Arguably one of the more formidable teams in the west, the Portland Trail Blazers, with a perfect 2-0 preseason record gave the Lakers and their fans a better understanding of just how far along the Lakers truly are.
As is always recommended, it’s never a great idea to accentuate too much from preseason performances no matter the result – and tonight reinforced this fact ever more.
However, we are optimists – and if you told me that the Lakers would take the Lillard-led Trailblazers into OT with our top two guards shooting 12-35 (a dismal 34%) – while shooting 1-15 from behind the line – and STILL have a shot at winning the game late?
I’d bargain we’re headed in the right direction.
Tonight’s match proved that the Trailblazers are still a really good team when Damian Lillard catches fire. Going 10-17 and 6-9 from behind the line gives Russell a nice test run against one of the more top-tier point guards before facing last year’s unanimous MVP, Stephen Curry in a few days. It also helps us observe Russell and make note of the adjustments he makes — if any, once that match-up comes around.
Besides this, Tuesday night might have fostered reason for optimism with the number of serviceable players that are on the roster – for example, Nick Young performed out of his mind providing an exceptional 14 points, with 12 of those 14 coming from beyond the arc.
In a system that emphasizes good spacing and ball movement for guys like D’Angelo Russell to operate inside the paint to either distribute or run P&R sets, Young’s performance could potentially be a game changer if he is able to sustain his level of play throughout the regular season.
The roster is devoid of any real 3-point shooters outside of Russell, Clarkson and Calderon, possibly. So to have someone like Young perform the way he did could do wonders for players like Russell and Clarkson as they try to run pick&roll sets with players like Timofey Mozgov and Julius Randle, who perform best while in the paint.
Furthermore, the match-up against the Trail Blazers gave us a better idea of who the Lakers are more likely to cut down the roster. At this point, I feel as though it is likely to be Anthony Brown and Yi Jianlian, as crazy as that may sound – because of the latter’s relatively ineffective play, and a couple of knuckle-headed plays by Brown in tonight’s game.
Four games in and sitting at 2-2, the Lakers resemble that of a team who is slowly starting to grasp the vision that Walton has for them, albeit with slow progress. Many times against the Trail Blazers the team pushed the ball and got it moving around, but with little execution. Most times the shots just would not go down, while other times the ball would get lost in a fumble because of poor reads.
With four down and four to go, it’s vital that the youngsters get a solid groove going soon, perhaps having some kind of win streak heading into the regular season. With a schedule that’s been ranked toughest in the league – you know they’re going to need every ounce of confidence they can get.