With messages sent, and apparently received, the Los Angeles Lakers appear back to the best version of themselves, with another chance to prove it during a visit from the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has rearranged the furniture over the course of the opening 3 1/2 months, first removing Austin Reaves from the starting lineup early in the season, then doing the same with D’Angelo Russell earlier this month.
There also was a report in early January that players had a growing disconnect with Ham and his rotations. The blunt assessment from star LeBron James after a Jan. 5 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies: “I mean, we just suck right now.”
A few weeks later it appears to be one big happy family as the Lakers have won four of six games, with Reaves and Russell returning to the starting lineup in that stretch. Victories have come over top teams in the West like the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks.
In Wednesday’s 127-110 victory over the Mavs, the Lakers’ ruthless second half was powered by 16 of Russell’s team-high 29 points. Reaves added 14 total points on 6-of-8 shooting. Anthony Davis nearly had a triple-double with 28 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, while James had 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Happy family indeed.
The frustrated Nets stumble into Los Angeles off a second consecutive one-possession defeat when they fell 105-103 at Portland on Wednesday to open a three-game West Coast trip. Before departing, they fell 96-95 in overtime to the Miami Heat on Monday.
Mikal Bridges scored 21 points for Brooklyn on Wednesday, while Spencer Dinwiddie added 19, but the Trail Blazers’ Anfernee Simons made a basket in the lane with 0.2 seconds left, driving through Bridges and Dinwiddie and shooting over Nic Claxton.
Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn did not want to overemphasize the deciding play of the game after harping beforehand on the Blazers’ ability to get to the basket.
Bridges missed some time in the second half, even going back to the locker room for a stretch after a collision with Portland’s Jabari Walker, but he eventually returned nursing a lower-leg contusion. He leads the NBA with 432 consecutive games played.
Vaughn said Bridges will be “assessed” and did not commit to his guard/forward’s availability for Friday’s game.
The Nets now have lost four consecutive games and nine of their last 10. Since Dec. 14, they are just 3-14.