The Los Angeles Lakers (0-3) enter tonight’s contest with Maccabi Haifa seemingly unfazed by their overall record on the preseason, perhaps because the players realize it has actually performed well over the last couple games -albeit in losses- but also because these team appears to have truly embraced the important adage of the season being much more of a ‘marathon’ than a ‘sprint.’
Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Roy Hibbert have provided some of the brighter moments for this team over the last couple games, but the team looks to also welcome back D’Angelo Russell (glute) and Marcelo Huertas (hamstring) with the hopes that a return of both point guards might provide a bit more offensive balance during key stretches.
The Lakers broke into the scoring column on a pair of Kobe Bryant free throws the followed a quick spin along the baseline. Juluis Randle remained extremely active throughout the early going as the second-year forward grabbed several rebounds, coming up with loose balls and even getting out and leading a break that resulted in a nice finish in traffic for Randle. Bryant pushed the lead out to 11-2 with a three-pointer from the wing. Jordan’s Clarkson’s driving lay-up along the baseline as the team returned from a timeout gave the Lakers a 15-2 lead over Maccabi. Rookie Anthony Brown got his first start of the preseason and joined the scoring ranks on a jump-shot just inside the six-minute mark. D’Angelo Russell was welcomed back into the lineup by an appreciative Staples Center crowd and immediately got to work in finding a rolling Tarik Black for a finish at the rim. Russell added another assist to a three-point shooting Ryan Kelly that extended the Lakers’ lead to 33-15 with just a minute left in the quarter.
Nick Young opened the second quarter scoring for the Lakers with a jumper from the wing giving them a 16-point lead over Maccabi. Bryant (traditional and three-pointer) and Lou Williams pushed the lead to 48-23 on back to back to back three-point possessions for the ‘Purple and Gold.’ The Lakers’s offense just continued rolling as Russell found a cutting Bryant for a layup that gave them a 50-23 lead and caused Maccabi to call yet another timeout at the 8:00 mark. An encouraging exchange came from consecutive turnovers that permitted Maccabi to cut the lead to 22 about midway through the quarter as Bryant acknowledged fault on the plays and specifically went to Russell in order to acknowledge the transgressions at a break in the action. Clarkson continues to impress, as the second-year guard knifed through traffic in the lane to finish at the rim and collect a (made) foul shot that gave the Lakers a 56-34 lead. The Lakers’ big men essentially took turns bullying Maccabi’s frontline players for offensive rebounds and space in the post, as L.A. took a 63-40 lead into halftime.
Bryant looks very comfortable from beyond the arc thus far this preseason as the 20-year vet knocked down a pair of early three-pointers at the beginning of the quarter. The offensive flow looks noticeably better when Russell mans the point guard position. Clarkson and Russell each managed to find a cutting Tarik Black for consecutive looks right beneath the basket that helped the Lakers’ lead balloon to 88-58 as the teams headed into a timeout just under the two-minute mark. Both Black and Ryan Kelly -each whom hadn’t played much through the first few preseason games- played very well in their first taste(s) of extended action for this year’s team. Much of the competitiveness that could be seen throughout the first half was all-but erased with the Lakers taking full control in the third quarter. Nick Young’s isolation three-pointer to close the quarter gave the Lakers a 96-58 lead heading to the fourth.
Ryan Kelly got the Lakers going in the fourth, hitting Tarik Black for an easy dunk and adding in a three as the Lakers pushed their lead out to 103-58. The Lakers continued to make it rain from deep as Kelly, Williams, and Young each added three-pointers while Black threw down a huge dunk to put the Lakers up 116-67. The Lakers made a full lineup change midway through the quarter as Robert Upshaw, Larry Nance, Metta World Peace, Jabari Brown, and Michael Frazier came on to close out the game. Nance made a quick impact with an offensive rebound and putback, followed by a steal on the other end. Nance and Jabari Brown each hit a pair of free throws as the Lakers remained ahead by 50 points. Maccabi Haifa continued fighting until the final buzzer, shaving a few points off of the final score, but the Lakers would win by a final score of 126-83.[divide]