The Los Angeles Lakers lost another game Wednesday night, this time to the Houston Rockets, 139-100. The Lakers defeated the Rockets in the first game of the season, so this slaughter shows just how far the Lakers have declined over the course of the season.
They did compete hard and played slightly better than usual for most of the first three quarters, before they quit entirely and were destroyed in the final period. The Lakers were undone by 22 turnovers and they played almost no defense all night, which has become their trademark.
The purple and gold were outscored 63-9 from three point range, Houston won the battle of the assists by a wide margin of 37-16 and they out-rebounded the Lakers 50-38. Ivica Zubac was in foul trouble throughout and played only 11 minutes. With Tarik Black playing a mere nine minutes and Larry Nance, Jr. only eight, there was no rim protection and the Rockets were able to put on a slam dunk exhibition.
There were two other interesting statistics. Nick Young, who had not played the previous two games, returned to the starting line up reportedly to provide veteran stability. Instead, he responded by scoring zero points on 0-9 shooting. In contrast, Lou Williams finished with 30 points and was nearly unstoppable. Unfortunately, he now plays for Houston.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
1. Julius Randle Had a Career Night on the Offensive End
Randle finished with a career high 32 points on 13-17 shooting from the field to go along with eight rebounds. He was a beast in the first half as he overpowered whoever tried to guard him. He started the game with great energy, and at least for one night, he didn’t let up. In past games, when he had a strong start, he would disappear in the second half. It didn’t happen this time, which is a good sign.
Unfortunately, his play on the defensive end was another story. With Houston usually employing a small lineup, the coaches had him playing center much of the game with four smaller players around him so he had no help in the paint or at the rim. Still, it was an impressive game for Randle. Now he simply has to play with the same energy every night.
2. Brandon Ingram Had Another Good Game on Offense
Despite his season-long struggle to score, Ingram has come alive since the All-Star break and had another strong shooting performance against the Rockets. He made eight of his first nine shots, and finished with 18 points on 8-14 from the field. He also contributed six rebounds and three assists, although he had four turnovers.
Ingram is looking more and more confident with his outside shooting, which is the best news the Lakers could receive. The team made only three shots from deep and Ingram had two of them. If Ingram can keep it up for the final 14 games of the season, it will be big plus going into the offseason.
3. D’Angelo Russell Had One of His Worst Games of the Season
In contrast to Ingram, Russell struggled again. He was playing his second straight game off the bench, and the results were ugly. He fouled out after playing 25 minutes, during which he scored only five points on 2-10 from the floor and 1-6 from three- point range. He also had seven turnovers with many of his passes just ill-advised.
It is unclear whether Russell is uncomfortable coming off the bench or is sulking in the face of the demotion. He never got into the rhythm of the game. Jordan Clarkson has not thrived in the starting role, but he has brought more to the table than Russell these last two games. He finished with 18 points and when he and Russell were on the floor together, Clarkson was usually playing the point with Russell playing the “2.”
Hopefully Russell can turn things around, and fast, whether he is starting or not. The new front office regime is definitely evaluating all of the young talent during this final stretch of the season and Russell’s performance can not be doing him any favors.