5 (Late) Things I Liked

For a game that, going into the 4th quarter, I had high hopes of winning there were still many positives to take away from last night’s loss. Digging right in.

1) LeBron James. On a night where he passed Shaq in made FGs and Dirk in overall points it would have been real nice to send the King home with a W. T’was not to be as the Spurs turned their defense up a notch and the Lakers wilted in the waning moments. But it certainly wasn’t from a lack of production from one LBJ. He’d have been closer to another triple-double had his teammates canned more shots off of passes but his scoring and effort on the glass was solid, per usual.

2) Lonzo getting the starting nod. I think this is a smart move. Rondo is a nveteran and has seen the highest highs and the lowest lows the NBA has to offer. He’ll be fine coming off the bench. While it’s a true that, in professional sports, any player in a uniform should be ready to play when the coach calls your number it’s also true that younger players draw strength and confidence from starting. Unfortunately, Lonzo turned in a uncharacteristically minus game in terms of +/- (and really clanked 2 free throws which was a bummer as he’d looked fairly decent from the stripe, in limited attempts, thus far) while struggling from inside the arc, not really hitting the glass like we know he can and turning it over as many times as he hit the open man. Hopefully it’s just a blib and he’ll round right back into form on Monday. If not, it’s a nice thing to have Rajon Rondo as the other option.

3) Lance Stephenson making himself all sorts of comfortable in a Laker uniform. He was hitting the glass, hitting buzzer beaters, playing his brand of basketball that gets the team going. I honestly thought, at the beginning of the season, that Lance might have a hard time finding minutes but the way this dude is balling it’s going to be harder to keep him on the bench. A curious conundrum for the coaches come Ingram’s return to action on Monday.

4) Nice looks from three. One of the concerns coming into the season was whether the Laker offense as constructed by Luke Walton would be able to generate enough open looks from the three point line. With a few games under our belt I think we can see that we’re going to be fine in generating the shot, making it being an entirely different discussion. Regardless, once some of our shooters (I’m looking at you KCP) get their mojo going I think we’ll be able to confidently predict somewhere in the 35 3 pt FGA/game. If, as a team, we can can around 40% of those this will be regarded as a high-octane, multi-faceted offense when one factors in the pace of play we’re currently playing at.

5) Scoring on the break. While we should have maybe had a few more fast-break points last night (to say nothing of how well the Spurs shut down our points in the paint, a major source of offense for this Laker squad) the fact that we were a +15 in fast-break points was a major factor in us being in this game at all. If we can get a little better on the glass, more consistent at working the ball into the paint for a score and keep attacking waves per coach Walton’s game plan I think this team is a solid playoff candidate. When we let teams force us into poor mid range attempts we look very beatable. This team simply lacks scorers of that caliber, at this time.

One Thing: I was fairly amazed that Rondo gave up that wide open lay up in an attempt to force a three pointer. The explanations post game weren’t all that convincing, either. He has to take that shot, you can always foul (and yes, I know they didn’t have anymore time outs) and push the pace with a good 5+ seconds left in the game and face a defense not fully set. He’s better than that and I expect to never see anything like that again in an NBA game. Incredible to watch unfold in real time, I’m fairly certain my jaw was a solid 19 inches below my face after the fact.