Without LeBron James and Lonzo Ball, the Los Angeles Lakers fell short to the Los Angeles Clippers 103-87. Overall, this game showed some good things and some bad, however, the Lakers need to address some key points. The Lakers played pretty good overall defensively, however, that wasn’t the problem. The main issues for the Lakers were offensively as they struggled to score, especially in the second half.
1. Offensive Consistency
Maybe the Lakers only scored 87 points because they didn’t have more play-makers due to the injuries and rest of Lonzo Ball and LeBron James. Even if that is the case, the Lakers struggled to score as they couldn’t score more than 25 points in any quarter. Brandon Ingram, who had just come off of a 31 point performance, finished with 13 points on 3/10 shooting. Kyle Kuzma shot 6/13 from the field and 2/5 from downtown. Both Ingram and Kuzma are expected to carry the team offensively as they displayed some great offense last year. The only problem for these two players is the consistency. Ingram and Kuzma are not the most efficient and consistent players and if they can play more consistent on offense, the Lakers will be able to score at least 100 points without much issue.
2. Defensive Improvements
One of the main things the Lakers have been addressing throughout the pre-season and the summer was about defense. They realize that they can’t shoot the three ball as well as maybe some other teams. However, that doesn’t prevent them from competing as the Lakers were able to play some great defense against the Clippers. They allowed 103 points as the fourth quarter for the Clippers was great offensively as the Lakers put in G-League like players like Isaac Bonga and Travis Wear. Overall, they played good defense as they had a grand total of 8 steals and 7 blocks. Players like Josh Hart, Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball, and even Brandon Ingram have all shown improvements in defense as the Lakers can run a small-ball defensive line-up. The offense wasn’t there much this game but at least it’s good to see the defense improve.
Though it is only pre-season, one thing that has been the case for multiple games now is the rebounding struggles. It seems that the Lakers struggle to get defensive rebounds as they allow their opponents to get easy put-back layups and second chance points. Even if the Lakers played some great defense, it would go to waste if they allowed an easy put-back layup. Rebounding is essential for the Lakers because it can spark an easy fast-break and secure less possessions for their opponents. The Clippers out-rebounded the Lakers 58-48 in total and 16-11 in offensive rebounds. It’s definitely possible that the Lakers are just experimenting multiple line-ups which include having Kuzma at the center position. He is definitely under-sized and the Lakers are still trying to figure out the optimal line-ups for the regular season so this may not be a huge concern now. Going forward, the Lakers need to secure their rebounds as that would give them a good chance to win the game.
4. Rajon Rondo
Despite the Lakers having a 1-3 record in pre-season, one of the biggest positives we can takeaway from this game is the effect of Rajon Rondo. Rondo has one of the best basketball mind’s in the league as President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson stated that Rondo would be a perfect piece for this team. With Rondo being a pure play-maker and having a top IQ in this league, he can help run the fast-break and mentor young point guard Lonzo Ball. Rondo has gotten 10 assists in two of the three games he has played and has displayed everything you would want in a point guard. The one flaw many see in his game is his lack of shooting, however, that hasn’t been the case as Rondo has shot the ball pretty well in this pre-season. He’s shooting 4/5 from downtown and can rebound, defend, and drive into the paint. Expect Rondo to be an important factor to how far the Lakers will make it into the season this year.
It wasn’t the prettiest game overall because it seemed that the Lakers missed some opportunities for easy baskets. There were many small mistakes they committed and that can definitely be fixed moving forward. Four pre-season games and two to go and the Lakers should be fortunate that this only pre-season. Honestly, nobody should be too concerned as the Lakers have many new pieces they have to implement into the system.