Posted: Fri Mar 18, 2022 8:20 pm Post subject: LAKERS -at- RAPTORS - 3-18-22 - Thoughts and :-)) Ratings
Westbrook Redemption... He needed it. Russell Westbrook had just thrown up one of his worst looking shots of the season -- a three off the side of the backboard with 10 seconds left down 3. It was about as ugly an attempt as you will ever see.
But the game wasn’t over yet. The Lakers trapped on the sideline inbounds after the timeout. Russ jumped the passing lane and stole the ball. He pushed it up court, pulled up at the three line. With toes on the line, he pulled his foot back and buried the three with 0.4 left in the game to send it to overtime. The Laker bench exploded.
“That was just a competitive spirit play,” Vogel said.
From there it was a team effort in overtime. Austin Reaves with scores, passes and big defensive plays. LeBron with a score and a massive block off the glass. Wenyen Gabriel with a block in the final seconds. And Avery Bradley with a huge three and a couple of clutch freethrows. The Lakers took the 128-123 overtime road win.
This was the most connected the Lakers have looked from start to finish in a long time. Refreshing to see.
Some credit to Gabriel setting the tone early on. He had 14 points in the first quarter (10 in the first few minutes) and the Lakers would actually have a lead 33-30 after the first quarter.
It helped that the Lakers shot 5-10 from three in that first versus the 0-every-attempt that the Lakers had been serving up in first quarters of late. From start to finish they battled. That’s all you can ask for.
LeBron -- -- Some wild plays down the stretch in regulation. He missed an ill-advised corner three in transition with 3 minutes after tracking down a pass that left him off balance on the break. He banked in a turnaround three with 2:30 left (must have been some St. Patty’s day luck left over for him on that one).. He’d knock down a three with 1:13 left to answer a Raptors three. He’d throw an awful pass out of bounds with 44 seconds left after stagnating the offense (that was a big turnover with the score tied up. So a bit of a wild ride to close regulation and the basketball gods finally gave us one. They usually show up when you do good things. In that regard, there were some excellent cuts tonight and guys were finding LeBron for scores. He had Westbrook did a good job putting themselves into threats off ball instead of standing around. Defensively, Lebron had a couple big blocks in this game. Early on a nice one that came after he was manhandling several Raptors in the paint on the offensive end to power up for a score. But the biggest on became with in OT when he came from behind a teammate to reject a shot off glass as our C. Loved some of the battle we showed in the paint. We were undersized and the Raptors took advantage of that, but the guys did scrap much better than we’ve seen of late and that’s all you can ask when you are playing small ball. The Stats: He scored 36 points on 15-26 shooting (2-7 from three, 4-7 from the line) to go with 9 boards (4 offensive), 7 assists, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers and 2 fouls in 45 minutes. He was a -5.
Westbrook -- -- This was one of his better games this season prior to that final 15 seconds of regulation or so. Then came that awful chuck from three after pulling out an offensive board. He kind of panicked, chucked and wasn’t close to the rim and almost didn’t hit the side of the board, either. You were just like, great, here we go again. He looked a bit like that also went through his head, as well. Asked how he doesn’t let that affect him. “I’ve got 23,000 points, how about that?” he said. We got him an opportunity for redemption shortly later. After the Raptors inbounded, we trapped, Russ jumped the passing lane in the backcourt and swiped the ball. He pushed it up court and hit the huge three to tie it with 0.4 left. “Nights like tonight are why I just stay true to my faith,” he said afterward. He needed that bigtime. What I liked in this game prior to all that, though, was the attention to the little things that win games. First, some intent with the off-ball movement early on. We saw plays where he’d set a screen, cut into the paint where he’s a threat, and then score off the passes. I’ve been mentioning how important screen setting is for him, how important the cuts are off ball and positioning in the dunker spots are, as well, as a non-shooting threat. We had designed sequences where we did all that in a single play. He didn’t even need to score off these. On one, he screened, cut to get the ball, then kicked to Gabriel for the open three. He shot the ball well tonight, which always helps. But even off one of his own threes, we actually set a pin-in screen for him to take the pass and he knocked down the open three. Good habits lead to good results. But we know three shooting won’t always be there. It’s these other plays that can always be run that keep you a consistent threat. The basketball gods also like the effort on the glass. We haven’t seen triple-doubles lately and the effort for them hasn’t been there. He had a rebound tonight where he saved it to a teammate while diving out of bounds. More of that, please. Basketball gods also like sharing the ball. Russ led the team in assists, but some nice ones like a bounce pass to a cutting LeBron going backdoor for a layup. Or a bullet feed to Dwight under the hoop. Good stuff leading right to easy buckets. This one was heading to be his best game of the season. He blew that three, then saved the game with the steal and three in regulation. Put this one at the top of his games as a Laker. The Stats: He scored 22 points on 8-18 shooting (4-7 from three, 2-2 from the line) to go with 10 boards, 10 assists, 1 steal, 4 turnovers and 2 fouls in 41 minutes. He was a +7.
