The Lakers are now halfway through their preseason schedule and seem to be channeling their inner-Jeff Fisher with a 2-2 record thus far. The team played right with Portland until the final buzzer, which is encouraging, but cold shooting down the stretch killed them not allowing the team to come away with the victory.
Luol Deng made his return after missing the last two games and remained in the starting lineup to go alongside Russell, Williams, Randle, and Mozgov. Despite playing just 13 minutes tonight, Deng did look solid as he was able to tally 7 points and 3 rebounds while playing well defensively.
Damian Lillard wasted no time getting into the action as he was able to score 13 points on efficient shooting from deep in the first quarter, yet the Lakers only trailed by 5 heading into the second.
The Lakers were able to tie the game up before halftime with terrific play from the bench unit. Leading that push was “the Catalyst” Marcelo Huertas and Jordan Clarkson, both of whom finished with the highest +/- for the purple and gold tonight at +10 and +8, respectively.
The game went down to the wire and the Lakers actually had an opportunity to tie the game up and send it into double overtime but Jordan Clarkson was off the target on a late three point attempt.
The biggest issue the Lakers had during the game is when they went small, the Trail Blazers were just able to get their hands on seemingly every rebound. Often times it was due to a lack of effort and boxing out. Surely that will be a coaching point for Luke Walton to address with the team going forward.
The last two games have been the D’Angelo Russell show as the second-year guard poured in 54 points, 8 3-pointers, 8 assists, and 4 steals in 56 minutes against the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, he cooled off considerably tonight. Playing a team high 35 minutes, Russell was only able to muster up 10 points, 4 rebounds, and an assist to go along with 5 fouls. On a night where his shot was off in every which direction, resulting in a 6-for-21 (0-9 from deep) performance, Russell wasn’t able to find a rhythm late like he usually does. A couple of those shots go in and the outcome might have been drastically different.
Julius Randle was able to string together a second straight impressive showing as he did quite a bit of everything on the floor, finishing with 13 points (4-6 from the field) to go along with 13 rebounds, three of which were offensive. Randle also did a great job of leading the break once he grabbed those rebounds and finding open players or taking the ball to the rim himself. It seems that Julius’ work in the offseason on his off-hand has translated to in-game action as he has been able to make plays and finish at a much better rate going to his right. This is definitely a welcome addition to his game that will be something to keep an eye on going forward.
Another player that has seen success in the last two games has been Nick Young. He was terrific on Tuesday; no, seriously. Uncle P was the leading scorer for the Lakers with 14 points and shot impressively from 3 point range (4-7 from deep). Heading into tonight, I thought that his strong play defensively last game was just an outlier but I was dead wrong, as he again showed signs of well-executed team and individual defense. With so much uncertainty surrounding him leading up to training camp and preseason, it’s nice to see Swaggy playing well and within the structure of the team.
Lastly, Brandon Ingram played consistent with his preseason so far. With a stat line of 5 points (2-6 shooting) and a couple of rebounds, Ingram is clearly still adjusting to NBA basketball. This was another shooting performance that doesn’t reflect on his ability on offense but flashes of his ability to put the ball on the floor are becoming more and more frequent. Ingram was able to help the team defensively though, which he should be able to do quickly during his upcoming rookie campaign.
Altogether the team played well for spurts but in the end, they just could not make enough shots to pull through. The Trail Blazers have a legitimate star in Damian Lillard, and were a playoff team last season, so the team holding their own until the final whistle is nothing to be discouraged by. This was by far the most challenging opponent the Lakers have played thus far and they held their own. That is worth being excited about.
Catch game five of the preseason on Thursday at 7:30 PM PST against the familiar Sacramento Kings.