Russell Westbrook - 3 Things to Know

Three Things to Know: Lakers at Wizards 12-4-22

After a win in Milwaukee on Friday, the Lakers (9-12) continue their road trip and face off against the Wizards (11-12) on Sunday. The game tips at 3:00 p.m. PT on Spectrum SportsNet and 710 ESPN radio.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:

LEBRON PASSES MAGIC
When LeBron passed the ball to Anthony Davis on the right wing and AD proceeded to step behind a Patrick Beverley pin-down screen to bury a three pointer in Friday's win over the Bucks, LeBron moved into sixth on the all-time assist rankings passing former Lakers' great Magic Johnson.

In the aftermath of the final buzzer sounding, LeBron was both informed of his leapfrogging Magic on this prestigious list and asked to reflect on what it means to pass not only a great player, but an icon of the league and for the franchise that LeBron currently plays for.

"It's very humbling to be linked with any of the greats, but it's even more of a humbling feeling when you're actually wearing the same uniform that a guy wore", LeBron said. Further adding, "Magic has been everything to this franchise since the moment he was drafted and it's an honor for me to try to carry on his legacy while I play this game."

Also of statistical significance in Friday's win was that LeBron tallied 11 assists while also not committing a single turnover. It was the ninth such time he has accomplished this feat in his career, and the first time since a November 2019 win over the Atlanta Hawks. If you're wondering, Magic accomplished this 12 times in his career. As you might expect, both players are undefeated in such games.

LAKERS LAST 10
With Friday's win the Lakers are now 7-3 in their last 10 games and aren't just playing better in relation to their own standard to start the year, but are playing like one of the better teams in the entire league.

During this stretch here is where the team ranks in some key statistical categories:

  • Offensive Efficiency: 5th (117.9)
  • Defensive Efficiency: 9th (111.1)
  • Net Rating: 6th (+6.8)
  • Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 10th (37.2%)
  • Free Throws Attempted: 1st (28.3)
  • Free Throw Percentage: 7th (81.6%)
  • Defensive Rebounds: 1st (36.5)
  • Turnovers Committed: 6th (13.6)

Of course, it makes sense that the number of things the team does well will lead to overall better play and more wins. But, there's also a symbiotic relationship between shooting better from beyond the arc, limiting turnovers, taking and making a lot of free throws, and scoring more efficiently. There's a correlation between taking care of the ball, finishing defensive possessions with rebounds, and good defensive efficiency.

While teams can stumble into a win here or there, stringing wins together and having a prolonged stretch of good results almost always comes down to strong process and being able to commit to repeating that night after night. The Lakers, in their last 10 games, have done exactly that more often than not. And it's showing in their statistical makeup as much as it's showing on the scoreboard at the final buzzer.

MATCHUP WITH THE WIZARDS
After starting the season 10-7, the Wizards have lost five of their last six games and are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference.

Despite their recent struggles, Washington packs a punch offensively, boasting the league's 5th best offense over that stretch of games. They're led by a trio of scorers who offer the team a balance between perimeter play and interior effectiveness that requires an all-court defensive approach and team attentiveness both on and off the ball.

Bradley Beal, whose 24.1 points a night are supplemented by good playmaking (5.7 assists) and a willingness to make the right play, is the engine that makes everything go. Beal is a true three-level scorer; he's taken nearly the exact same number of shots from behind the arc as the in the restricted area, while also boasting one of the best mid-range shooting percentages (52.8%) in the NBA.

Complementing Beal are big man Kristaps Porzingis and combo-forward Kyle Kuzma, who both average over 20 points a game (21.6 and 20.3 respectively) and who can both hurt defenses from all over the court. Porzingis does an excellent job of leveraging his height in the post to shoot over the top of shorter defenders while still showing the ability to stretch the floor and knock down the three-ball.

Lakers fans are also very familiar with Kuz and his all-purpose offensive attack that includes an array of runners, off-legged and backhand finishes at the rim, spot up jumpers from deep, and everything in-between. Kuz also remains a real threat in transition and his burgeoning shot creation skills in the pick-and-roll deserve attention too.

In saying that, the Lakers can provide some challenging matchups on both sides of the ball, with AD and LeBron offering direct counters to Porizingis and Kuzma, while the depth the team has on the perimeter provides multiple options to keep Bradley Beal occupied on both ends of the floor. The Lakers will need an all-hands-on-deck approach to deal with such a diverse group of scoring threats, but with their defense picking it up of late, there's reasons to believe they will be up for the challenge.

On the other end, the Lakers can look to leverage their individual shot creation skills and ability to draw fouls. Washington's opponents have shot the 12th most free throws so far this season, which plays into one of the Lakers strengths of late. If the Lakers can continue to force the issue by getting to the basket via drives and out of the pick-and-roll, and working through AD out of the post, they can get points at the free throw line and reap the many benefits that come from them.