And everyone exhale. The Lakers were able to eke out a victory against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night. Despite going up as much as 22 points, the Lakers decided to stress everyone out before free throws from Brook Lopez put the game away. Against a team so talented on defense (Grizzlies rank in the top 10 in defensive rating), not many expected the Lakers to come out with as much scoring as they did tonight.
Brandon Ingram, Brook Lopez, and Kyle Kuzma built on strong performances from Friday night as the standout starters for tonight’s game while Clarkson and Randle did what they could to show that the Lakers’ bench unit is quite a talented one.
All in all, this season is only 10 games in and despite that opening night loss to the Clips, this team has been pretty damn fun. Let’s take a look at some things tonight, shall we?
BENCH MOB BACK:
Clarkson was a steal his rookie year. Despite being the 46th overall pick, the then-rookie showed a knack for scoring and being able to assist some.
Since then, he was shifted to shooting guard with the arrival of (our beloved) D’Angelo Russell and he’s been mediocre at best. This year, when he talked about wanting to win Sixth Man of the Year, everyone collectively threw their head back and laughed but there might just be some merit to it.
But he’s looking like his rookie year self again. He’s taking smarter shots, making good reads and passes and is helping the Lakers’ bench look like something to be feared. Finishing with 15 points and 5 assists, Clarkson was a huge part of the win tonight.
Another noted contributor is Randle. Despite the Kuzma hype, one can make the argument that Randle has been one of the best players on the Lakers. Defensively he’s been great (not counting the Clipper game) against bigs and on guards when switched on screens.
Tonight, Marc Gasol started off 3-for-4 against Brook Lopez. Insert Randle and Gasol didn’t score on three consecutive possessions. Offensively he’s been effective, whether it be shooting or finding the open man. There was one play, in particular, tonight where he had the ball in the post, and instead of just going up against his man, he surveyed the floor and passed the ball to an open Corey Brewer that led to a dunk. Randle finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists while helping keep Gasol at 33 percent shooting on the night.
NOTORIOUS BI or MAGNUM BI:
In case you didn’t notice, Ingram has been on a hot streak the past four games, averaging 15 points. This trend continued tonight as he finished with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Most of his points came in the first half where we saw him finishing against Gasol.
Last year, Ingram showed what he could do when finishing around the rim and this year he’s been building upon what we saw. He’s utilizing his length better than we’ve seen and that’s allowed him to finish in the paint against the likes of the aforementioned Gasol, and even Anthony Davis.
His length is also being put to good use as he was able to pull down seven rebounds, some of them definitely keeping the Grizzlies from second-chance points. From worrying people about his play during the summer to how he is now, I’m hoping he continues his strong play as the Lakers are going to need it on the upcoming road trip.
BROOKIE THE WOOKIE:
Do you know what it’s like to have a 7-footer that has an outside shooting stroke? The Lakers finally do as Lopez has shown. Building off his six three-pointers against his old team on Friday, Lopez shot 4-for-6 from three on the night en route to a team-high 21 points.
In a shocking turn of events, he was only able to grab one rebound but had five assists, including a behind-the-back pass to Kuzma for a dunk. The Re-emergence of Lopez has been a revelation the past two games as they’re finally getting more out of the highly touted big man from Brooklyn.
Having given up the talented Russell, the sting has been lessened as we’re getting a glimpse of what Brook has to offer. The southern California native will be a necessary fixture in the starting lineup and will need to keep this up if the Lakers are to have a shot against the likes of Boston, Washington, and Milwaukee on their road trip.
Because, you know, Lopez is shooting like Reggie Miller right now.