Below is a summary of the notes I put together in preparation for Time Warner Cable SportsNet and 710ESPN Radio sideline action for that evening’s Lakers game. L.A. plays the Warriors in Oakland at 7:30 p.m.
PRESEASON VS. GOLDEN STATE
The Lakers don’t need to spend a ton of time on a scouting report for the Warriors, since they saw Golden State three times in the preseason. First came a win in Ontario (104-95), then two losses in China, but in each game in the Far East, L.A.’s starters and initial subs mostly outplayed the Warriors. The Beijing game (95-100) saw Mark Jackson’s starters stay in for much of the fourth quarter against L.A.’s end of bench players, while GSW’s rotation players overwhelmed L.A.’s subs in Shanghai (89-115, though the Lakers led in the third quarter when the starters sat). Of course, preseason results don’t much matter, so the question is whether the Warriors simply weren’t playing very well collectively, or if the Lakers were offering a preview for the unity they showed in the season-opening win over the Clippers. Golden State has its eyes on a deep playoff run thanks to the addition of Andre Iguodala to a team that gave the Spurs some trouble in the playoffs last year. Some GSW notes:
- Stephen Curry oddly struggled with his shot in the preseason, hitting only 38 percent of his field goals … it’s hard to imagine that continuing much into the regular season.
- Harrison Barnes was (and remains) out with a foot injury in the China games.
- Lakers radio analyst Mychal Thompson’s son Klay looked great, averaging 21.3 points on 53.1% FG’s and 45.4 3-pt FG’s.
- David Lee/Andrew Bogut were pretty solid overall up front for the Warriors, Bogut on D and Lee on O.
- Draymond Green was a problem off the bench, canning 4 3′s in Shanghai, and hitting 7 of 13 overall in the preseason after making 14 his entire rookie year.
- Igoudala was second on team in assists during the preseason (4.6), including 14 against LAL in Shanghai.
LAKERS BENCH EXPLODES/BURSTS/GOES CRAZY VS. CLIPPERS
The Lakers’ bench unit of Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill played very well in the final two preseason games together, but their collective performance on opening night against the Clippers was borderline ridiculous. How about 76 collective points, the third most in franchise history, including 41 in a fourth quarter they played the entire way while holding LAC to just 24, turning a four-point deficit heading into the final period into an emphatic 116-103 victory. The Clippers could do little against L.A.’s most athletic group, as Blake Griffin managed not a single point, rebound, assist or even field goal attempt in 8 minutes, notching only 2 turnovers for his final line. All five LAL bench players were excellent in the period, clearly, but it was Farmar driving the ship. He scored nine of his 16 points, plus three assists and a steal, repeatedly getting into the paint to break down LAC’s defense. Sixteen of the team’s 42 points in the paint came in the period. Said Farmar: “It felt good to me to be back home. Back in this building. It felt comfortable to me. Yeah it was really special and I look forward to it all season long.”
- The all-time most bench points came in 1985, when the Lakers’ bench scored 85 of their 144 total points against the Warriors (119). Mike McGee had 29 off the pine, Larry Spriggs 20, Bob McAdoo 14 and Mitch Kupchak eight amongst others.
-The 2nd most was in 1988, again against Golden State with 84 pine points in a 136-100 win, when Tony Campbell led the way with 28, and Mychal Thompson, A.C. Green, Michael Cooper and Milt Wagner combined for 50.
STARTERS GET (VERY) UNUSUAL EXTRA REST
When’s the last time that not one starting player played at least 30 minutes? Anybody? Bueller? One major positive for the Lakers off this usually really tricky/rare back-to-back (going into a team’s season-opener is never easy, especially if you played the night before): not one starter played more than 25 minutes, with Gasol’s 24:29 leading the way. Sub Jordan Farmar was the overall leader, with 27:16 off the pine. Steve Nash, who’s anything but 100% healthy, played only 20:44 and is a game-time decision for the Warriors (he said he’d try to go). Nick Young played 22:03, Steve Blake 22:25 and Shawne Williams just 12:50.
THE X MAN
Xavier Henry announced his presence in the preseason with 29 points in an opening win over Golden State, but doing what he did in a regular season game against the Clippers was a far larger statement. In 26 minutes off the pine, Henry scored 22 points – a career high – on 8 of 13 FG’s, including 3 of 4 three-pointers. And he missed five free throws (3 of 8), keeping his box score a bit less dramatic. Henry scored 12 of his 22 in the final quarter, grabbing half of his six boards plus both of his assists. The Belgian-born two guard/wing was an afterthought when being signed to the training camp roster, but with the preseason explosion became a lock to make the team, and eventually a likely receiver of legitimate rotation minutes. Clearly, that’s not going to change.
