So this is a new feature I’m going to try to do after Laker games for the rest of this season. This is just a random compilation of 4 thoughts on the Lakers and how they performed the night before. This first installment is based off of last night’s win against the Denver Nuggets. I’m sure our friends at Dig In Denver enjoyed that one. 😉
- D’Angelo Russell is the future centerpiece for the Lakers.
Pedro Casas has already covered this in another fine Lakers Lounge article, so I’m going to keep this short. Yes this was only one game, but Russell presence was felt throughout. In the 3 games the Lakers didn’t have Russell, they struggled to score to the tune of 88 points a game. The first game he’s back? an 120 point explosion, thank you very much. Russell also had a career high 10 assists, nothing to get too worked up on (it is his second season and he is a primary ball handler) but it shows growth and a milestone in his development. He also showed tremendous poise down the stretch, setting teammates up for buckets in addition to picking his spots to score aggressively. Case in point was in the closing stretches of the game, where Russell walked the ball up, got a pick from Ivica Zubac, and nailed the pull up jumper from just outside the foul circle to put the Lakers up for good. And with last night’s win, Russell closed the month of January with a 2.6-to-1 assist to turnover ratio, showing a marked improvement in reading defenses and making the right pass.
Ivica Zubac balled last night. The 19 year old set career highs in points (17) and made field goals (8) while going 8 for 9 from the field. Down the stretch his soft hands and touch around the basket were put on display as he collected some nice passes off the pick and roll from Lou Williams and nailed a variety of tough floaters and hooks. He also collected 6 rebounds and 1 assist in only 21 minutes of playing time. Did I mention he is only 19 years old? With performances like last night’s the Lakers core looks like a force to be reckoned with in a couple of years.
3) Defense was an issue….again.
The win aside, there were some thing the Lakers could have done better. The first (and most important) would be to do a better job to prevent the other team from scoring. The Lakers scored 120, but also gave up 116. In a game that had 22 lead changes, the Lakers let the Nuggets go 15/27 from three, while also giving the Nuggets more opportunities to both get to and convert from the line more. The Nuggets have a great offense, but were also missing Nikola Jokic, Will Barton, and Emmanual Mudiay. In addition to those injuries Gary Harris was slowed by injury, and they were starting 35 year old Jameer Nelson at the point and giving him substantial minutes. That is simply unacceptable. This has been said ad nausea but the Lakers need to step up their effort on the defensive end and give themselves a better chance to compete night in and night out.
4) This month is going to be a good test for L.A.
February will be something of a trial of fire for these young Lakers. The Lakers kick off a 5 game road trip tomorrow against the Washington Wizards, and from there they will see the Celtics, Pistons and Bucks. Home games won’t get any easier, as the Spurs and Hornets will both be visiting and definitely pose a challenge. Add to that the fact that 7 of the Lakers 10 games this month will be in hostile territory, and you have the makings of a month that could either help build the Lakers confidence up, or tear it down. The important thing is to take each game one at a time, and you can count on Lakers Lounge to keep you up to date and be on all the latest news. Just like the Lakers, we’ll be back in action tomorrow.