It still feels entirely too premature to say but the Los Angeles Lakers were expected by many to win their game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday. The manner in which they did it, however, should still be commended.
LA once again came out lethargic to start the game but were able to keep pace with a Pelicans team that is missing several key contributors. As has been par for the course, the Lakers’ bench was able to provide the spark needed to slowly pull away from the feisty NOLA squad. That bench had its best performance of the season, scoring a spectacular 73 points, led by Jordan Clarkson’s 23 points (8-12, 4-6) and Lou Williams’ 21 (9-15, 2-5).
When Anthony Davis went down with injury early in the second half, the Lakers were able to push out their lead largely due to that two-headed monster. Contributing to their efforts were Brandon Ingram (ten points, four assists), Tarik Black (six points, five rebounds, two assists, one block), and Larry Nance, Jr. (six points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals).
The starters had some of their usual struggles. Luol Deng is not able to hit the mark at all right now. D’Angelo Russell looked lethargic but was able to get himself going in the third quarter and again in garbage time to finish with 22 points and six assists. Julius Randle, however, came quietly close to a triple double with eight points, eleven rebounds, and eight assists.
In the end, it was the Lakers taking advantage of their better talent and some efficient offense to come away with the 126-99 win.
Walton’s favorite stat from tonight: 36 assists, the most for LAL since April 8, 2014 (38).
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 13, 2016
The final breakdown for scoring. Ingram with 10 and Randle and Mozzy with 8 pic.twitter.com/Mq3SAbgFar
— Lakers Outsiders (@LakersOutsiders) November 13, 2016
And now for a few quick hitters:
@blssblog your thought to starting Ingram? Advantage I see is to have another ball handler to help DAR and Deng mins with the 2nd unit @ 4
— BJ Metta (@bj_metta) November 13, 2016
This will be a topic of conversation for some time. Deng had another poor game, putting up the ill-fated goose-egg on 0-6 shooting. While his intangibles and leadership are invaluable, he has simply been a net negative on the basketball court.
Ingram, meanwhile, has been growing (only figuratively, I’m not sure how much growth his limbs can handle at this point) every game and looks more than ready to assume a bigger role.
I get the desire to move Deng to the bench but there are a couple of reasons why I would caution fans to not be calling for Deng’s minutes just yet.
First: the odds of Deng finding any time at the four are low. Randle, Nance, Black, and Mozgov make for a crowded front court rotation that leaves little room for Luol. He has actually played more minutes at his better position than I expected – Basketball Reference had 33% of his minutes at the PF spot before this game. At the end of the day, hitting wide open shots has nothing to do with the position you’re playing.
Second: he’s in the first year of a $70+ million contract. He ain’t getting benched this early.
Third: there’s something to be said about continuity. The Lakers’ bench has been phenomenal, even when playing without any of the starters mixed in. Taking Ingram’s ball handling ability off that unit and injecting Deng (who is not much of a playmaker) can stagnate that unit to the point where it becomes much less effective.
Ten games into the season, I think this a bit of a premature discussion.
@LakersOutsiders @blssblog the growth in the development of Ingram allowing him to handle the ball. Zero chance this happens under Byron
— BJ Metta (@bj_metta) November 13, 2016
Without getting into He Who Shall Not Be Named too much, yeah this is a great sign. Ingram had four assists, he’s forced Luke’s hand in benching Huertas and Calderon, and he’s been incredibly poised. Kid’s going to be good.
@LakersOutsiders @blssblog Julius affecting the game even when he isn't scoring, what to do with Luol Deng?, Lou or JC for 6MOY?
— Andrew Jones (@el_jonesy35) November 13, 2016
Randle’s all-around growth into being a complete, cool, and collected player has been amazing. As for the final question, I ask: Why. Not. Both?
@LakersOutsiders Dlo staying in late to help his confidence
— DEMi (@Murakulus) November 13, 2016
I was really impressed by Walton doing this. Most coaches would pull every starter out in garbage time. He allowed Russell to keep playing and get his groove back against lesser competition. I also liked that he kept Randle in as that duo has been great together.