The Los Angeles Lakers completed preseason by winning back-to-back games against the Golden State Warriors. They prevailed in the first contest behind strong performances from LeBron James and Brandon Ingram, then relied on their depth in the second.
The Lakers played without James, Ingram, Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell Pope and Josh Hart, but still managed to defeat the Warriors, 119-110. Their second win was noteworthy because seldom used players like Isaac Bonga, Jonathan Williams, Travis Wear and Svi Mykhailiuk all got to play extended minutes and all made good contributions.
It was also a game in which new Lakers Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson were both ejected. The high point of the preseason was the team’s first win over the Warriors this past week.
James played only 18 minutes but finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Ingram continued his strong preseason play scoring 26 points and showing the aggressiveness that the Lakers will need from him all season.
Here is a summary of what went right and what went wrong during the week.
What Went Right: LeBron James only played in one game this past week but he was dominant. While on the court, the Lakers had a lead at the end of the first half against the Warriors’ first unit. James played in four of the six preseason games and was very good in each one, even though he never played more than 18 minutes. He is ready for the regular season.
What Went Wrong: The Lakers continued their very poor outside shooting this week. This was thought to be a weakness over the summer, and in the preseason, it turned out to be true.
Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Lance Stephenson all shot well below 30 percent. Kyle Kuzma was slightly better at 33 percent, but this is a subpar figure that is far lower than expected from him and he has not looked fluid or comfortable from three-point range. If this poor team shooting continues when the season starts, it will be a major problem.
What Went Right: Brandon Ingram has proven that he is the Lakers’ second-best player and the second option on offense after James. As a testament to how aggressive he has become, he took 17 free throws in the first game with the Warriors and equally important, he made 15 of them after connecting on only 68 percent from the charity stripe last year. Ingram was good last season, but he is poised this year to become a star.
What Went Wrong: The Lakers continued to commit far too many fouls. It often seemed that they committed a foul every time the other team had the ball. This was a problem last year, too, as it slowed down the pace of the game which was not to the Lakers’ advantage. The players have to learn to defend without fouling.
What Went Right: Lonzo Ball made his much anticipated return to the court this week and in the final game had 8 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds in limited minutes. He had not played in a basketball game since March, and the past two games were a reminder that he has been missed.
The most important thing is that his knee held up and he appears to be healthy for the first time in a long time. As for his game, it looks pretty much the same as last year when Ball averaged 10 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists, to go along with some good defense. There is reason to believe his scoring may be slightly better this season.
What Went Wrong: Michael Beasley continued to play poorly, punctuated by his ejection two minutes into the third quarter of a game in which the team was already short-handed. For the preseason, he shot around 35 percent from the floor and 25 percent from deep, with fewer than 2 rebounds and 2 assists per game.
It is unclear how the coaching staff intends to use Beasley this season, but if the preseason means anything, he did not earn a regular spot in the rotation.
What Went Right: Jonathan Williams is a 23 year old, 6’9”, 230-pound undrafted rookie from Gonzaga. He played well for the Lakers in the Summer League which earned him an invitation to training camp. By his generally strong play in the preseason, capped off by a 14-point, 12-rebound game against the Warriors, was not enough to earn Williams a roster spot.
What Went Wrong: When the Lakers drafted Moritz Wagner with their first-round pick this summer, they were hoping he would become a valuable stretch center this season. Instead, he missed the entire preseason with a knee injury and it is unclear when he may be able to return. Given the Lakers troubles at the center position, this is a big disappointment. When Wagner returns, he will be far behind in his learning curve and conditioning.
What Went Right: JaVale McGee continued to play pretty well, finishing a solid preseason with 14 points in 18 minutes, to go along with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block in the final game. It still seems unlikely that he will be able to play more than 20 minutes a game, but while he is on the court the Lakers should be fine at center. When McGee is on the bench, or if he gets hurt, it is anyone’s guess what the team will do.
What Went Wrong: If the Lakers hope to meet or exceed expectations, they are going to have to improve defensively. In addition to fouling too often, they are getting lost and allowing too many easy layups. Opponents have found little resistance on the perimeter and the team has allowed a lot of offensive rebounds. McGee is a better rebounder than Brook Lopez, but he is unlikely to grab more than 6 per game so the Lakers will have to rebound as a group.
What Went Right: The Lakers were hoping that Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk was going to provide strong three-point shooting off the bench this season, and that hope seemed realistic after a Summer League performance in which he shot 40 percent from long distance.
Unfortunately, Mykhailiuk really struggled in the preseason and it appeared he was more likely to play in the G League than the NBA. But then, in the final preseason game, he got off the mat and finished with 22 points on 8-for-18 from the field, 2-of-6 from three-point range, and 4 assists. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start, and he may have done just enough to remain in the conversation for playing time.
What Went Right: When the Lakers drafted Isaac Bonga with the 39th pick in the draft, many fans were perplexed because he was an 18-year-old unknown, and there seemed to be other players available who could help in the short term.
When he showed up for Summer League, and later got some minutes in the preseason, the surprise turned to consternation because he looked completely overwhelmed. But suddenly, in the final game of the preseason, Bonga played 32 minutes and finished with 12 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists.
For the first time, the 6’8” point guard looked more comfortable and aggressive. While he is likely to spend the year in the G League, at least fans finally got a glimpse at what the Lakers’ scouts saw in him.
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