The Lakers’ murky preseason came to an end with a few more hints of what the team is. They may be versatile offensively, but their porous interior defense and lack of rebounding at both ends are stark reminders that Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard are long gone.
The Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz in Anaheim 111 – 106.
In their second consecutive outing against the youthful Jazz, the Lakers got plenty of open looks in the first half, punctuated by way too many Shawne Williams three point attempts clanging off the front of the rim. The Lakers’ starting unit has been strictly a jump shooting team. They kept pace with the Jazz in the first quarter but also squandered a 11 point lead given to them by their bench in the second quarter. The Jazz led at the half 53-51.
In the third quarter the Lakers’ starters finally showed some aggression, competitiveness, and togetherness building a comfortable 15 point lead to end the third quarter. Steve Blake got hot nailing numerous threes and finishing the third with 19 points.
The reserves maintained the lead in the 4th and brought home the teams 4th win in the preseason.
Now the games count.
Offensively the Lakers are interchangeable, able to play with big or small lineups, with two point guards or two true bigs, and the 2nd unit has shown the type of consistent cohesiveness and defensive mentality that could win you games.
Individually there is more talent than with last year’s team but there is no one player that will be able to carry the offense for stretches unless Pau Gasol decides he wants to.
Mike D’Antoni’s tinkering with his rotations and groupings during the preseason has left alot of questions unanswered.
Will he actually go with an 11 man rotation? Does Jordan Farmar get the lionshare of minutes at point guard? Can Steve Blake hold his own as a shooting guard? Should Xavier Henry leapfrog Jodie Meeks due to his greater size and versatility? Can Nick Young score enough to offset his weaknesses in other areas?
What are going to get from Steve Nash this year? Will Pau Gasol defend the rim at all? Where does Jordan Hill fit in? Will Wesley Johnson be a positive contributor?
In the short term this team needs to bide their time until Kobe Bryant returns. It is likely that Bryant’s eventual presence will send waves through the roster and its rotation patterns.
The Lakers have the talent to be a playoff team, but this season that means feasting on the league’s lesser teams and giving their bench plenty of extended minutes.
Defensively they must hunker down and find ways to get consecutive stops in crunch time. While they will have a good offense, it can’t be said that they are a great shooting team. Blake and Williams are capable but don’t create fear for other teams.
Wesley Johnson is growing comfortable with his role and could be a better option than Williams as a stretch four. Chris Kaman will also be a welcome source of scoring whether in the starting lineup or off the bench.
The Lakers will have to win by committee.