The Los Angeles Lakers have been floating ever since they won the in-season tournament of the National Basketball Association two weeks ago. Their pockets, like their legs, have been heavier as a result of their $500,000 voyage into playoff-style basketball during the first quarter of the season.
On the other hand, the Lakers have been struggling ever since they won the tournament.
They have been vocal about their frustrations with being exhausted by the road, with a schedule that has forced them to live out of bags since Thanksgiving, with back-to-back games and time zone swaps that have squished the days together into unrecognizable chunks, and with the fact that they have been traveling for so long.
LEBRON 40-PIECE IN LAKERS W 👑
5/5 3PM pic.twitter.com/oK6xH99HC4
— NBA (@NBA) December 24, 2023
A respite was necessary for the Lakers. It was not going to happen that way.
Instead, they decided to settle for a jolt instead.
A day after the Lakers suffered their fourth consecutive loss, Anthony Davis declared that the game against the Thunder on Saturday was an absolute necessity. In a similar fashion, the coach of the team, Darvin Ham, implemented a change in the starting lineup.
Additionally, LeBron James reclaimed his position as the best player on the court, guiding the Los Angeles Lakers to their best victory of the season, which was a 129-120 victory over the club that was ranked second in the Western Conference.
— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) December 24, 2023
James scored forty points, hitting massive shot after huge shot in the fourth quarter, when he had fifteen points, as the Thunder ran to attempt to erase a Lakers lead that was as large as twenty-six late in the third quarter. It was during this time that James had collected his points.
The score was the 75th time that James had scored at least 40 points during the regular season.
“To know that I can still go out and make game-winning plays and affect the game in multiple ways, and that I can still close out a game in the fourth quarter when my team needed it, when they started making a run, it’s always a good feeling, for sure,” James said. “It’s always a good feeling.”
During the lineup switch, James took over as the point guard for the Lakers, which resulted in the greatest number of assists of the season for the team.
In addition to him, Cam Reddish and Anthony Davis each had seven assists, and Austin Reaves was the person who led the club with nine assists off the bench. He was one of three players who had seven assists.
According to James, “the only way you can get assists is if your teammates are making shots at the same time,” which means that everyone was making shots. During the time that everyone was passing the ball, we were attempting to keep it on time, on aim, and to avoid turning it over. That, in fact, was the secret to it.”
After the first two months of the NBA season, Ham and his team were unable to successfully straddle the borders between offensive and defensive lineups. As a result, Ham made the decision to adjust his lineup in order to properly define his squad.
As a result of his decision to bench point guard D’Angelo Russell in favor of forward Jarred Vanderbilt, the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to adopt a more defensive identity.
The first three-pointer that Russell attempted, which was a step-back jumper, was a miss. However, from that point on, he was able to make four consecutive shots, including a triple, a floater over Chet Holmgren, who is seven feet tall for the Thunder, a and-one in transition, and another three. After coming off the bench, he finished with 15 points at the end of the game.
In the end, we were victorious. According to Russell, that is the only thing that counts to me.
There were other changes that the Lakers had to deal with in addition to the shakeup in the starting lineup.
According to sources who spoke with The Times, guard Gabe Vincent, who was the most significant player acquired by the team over the summer, may soon be scheduled to have knee surgery that would keep him out of action for the next six to eight weeks.
Vincent, who had been sidelined for 24 games due to swelling in his left knee, made his return to the court on Wednesday in Chicago. When Vincent’s knee began to swell again after he had played 14 minutes without a single incident against the Bulls, he was forced to discuss the possibility of undergoing surgery.
It is anticipated that a decision will be made soon.
In the meantime, Ham stated that the ultimate objective on the court was to see the Lakers play in this manner on a regular basis – to bring this level of effort and enthusiasm even when the stakes aren’t as high.
After the game, Ham stated, “We need to get to the point where we can initiate, sustain, and finish based on what we want Laker basketball to look like because we need to get to that point.” Not only if we are competing for something, if there is something at stake, or if there is something else at stake.
That can’t be the only thing of concern. It must be about how we want to portray ourselves to the world, how we want to present ourselves to these other 29 teams that we are going up against in a manner that can be tough, competitive, working together, and consistent.