The Los Angeles Lakers evidently made a New Year's resolution to improve their winning percentage in the year 2016. The purple and gold are currently undefeated in the new year, moving to 1-0 in 2016 when they defeated the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night 93-84.
The quality of their opponent may have had as much to do with the victory as anything, but a team that has been as consistently poor as the Lakers have been this season has to take wins where they can get them. Part of the reason for the Lakers' triumph was the strong games of their two young guards, D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson.
Neither guard was particularly efficient, with Clarkson needing 17 shots to score his 19 points and Russell scoring 11 points on 14 attempts, but they were still able to escape Staples Center with a victory thanks in part to their continually improving on-court synergy, a development Clarkson credited to time spent together watching film:
Clarkson said him & Russell watched film together before the game, DA told him to look for certain open cuts (paid off for some easy layups)— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) January 2, 2016
Earlier this week, our editor in chief Drew Garrison showed how the Lakers improvement at cutting off the ball helped lead to their offensive improvement against the Boston Celtics, and Clarkson was correct to point out that the trend continued against the Sixers on Friday night.
This is a simple play, but also a vision of how the Lakers could run an effective offense with both guards in the future. Russell runs a simple high screen-and-roll at the top of the arc with Clarkson stationed on the left wing. When Clarkson notices his man lose sight of him for a beat to pay attention to Russell's drive, he immediately flashes to the basket for an easy layup.
If Clarkson and Russell continue to take the same level of initiative in looking for ways like this to play off of each other, they could be an effective guard pairing for a long time.