The Los Angeles Lakers nearly came up with a monumental upset win over one of the best teams in the Eastern conference. But the young team blew a 19-point lead en route to losing 117-113. It was the second time in as many games that the Lakers competed with a top team in the league.
The Lakers played a nearly flawless first half of basketball. They moved the ball with purpose, racking up assists on most of their field goals. They made threes at a blistering rate, with Jordan Clarkson and Nick Young doing most of the damage from behind the arc. Playing against the sixth best defense in the NBA, they managed to put up 73 points in one half.
Game 31 recap pic.twitter.com/yDjv6rd6KT
— Lakers Outsiders (@LakersOutsiders) December 21, 2016
The second half was another story, entirely. Ball movement stalled, shots did not go in, and the team committed turnovers at a much higher rate. That, coupled with defense that had been atrocious all night, allowed the Hornets to climb back into the game.
Making it a close game in the fourth turned out to be the Lakers’ death knell. With Kemba Walker shouldering the load for Charlotte (and Marco Belinelli continuously hitting big shots), the Lakers were unable to keep up. The Hornets were aided by numerous offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, a rarity for a team that traditionally does not crash the offensive glass.
The game also featured some “controversy” through Luke Walton’s coaching. The firs-year coach decided to sit D’Angelo Russell late in the game, despite the sophomore point guard having a balanced game offensively. The Lakers’ offense continued to stall without their starting point guard, leading to multiple poor shots in crunch time.
There’s a lot to take in with that decision. Russell was off his minutes restriction stemming from a sore knee earlier this month. However, Walton had previously stated that the team could adjust if lowered minutes were needed.
However, it did not appear as though that was the major reasoning for the decision. Personally, I believe that Walton’s decision stemmed from two reasons: Russell was sub-par defensively (particularly against Walker) and there were several guards having efficient scoring nights.
Walton’s decision was probably more related to players like Jordan Clarkson and Nick Young shooting well. That said, it’s fair to place some blame on him for the substitution as Russell’s absence correlated and likely caused much of the lack of execution offensively. But Walton is also a rookie and this will be a learning experience for him as well as the players.
Finally, the biggest news from the game was Larry Nance, Jr’s injury. The sophomore power forward appeared to hurt his left knee (not the one that previously suffered a torn ACL) without any contact chasing down a loose ball. He was carried off the court where X-Rays came back negative. But as with most injuries, the MRI (scheduled for tomorrow in Miami) will tell us more. We will have updates on the situation as they arrive.
@LakersOutsiders Luke is lost few games,bad ATOs
— Wagner Branco (@WagnerSBranco) December 21, 2016
@LakersOutsiders Luke takes out Lou and D'Angelo, results in offensive becoming Swaggy Iso.
— Oliver D (@oliverawdickson) December 21, 2016
@LakersOutsiders that team isn't good.
— colbz (@colbykobe84) December 21, 2016
@LakersOutsiders bad shotdecision in the secound half especially in the 4th quarter!
— Picuchalo (@KeulertzMartin) December 21, 2016