The Lakers lost to the Bulls 118-110 on Sunday night in a game that has followed the norm for Lakers games this year. There were constant lead changes with big runs, bad defense, and a very strong bench performance that allowed them to stay in the game after a shaky first quarter.
The defense was bad yesterday. Jimmy Butler is a really good player, but his 40 point performance was largely a result of bad defense in the paint and getting the Lakers to bite on a lot of pump fakes to draw fouls. This is expected for a young team that is still very inconsistent on the defensive end.
Yet, even with this barrage from Jimmy Buckets, the Lakers were still able to hang around until the very last minute. This happened thanks to two players: Larry Nance Jr., and Lou Williams. The starters have struggled early on for most of the season and this game was no different. Their cold start meant that the bench had to bail them out yet again, and that is exactly what they did.
Clarkson struggled from the field, but the rest of the bench was really good all game long. Heck, even Ingram was looking better than usual by actually scoring points. Black came out with some great energy that helped the team. Lou Williams couldn’t miss for the first ten minutes he was out there. Then there was Mr. Larry Nance…
Larry was playing pretty solid until he suffered a concussion in the game against the Suns. Since then, he hasn’t fared as well, and has not been making the plays he usually makes on either ends of the court. That all changed against the Bulls. He looked more comfortable and played more like he did during the Summer League, which is great to see for a bench that was already lighting it up without him.
Let’s get into what he led to his success in this game before I bite on a Jimmy Butler pump fake.
Although it was Mozgov that got the ball and drained the mid-range shot, this was a good effort on Nance’s side to reposition himself and move without the ball to get in a spot where he could get the ball and score. These are the things he needs to always be doing in order to help get easy points for the second unit.
Here, Nance does a good job of sticking with the play. Ingram chooses to roll with Moz and then stops. Nance goes a good job of staying by the key for the reset pass. He passes it out to Nick and then does the sorta screen where he drives right to the basket with some speed. Nick gives him a nice pass and Nance throws up some weird shot, but it goes in. A strong screen would be better, but in that situation the sorta screen worked, and it really allowed him to show his speed.
Here is a nice little effort play that bothers Robin Lopez as he tries to secure the rebound, and then he gives another reach to try and create a turnover. These plays are ones that really show how active Nance was last night as he didn’t take many plays off.
Really nice steal here from Nance. Nick Young pesters Gibson into panicking a bit and throwing it into a passing lane where Nance could go and get it. After that the Lakers move the ball nicely and it gives Nick a lane to drive and finish. He had Nance for the dump off, but Nick gotta get his stats up.
Brandon Ingram runs pick and rolls better than Usain Bolt runs sprints. Here, he gets a screen from Larry that attracts two defenders toward Ingram to stop him from scoring. Ingram then dumps a wrap around pass that bounces into the hands of Nance who finishes the only way you are supposed to finish a play after a pass like that: with a dunk. Nance is quick enough to be successful in either regular or sorta pick and rolls.
Nance does a good job of cutting towards the basket and Clarkson does an equally good job of recognizing and dumping it off to Nance. Once he gets it, Portis does a good job of sliding over, so Nance has to double clutch and make a tough shot. His finishing looked much better than it had before.
Great seal here for Nance to get in a good position for an entry pass. He then goes up and gets hit hard for a foul call. Probably could have finished that if he wanted.
What a pass by Nance. I mean, he just simply set Lou Williams up. All Lou had to do was double clutch and hit a half court shot. Credit goes to Nance for an amazing assist to set up the shot.
Really good help defense by Nance as he notices that Felicio is going to drive to the rim. Nance has to slide over to get the block or at least bother the shot. He did a good job of making sure he didn’t foul Felicio by keeping the arms on the ball or straight up. It’s great to see him making these defensive highlight plays.
At this point, there has be a sixth man on the court just to stop Nance’s backdoor lobs. He is so quick that no big can react quickly enough. The only way to stop it is to pray he doesn’t control the ball or have another player rotate over.
Larry Nance had the play of the game with this great tap pass foe Tarik Black off of a lob. Just simply breath taking. Such unselfishness to make the extra pass.
Nance always hits the boards hard and with a lot of energy so this putback jam is no surprise. He is always around the rim setting up a putback dunk and on this play there was a wide open alley for him to dunk the ball. He played much more like the energy big that he is.
Here, his off-ball movement finally pays off as the defense reacts to the ball on top of the key and completely sleeps on Nance resulting in an easy dunk. The IQ points for Nance really showed there, as he didn’t just wait for the ball, but kept moving until Lou Williams had a clear lane to give him the ball.
Another great defensive play here by hustling his butt off to close out on the shooter. Energy is what he brings best and that is exactly what he brought last night. If he brings it like this every night, then this bench has the potential to hang with any other bench on both ends of the floor.
Why not, another dunk behind the defense’s backs. Have yourself a night Mr. Nance.