Monk -- -- Defensively, his lack of size gets the best of him at times. He’s done a much better job being in the right place at the right time, but sometimes it just doesn’t matter when you’re that size. That was a problem quite a bit tonight. Offensively, he had a nice flurry at the end of the second quarter with a three, a backdoor dunk and reverse for three straight scores. In the second half, he had a corner attack for a dunk. Still, though, a weaker link out there tonight and he led the team with a -16. The Stats: He scored 9 points on 4-9 shooting (1-4 from three) to go with 2 boards, 1 assist and 2 fouls in 30 minutes. He was a -16.
Howard -- -- You wondered how much his game would fall off in his later career because so much of it relied on his athleticism. It’s tough. He can’t get to lobs like he used to. Anything you threw up in there in the past, it was a bucket. Now, it has to be perfect or it’s not happening. And often it’s a layup finish on those. We saw that tonight. What I appreciate the last few years is that he’s humbled himself to still go out there and just play a small roll. For us tonight, just keeping the ball alive or regaining possession on the offensive glass are big. That got him a number of FTs and in a close game, all those extra effort plays that lead to a possession or two here or there … those things add up. The Stats: He scored 7 points on 1-2 shooting (5-7 from the line) to go with 6 boards (3 offensive), 1 block, 2 turnovers and 1 foul in 24 minutes. He was a -4.
Gabriel -- -- Amazing game. He got the start and got the Lakers off to a hot start with him as he poured in 10 points in the first 3 minutes. The three shot was money tonight. He spotted up in the corner and knocked them down. Some good passing, as well, including finding LeBron cutting for a dunk and also a drive and kick back out to Augustin for a three. He’d get some finishes at the rim, including a reverse in transition and a dunk off a drive and dish from Stanley. He’d also hit a jumphook to start the game. His best, though, was after taking an interior feed, he rocked his man back with contact and then scored the lefty And-1. A game or two ago, he did that, hesitated long enough for the D to recover and promptly got swatted. Not tonight. Final defensive play tonight, he rejected a drive to get the stop and close the door. Career night and excellent to see in his debut in the starting lineup. Well done. The Stats: He scored 17 points on 7-8 shooting (3-3 from three, 0-1 from the line) to go with 3 boards (2 offensive), 2 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover and 5 fouls in 25 minutes. He was a +4.
Reaves -- -- I mean you can send him to the bench, but you’re still going to end up closing with him if you’re smart. He led the team off the bench with a +18. New sub pattern, he came in off the bench when LeBron sat at the end of the first quarter to help those non-LeBron lineups. First shot was an airball three that he rushed. He’d airball another later, but still knock down two big ones. The stat sheet shows some stuff tonight. Not quite near-triple-double level but 10 points, 7 boards, 6 assists…that’s his game right there. That’s the sweet spot. He was hustling for boards, cracking back to sandwich bigger players or hustling for loose balls. Last year if there was a loose ball, Caruso was always the first guy to it. This game, you saw a ton of that from Reaves. Passing wise, he was spot on. No turnovers and some tough feeds with little room for error. He took a board and threw an outlet full court to LeBron just over the defender for a score that combined both of those above skills. He hit LeBron again on the break for the layup as well as backdooring his man on an ATO for another dunk. In overtime, he was aggressive. I love aggressive Reaves. First play, he attacked the pressure on the wing and scored a layup to start OT. He’d miss a drive, get it back and hit LeBron (yet again) cutting for a score. He’d turn the corner on a LeBron screen and attack the rim for more FTs. This is a rookie against a tough team in OT. He’d also help come up with a key stop with 15 seconds left in the paint. Defensively, early in the game, he also stopped a break drawing a charge. He also had a weakside steal that turned into that breakaway score for LeBron. The three ball wasn’t always there, but everything else was just one winning play after another. Loved this game. The Stats: He scored 10 points on 3-10 shooting (2-7 from three, 2-2 from the line) to go with 7 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals and 1 foul in 27 minutes. He was a +18.
