Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Grading Lakers' Performance
Golden State came away with the victory by a final score of 100 to 95.
Both teams were very sharp offensively in the early going, knocking down jump shots, scoring in transition and putting on a show for the adoring fans in China.
The Lakers controlled most of the game despite allowing David Lee to go off for 31 points and six rebounds.
But things changed in the fourth quarter when the Lakers went to their bench and Warriors head coach Mark Jackson kept his starters in.
Despite taking the loss, several Lakers played very well and earned passing grades.
Point Guard: Steve Nash
The Staples Center should play Rod Stewart's "Forever Young" every time Steve Nash enters the game. He'll turn 40 in February but continues to play like a much younger man.
In fact, he still moves about as well as he ever has offensively.
Against the Warriors, he hit 3-of-4 from the field for eight points—showing off the flawless form that has made him one of the most prolific shooters in NBA history.
He also made plenty of great passes that were reminiscent of his days with the Phoenix Suns. But on this team, a lot of those might not go down as assists. Chris Kaman and Pau Gasol are both willing distributors, and each made the extra pass after getting the ball from Nash a few times.
So while he might still be physically capable of dominating a game or stuffing the assists and points columns, the personnel around him might make it less visible.
Final Grade: B+
Shooting Guard: Jodie Meeks
Jodie Meeks will basically do one thing for this Lakers team—catch and shoot the ball. So on nights when that shot isn't falling, Meeks' positive impact could be miniscule.
Such was the case during this game agains the Warriors, in which Meeks went 1-of-4 from the field.
If you weren't specifically looking out for him, you might not have even known he was out there.
Going forward, he needs to focus on ways in which he can make an impact in other ways—whether that's on defense or perhaps even as a playmaker.
Final Grade: D
Small Forward: Nick Young
Nick Young may go down as one of the biggest steals of the 2013 offseason. The Lakers signed him for two years and less than $2.5 million, and he showed today why that could be such a bargain.
Young can get hot from the perimeter in a hurry—possessing the scoring ability to take over a game similarly to the way New York's J.R. Smith can.
And that's exactly what he did against the Warriors, finishing with 18 points from creating his own shots and hitting 7-of-10 from the field and 3-of-4 from three-point range.
Plays like this fadeaway were par for the course for Young today.
Final Grade: A
Power Forward: Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol is looking for a bounce-back season after struggling to find any consistency alongside Dwight Howard during 2012-13.
Today, he was solid against the Warriors—at least offensively. He finished with 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting.
But his overall impact was limited by the defensive job he did. David Lee dominated this game before it was essentially turned over to the bench players from both teams.
He did most of his damage away from the basket, where Gasol basically just left him alone. It's OK if Pau wants to stay inside and clog the lane against less skilled forwards, but Lee made him pay.
Gasol will have to play with a bit more intensity to be the two-way player the Lakers need him to be. Never heard that before, right?
Final Grade: C
Center: Chris Kaman
Let me preface this by saying that I think Dwight Howard is more talented than Chris Kaman, but Kaman is a much better fit in Los Angeles.
He's much more skilled offensively than Howard—possessing a deadly mid-range jump shot and the ability to knock down a free throw.
He's also a better locker room presence and won't be demanding the spotlight from Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol or anyone else.
He'll just settle in, play hard and magnify his role.
He did just that against the Warriors today, shooting a perfect 7-of-7 from the field and finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
He did struggle to keep Andrew Bogut off the boards throughout, but that might not be something anyone can do if Bogut stays healthy this year.
Final Grade: A
Sixth Man: Steve Blake
This might not be a role Blake has all season, but he'll certainly play a lot of minutes during 2013-14. With Nash approaching his 40th birthday, Blake will relieve him quite a bit.
That could be a scary thought for Lakers fans who've witnessed the Lakers' last two preseason games. If they're any indication, the drop-off from Nash to Blake will be huge.
He went 0-of-10 against the Kings Thursday and followed that up with a 1-of-11 performance today.
His negative impact offensively was compounded by the fact that he did little to alter the outcome of this game on the other end.
Final Grade: F
In general, the Lakers bench was terrible against the Warriors. Los Angeles was up comfortably at the start of the fourth quarter before head coach Mike D'Antoni turned it over to the reserves.
Golden State promptly took over. That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, as the Lakers aren't thought to be very deep and the Warriors' Mark Jackson had his starting five on the floor for the majority of the final frame.
Most starting units aren't going to be able to handle that lineup this year, so it's asking a lot of the Lakers backups to do so.
One bright spot was—and really has been all preseason—Xavier Henry.
The No. 12 pick in the 2010 draft is looking to finally break out in the NBA after struggling during the first three years of his career.
This Tuesday morning, he went 5-of-13 from the field for 15 points.
Also noteworthy was the NBA debut of rookie Ryan Kelly, who scored six points and hit 2-of-3 from three-point range.
Final Grade: C