Anaheim, Calif. — The Los Angeles Lakers in their sixth game of the preseason had a back and forth battle with the Phoenix Suns, who ultimately prevailed in overtime 114-108. There was much good and bad to take away from the game, here are the five things we learned about the Lakers on Tuesday night:
Jeremy Lin looked good
Although Jeremy Lin did not get the start in his first game since suffering a sprained right ankle, his presence on the floor helped the Lakers generate more offense with his stat line of 15 points, five assists, and two steals in 23 minutes played.
What was most encouraging was that the 26-year-old showed aggressiveness in his offensive game by drawing fouls on drives to basket, and taking shots when they are presented to him within the offense. Despite playing well in his first game back, Lin still feels that he needs to adjust to the speed of the game after missing nearly two weeks due to his injury.
“I felt good in each of the two three minutes of each time I was put in,” Lin said. “I felt like everything was going way faster than I can process. Part of it was due to not playing for awhile.”
He continued to display great chemistry with Ed Davis in the pick-and-roll on several plays that included an alley-oop, and in the fourth quarter he dished out a no-look pass in transition to Davis for a dunk.
Lin also added that the remainder of the preseason will allow to work through the “unfamiliar” parts of the offense to get into the flow of things with his teammates on the floor. His teammate, Kobe Bryant, has eyes on the bigger picture for the four-year veteran as a major impact player for the team moving forward.
“Jeremy Lin makes a big difference,” Bryant said. “He creates shots for others. He is somebody for us that penetrates and make plays for others which puts pressure on the defense.”
Lin did not specify if he would take the court in Wednesday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers as he will wait and see how his body responds Wednesday morning.
“I want to play obviously,” Lin said. “If you wake up swollen and don’t feel right then I won’t push it, but I don’t anticipate that at all. I feel like I feel great, and (will) be ready to go tomorrow.”
Kobe Bryant continues to progress
Kobe Bryant was able to top the 20-point mark for the third consecutive game this preseason with 27 points on 10 of 20 shooting, four rebounds, and two assists in 33 minutes played.
The 36-year-old looked like his vintage self in crunch time late in the fourth quarter with eight straight points scored with three straight fadeaway jumpers that gave the Lakers the lead in the game. It’s something Bryant is hoping to build off for the remainder of the preseason, and carry into the start of the regular season next week.
“I feel good,” Bryant said. “I experimented with moves every now and then. When it’s money time I go for the bread and butter. That’s always there. When the regular season starts I will do that from the tip(off).”
It was much of the same for head coach Byron Scott, who has so far been encouraged by each of Bryant’s performances in the preseason. However, what stood out the most to the Lakers’ head man was how the former league MVP played in the fourth quarter.
“I thought it was great,” Scott said. “In first half he told me he was trying to gauge and see how they play. Second half he had a real good feel and idea. He hit some great shots for us. His legs looked good, which to me is the biggest sign when you’re in the fourth quarter and being able to get shots off. That just tells me that his legs are coming back.”
Scott said that he will how Bryant feels on Wednesday morning to determine how much he will play the 16-time All-Star against the Trail Blazers.
Finally, Bryant was also asked about the article written by Henry Abbott of True Hoop Network for ESPN.com, and he didn’t pack any punches, but rather took the high road on the topic.
“It’s not the first one, but won’t be the last one. The one thing we got to come to understand is over the years we got the bad story that comes out on Monday, and it seems like it’s the end of the world and everybody is taking shots at you,’ Bryant said. “But time goes by, and then you have another great story that comes out a month later and is a fantastic story.
“Then you have a bad story that comes out a month after that. So you got to understand it’s a cycle and things are never as good or as bad as it seems in the moment right? Stay focused on the big picture. Things are never as bleak as they seem at the time. I just kind of roll with it.”
Ed Davis fitting in nicely
The four-year veteran has continued to play well off the bench in the preseason even after Scott has decided to use him solely as the backup center to Jordan Hill. Ed Davis has certainly been everything and more on the defensive end of the floor, and that was quite evident in the first half of Tuesday’s game with two blocks , and a steal in the second quarter.
In many ways, Davis has been the Lakers’ lone rim protector, and that could be a vital factor moving forward into the season. He also fit well within the offense, in particular his play with Lin, being able to effectively run the pick-and-roll.
“I love to play with J Lin,” Davis said. “He is a pick-and-roll guy, and he gets into the lane. I am trying to get him open to take the jump shot or he can find me at the rim. He is always looking for me, so whenever we are out on the floor together I make sure that I am getting him open by setting good screens for him.”
Bryant also had high praise for the 25-year-old’s ability to play on both ends of the floor effectively.
“He is so great around the basket, and is extremely active,” Bryant said. “He knows how to space well. He has great jumping ability. Defensively he can be a real force for us, and his timely is just remarkable with his ability to block shots.”
Defense is a work in progress
The Lakers’ defense had it’s moments where it looked solid, but there was several problems guarding the Suns’ point guard duo of Eric Bledsoe, and Goran Dragic, who routinely able to get to the rim in the first half.
Dragic constantly had Los Angeles on their heels in the first quarter with four consecutive makes created by his quickness and dribble penetration. Despite that, the Lakers forced Phoenix to shoot just 39 percent, and commit 10 turnovers in the first half. Things continued on that trend in the second half, which they allowed just 41 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent from 3-point range for the game.
In Scott’s eyes, it just a matter of the Lakers fixing their mistakes on that end of the floor.
“We are doing a lot of good things out there, but we are making a lot of little mistakes,” Scott said. “We didn’t do a great job on the high pick-and-rolls, 50-50 balls, and then our turnovers. We allowed them to shoot 41 percent, which is great. All those things are fixable and things we talked about. We are just going to continue to work on them.
For Lin, their level of play on defense will depend on the mindset of the team remaining aggressive, and playing “gritty and nasty.”
“We have to learn to be really gritty and nasty, hard hitting and blue collared,” Lin said.
Wesley Johnson’s learning experience
Tuesday’s game for Wesley Johnson was a bit of struggle offensive despite scoring 15 points with eight rebounds, two steals, and three blocked shots in 40 minutes played.
His difficulties spanned out of the eight turnovers committed as Johnson had a chance to seal the win but missed two free throws that allowed the Suns to send the game to overtime on a buzz-beating jumper by Isaiah Thomas. That said, the 27-year-old was able to get past the missed free throws, and hit two consecutive 3-pointers in overtime that pulled the Lakers within one point at 109-108 with less than a minute left in the game.
This is something that Bryant sees as a perfect learning experience for Johnson, who he describes as often being”too hard himself at times.”
“I think that was good for him to miss them in terms of his development,” Bryant said. “He cares so much for the game that he is really hard on himself sometimes. I think it’s good to have that (happen) and quickly get over it. He came back and hit a couple of big threes. It was more important for him to have that bounce back than missing the two free throws.”
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Bob Garcia IV
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