The road trip is almost over and the Lakers will return to Los Angeles with at least two wins.
On Friday night they beat the Brooklyn Nets, and Brook Lopez got a little homecoming party. He got cake. He got a tribute video. He got fourth-quarter minutes and scored 19 points in the game.
Here are five takeaways from Friday’s game.
1. Josh Hart offered a toughness the Lakers need and Larry Nance Jr. has counseled him about it. Nance remembers what it’s like to be a rookie trying to prove your value to a team, so he’s the perfect person to advise Hart. “I’m constantly in his ear about just, ‘Hey, as a rookie, play defense, defense, defense,’” Nance said. “That’ll get you on the court and then you expand from there.” That is what got Hart on the court Friday night, which was a bounce-back game for him. Hart responded to getting the start by scoring 15 points and grabbing 14 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.
2, The Lakers’ second unit, which is a little bit altered right now, was challenged against a Brooklyn second unit that has had a lot of success this year. The Nets didn’t make it easy, but ultimately the Lakers’ bench provided a needed boost. All but one of the Lakers reserves had a positive plus/minus rating, while all but one of the Nets reserves had a negative plus/minus rating.
3. Which Nets reserve had a positive plus/minus rating? Why, it was our old friend D’Angelo Russell, who had a few little scoring spurts. He hit a couple layups to end the third quarter that tied the game. The Nets are still easing him back from a knee injury that had him out for about 2½ months. He finished the game with 15 points, three assists and four rebounds.
4. When the Lakers couldn’t rely on their shooting, they could rely on their defense. That was a change from their previous two games, but it’s what carried the Lakers during the four-game winning streak that ended in Toronto last Sunday. In the fourth quarter, the Nets scored only 14 points and made 22.7% of their shots. The Lakers didn’t fare much better, but they did enough, scoring 17 points on 28.6% shooting.
5. The Lakers tried something they did pretty often last year — Brandon Ingram at point guard. Before giving Ingram this challenge, Lakers coach Luke Walton wanted to make sure Ingram wanted it. He said he did and the results were great for the Lakers. Ingram nearly had a triple-double with 16 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.