In the Lakers’ push to the playoffs last season, the pair of D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves were near the center. The pair showed their versatility offensively and excelled from the onset in their limited time together.
For a variety of reasons, that duo lasted a rather short time together in the starting lineup to start this season. And despite a whole lot of lineup reshuffling, the pair haven’t featured much together this season.
That changed on Saturday when, for the first time since Nov. 8, Russell and Reaves started together. And, coincidence or not, they fit right together once again with Russell exploding for a season-high 39 points and eight assists while Reaves was an efficient 7-8 from the field for 19 points of his own.
It didn’t result in a win, though that hardly falls at the feet of those two — and does fall at the feet of Anthony Davis, at least by his own admission — after their solid showing. Asked after the game about their chemistry, Russell’s message was clear.
“We got a lot of credibility in the short stint we have together,” D’Lo said. “Put us out there and it works.”
Reaves also acknowledged postgame the impressive performance from his teammate, if not also sharing a sentiment of disappointment.
“Yeah, I mean he had 40, 39 if you want to be specific, but we lost and I’m sure he’ll say the same thing,” Reaves said. “Give up points for wins and it’s good to be on the court with him. He’s a super-talented player that has been doing this for a while and his skill is very unique with how he does it and what he does on the court. So it’s an honor to share the court with him. But like I said, we lost and I think he would say the same.”
At the beginning of the season, there were some valid reasons to split the pairing up. Even at their best, they’re never going to offer a lot defensively. And to kick off this year, Reaves found himself in quite the rut offensively.
Defensively this season, Reaves has found life...rough. Opposing teams have definitely found something on that end of the floor when it comes to attacking Reaves. And, by his own admission, D’Lo isn’t someone who can get stops defensively.
Which means if things weren’t working for them offensively or defensively, changing it was probably a fair call. But not going back to it until now is also a bad call.
Before Saturday’s game, they had played just 446 minutes together — and had a net rating of -5.2 — compared to 378 minutes together in the playoffs alone last year. They have been worse on both sides of the ball this year vs. last season, furthering the point above.
But the Lakers’ offense has also been pretty mediocre at best this season. After Saturday’s game, they rank 23rd in the league in overall offensive rating and 14th in the league in halfcourt offense, the latter of those stats per Cleaning The Glass.
Inserting two of your best offensive weapons back into the lineup together feels like an easy call. It’s going to come with drawbacks defensively, but the Lakers are in a spot where they have to change, and risk, something. What they’re doing isn’t working and going back to what did last year feels like it could be the right call.
It hasn’t worked all season, but little what the Lakers have done this year has. Ride the hot hand from Saturday and hope you can build some momentum.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.