The Darvin Ham era unofficially kicked off on Monday night as he took the sideline for his first preseason game. After a strong start in the first half saw the Lakers lead heading into the locker room, a third quarter Kings run paved the way for their 88-69 victory.
The Big Three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook each played under 16 minutes with all of those coming in the first half. That trio, Kendrick Nunn and Damian Jones shot the Lakers out to a fast 12-3 lead to open the game. The hosts trailed briefly to open the first quarter before carrying a lead the remainder of the opening two periods and into the locker room at halftime.
Without AD, LeBron, Russ or Nunn, the Lakers struggled mightily in the second half as the Kings outscored the purple and gold by over 30 points in the second half.
In lieu of a detailed recap of a preseason game, here’s a look at three notable takeaways from the contest.
The Big Three look competent
It’s wild we’re in Year 2 that this is a takeaway, but Year 1 was so bad that it’s noteworthy the trio of LeBron, AD and Russ looked like a grouping that could play together. There was spacing that led to shots coming either in the paint or around the arc.
Here’s a look at the first quarter shot chart, courtesy of NBA.com.
Only three shots came from the mid-range and the three points came from the wings and corners. And look at how many shots came right at the rim.
All that came despite LeBron shooting 0-for-7 from the field and being responsible for four of those missed shots, including the two mid-range shots on the right side of the court. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, this is a nice blueprint of how things could and should look moving forward.
This team will play hard
Maybe the biggest difference between last year’s team and Monday’s game is how hard this Lakers team played. Effort was a major issue for the Lakers last year with their
old veteran roster. The Lakers got younger for a number of reasons this offseason and one of the benefits is having a roster that will play hard night in and night out.
Role players like Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Wenyen Gabriel all are going to give it 100% each night and hopefully that rubs off on their Big Three to up the level of effort overall each game.
Cole Swider really might shoot his way into rotation minutes
All Cole Swider keeps doing is making threes each time he’s asked. First it was in draft workouts, then it was in Summer League and now it’s in the preseason. On Monday, he shot 3-of-7 overall and 2-of-4 from the 3-point line while also being fouled on another 3-point attempt.
Sure, it came largely against bench players. And it came largely during a third quarter and second half when the Lakers could not get a defensive stop if their life depended on it. But if Swider is just going to continue to shoot lights out, he’s going to see some minutes.