The Los Angeles Lakers took the court for their final time on Monday afternoon before beginning their eight seeding games on Thursday, hosting the Washington Wizards in their last of three exhibition games.
To no surprise, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel was extra cautious with some of his veteran players as LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma and Dwight Howard all sat out. That didn’t matter for the Lakers though as they were able to earn a 123-116 victory over the Wizards to end their exhibition games on a high note.
Alex Caruso and Markieff Morris got the start for the Lakers in place of James and Davis, respectively, and both got off to great starts in the first quarter.
In his first shift, Caruso got to the free-throw line six times and had seven points to go along with a rebound, three assists and two steals. Caruso hasn’t had the ability to play freely much this season, but with the stars out, he took on a bigger role and made the most of it early.
Morris saw his first game action after reporting to the Orlando bubble late and had six points and five rebounds in six minutes, his only minutes of the day as he continues to work back into game shape.
Two of the Lakers’ newest additions, Dion Waiters and JR Smith, came in and brought some energy off the bench, leading to L.A. carrying a 38-35 lead into the second quarter.
Smith carried his energy and hot shooting into the second quarter, where at one point he hit three three-pointers in four attempts. He hit four out of his five three-point attempts overall in the first half and led all scorers with 14 points.
The Lakers had trouble guarding Wizards point guard Ish Smith in the first half as he got to the rim pretty much whenever he wanted, making all five of his shot attempts.
Defense as a whole was optional for both teams as the Lakers took a 69-65 lead into the halftime locker room.
The second half was a display of talent that the Lakers’ G-League affiliate has as both Talen Horton-Tucker and Devontae Cacok got plenty of action.
Cacok was like an energized bunny off the bench, scoring 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting to go along with five rebounds in his first four minutes. He wound up finishing with 10 rebounds in just 13 minutes of action.
Waiters’ passing and Caruso’s shot-making helped spark an 8-0 run in the third quarter as the latter knocked down back-to-back threes, giving the Lakers a double-digit lead at 106-95 through three quarters.
It’s worth noting that the Wizards are without a lot of their key players in the bubble, most notably Bradley Beal. So while their young lineup was able to make a few runs, they were never quite able to get over the hump. Washington got within three with less than a minute left, but that was close as it would get as Waiters answered with a bucket to seal it.
In 24 minutes, Caruso led the way with 17 points (4-of-6 shooting) to go along with five rebounds, six assists and three steals. Smith couldn’t miss all day, scoring 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting from three.
Waiters is also fitting into his role as a scorer and playmaker off the bench, contributing 18 points, six assists and three rebounds of his own.