The Lakers move on through their 2022-23 preseason with a Thursday evening game against Minnesota at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The game tips at 7:00 p.m. PT on Spectrum SportsNet and ESPN.
Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:
STARTERS, SECOND UNIT FIND SUCCESS VS SUNS
Despite the late scratch of Anthony Davis, the Lakers outplayed both the starting lineup and bench group of Phoenix, who entered the game healthy before early exits for Cameron Johnson and Cameron Payne.
LeBron James and Russell Westbrook took advantage of some good early spacing in Darvin Ham’s system, exploiting angles with North-South drives to go a combined 9 for 12 towards 11 points apiece. Austin Reaves had five assists, Patrick Beverley was doing his hard-playing things, and Wenyen Gabriel’s athleticism and length was helpful on both ends.
LeBron was just as good in the second quarter, reaching 23 points by hitting three more shots, including two of his three triples, helping carry the Lakers to a 69-62 edge at the break. L.A. continued to play well in the third quarter despite sitting the vets, holding a six-point edge after three, before Ham went to the rookie-heavy group that eventually lost the lead to the rookie-less Suns.
It was a similar pattern to the preseason opener against the Kings, and one that encourages Ham moving forward.
“I saw a great deal of carry over from our film session we had this morning, great improvement from Game 1 to Game 2 of the preseason, just a focus to do the little things,” said Darvin Ham. “We pinpointed some stuff defensively off the ball, in the pick and roll that we wanted to improve. Just mixing up the groups, wanting to see a small ball lineup; I thought it went well. LeBron … is LeBron, and he caught fire a little bit in that first half. But I’m very pleased.”
AUSTIN REAVES EXCELS
In a starting role alongside Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley on the perimeter in a small lineup, Austin Reaves was terrific, both on and off the stat sheet. He scored six points on 2 of 3 FG’s, with a team-high nine assists, seven boards, three steals and two blocks.
“Austin is like a Swiss Army Knife, said Ham. “He’s going to be a really, really valuable piece for us as we try to turn this thing around.”
"Austin can fit in any group,” added LeBron. “A guy who plays extremely hard, plays well, doesn't make mistakes, always in the right place at the right time ... he plays extremely hard. His IQ is very high. Always good to be on the floor with him. I love AR.”
Meanwhile, Kendrick Nunn was outstanding off the bench, confidently scoring 21 points on 8 of 13 shooting with four made threes.
VETS TO SIT
Since Thursday’s game against Minnesota is the second night of a back-to-back, we won’t see LeBron, AD or Russell Westbrook, while Patrick Beverley is considered 50-50 to play.
Davis was a late scratch for Wednesday’s game, which Ham clarified.
“We just got ahead of that; he had a little bit of lower back tightness,” he said. “This thing is going to be a marathon and we need him to be available and healthy. We’re not going to try to play hero and force him to be out here for Game 2 of a preseason game. When we need him, once we start October 18, everything is geared towards us being able to set a tone from that first game throughout the entire 82-game season. It was just us being precautionary.”
The Lakers do hope to get Lonnie Walker IV on the floor for his first preseason game as he’s been dealing with an ankle injury throughout training camp. Troy Brown Jr. (back) and Dennis Schröder (not with team) will remain out.