With LeBron James out, the Lakers opted to add Austin Reaves to the starting lineup. He had a great game scoring 19 points against Sacramento on Friday, and Los Angeles was hoping he could help spark a struggling offense. He ended the night with 15.
The Lakers took charge in the first quarter largely thanks to Patrick Beverly’s defensive efforts and Lonnie Walker IV’s offensive efficiency. Pat Bev has been a thorn in Laker Nation’s side with his lack of offensive production and while Sunday didn’t see an uptick in points (he had 2 total), he was better facilitating the ball with five assists and was a defensive irritant deflecting passes and grabbing four defensive rebounds. Lonnie Walker started perfect from the floor with 11 points going 3-3 from the field, 2-2 from three, and 3-3 from the free throw line.
The second quarter has been a strength for the Lakers and Sunday was no exception. Los Angeles won the quarter 29-24 and led at the half by nine. One thing that worked well in the quarter was the Russell Westbrook-Wenyen Gabriel connection. The two connected a handful of times on Friday and took that momentum into Sunday’s game, working well off each other in pick-and-roll action.
It’s no secret the Lakers have been having second-half struggles. How did the Lakers fare against the Nets in the third with a nine-point lead entering the quarter? Not bad.
They lost the quarter 31-25, but given how poorly they’ve played to start the second half, this was an improvement. Anthony Davis was aggressive, scoring 15 in the third by going 5-8 from the field. The Nets went on an 11-0 run and cut the lead to five thanks to Kevin Durant getting hot from three. AD stopped the bleeding with a short runner and the Lakers entered the fourth up 80-77.
Up three after three, the lead was far from safe for the purple and gold. They started without AD on the court and were able to survive those minutes. Why were they able to outscore the Nets without LeBron and no AD on the court? Russell Westbrook. He had an emphatic slam dunk; Troy Brown Jr. capitalized on a Russ pass and hit a three, then Russ hit a couple of free throws. It’s been said before and it must be said again. Westbrook has been productive on the bench and is doing everything you could ask of him at this point in his career.
Once Davis returned, it was clear the Lakers had the advantage and only Kevin Durant going nuclear could change the fate of this game, which he did not. The Lakers were able to get the win and Los Angeles can be happy, at least for one night.
The Lakers have been historically bad from three, and you had to assume they’d eventually positively regress back to the mean. On Sunday, they did just that, shooting 40% from downtown. They might not be a great shooting team, but as long as they are not historically bad, they can still win plenty of games. Pat Riley said it best “No boards, no rings.” Getting rebounds has been an issue for Los Angeles, given their lack of size. On Sunday, they won that battle 45-41 and more of that will lead to a positive November.
The Lakers are a bit banged up with LeBron James, Thomas Bryant, and Dennis Schroder out due to injury, so the fact they have four days off between games is much needed. They play Detroit next this Friday.