Lakers cruise over Warriors despite being short-handed
Star forward Anthony Davis was out because of his calf injury; that’s a given. He hasn’t been on the court in a month. Center Marc Gasol is still in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Forward Kostas Antetokounmpo is also in the health and safety protocols. Forward Jared Dudley has a torn knee ligament. And guard Alex Caruso has a concussion.
Next man up? It’s hard to keep track when so many keep going down.
But this is the reality for the Lakers now as they trudge through the middle of a compressed NBA season that simultaneously moves too quickly and seemingly is taking forever to get to the playoffs.
And if this is the new normal, the Lakers better get used to it — and in a 128-97 win against the Warriors, they certainly looked comfortable.
Montrezl Harrell scored 27 points off the bench, four other Lakers had at least 14 points and LeBron James was able to spend the end of the game on the bench resting after recording 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for the 98th triple-double of his career. The Lakers shot 62.8% from the field and had 36 assists.
Maybe it was the opponent — the Lakers blew out the Warriors without Davis on Feb. 28 — or maybe it’s a sign the team is figuring things out without some key pieces around.
If it’s the latter, that’s good because there’s no firm sense of when Davis or Gasol could return. Davis, Vogel again said, is only doing “light work” and won’t be evaluated again until the end of next week. Gasol, who has been in the health and safety protocols for two weeks, will probably need some time to get back into a playable rhythm whenever he’s cleared.
And Dudley, who has provided spot minutes in addition to fulfilling his role as a key locker room leader, won’t be an option anytime soon.
To win, the Lakers will need a little more from a lot of different places.
And that’s what they got Monday, with nine players scoring in the first half and all 11 available bodies getting at least one bucket in the game. Each Laker who played finished the game positive in the plus/minus statistic.
Following a rare practice Saturday that was mostly more of a walk-through, the offense played with great energy, with the ball zipping around the court as the Lakers racked up 19 first-half assists as they built a 15-point lead by halftime.
Harrell scored 19 points in the first half, with the Lakers’ playmakers learning that he is an expert at finding space in the interior. Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker scored eight each off the bench, combining to shoot six for eight from the field. The Lakers’ reserves scored 38 points in the first half, double the Golden State bench.
“They all played great,” Vogel said.
The Lakers’ second unit would have had 39 points in the half if Kuzma hadn’t missed a free-throw attempt so far to the left that even Bay Area voters were uncomfortable with it. After the airball, which came after a technical foul, players on both benches — and Kuzma — were seen laughing.
The only other hiccups came from turnovers — James had five of the team’s 11 turnovers in the first half, with the Warriors scoring 19 points off the mistakes.
But that was offset by hot shooting and willing passing, a byproduct of the Lakers finding a rhythm thanks to solid defending and offensive execution. From there, the blowout was on, with Horton-Tucker finishing with 18 points as well as a career-best 10 assists.
Still, there’s not a lot of room for any more bad luck.
James drove to the rim, beautifully double-clutching around the Warriors’ defense to score. But as he walked to the bench during the timeout that directly followed, cameras caught the star wincing in pain and shaking his left arm. James stayed in the game after an anxious commercial break.
Harrell took a quick elbow from angular Warriors rookie center James Wiseman, knocking him to the court on the baseline in front of the Lakers’ bench. Wiseman was called for the technical foul, and, like James, Harrell was able to continue.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, NBA teams have adjusted their routines, particularly practice, which has led to a lack of continuity this season.
Markieff Morris, starting for Davis, hobbled down the court after taking a shot to his right knee. He was diagnosed with a contusion — fancy NBA talk for a bruise — and was cleared to return.
Horton-Tucker, delivering as complete of a performance as he has had since being inserted into Vogel’s rotation, hit the court and was slow to get back up.
If any of those falls were just a little bit worse, if any of those bumps a little more severe, Vogel’s list would have gotten a little bit longer.
And the Lakers coach? He can only remember so much.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Staples Center
On the air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet: Radio: 710, 1330.
Update: The Timberwolves (9-30) picked up their second win in three games with a 114-112 victory over Portland on Sunday, one night after they lost to the Trail Blazers by four points. This will be the start of a three-game homestand for the Lakers.
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