Tonight’s game was so meaningless, not even Lawrence Tanter and James Worthy made it to the pre-game show on KCAL 9. The Lakers had locked up the third seed in the Western Conference two days ago, so Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum predictably sat out the last game of the season. Without their big three in the starting line-up, Metta World Peace serving the first game of his seven-game suspension for the elbow to James Harden’s head last Sunday and Matt Barnes back in L.A. nursing a sprained ankle, Mike Brown worked with the rest of the guys left on the roster.
The Lakers’ activated players tonight were a mixed crew of regular rotation guys and others who saw little to no floor time at all this season. Despite the outcome of this game not counting towards anything significant, like seeding, it was still an opportunity for us fans to see the other side of this Laker team – the youthful, quick, erratic side, that is.
There wasn’t much defense carried out, nor an inside game dominance to speak of. The Lakers were even outrebounded, but everyone who checked in scored, all but one player handed out an assist and all but one player picked up some rebounds. At the end of it, no one was hurt, no one was ejected and the coaching staff got to see what their young players can offer.
No Additional Injuries – Last season, the Spurs’ Manu Ginobli was injured in the final game of the regular season, and his absence was felt when San Antonio, who had the best record in the league at the time, was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. The Lakers weren’t risking that tonight, choosing to sit Bryant, Gasol and Bynum, who can use all the rest they can get before Sunday’s series opening game against the Denver Nuggets.
3-point shooting – 7-15 from downtown for the Lakers. It’s not a staggering number, but that two of three came from Josh McRoberts is a pleasant surprise. Andrew Goudelock, never afraid to score, hit 3-5 from back there.
Assists – Yes, the Laker young love to score, but they still handed out 27 assists of their 41 made field goals, which accounted for more than 2/3 of their shots. Steve Blake led the way with six dimes. The only downside were the 15 turnovers.
Youth in Reserve – Some of them are still a little on the green side, but this group of young players that the Lakers have at their disposal aren’t just a bunch of ragtag picks that take up space on the bench. They can score from the perimeter and finish at the rim (Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris), they’ve got playmaking abilities (Sessions, obviously), not to mention some athleticism (did you check out that Christian Iyenga dunk? He’s no Shannon Brown flying through the air but the kid’s got some hops). They barely played a lick of defense tonight (except Jordan Hill who had eight rebounds, three steals and a block), but they’ve got youth on their side – they’ve still got time to develop that area of their game.
Josh McRoberts – McBob has been on and off Mike Brown’s rotation this past season, but when he’s called up, he’s always ready to play. He led the purple and gold pack tonight with 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists and played the most with just under 38 minutes of floor time. He showed off with a couple of lob dunks, not to mention some range with a pair from downtown. Along with Matt Barnes, McRoberts always provides that kick of energy off the bench.
Last regular season game – That we are now heading into the second season is the biggest highlight of the night. The Lakers and the rest of the league survived a hyper 66-game season and now head to the playoffs with a chance to pit themselves against the rest of the NBA’s best.
No Inside Game – Without their seven-footers on the floor, the Laker guards seemed to be the only ones able to penetrate to score in the paint. The visitors were outscored 66-40 in that area.
No Defense – The Lakers gave up 35 points on 56% shooting to the Sacramento Kings in the first quarter and then gave up 34 points on a whopping 68% shooting in the third quarter. I think it’s safe to guess what the goal of tonight’s line-up was, because it certainly wasn’t to play any defense. They also gave up 25 fast break points, while scoring just five points of their own. The Kings led by as much as 24 points.
The Lakers have been called “old” often this season, but take away the 30+ year olds on this team (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Matt Barnes, Blake and Murphy), and the average age drops from 28 to 24 years old. The younger Lakers aren’t polished quite yet, but their potential to be solid players on this team or in this league are absolutely there. Rotations tighten in the post-season, but in the playoffs, anything can happen and Mike Brown could call one of his young players up. They just always have to remain ready.