The knock on Henry coming into this season was his lack of shooting in his first three years, when he managed to hit only 40 percent from the field and 28 from three in limited minutes in Memphis and New Orleans. But player development coach Larry Lewis and assistant coach Kurt Rambis, amongst other LAL staffers, noticed a slight hitch in Henry’s jumper, the big athlete hanging a bit too long, and he worked it out quickly. The jumper was a spotlight, because his ability to get to the rim’s never been in question. The lefty, with a nice Euro-step move, looks a bit like Manu Ginobili or James Harden – hyperbolic as that might seem – getting to the bucket, and he repeatedly went right at DeAndre Jordan in the fourth quarter in particular. A postgame quote: “I have never changed my mind about what kind of player I am. How hard I work and what I can do on the court. So when I don’t get the opportunities maybe early on, it’s fine, I stayed faithful and stayed into it to where I have gotten hit and gotten opportunities and make the most of it.”
LAKERS STRONG ON THE GLASS
Despite playing a small line up for much of the game, L.A. finished plus 12 on the glass, grabbing 52 boards to the Clippers’ 40, including 18 offensive boards. Jordan Hill grabbed seven of those O boards in just 18 minutes, including five in the final quarter. Pau Gasol led all players with 13 rebounds in his 24 minutes, while Chris Kaman added eight in 19 minutes. In related news, LAL had 30 second chance points to LAC’s 19. Said Hill: “I’m going to do what I do. I’m going to hit the boards at all times, but everybody that came off the bench besides me, it was definitely the bench that fired everything up. We just went out there and we competed. We didn’t lie down and we weren’t afraid. We just had the heart to win and we did.”
The Lakers buried 14 triples in 29 attempts (48.3%), led by three apiece from Jodie Meeks (3 for 6) and Henry (3 for 4), with 6 of 8 falling in the fourth. Clearly, there’s going to be an emphasis on 3-point shooting for the Lakers this season, and they have many players capable of hitting the 40 percent bench mark that’s ideal for an NBA player: Nash, Blake and Farmar (who all hit over 40 in their last NBA season*), Meeks (36% last year), Nick Young, Shawne Williams (40% for D’Antoni in New York in 2010-11), Xavier Henry and Ryan Kelly (over 40% at Duke, albeit at the college 3 line). Last year, attempted and made the third most triples in the NBA, but ranked just 20th in percentage at 35.2 percent.
*Farmar’s was in 2011-12 for New Jersey, when he dropped 44% from 3.
Furthermore, according to Bloomberg Sports, 13/22 of L.A.’s threes came above the break (i.e. non-corner 3s), which is 59.1% (league average was 35.1% last season).
GIVE D’ANTONI SOME CREDIT?
Nobody got more blame for LAL’s dreadful 2012-13 start amidst injuries, no training camp, his own surgery and the lack of chemistry amongst certain players than Mike D’Antoni, and he got little of the credit for the 28-12 close to the season. But over the summer and in the preseason, D’Antoni facilitated a layer of confidence in several players that clearly leaked into the first game. The offensive spacing was very good, and the effort terrific on defense for most of the game. D’Antoni has been downright giddy throughout the preseason with all the basketball love going around in camp, with everybody full of effort and eagerness to play, and he’s always had somewhat of a touch with relatively unknown NBA players. One can argue that it’s not just a coincidence that the bench in particular played great tonight. Part of it’s coaching.
Said Farmar: “I like Coach D’Antoni a lot. He’s a great coach and he’s a great basketball mind and the way he deals with his players, I can’t say enough about him. I’m just happy. We’re 1-0 and we feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
Gasol on win and team chemistry: “I think it’s a great indication of where we are at and how much we want to have a great year. So we were able to do tonight it was a really good team. It’s just one game it’s just the beginning but like I said it’s a good indicator. I think it’s a good time, a really good time and shows how together we are. How much we want to have a great season all together. I am proud of the guys. Now tomorrow we have another one.”
THE (UN)ANOINTED ONES
A quote from Doc Rivers could have been a Mike D’Antoni quote from any point of last season for the Lakers: “When you’re anointed, people are going to attack you, and we’re going to have to get used to that type of energy every night. People are going to play you like you’ve won something, even though you haven’t.”
That’s a potentially big deal for the Lakers this season, if the typical target they’ve had on their backs is lessened a bit, and they’re more of the aggressor, the attacker. That can result directly in regular season wins and losses within the grind of a long season.