The Lakers finished their Grammy trip with a burst of energy.
Their play in the first quarter Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, a team reeling after Jabari Parker tore his ACL two days before, was inspired and aided by their strong shooting. The Lakers have a tendency to let poor shooting affect everything else they do. On Friday, their strong shooting made them more locked in and efficient — at least for three quarters.
Here are five takeaways from Friday’s 122-114 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
1. Let’s start with the good, of which there was a lot. Nick Young had 11 points and four assists in the first quarter, and at one point, made eight shots in a row. When Young gets, hot he can have nights like that shooting, but perhaps more noteworthy than the shooting were the assists. More and more we’re seeing Young willing to give up the ball and play the way Lakers Coach Luke Walton wants his team to play. It’s a big part of why things worked so well to start Friday’s game.
2. Noteworthy, too, were Jordan Clarkson’s four assists. Walton made sure to encourage his efforts after the game. “I thought Jordan Clarkson did a great job, and as soon as we put him in, he was putting that pressure downhill on the defense and hitting the bigs and letting Zu and Larry work their big-to-big game,” Walton said.
3. Ivica Zubac and Larry Nance Jr. had important nights for the Lakers. While Nance didn’t have a big statistical night, he was valuable in other ways. He was active defensively and got to the line for 10 free throws, of which he made nine. “Tonight definitely probably wasn’t going to be a night that I was gonna score big numbers, but hey, that’s fine,” Nance said. “As long as we get the win, as long as I help defensively, as long as I help on the glass, assists whatever it may be. When teams play me aggressive they’re leaving somebody else open. I’m glad we found that person.” While Nance took only three shots in the game, Zubac made all five of his first-half shots and finished seven for 11.
4. One game after he attempted only two shots, D’Angelo Russell took nine, and eight of them were three-pointers. All four of Russell’s made field goals came in the first half, where he made four of six shots, entirely from three-point range. “Solid,” he said about his performance. “Got the job done.” But when Russell is at his best and doing what this staff wants from him, he’s attacking the basket more than that.
5. Walton let the second unit go for some time, even when it struggled, during the fourth quarter. He explained his reasoning after the game. “It’s tricky because … our starting group and our second group are pretty equal in my eyes,” Walton said. “A lot of times, our second group bails us out, so when they were going on that run, I obviously have a lot of trust in our second unit because they’ve been good all year. But the ball stopped moving; it completely stopped moving. I gave them as long of a leash as I thought I could, and then we went back to the starters.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli