The Los Angeles Lakers almost escaped Portland with a win Thursday night, but were left to reflect on the victory that almost was as they traveled back to California. There won’t be time to wallow in the loss with D’Angelo Russell and the Brooklyn Nets stopping by STAPLES Center.
To say this game has been circled on the calendar would be an understatement. It’s impossible to ignore the significance attached to watching Lonzo Ball line up against Russell for the first of many times, a connection that many Lakers fans simply can’t and won’t let go of, myself included. Most have moved on from the trade itself, but it’s hard not to get caught back up in it when Russell’s back on the court with the Lakers under very different circumstances.
Lonzo has a lot to make up for after being served a bagel against the Trail Blazers. Scoring ZERO points while taking just two shots simply isn’t going to cut it, even if he’s playing 5D chess when he’s facilitating the offense. Considering he had just four assists, he was playing something more akin to checkers Thursday night. A rookie point guard having a bad game? Nah.
Playing without Larry Nance Jr. in the starting lineup for the first time of the season — he suffered a fractured hand against Portland — should be an interesting experiment for the Lakers that could end up being a position for both Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma. If we’re trying to take a glass half-full take on this, there’s potential for both bench forwards to expand on their productivity with more minutes on the table.
The two meetings against Russell this season carry a ton of weight. Enjoy Round 1, which should feel like a high-stakes Friday night fight.
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, YES