It was over before it really began for the purple and gold on Monday when LeBron James and Antony Davis were ruled out for the team’s game in Brooklyn. Without their two stars, the Lakers gave a valiant effort in the second half but ultimately lost, 121-104, against the Nets.
L.A. is now 0-2 on this East Coast road trip so far.
Rui Hachimura got his first start in his short stint as a Laker so far tonight and was... fine. He ended the game with 16 points and 4 rebounds. Russell Westbrook led the charge tonight with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 10 assists off the bench. Russ is now 10th on the all-time assists list, passing Gary Payton.
Why not, @russwest44?— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 31, 2023
Russ officially moves into 10th all-time in career assists! pic.twitter.com/HohNXtpkge
In the first half, the Lakers' offense was struggling to get started. They scored only 46 points and trailed by 13 with only Westbrook in double digits.
With so many players out, L.A. gave some run to players who have been out of the rotation. So Wenyen Gabriel, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Max Christie got an opportunity to prove they should get more time even when everyone is healthy.
Down by double digits, and the most notable play from the trio being a Gabriel charge midway through the first, It looked like Lakers head coach Darvin Ham wouldn’t have second thoughts about his depth chart after this performance.
But in the third quarter, the Lakers did what they’ve done all year under Ham; they fought. They came out on a blistering 14-0 run, led by Thomas Bryant — who scored 10 in the quarter — and Rui, who hit a three and converted on his free throws.
Suddenly a 13-point deficit became a four-point lead.
Russ’ favorite bench big Wenyen also got involved, as Westbrook kept feeding him on the left-hand side of the court near the low post block.
Unfortunately, getting in such a big hole means coming back is hard, and maintaining a lead after expending all that energy is even harder. Brooklyn re-collected themselves (and the lead) in the closing seconds of the quarter by going on a 10-0 run.
In the final frame, the Lakers' offense couldn’t sustain the production they had in the third. They started out getting outscored 11-3 to start the quarter and thoughts of an upset victory were all but gone midway through the fourth.
A basketball game is not officially over until the clock reads 00:00. But to me; it’s over once Damian Jones steps on the court. That happened at the two-minute mark with the Lakers down by 14 and the game all but done.
What can you take away from a game with no LeBron or AD? In my opinion, not much, but you do learn more about the back half of the rotation. JTA and Max may have been pedestrian, but Wenyen showed once again why he deserves at least a shift per game. He’s having a productive season, and with the team struggling in quality and quantity at the four and five spots, it doesn’t make sense to let a player like Wenyen get DNPs or only play in garbage time.
So while the Lakers may have lost, I think Wenyen just won himself some minutes in tomorrow night’s game against the New York Knicks.