I don’t have much to say about the Lakers loss in Philly, honestly. Yes, their undefeated road record is no more. Yes, Philly pretty much controlled that game. And, yes, I thought some of what Philly did on both sides of the ball really bothered the Lakers and put them in a hole that was difficult to climb out of.
In the end, the Lakers nearly came back and won anyway, closing the game with a flurry that nearly ended with the knockout punch. But Tobias Harris hit a good shot vs. Caruso on a play where I thought the Lakers could have done more to avoid the switch. That said, I appreciated the resiliency the Lakers showed and I think it’s clear they’re still operating a level that is no where close to where I think they can be when things really click. This group can be special one day. They’re just not there yet…and that’s okay.
As for tonight, the team will look to bounce back against the Pistons, but will have to do it without Anthony Davis who will sit with a quad issue. Personally, I’m fine with this. AD has been really good this year if we’re talking about a regular NBA player. In the big picture, he’s scoring efficiently, defending well, and is making an impact. That said, the level he’s been playing at isn’t near the level he was last regular season and is so far from his playoff level in the bubble it’s not even worth trying to find a connecting line between where he was then and where he is now.
Some of this is surely physical. I wouldn’t say AD looks like he’s injured, but the normal spring and bounciness is not there. He looks as though he’s laboring around the court more (on some possessions more than others) and just looks heavier on his feet. Mentally, too, it looks like he’s just not yet reached the baseline level of engagement you’d expect from him when considering the team is nearly 20 games into the season. I thought he’d turned a corner after the Spurs games where he was vocal about the team’s defensive issues, but that has not carried over night to night in a consistent way after a brief surge.
To be clear, I’m not necessarily upset or disappointed with AD for this. I’ll have more to say on AD, in general, at a later date. But, I will say, briefly, that as he navigates this process of winning a title and then being on a team expected to do it again this season, there’s a learning curve of how to tackle that process which he is clearly in the middle of now. Add in the new roster and several other contextual factors and I think things are okay. Not great, but okay. Luckily for the Lakers, AD’s “okay” is at a level higher than many players “great”. I do expect AD will reach his own version of “great” at some point this year, however. And that’s all I have to say about that right now.
In getting back to the Pistons game, it’s the 2nd night of a back to back for both teams, so I expect both sides to have some heavy legs. Considering the type of loss the Lakers suffered last night, the quality of this particular Pistons team, and the fact that the team plays in Boston on Saturday, I’ll be interested to see how they respond from a mental standpoint and how focused/in the moment they are. I could see this going in a couple of different directions, honestly, so how the team responds will be something worth monitoring.
From an X’s and O’s and talent standpoint, even without AD, the Lakers are the better team. Detroit, has a remade roster this year, swapping out Christian Wood for Jerami Grant and adding a slew of big men (Mason Plumlee, Jahlil Okafor, and rookie Isaiah Stewart) to their roster. Other new faces include rookies Killian Hayes and Saddiq Bey, Delon Wright, and former lottery pick Josh Jackson. They still have Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin, too. There’s some talent to be mined here, but their early season fit and the level they’ve been playing to collectively has not gone so smoothly. The result is a 4-14 record, only better than the Wizards in the East.
So, sure, AD can sit out this game and probably not be missed. I expect Keef or Kuz or even Wes Matthews to replace him in the starting lineup and for the Lakers to keep it moving. Considering the depth on this team and the quality of scoring options they have up and down the roster, their offense may look different but it can still be extremely potent. Defensively, losing AD hurts, but there’s enough good defenders left over here. Also, Detroit is in the bottom 8 of both offensive and defensive rating this year, there will be chances for the Lakers to shine on both ends of the floor vs. them tonight.
In saying all that, I hope you enjoy the game even if there’s no guarantee the Lakers have the legs or mental energy to play to the level we might want in this one. This group is still an up and down team, but their downs are understandable losses or some unfocused efforts vs. some lower level teams and their ups are wins that fans are still finding fault with because it’s clear they can be better than they’ve been. Must be nice to have that type of team to root for. I’m sure Detroit would kill for that.
Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on Spectrum SportsNet.