That was earned. Nothing about that win was easy and the Lakers had to play some of their most inspired defense of the season to pull out the W. It took contributions from all 11 Lakers that played, a harbinger of things to come potentially, and the purple and gold were able to prevail thanks to a semi-return to form for Anthony Davis and some stellar defense all night long. This win ain’t enough, Lakers gotta keep it moving in the right direction.
- AD looking a lot like AD. This was Anthony’s best game since coming back. He looked spry on defense contesting shots and rebounding the ball. He didn’t settle for fall away jumpers all night, he took the ball to the basket and finished through contact or got to the line. Sure he fell down like 80 times and still doesn’t look aggressive out on the perimeter but the blueprint is there, again. If we can generate more efficient scoring in terms of fewer attempts but the same amount of points we’re going to be looking good on the AD side of things.
- Gasol staying ready. If this is the role than this is the role. If Marc is only going to be pressed into duty when foul trouble or injuries mess up the rotation than so be it, he’s doing an excellent job of staying ready and contributing when called upon. There’s nothing more for it. I’m sure the Big Spaniard would like to start, play more minutes and so on and so forth. That may not be the path he is on, right now. So, in lieu of his dreams coming true, the next best thing is to be ready when your number is called. There are some matchups where, defensively, Gasol matches up better than either Harrell or Drummond: Jokic is one of those. Marc matches up better physically and his style of defense doesn’t fall for all of Jokic’s feints, jabs and soccer flops. He just stays big and gums up his passing game. That, for a night, worked pretty well.
- THT going way too fast. There were three or four forays by Talen into the paint that miraculously didn’t result in turnovers. One wild shot attempt ended up as an easy offensive put back, he got some lucky whistles and in general was able to overcome his team-high 5 turnovers, an issue that continues to loom ever larger as the playoffs near. Horton-Tucker needs to play with more purpose, especially if he wants a consistent role in the playoffs. Sometimes you don’t need to make 8 moves to get to the rim: run the curl play, hit the open man, move the ball. It’s not all on you, young blood. Do your thing within the team game plan.
- Caruso solid as a starter. Alex made some terrible passes last night but also featured an aggression on offense this team will need with Schroder sitting out for a couple weeks. Our playoff lives now hinge on if Alex can maintain his near elite defensive impact while finding some ways to contribute in the scoring column. The defense and grit alone is not enough, at this point. The team needs for Alex to score 10+ points on not too many shots. Last night was a perfect capsule of what his nightly contributions need to look like. We don’t need to carbon copy this game but the blueprint for success looks a lot like this. A few less turnovers would be nice, however, Alex is certainly not alone on the Lakers when it comes to making terrible passes this season.
- Shutting down the perimeter. The Laker defense did one of the best jobs of shutting off the three point tap for the Nuggets as I’ve seen this season. They held the Nuggets to 6-24 from three (25%) and nobody really got it cooking from distance which helped us absorb our turnover issue (20 team turnovers for the Lakers, just too many and we gift possessions like we’re a mob boss on Christmas). Taking the three point shot away from Denver was one of the big defensive keys to this game and the Lakers did an excellent job executing that game plan and chasing shooters into mid range shots.
The Lakers still control their destiny. Win out and we’re the 5th seed. Simple as that. Play the next game to win, compete hard and let the chips fall where they may. It’s easy to get lost in the back and forth between LeBron and the media, the play-in drama et al but the truth of the matter is the Lakers are still in the drivers seat. All the teams we’re facing have injury issues, all are fighting for seeding and all can be beaten if we commit to defense like we did against Denver. It’s not rocket science, it’s honestly quite simple. Play hard, play with heart and you can live with the results.
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