Last night, the Lakers were handed their first loss in NBA Summer League play. These games are typically sloppy and that’s how last night’s game ended. The Lakers surged out onto the floor with an abundance of energy that led to their great first half performance, then the Cavaliers came back and chipped away at the lead throughout the entire second half.
With Larry Nance, Jr. heading out of the game with an injured right hand and when Ivica Zubac was on the bench, the Lakers severely lacked rim protection. The score at halftime was 52-36 in favor of the Lakers, but a monstrous second half performance by Jordan McRae led an 88-80 comeback victory for the Cavaliers.
While lineup changes inevitably alter the flow of the game, the young guys need to recognize that and play to their strengths. Consistency is key.
D’Angelo Russell has been doing a great job of leading this Summer League team, but in this game he was definitely inconsistent on the offensive end. He went cold in the second half and that’s when you need to step it up on defense to hold your lead. You also need to be able to recognize who is making their shots and get them the ball as much as possible to keep the lead. These are things that all of the young players could stand to focus on a little more.
I think the Lakers have a good core of young guys who have the potential to be quick learners. We’ve seen the talent Russell and Nance have already and we are starting to see what exactly Brandon Ingram and Zubac can do. Now we need to see what they can improve on.
At times, I would have loved to see Zubac be a little more aggressive down low on defense. Some players would go in for layups and Zubac would back off a bit to ensure he didn’t get a foul called on him. I felt he was only going for the block when he knew it would be a near sure thing. With this being a learning experience more than anything else for both the players and coaches, I think it’s okay to be aggressive and see what you can and can’t get away with defensively around the rim.
With Ingram, I didn’t see a whole lot of defensive plays being made by him in general. He was definitely focused more on offense. In the second half, in general, the Cavs were just running right to the rim. Now we can’t blame just one player for this, so I think defense should be the main focus on the Lakers part as a whole. Players can practice shooting on their own, but defense is something you really need to focus on in a team setting to get the switches and help defense down.
Zubac has a ton of potential on defense and Ingram feels like he can be a great all-around player. As a group, I’d love to see the young guys excel on the defensive end and let the offense come to them. With the teams they’ll face in the west, they’ll have a lot of potent offenses to try and stop.
Maybe this is being nit-picky for guys who haven’t even gone through a full training camp, but it’s what I’ve noticed so far.
One loss in Summer League is by no means the end of the world for these guys. It just showed them how important consistency is. I look forward to seeing how they improve as a group before pre-season starts up.