During the preseason, coach Mike Brown stated what he wanted from his backup point guard.
“I’m looking for a guy that’s going to come in and keep us organized and try to work the ball,” Brown explained after a practice in late October. “I’m looking for someone with energy and someone who’s going to get it right defensively, and keep us organized offensively. If you have the ability to make plays, do it without turning the ball over because you’re not going to be out there a whole lot of time.”
The second-year Lakers coach acknowledged that much, but with an injury to Steve Nash, Brown was forced to shuffle his rotation just four games into the early season, inserting Steve Blake into the starting lineup and Darius Morris as the backup.
In the team’s first win against Detroit, Blake recorded six assists and tied a career-high with five steals.
Morris also chipped in with six points and two assists off the bench, helping lead a second unit that produced 27 bench points.
Brown noted the play of both point guards stepping up in Nash’s absence.
“The two guys we’re playing right now in (Steve) Blake and (Darius) Morris – they got some of the best feet in the league at that spot, so they’re going to have to get up and work the ball,” explained Brown. “Not to get steals, but to see if we can take some time off the clock and try to disjoint our opponent just a little bit – and both guys did that perfectly (against Detroit).”
The Lakers forced the Pistons into 17 turnovers, while limiting them to just 35.4 percent shooting. Detroit’s starting backcourt of Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight also shot a combined 1 for 14.
“We just tried to pick up defensively and put pressure on the guards, and we made good reads,” said Blake. “Overall we had a good performance.”
Brown echoed similar sentiments regarding both guard’s play on the defensive end.
“I thought (Blake and Morris) were up the floor most of the night, turning the basketball and doing their jobs defensively,” he said.
The offense has looked better, too, according to Brown, even with the absence of the team’s two-time MVP point guard. The Lakers shot 50 and 51.9 percent, respectively, against the Clippers and Pistons, while also scoring a season-high 108 points, and turning the ball over just 15 times versus Detroit – a season low.
“Everyone was more patient,” explained Blake. “We executed the offense, we got the ball inside and our spacing was much better. There were a lot of times the first couple games, guys were rushing into things, which happens with a new offense. But we’ll get more comfortable and better at that.”
With Nash expected to be sidelined for at least a week, the team understands what they need from their floor generals in his absence.
“We just need our point guards to be solid, aggressive, defend and make plays for others,” explained Gasol.
As Brown sees it, both Blake and Morris are doing exactly that.