Lakers basketball is back! Basketball returned to Los Angeles when the Lakers opened up the preseason against the Sacramento Kings. Here is our recap of the game:
The Lakers started the game with a somewhat surprising opening lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams, Luol Deng, Julius Randle, and Timofey Mozgov. The first possession began with a series of sloppy possessions from the Lakers and easy baskets from the Kings. DeMarcus Cousins and Darren Collison ran pick and roll to perfection, and the Lakers didn’t open their scorebook until nearly three minutes in. On a positive note, the first basket came on a jumper from Randle, which he struggled with last year.
A three from Deng and a floater from Russell kept the Lakers close, but the Kings still led by five halfway through the first.
Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram checked in for the Lakers, but the turnovers continued as Randle mishandled the ball. Clarkson quickly knocked in a three, showing no hesitation. He clearly put in work over the summer. Ingram was quickly posted up and scored on by Rudy Gay, which should be a common theme this year as teams try to bully the rookie.
Larry Nance Jr. and Tarik Black subbed in for Mozgov and Randle, and Marcelo Huertas replaced Russell. The Kings defense immediately packed the paint with Huertas’ man, knowing that he can’t hurt them from outside. Huertas found Nance for an easy basket inside after Larry ran the floor, but then Nance goaltended a shot on the other end. Huertas threw a beautiful lob to Clarkson, and the Lakers moved to within five.
Clarkson and Black ran the pick and roll, leading to a slam for Black, but the Lakers continued to make ugly mistakes and the Kings pushed back and finished the quarter up by 10, 31-21.
Jordan Clarkson continued to fire away from three at the start of the second, and Brandon Ingram looked understandably timid. Huertas’ defense was a big problem against Ty Lawson, but Mozgov did have a nice post up and finish inside the paint. Williams somehow mesmerized Arron Afflalo and tricked him into a three shot foul, as he has the uncanny ability to do.
Williams found Larry Nance in stride and he extended to the rim for a basket, and it seemed like the Lakers might have been building a little momentum. Mozgov, Russell, and Williams were joined by Ingram and Nance, giving the Lakers a long, athletic group to play with. Russell was able to swipe the ball from Collison and score, bringing the Lakers to within three for the first time since the beginning of the game.
Russell did a nice job running pick and roll with Mozgov, who once again showed a soft touch and scored Randle had issues defending in the paint, and the Kings took advantage, forcing him into three early fouls.
Yi Jianlian entered the game at center, but mental mistakes continued to plague the Lakers defense. The Kings went on a 12-0 scoring run to end a forgettable quarter for the Lakers.
The mistakes continued as the third quarter began, leading to a number of wide open looks for Sacramento. The disparity in experience between the two teams was painfully evident.
The Lakers offensive woes continued, as even on possession where the Lakers found a good look they weren’t connecting. Randle, in particular, struggled with mental mistakes, picking up his fifth foul just a few minutes into the 3rd. The Kings had benched a few veterans like Kosta Koufos, Collison, and Afflalo, but the Kings continued to feast on minor miscues. Williams continued to find ways to get to the line, and it’s a wonder that no one has caught on to his tricks yet.
Halfway through the third the Lakers trailed 66 to 53 in what had to be a frustrating outing after so much optimism was floating around during training camp.
Ingram subbed in and immediately used his length to block a shot, but Randle fumbled away the ensuing fast break. Jordan Clarkson subbed in and continued his strong play, showcasing the defensive skills that he worked on during the summer.
As the Kings started to put in their young players the Lakers began to catch up on the scoreboard, as they were no longer losing the mental battles all over the floor. Sacramento looked so discombobulated that they pulled rookie Skal Labissierre after just a few nervy moments on the floor. Black and Ingram both contributed big blocks and the Lakers went on a 9-1 run to finish the quarter down 69-64.
Momentum appeared to clearly be on the Lakers’ side as the fourth quarter began with a defensive stop and then a three from Jose Calderon, who looked comfortable as a floor general. A surprisingly quick first step from Black got him the basket and one, and for the first time of the night the Lakers had the lead.
Black then got a steal and another free throw, showing how valuable his perimeter defense can be. Amazingly, against the Kings’ young players the Lakers were on an 20-1 run.
Nance Jr. flashed his improved range by hitting a three of his own, and suddenly the Lakers lead ballooned to nine, It was a remarkable turnaround that the Honda Center crowd loved. Walton opted to stick with the lineup of Calderon, Clarkson, Ingram, Nance, and Black, who all showed great energy. Clarkson hit another three, and it appears he is going to have the green light to fire away this season.
With just over seven minutes left in the game and the Lakers up nine, Thomas Robinson came on for Black. The Lakers went to a zone defense as Anthony Brown made his debut, taking Clarkson’s spot at the two. Brown almost immediately hit a three, which is a great sign after his struggles last season.
With five minutes to play in the game the Lakers had a 15 point lead, and looked to be preparing to start the preseason with a win. The Lakers brought in Travis Wear and Julian Jacobs, but the crowd mostly cheered when they saw Ivica Zubac take the floor. He picked up a quick block, and Thomas Robinson converted on the other end as the Lakers cruised.
Zubac attempted a sky hook, and while it didn’t go in it was still great to see. Brown hit once again, showing how hard he has worked, while Robinson was a beast on the boards.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Lakers got the win, 103-84.