short turnaround, the idea of needing more than your normal number of contributors/rotation players is very much real. With that in mind, the Lakers may just be one of the better positioned teams in the league.
In getting back to tonight, though, striking the right balance is going to be key. First and foremost, what is most important is getting out of this game without any injuries. The Lakers have been a little banged up this preseason, with Caruso and KCP both missing time with hip issues. Not having anyone else join those two as needing to sit out with anything nagging (or even more serious) would be great.
On the other hand, though, this is the last chance for these guys to get real game action before the regular season actually starts. With that, treating this game as somewhat of a dress rehearsal also makes some sense. It’s not that Frank Vogel needs to deploy his normal rotation or really ask his guys to push hard, but getting a sense of how things might look when things get real on Tuesday wouldn’t be the worst idea.
I’d imagine, then, that we might see something of a compromise with the 1st half being at least taken pretty seriously and guys trying to lock in. After that, there’s no guarantee we see anything beyond some extended garbage time or guys just trying to get through the night in one piece. If that can happen, I’ll call this a victory regardless of what the scoreboard says.
When thinking about the first part of that, then, continued refinement of what the team does on both sides of the ball wouldn’t be the worst thing. I love how the team is moving the ball, making making the extra pass a consistent part of their attack. I also like the incorporation of more flow principles into their halfcourt sets, playing through the high post and looking to take advantage of all the team’s good cutters off ball.
That said, I’d also like to see more hints at chemistry developing in the P&R between the team’s primary ball handlers and Montrezl Harrell that involve passes to him rolling for easy shots or where he can catch and kickout to shooters. Don’t get me wrong, Harrell is doing fine. He’s scoring some in isolations and cleanining up on the offensive glass simply by playing with his nonstop motor. But, to get the best from him, he needs a P&R partner who seeks him out for the types of easy baskets that end up collapsing a defense and open up other parts of the floor. We’ve seen less of that through 3 preasons games than I’d hoped to. It’s a small thing, but something worth watching — not only tonight, but as the real season begins.
Defensively, I’m interested in seeing how often the team dials up something approximating their top level and whether that skews towards more often or “when we think we need it”. The latter might just be good enough to win a lot of games. The former would be something that could end up striking fear in the league, particularly when AD, Bron, and Gasol share the floor with any of the Caruso/KCP/Matthews/Kuzma/Dennis group. Now, that’s a lot of players I mentioned, which is already a bit scary for opponents. But, again, it depends on the want to do it. Defense is hard and expends a lot of energy and that can lead to the want not always being there. In the 2nd quarter of Wednesday’s game, the Lakers had that want and the results were devestating.
That said, this game does not matter. In the big picture there are things I’d like to see, but I won’t exactly be disappointed if I don’t. This team is a title contender about to play its final preseason game. Get out of here healthy and I’ll be good. Talk to ya’ll later.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum SportsNet and ESPN.