The last time the Lakers had nine players score in double figures, it was also their 26th win of the season, but it came in January. They only had six losses at that point and were on their way to the franchise’s 10th championship.
This team is in a very different place, but their gains are real. That’s been showing lately.
Monday’s game showed some glimpses of how good a team they can be. And it also showed some of the sloppiness to which they can sometimes succumb.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 123-104 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
1. Now that Lonzo Ball is showing himself to be capable of scoring, it’s worth wondering how that will change the Lakers’ strategy and how that will change opponents’ decision-making when it comes to defending Ball. Lakers coach Luke Walton was asked Monday night whether his thinking will change on when Ball should shoot now that teams are still going under screens on him despite his making shots. “I want our guards and our shooters to always look to score when defensive players go underneath but at the same time we don’t want it [to be] come down, no pass, one dribble, first pick and roll, raise up and shoot,” Walton said. “If they’re gonna go under that’s the same shot you can get with 10 seconds left on the shot clock. Let’s move the ball a couple of times, see if we can’t get something going towards the rim. I would imagine teams will stop doing that.”
2. Brandon Ingram had a really nice game, especially in the third quarter. He scored 15 of his 21 points then and helped the Lakers pull away after allowing the Hawks to get within 12. “Well just we needed some offense,” Ingram said. “I know we went down a couple times, we missed a couple shots and they were open looks, but I just tried to be aggressive to the rim and take what the defense gave me and just try to make plays for my teammates.”
4. Speaking of turnovers, Monday night’s performance was a throwback for the Lakers. They’d struggled with turnovers mightily last year and early this season. Having cleaned it up lately, they reverted to old, sloppy habits. Against a tanking team like the Atlanta Hawks, it didn’t matter much, but the Lakers will have trouble beating better teams if five different players have three turnovers each, out of a total 23 team turnovers again.
5. Isaiah Thomas had a highlight-reel moment when he launched an underhanded floater that rose maybe six feet above the basket before falling through the net. Someone asked if that was supposed to be an alley oop. “Have you seen me play before?” Thomas said. “It was a shot, for sure. I get in the paint, I am probably not throwing no alley-oops. I am right there by the hoop. That was a shot.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli