Lakers pick up third win in a row against hapless Suns

The Los Angeles Lakers (8-27) collected their third-straight win (can you believe it?) with a 97-77 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday Night at STAPLES Center. It’s the team’s first win over a division opponent this season.

Here were the main takeaways:

Fast start: The Lakers outscored the Suns 25-10(!) in the first quarter, and it was in part due to the Suns playing the worst quarter of basketball I’ve watched all season. They clanked numerous open shots, and the worst part was all the careless turnovers they had. Things like lazy or dropped passes led to run outs for the Lakers which would result in transition points. In some instances, the Lakers did put pressure or a hand in the way to force the turnovers, but it mostly was the result of unforced errors. It’s not something that’s sustainable for the Lakers.

Stagnant half court offense: Speaking of transition points, that was the by far the best form of offense for the Lakers in this game. With Kobe Bryant out of the lineup, the team was able to use its athleticism and take advantage of the Suns’ carelessness with the ball to create a few Showtime-esque plays. When the team gets out in the break, it’s really fun to watch. There are multiple players that can handle the ball (Randle, Russell, Clarkson, Lou, etc), and Larry Nance, Jr. obviously runs the floor well.

However, it became evident that when the Suns started to settle down and force the Lakers the run their half court sets, the offense continually stalled, especially in the fourth quarter, with Byron Scott’s slow developing sets that rarely resulting in quality looks.

Controlled Clarkson: I haven’t been a huge fan of Jordan Clarkson’s game recently. He seemed like a guy that was focused on scoring rather than playing with a balance of scoring and distributing, but that wasn’t the case in this game. Rather than settling for pull-up jumpers, he was attacking the lane and didn’t hesitate to find the open man. He had a season-high seven assists, 12 points, and a THUNDEROUS slam. There’s no doubt that Clarkson is/can be a dynamic scorer, but with the role he has on the Lakers (a starting point guard), the team is best when he plays a balanced game.

Lightning Lou: It’s easy to say that was Lou Williams’ best game as a Laker. He drained 6-7 of his three-point attempts and finished with 30 points on 17 shots. Byron Scott math suggests a performance like this has cemented Lou in the lineup for 10-15 more games.

Rebounding Rugrats: The dominance on the glass by Julius Randle and Larry Nance, Jr. is becoming the norm. In this game, Nance had 14 rebounds in 32 minutes and Randle had 12 rebounds in 16 minutes (SERIOUSLY? ONLY 16 MINUTES?). Byron mentioned before the game that he’d consider playing both of them at the same time moving forward. THAT’S GREAT, A 4-5 RANDLE-NANCE DUO COULD BE INTERESTING! Then, in typical Byron fashion, he said he’d prefer Randle play the 3 and Nance play the 4, which… yeah, doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Regardless, the Lakers have two stud young power forwards, and it’s really too bad the team doesn’t have a creative enough coach to get both of them on the floor at the same time. Nance’s minutes come at the expense of Randle and vice versa.

Dinged Up D’Angelo: Russell’s shot was off all night and he missed a handful of wide open looks. Things like that happen for a rookie, but I felt that aside from that, he had a solid night. He finished with seven points, four rebounds, and three assists. Unfortunately, Russell injured his hand in the fourth quarter when former Laker Ronnie Price dove for a loose ball and Russell’s hand got caught in the scrum. He was taken out of the game and did not return. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.

Idle Anthony Brown: Anthony Brown’s defensive ability is something the team can use moving forward, but he seems to have a Wes Johnson type of disappearance in games. He played 30 minutes tonight and was basically invisible out there for large stretches. He had just five points, three rebounds, and two assists. With him being an “old” rookie — 23 years old — his lack of production is disappointing and he seems to lack confidence out there, but hopefully it’s the product of inconsistent playing time and Byron’s poor offensive system.

He’s the type of player that would’ve really benefitted from Mike D’Antoni’s “if you think you can make it, shoot it” philosophy, but alas, he doesn’t have that luxury.

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