The NBA season is filled with plenty of highs and lows. The Los Angeles Lakers young core experienced their first ‘high’ of the season in their opening night victory over the Houston Rockets. However, they were quickly grounded after their 96-89 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday.
Head coach Luke Walton understood the contest was a winnable game, but the Lakers were unable to hone it together in the final quarter of play. Heading into the fourth quarter, the score was tied, but D’Angelo Russell and the Lakers were outscored by seven points in the final frame.
Russell had a frustrating game against veteran George Hill, totaling nine points, five rebounds, five assists and four turnovers on 3-for-14 shooting. Russell had a tough time getting in a rhythm and was taken out of the game towards the end of the contest.
The Lakers were unable to come together as a unit and thus suffered from a lack of fluidity on the court. As the game progressed on, it seemed the Lakers weren’t finding the open man and were settling for difficult shots that weren’t a result of execution.
After the game, Russell provided context into what this game should mean towards the bigger picture, via Tania Ganguli of the LA Times:
"It hurt. But there’s nothing we can do about it. … When we lose we can’t be separated, that’s when we gotta come together." – @Dloading
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) October 29, 2016
If a positive should be taken away from this game it should be the steady emergence of the bench mob. Except for Jordan Clarkson and Thomas Robinson (who only played two minutes), every bench player had a positive +/- rating.
Tarik Black had a strong showing against the Jazz, wreaking havoc near the rim and contributing continuous effort on both ends of the floor.
For the contest, Black totaled eight points and seven rebound in 10 minutes played. However, the greater contribution came on his steady contesting of the Jazz and their points in the paint. While Jazz players kept driving to the rim, Black kept his upright position and didn’t allow anything easy.
Although the Lakers help-side defense remains atrocious, it provides a foundation to build upon. Black reiterated what this tough loss can contribute towards, via Serena Winters of Lakers Nation:
T Black said the grit & grind reminded him of a playoff game: "It takes games like this to build to where we’re trying to get to.” (on SPSN)
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) October 29, 2016
For the second straight contest, the Lakers kept their opponents under a 25 percent from three-point range.
The Lakers suffered from two technical fouls, which resulted in Walton bemoaning the officials at the conclusion of the contest.
In order for these Lakers to take that next step of progression, they must learn to succeed as a unit and capture these borderline road games.