On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers faced the Sacramento Kings for the second time during this preseason schedule.
The Lakers ultimately lost 116-104 to the Kings, but not without some positives to take away. D’Angelo Russell finished with perhaps his most complete game of the preseason, with 31 points and 11 assists. Head coach Luke Walton called it a step in the right direction, as the point guard must involve others, as well as himself, in this new offensive scheme.
The Lakers gear up for their toughest opponent not only in preseason but perhaps for all the 2016-17 season in the Golden State Warriors. This matchup has more meaning than a typical preseason Pacific division showdown, as it commemorates a reunion of sorts.
Walton will make his first appearance against his former team, this time as an opposing head coach. The 26th coach in Lakers franchise history took the reigns while Warriors coach Steve Kerr was ill last season, leading the team to the best start in the NBA history.
Walton stated that there would be no trash talking between he and coach Kerr, but joked there could be some between he and Draymond Green.
Now as the head coach of a rebuilding franchise, Walton has much more appreciation for the rigors Kerr went through, both physically and mentally.
That leaves the starting shooting guard up in the air, as Walton may push Jordan Clarkson back into the lineup. However, Anthony Brown or Nick Young may receive the start so that Clarkson continues adjusting to his newfound role off the bench.
The Lakers back court has produced a tremendous amount of scoring, as Russell (20.2), Clarkson (14.4), Williams (12.6) and Young (10.8) are all averaging double digits.
Russell (4.6) and Marcelo Huertas (3.3) lead the Lakers in assists, as the two playmakers have steadily attempted to get the bigs involved.
Huertas, who has a long international career on his resume, brings a comforting role to the court. His ability to find holes in the defense has led to many easy buckets for the Laker bigs, especially Larry Nance Jr.
Combo guard Shaun Livingston is an important veteran capable of running Kerr’s offense and getting everyone involved. Additionally, rookie Patrick McCaw put himself firmly on the radar last night when he hit a three to send the game into overtime and then had the game-winner at the buzzer as well.
Julius Randle has emerged as the premier scorer from the front court, with his strength and ball handling ability presenting quite the challenge. Thus far into the preseason, the third-year player is averaging 9.4 points, eight rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
Rookie forward Brandon Ingram continues to get adjusted to NBA level competition, after showing nerves early in the preseason. Ingram has also provided steady defensive production despite his offensive struggles. He is averaging a team-high 1.4 blocks per game.
Center Timofey Mozgov has added an anchor to this Lakers roster, both protecting the rim and demonstrating his passing ability. Compared to years past, Mozgov’s ability to space the floor, find open players and cut towards the basket has been a pleasant sight to see.
The Warriors frontcourt will definitely be a measuring stick for the Lakers. Forward Luol Deng should be matched against Kevin Durant, whose relocation to Golden State shook up the Western Conference. Durant has had no trouble adjusting to Kerr’s system, as his unique playmaking and scoring abilities have translated well.
Running mate Green serves as the focal point of both the offense and defense, as his ability to guard multiple positions create mix-and-match scenarios for his head coach. At times, Green will be seen running the offense, while at other points he will be setting constant screens for Curry and Thompson.
Green remains a vocal person for this Warriors team, both on and off the court. While NBA aficionados continue bashing Durant’s move to the runner up of the NBA Finals, Green has continually defended his new teammate.
Keys To Victory:
Pick and Roll Defense: The Warriors thrive in pick and roll situations, combated by the versatility of Green. Pachulia also presents a wall to get around, meaning the bigs must be vocal on defense.
Walton has emphasized the lack of production on defense thus far, stating it is a process in the making. In order for the Lakers to remain in this game, the guards must continue giving maximum effort on defense in order to minimize the easy buckets.
Game of Runs: With their deadly three-point shooting, the Warriors often find themselves on many scoring runs. When the offense begins rolling, they start creating opportunities in the open floors, which lead to corner threes.
The Lakers must continue to battle through these runs, or the game may be lost mentally early on. The Lakers can’t rely on 1-on-1 scoring to provide steady offense and must continue to work through the kinks of the new offense.
Los Angeles Lakers (2-3) Vs. Sacramento Kings (2-2)
7:00 P.M. PST, October 15, 2016
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Warriors Starting Lineup:
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Draymond Green
C: Zaza Pachulia
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Marcelo Huertas, Tarik Black