Your Los Angeles Lakers secured their second straight win of the 2022-23 season against a good New Orleans Pelicans club on Wednesday night. Granted, New Orleans was missing its second-best player in Brandon Ingram, and the team had some insane gaffes in the game’s closing minutes. On the flip side of that, the Lakers missed five straight field goal looks in that same window, so maybe karmically things really evened out.
He and Austin Reaves are the only Lakers players averaging solid three-point numbers this season. There’s also, uh, something also about them that makes them stand out.
Needless to say, NBA Twitter took note.
Actor/writer/broadcaster Josiah Johnson cooked up several excellent Lakers tweets, but here’s an especially choice Matt Ryan dig:
Molly Morrison, one of the great NBA Twitter humorists, came at the Matt Ryan phenomenon with a fresh perspective (while also indirectly shouting out Lonnie Walker):
L.A. starting small forward Troy Brown Jr. seems to have gotten a bit lost in the shuffle, as far as huge Lakers role players in the winning effort go. The 6’6″ swingman, signed to a veteran’s minimum deal this summer, has now carved out a role as a reliable two-way starter for a team that desperately needs his athleticism, size and length on defense and his hops and shooting on offense. This is all the more incredible considering that he was basically squeezed to the periphery of the rotation for a Chicago Bulls club desperate for wing help last season. He finished with a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double, by the way.
Lakers All-Star LeBron James, playing through both a sore left foot and apparently a major non-COVID-19 illness, did log a near triple-double of 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, but he struggled to convert a lot of his shots late in the fourth quarter, and seemed to lack his signature burst. Basketball News scribe Nekias Duncan noticed:
Elsewhere in the basketball world last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers with Donovan “Spida” Mitchell in the fold seemed to announce their arrival on the national stage as legitimate Eastern Conference contenders, taking down the Boston Celtics, the reigning conference champs, in an overtime epic of their own. Unlike the Lakers, the Cavs are now riding a six-game winning streak. NBA Twitter reflected on the irony that James abandoned Cleveland for Los Angeles in 2018 (after four straight NBA Finals appearances), and now team president Koby Altman has constructed a title-contending roster without him.
Though starting point guard Patrick Beverley went scoreless, he did contribute his signature pesky defense. All-told, though, he was still fairly outplayed by L.A.’s new $47.1 million sixth man, Russell Westbrook, who enjoyed a particularly stellar first half, scoring a team-most (tied with Brown) 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor, dishing out seven dimes, and grabbing six rebounds. Brodie was fairly contrite in his postgame comments and, well, NBA Twitter noticed.
Sam Quinn of CBS Sports notes that, since being moved to a bench role, Westbrook may be able to remain in the league for the long-term. Though no longer an All-Star, he can still be a useful role player for another club (albeit on a more affordable salary for a non-All-Star).
Age may finally be catching up to Beverley, 34. The 6’1″ guard has been pretty woeful on offense this year. He’s averaging just 4.6 points a game on 25.8% shooting from the floor across his first seven Lakers contests, plus 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.3 seals and 0.6 blocks.
This is harsh. At least Patrick Beverley plays defense, unlike all $9.5 million of Talen Horton-Tucker. Aside from one good THT game, neither seems to be able to do much on the other side of the floor this season. Stanley Johnson, waived during the preseason, is currently on the hunt for his next NBA fit.