(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
Lakers Finish Preseason With W over Warriors
After opening the preseason 1-3 using various new line ups with the starters playing limited minutes, the Lakers beat the Warriors on Wednesday in Vegas, and again on Friday in San Jose, to wrap things up at 3-3 in advance of the regular season opener at Portland on Thursday, Oct. 18.
In the 119-105 finale, L.A. outscored Golden State 65-38 in the second half, riding much of their second and third stringers down the stretch as Svi Mykhailuk, Issac Bonga, Johnathan Williams, Travis Wear and Ivica Zubac entertained the Lakers regulars that enjoyed the show from the bench.
In fact, LeBron James and Rajon Rondo were rested for the evening, while Brandon Ingram (quad) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (knee tendinitis) and Josh Hart (hamstring tweak) were also out nursing minor ailments. All are fine, though, and Luke Walton expects them all back in practice on Monday after a weekend off for the team. They’ll all be ready to roll against the Blazers.
Lonzo Ball, however, was out there for his second preseason appearance, and looked healthy once again while scoring eight points (hitting two of three 3-pointers) with seven assists and six boards.
“He needs to just keep playing,” said Walton. “He makes some incredible plays. He keeps our pace going. He is still knocking off some of that rust, but he is good. He makes our team better.”
Indeed, the Lakers won both games Ball played in, with his typically unselfish passing on one end and strong defense on the other providing a strong template for his teammates.
JaVale McGee was the lone starter who played in the game. He finished with 14 points, six boards, two assists, two steals and a block in 18 minutes against the team he won two championships with. Kyle Kuzma added 19 points in his 22 minutes. Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley, on the other hand, were both ejected in the second half, Beasley after a dust up that seemed harmless with Draymond Green, and Stephenson for swinging his arm in the direction of Quinn Cook after Cook fouled him.
That aside, L.A.’s bench really seemed to enjoy watching the third stringers finish out the game.
“Those guys they have been training, all camp and haven’t got a lot of opportunity to play in preseason,” said Kuzma. “They bust their tails in practice and for Svi, J3 and even Bonga. Bonga had a great game. I’m happy for all those guys.”
Svi finished with a team-high 22 points, plus four assists in his best game of the preseason by far, Williams had a 14-point, 12- rebound double-double, Wear 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting and Bonga 12 points (4 of 5 FG’s) plus nine boards and five assists, the 18-year-old flashing some of the skills that led to L.A. drafting him at No. 39 overall.
”We love Bonga’s play-making ability,” said Walton. “He needs to continue to get stronger, but he is doing that. What we saw today was much better then what was going on in pick-up games before the season started. He has a great feel for the game, he is unselfish, and he is long. There is a reason why we drafted him. We like what he can do and he showed it tonight.”
Overall, Walton thought the defense was better in the last two games than it had been to start the preseason.
“Our defense was good,” he explained. “We talk about our defense all training camp and every media session. It has gotten better. I think that shows the type of culture we are putting in here and what we want from our guys. Whether you are playing or not, you are supporting your teammates that are out there. The things we have been preaching about is our defense which has gotten better, focusing on our group which hasn’t been challenged yet but it will be, and then pace. All those things tonight we did a good job of. The training camp and preseason that has gone by has been really good for us.”
Like any coach, Walton would love more time for his group to gel heading into the season, but he felt good about how things went overall.
”We know we have a lot of work to do and we are at the beginning still,” he concluded. “It is going to be long journey, but it is going to be fun. I am very pleased with the amount of growth and effort in the short amount of time so far. Now we will give the guys a couple of days off to regroup, get their minds ready, bodies ready and we will start prepping for Portland on Monday.”