After eight straight losses, the Lakers finally had enough.
They were more focused during shootaround that morning, and Lakers Coach Luke Walton was pleased to see that translate into their game and a 122-110 win over the Phoenix Suns.
D'Angelo Russell was really strong. Here are five takeaways from Thursday night's game.
- For Russell, it started with defense. This has been a weak spot for the Lakers in general and for Russell in particular this season. But Russell was engaged and vocal defensively, which was what Walton liked best about him early in the game. He was also vocal offensively and did a nice job operating the Lakers’ offense. He also contributed six threes. I asked him why he was so vocal. “That’s what it takes to win,” he said. “I feel like I try to rely on a lot of other people to talk and I look up and I’m not even talking so I looked to be the first to start that.”
- Leadership is part of being a point guard, and Thursday night offered a glimpse at what his leading by example might look like. “He was the head of the snake,” Brandon Ingram said. “He led everything tonight, getting us in our sets on the defensive end. telling us to lock in.
- Ingram had a few strong dunks that showed some growth. “He was getting the same type of lanes earlier,” Walton said. “He has a great feel for the game. He knows how to work his way around but he was always trying to work his way around defenders. I think he’s starting to realize that if they jump late he can get up over them and finish. He’s doing a better job of avoiding that help side defender. I think it’s something that he’s gaining with the experience of getting almost a full year under his belt.”
- Ivica Zubac was finally healthy enough to play real minutes, and they were important minutes for the Lakers on Thursday night. He helped spark a 10-0 run that got the Lakers their first lead since early in the game. “To me that was his best game we’ve had in a while as far as playing hard and making the right reads, whether it was jump shots or passing it along and setting hard screens,” Walton said.
- Communication improved across the board, not just from Russell. In fact, Larry Nance Jr. lost his voice in the effort.