Johnson -- -- Small thing, but he knows what to do when he’s not spacing the floor. If someone kicks out to him, he doesn’t let the defense easily catch up. He will be on the move quickly, either attacking seams immediately or looking to run a screen and kickback to keep an advantage. He’d hit a floater attacking a seam and also a lefty layup. He did struggle finish some easy ones he should have had in addition to missing both threes. But he’d also set up some teammates with nice passes on those attacks or after passing and setting screens. A couple steals in this one, blindsiding a man for one. I appreciated Siakam not being able to move him on some drives. We need guys making the little plays and with high motor and he gave us that tonight. The Stats: He scored 4 points on 2-9 shooting (0-2 from three) to go with 3 boards, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover and 1 foul in 30 minutes. He was a +6.
Augustin -- -- Designated shooter. If we can get him an open look where he’s on balance, it just seems like it’s money. Which is probably why he’s torched us on occasion in the past. Just awful D on our part and that led to on-balance open looks for him. So anytime we can get him those, it’s a good offensive possession. Lakers really had some nice passing and floor spacing tonight and that resulted in three threes from him. The Stats: He scored 9 points on 3-6 shooting to go with 1 assist and 2 fouls in 18 minutes. He was a +6.
Bradley -- -- Really strong outing from Bradley and that led to him closing in OT. Early on, he threw a couple passes away (one a good idea bad execution, the other a bad idea that even good execution wouldn’t save). But he’d knock down a three in the first half. In the second half, he’d swish a three on a swing pass that started from some Russ penetration. He’d get a steal in the paint on a switch. Then, he’d knock down a big three with 5:16 left to go up 4. In overtime, he’d hit one of the shots of the game, a three on a kickout from Russ with 33 seconds left. Then he’d knock down two clutch FTs with 12 seconds left. Steady veteran effort tonight. The team had some guys playing with a sense of urgency out there. We need more of that. The Stats: He scored 14 points on 4-8 shooting (4-7 from three, 2-2 from the line) to go with 3 boards, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 turnovers and 3 fouls in 25 minutes. He was a +9.
Vogel -- -- Key Moment: He gave the team some good instruction for the defensive play of the game. If the ball goes to the sideline, don’t foul, trap it and go for the steal. Otherwise, foul everywhere else. They forced the pass to the sideline, trapped and Russ jumped in front of the Raptor as the pass out of the double team came and the rest is history.
Key Substitution: We shuttled guys in and out of the roster quite a bit tonight. Starting Gabriel and getting that output from him was huge. Overtime, he went with LeBron, Russ and Bradley along with the youngsters Reaves and Gabriel. They got the job done.
Key Stats: Let’s just go with the 19-43 shooting from three (44%). You got to hit shots. Hopefully, the law of averages is in the team’s favor after that atrocious bit of shooting in the three prior games.
Coach’s Challenge: Gabriel with 14 points in the first quarter and two fouls, got run over in transition. It looked like an obvious charge, but he was whistled for his third foul of the first quarter. Vogel didn’t want to sit him after the great start, so he challenged with 2 minutes left in the third. It was not overturned. Pretty poor call, in my opinion. Later in the game with 2:17 left, Bradley looked like he drew an offensive foul on Barnes, but the refs instead called an And-1 score and the Lakers would trail by 2 as a result. He probably would have used it then if not for that earlier call. Hard to get those ones in your favor, though.
I’m very happy for the win. It seems like whenever we hit a decent percentage of 3’s & free-throws we are competitive. The issue is we can’t play like that consistently this season. Any game that takes a Westbrook last second 3 to make it to overtime is a fluke, not successful 9 out of 10 games. Not to mention some of the other lucky 3’s that are not repeatable on a nightly basis. I guess you can’t ignore the old saying that it’s better to be lucky than good. I wish us much luck the rest of the season.
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