With a 1-2 record, the Los Angeles Lakers prepared to square off against the undefeated Washington Wizards, after coming close to finishing off an unprecedented comeback against the New Orleans Pelicans. Head coach Luke Walton, Lonzo Ball and this young team continue to improve throughout this 82-game season, filled with many peaks and valleys.
The Wednesday night matchup also had a little extra motivation for the Lakers, as some comments from both teams have created some tension in this interconference matchup. Wizards All-Star and franchise player John Wall made headlines when he stated he was going to go at Ball on the court.
Fuel was added to the fire when Marcin Gortat reiterated those sentiments, which caused a response form LaVar Ball. Ball’s teammates also took that statement personally, stating they were extra motivated for the game.
Walton started the game off with his featured lineup of Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr, and Brook Lopez. Scott Brooks countered with Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr., and Gortat.
The Lakers looked to get things going offensively from the get-go, attempting to establish a presence in the paint. Nance Jr crashed the glass hard for two buckets in the paint to start the game, including a tip-in on a miss from Lopez.
With the fans carefully watching, they got their wish regarding Wall and Ball during the second half of the first quarter. Ball pulled off a deadly steal on Wall, as his father nodded in approval. An Ingram scoop and score put into perspective the positive start for the Lakers against a top-tier team in the East.
The Lakers were able to finish off the first quarter with a consistent stretch of defense, limiting the Wizards and their shot attempts. Walton surely had to be impressed with how his team started off the game, which was a characteristic that plagued this team last season.
Nance continued his strong start by scoring outside his normal avenue, hitting a fadeaway as the shot clock expired. The team ran their offense early on through Lopez, trying to set up their shooters via scoring in the paint. As the first quarter went on, Andrew Bogut was inserted into his new role, with the offense having to adjust. Along with Jordan Clarkson, they were able to headline the second unit, with Clarkson taking the normal back up point guard duties of Alex Caruso and Tyler Ennis.
The offense got stagnant on the court, with Clarkson or Julius Randle settling for a lot of one-on-one scenarios. This team is much better in transition, with Walton wanting them to get accustomed to the up-tempo pace in today’s evolving NBA.
Josh Hart once again showed off his defensive presence as a rookie. His steal led to a breakaway for Corey Brewer, who threw up an alley-oop to Randle for the slam. At the end of the first quarter, the Lakers held a 23-18 lead.
Although they were able to limit the team, the Lakers would undergo some struggles themselves in the second quarter. The offense would get rather cold, turning around the spectacular start. The second unit had work through their kinks, to execute and score some baskets.
Unfortunately, a lot of late-clock situations did lead to forced shot attempts, but Clarkson has made a name for himself doing that early in his NBA career. His impressive play to start the season kept the Lakers in it, but the Lakers did lose their lead as the quarter progressed. Former Laker Jodie Meeks made an appearance back at Staples Center, after resurrecting his career with his deadly shooting.
One positive instance in the second quarter for the Lakers was the passing of Ball, as he has demonstrated that talent countless occasions early in his career. He gave a nice assist to Nance Jr. for a three-point play, which got the crowd going. His outlet passes and set-up plays for his teammates led to opportunities for his teammates, as the Lakers continued to battle in a close contest.
With time winding down in the quarter, Clarkson was able to knock down a jumper. However, he left too much time on the clock, as Wall was able to race down the court and score. The Lakers would surrender their first quarter lead and trail 49-45 at the end of the half. Nance Jr. lead the way for Los Angeles, with 14 points and nine rebounds.
The Lakers were able to cut the close deficit they entered the second half with, using their defense as the catalyst. A block from the Lakers bigs transitioned to a breakaway basket for Ingram, which tied the game.
Although Ball had yet to score entering the third, he was making his presence felt on the defensive end and with his passing. Apart from separate steals on Wall, he was also contesting and getting into position, which surely pleased Walton.
However, Wall was able to get things going in the third quarter, starting off with a monster slam dunk driving down the lane. He also knocked down a series of buckets, creating a gap between the Wizards and Lakers.
Clarkson chipped in a nice assist to Kuzma, who was able to convert on a nice bucket. Caldwell-Pope was able to get in on the action with an assist to Nance Jr. on the basket, slowly putting together a nice all-around game. However, both Wall and Beal were able to carry the Wizards offensively. Beal led the way with a game-high 20 points, as the Wizards closed the quarter up 79-69.
The Lakers were able to muster up multiple defensive starts to begin the fourth quarter, but sadly it wasn’t translating to successful offensive plays. Washington clamped down on defense and was able to limit the Lakers, but Walton’s squad also wasn’t able to convert either.
A Kyle Kuzma impressive spin move led to a point, but the Lakers still faced an uphill climb with not much time remaining. Randle, who only saw six minutes entering the fourth quarter, was inserted late in the game and took out his frustrations on the court. He found Ball open for a three-pointer, which led to three free throws as the rookie was fouled.
Ingram also got back into the action after a quiet middle portion of the game with a nice three-point play, using his seemingly unlimited length get around the defender. Just when the Lakers seemed to be down and out, they once again began showing the resiliency that they did against the Pelicans.
They tied the game 85-85, thanks to the mid-range pull-up that Ingram is attempting to master. The Wizards were able to counter Los Angeles, scoring two consecutive buckets from Gortat and Porter Jr. Gortat was able to capitalize on the switching defense of the Lakers, as their rotations did lead to mismatches in the paint.
While down four, Ball found Randle for a three-pointer, which cut the lead to one point with 20 seconds remaining. It then turned into a free-throw contest, as Beal knocked down only his first free throw. Walton called a timeout with a little more than 10 seconds, designing a play for the last shot.
On the final play, Ingram took Oubre Jr. to the basket, not settling for a jump shot. He missed his first shot, but followed with a tip-in on a season-high 10th rebound. Beal missed an attempt with 0.7 left on the clock, meaning an overtime affair at Staples Center.
Both teams didn’t start off hot in overtime, as the defense was locked in for both teams. The Lakers got their first bucket with just above three minutes, as Ball hit a scoop and score for six points on the night.
Beal once again missed a free-throw, giving his team just a one-point lead. The Lakers then executed a nice offensive set, which turned into a Kuzma three. With the Lakers up 97-95, Beal hit a floater down the lane, tying the game with less than two minutes remaining.
Wall was able to hit his first bucket since the fourth quarter with a driving lay-up, giving his team the lead. However, the Lakers responded, as Caldwell-Pope made amends for a previous missed shot with a three-pointer.
Washington called a timeout with 15 seconds left, off a missed Kuzma three that would have been the dagger. Wall took the ball hard to the basket out of the timeout, but met Randle at the rim and was blocked. In fact, the referees overturned the call and awarded the ball to the Lakers.
On the inbounds play, the Lakers were able to break the press of Washington and avoid fouls, which turned into a Randle slam for a 102-99 lead. Wall missed his three-point attempt with Ball guarding him, cementing the 102-99 win for Los Angeles.
Ingram finished with a team-high 19 points, on 8-for-16 shooting, with 10 rebounds and three assists. Ball also finished with six points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds, while Kuzma contributed 15 points off the bench.