Well, OK, I admit to the title of this recap to be a bit misleading. I mean, unless it’s a game 7 or an elimination game it’s not really a must win, right? But, Lakers fans know what a loss tonight would have meant. A loss would have given the Lakers a season long 5-game losing streak. That’s bad. A loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers who are currently 12th in the Eastern Conference would have been worse. On top of all that, with this game being at home and the Cavaliers playing without their leading sorer in Collin Sexton, well, that loss would have been unbearable. So, no, it wasn’t really a must win. But in a very real way, the Lakers had to win this game.
Thankfully for Lakers fans, they did!
It wasn’t a pretty game, but sometimes you have to win the ugly ones. In a season that has seen an uptick in offensive performance, neither team was able to muster a 30 point quarter. Instead, the final score brought back memories of the NBA in the 1990’s where defense and hard fouls ruled. The Lakers were led again by Montrezl Harrell who has been incredible for the them in the absence of Anthony Davis and now LeBron James. In fact, he has been great for the Lakers since he signed with them. The same could be said for Dennis Schroder who played well in a third quarter that saw the Lakers pull away for good.
Star of the Game
The aforementioned Montrezl Harrell was a star tonight. In one of his very first shot attempts tonight Cavs big man, Jarrett Allen, sent Harrell’s shot to the ground like a volleyball spike. That seemed to motivate Trezz who didn’t back down from Allen. In fact, later in the game he was able to get Allen under the rim and went up for a dunk that Allen was powerless to stop. The Lakers have had many great players in their history, but Harrell is unique. He dunks with the ferocity of Shaquille O’Neal, rebounds with the abandon of Dennis Rodman (who was a Lakers player for a while) and takes charges like the great Michael Cooper. He isn’t a superstar and will likely never make an All-Star game, but there is no denying his impact on this team.
Aside from the obvious, the health of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, there are some other concerns. This team needs to learn how to win and play Lakers basketball without their stars. Tonight was a good win, but the opponent didn’t put up a lot of resistance. Can this team learn something that will help them as a unit until their stars return? Tonight didn’t really answer that question. The only other concern is a bit trivial, but I do wonder about Talen Horton-Tucker. He is so young that the concern is about as mild a concern as it could possibly be, but he is struggling with his long range shot. Over his last 10 games he is shooting 15% from three point range. 15%! I mean, that’s really bad. On one hand, when you are as good attacking the rim as he is, who cares if you can’t make a 28 footer. But then, in today’s NBA, everyone cares about your ability to make the 28 footer. Again, not a big concern, but something to watch.
Kyle Kuzma gets a lot of hate from Lakers fans. They want him to be that consistent third scorer they all thought he could be. It not doubt makes things tougher when they see players like Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle all flourishing after leaving the Purple and Gold. Tonight, Kuzma only scored 4 points and missed every shot he took from 3-point range. What I liked about his game though is that he seemed to know he was off and instead of hoisting up shots, as he might of done in the past, he concentrated on play making. He led the team (along with Schroder) with 7 assists, He also chipped in 8 rebounds. Good players don’t rely on any one thing, they work to be a threat in multiple areas. Tonight Kuzma’s shooting was off, so he switched focus and hurt the Cavs in other ways. That is the type of maturity Lakers fans have been wanting to see from Kuzma!
Vs. Orlando Magic, Sunday, March 28 at 7PM Pacific
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LAKERS GET A MUST WIN LAKERS GET A MUST WIN
Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!