Coming off consecutive wins, the Lakers are back in action to face off against the Warriors for the second time this preseason on Friday night. The game tips at 7:00pm PT on Spectrum SportsNet and ESPN 2.
Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:
RUSSELL IN A RHYTHM
Through three preseason games, several Lakers have stood out for how well they’ve played but D’Angelo Russell might be the most impressive of them all. In his three appearances, Russell is averaging 16.7 points and 6.3 assists to only 1.3 turnovers while shooting 63.3% from the field and 61.5% from behind the arc, in just 19.4 minutes a game.
In Wednesday’s win over the Kings, Russell scored 21 points in 21 minutes, and did much of his damage in and around the paint by attacking off the dribble and hunting opportunities to get to the rim against a Kings defense that he perpetually kept off balance. Russell also added eight assists, expertly setting up teammates on no-look passes and more conventional looks with equal expertise.
The level of comfort Russell is showing bodes well for the upcoming season and reflects both his tenure in the league and his fit within this group of players. After the win over the Kings, Russell commented on exactly that.
“The group that we got has been fun,” Russell said. “A lot of good guys out there that I have fun playing with and just enjoying watching them do well, and when it comes my way I feel the same energy back, so I like where we’re at as a team.”
A DEEP ROSTER
The Lakers win over the Kings was not just a showcase for Russell, but for the overall depth of this team and how much talent they have throughout the entire group.
Against the Kings, none of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, Jarred Vanderbilt, or Cam Reddish were available, but that did not stop others from stepping into larger roles and seizing those opportunities to show how capable they are of producing when guys sit out.
It did not matter that Russell was the only holdover starter available, the new first five still played extremely well, with three of the other four scoring in double digits and the one who did not (Jaxson Hayes) still playing well within his role by defending, rebounding, setting good screens, and playing with great energy — which reflected in his team-best +14 on the night.
Even beyond that starting group, the team got strong contributions in a variety of ways from multiple players, be it Christian Wood’s shot creation and scoring, Max Christie’s defense, Jalen Hood-Schifino’s passing, or the general togetherness and two-way play of the closing group of rookies where Maxwell Lewis, D’Moi Hodge, Colin Castleton, and Alex Fudge were able to hold on against more established Kings veterans to get the win.
This sort of depth is a great positive for Coach Ham and should allow him a multitude of options and different groups to turn to over the long haul of an 82-game regular season.
With three games left in the exhibition season and 11 days until opening night in Denver, LeBron’s ramp up plan to be ready for the regular season is right on track.
As training camp opened, LeBron stated he was targeting playing in about half of the team’s six contests and, if that holds, would equate to him making appearances in two of the team’s final three games vs. the Warriors, Bucks (Sunday), and Suns (Wednesday).
There’s no right or wrong approach to which games to appear in, and there’s arguments to made for any combination.
For example, playing vs. the Warriors and Bucks could help simulate a regular season approach of playing two games in three days and give him an extended break to get his body ready for opening night. Playing vs. the Warriors and Suns would allow him a few days of time off before the final exhibition game, which he could use as a springboard into the regular season the following week. Playing against the Bucks and the Suns would give him a two-game ramp up into the opener, with the potential to treat one as a dress-rehearsal.
Whatever path chosen, however, it will be backed with thoughtful consideration while also being incorporated into a larger plan for how to manage the full team’s preparation for when the games start to count on October 24th.