Down LeBron James and Gabe Vincent, on the second night of a back-to-back and matched up against the top team in the Western Conference, not much was in the favor of the Lakers heading into Thursday’s game against the Wolves.
That they spent the game battling throughout and hanging around was a positive sign, especially for a team that has had their effort openly — and rightly — questioned in recent games. Effort was not a problem on Thursday, but a lack of execution and talent was and that’s what ultimately led to the loss.
Overall, it feels like the Lakers took a step forward on Thursday, even if it still amounted to a fourth-straight loss. Maybe it’s me coping. That being said, more continues to be revealed about this team, both good and bad.
So, let’s grade the loss. As always, grades are based on expectations for each player. A “B” grade represents the average performance for that player.
37 minutes, 8 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal, 3-8 FG, 0-2 3PT, 2-2 FT, -6
There was a lot of Reddish once again on Thursday in ways that weren’t productive. His 3-point percentage continues to plummet and there are more and more shots he’s taking that were what got him bouncing around the league in the first place.
The Lakers rode the wave of him finding a role and surprising people. Now that teams have adjusted, he’s struggled. It’s past time he moves back to the bench or, at the very least, play a more reduced role than 37 minutes.
34 minutes, 18 points, 5 rebounds, 7-12 FG, 2-5 3PT, 2-6 FT, -6
I felt there were a lot of fair criticisms and questions lobbied Hachimura’s way in recent days and games, including from our own Alex Regla.
He responded with one of his best games in recent weeks, putting forth an efficient effort against a tough challenge in the Wolves frontcourt. He was aggressive — including the scary fall he took in the second half — and assertive.
The question is, can he continue to play like that, find those shots and be more comfortable when LeBron James returns.
39 minutes, 31 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, 11-20 FG, 1-1 3PT, 8-9 FT, +3
Boy, AD’s jumper is REALLY back. Some of the shots he was hitting on Thursday would make Bubble AD blush. Seven of AD’s 11 makes were on jumpers outside the paint. That’s earnestly as good as he’s looked shooting the ball since the bubble.
He also had a strong night defensively against Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. Matched up with Gobert most of the night, he did well to limit him as well as trying to contest shots at the rim.
Oh, and he did it all on a bum ankle.
The only frustration from the night is that his incredible performance was wasted in another loss.
37 minutes, 14 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 5-6 FG, 4-4 3PT, +6
I think I was more than fair in calling for Prince’s benching when I did, especially because it felt overdue at that point. To his credit, he has bounced back very strongly in recent weeks, save for the dismal showing against the Knicks.
I still contend that a Reddish-Prince starting lineup has a lot of variance and reliance on shooters who have been streaky, but of the two, Reddish is the only one who has struggled much more offensively.
38 minutes, 17 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 blocks, 7-19 FG, 2-6 3PT, 1-1 FT, -4
Let’s talk about D’Angelo Russell.
He’s in a shooting slump. A pretty rough one. One that has stretched for basically all of December. It hasn’t been pretty.
But everyone goes through slumps. Austin Reaves had one at the start of the season that was pretty rough in it’s own right, for example. I bring that up specifically to mention the reactions to the two slumps.
You don’t want a player to go through a slump, obviously. But what I’ve noticed is how much stronger and vitriolic the reaction to Russell’s has been. And it’s also been interesting given how much he’s tried to contribute in other ways during this slump, and this season as a whole.
Against the Thunder in late November, he had 10 assists despite going 6-13. He had five steals in a win over Houston on a night he shot 4-10. He had 10 more assists against the Spurs in a win when he shot 6-13.
On Thursday, he had his best night contributing in other ways with eight assists, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals. The most important news, though, is that he found his jumper in the fourth, going 5-8 from the field and 2-4 from the 3-point line for 13 points with three assists, two rebounds and two steals.
Hopefully, it means he found his way out of the slump. And that people just calm down a little bit on the reactions to players being in slumps.
14 minutes, 5 rebounds, 0-3 FG, 0-1 3PT, +1
There’s just really a hard cap on what you can expect out of Vando right now so long as he’s still injured. He can provide some production in bursts, but it’s pretty limited what he can do, especially defensively, right now.
More than anything, where the Lakers miss Vanderbilt and his ability to play more than 14 minutes per night is as a point-of-attack defender. On Thursday, it would have been really useful to stick him on Anthony Edwards, for example!
I continue to question the use of having him out there for 14 minutes playing injured vs. letting him sit out and actually heal. It just doesn’t feel like a situation where anyone is winning right now.
27 minutes, 20 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 7-14 FG, 1-4 3PT, 5-5 FT, -9
This has really become the baseline of what you expect out of Reaves nightly, which is incredible.
Over the last eight games, the only times he hasn’t scored 20 points is against the Pelicans in the In-Season Tournament semis when he only played 23 minutes and against the Spurs when he scored 15 points with eight assists in the win.
You’re now consistently getting a guy that’s going to score 20 points on good efficiency night off the bench and can lead your offense at any stretch of the game.
11 minutes, 3 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assists, 1-1 FG, -8
I realize I went on a rant about being a bit more understanding about players struggling in the D’Lo section, but I’d be fine if tonight was the last time Hayes suited up. Truly, he’s so far removed from a helpful player.
The sequence in which he allowed Gobert to grab an offensive rebound for a putback, then dropped the ball out of bounds 10 seconds later pretty much sums up where he’s at right now.
You can’t trust him with minutes in December, so what are you going to do with games that matter? And for those clamoring for Christian Wood — who I’m not going to grade tonight given he played three minutes, but if I did, it would be an F — know that he is not an improvement and has done nothing to warrant any level of trust from Darvin Ham either.
A night in which I thought he didn’t do much wrong. Short-handed, he pulled the right strings to have the guys ready to play from the jump. That stuff kind of gets overlooked as an impact a coach can make but he does deserve credit for it.
He also had some interesting tweaks that worked well, too. For example, in the second half, he placed Rui on Gobert and Hayes on Kyle Anderson, allowing the latter to stay near the rim and help out defensively at protecting the paint.
I still question why Max Christie fell entirely out of the rotation, and that’s as someone who wasn’t blown away by him in most of his minutes this season. But any criticism about Wood/Hayes playing time, which I saw plenty off, is a bad faith argument because neither guy should be playing but AD can’t play 48 minutes, so one of them has to.
Thursday DNPs: Max Christie, Maxwell Lewis
Thursday inactives: LeBron James, Alex Fudge, Gabe Vincent, Colin Castleton, D’Moi Hodge, Jalen Hood-Schifino
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.