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NBA experts believe Russell Westbrook's defense is key to turning around in LA

Can the talented Westbrook start playing elite defense in his 14th season? (Author: Gardener)

NBAWestbrook has built an illustrious career on the foundation of triple doubles. That hasn't changed since joining the Los Angeles Lakers. Westbrook leads the league in the nine triple-doubles category through Friday. However, two NBA pundits believe Westbrook needs to improve dramatically on the side of the ball that doesn't appear in the boxing score - the defense. The Ringer's Ryen Russillo and Kevin O’Connor shared the need for Westbrook to improve defensively. Russillo cited Westbrook's lack of awareness late in the fourth quarter against the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day. In particular, Russ Nets guard Patty Mills left wide open while Brooklyn held a 112-110 lead for the final two minutes of the game. Mill's shot propelled the Nets to a 122-115 win over the Lakers. “Everyone who paid attention and I always look for it late - a bad defensive decision by Westbrook. He gave us one ... he [Westbrook] leaves him [Patty Mills] wide open in the corner for the biggest shot of the game. O'Connor believes Westbrook will play a vital role in leading the Lakers (17-18) to the top of the Western Conference. “The truth is, Russ needs to evolve. It's up to him to become a man who latches on defensively. ”Both Russillo and O'Conner admitted that Russ being able to dramatically increase his defensive efforts is easier said than done. Throughout his career, the former league MVP, despite his athletic prowess, has never been a top-notch defender. Westbrook's involvement in defense could help stabilize a turbulent Lakers season.

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Lakers' LeBron James

Lakers' LeBron James: Likely Sunday (Author: Gardener)

LeBron JamesJames (belly) is likely for Sunday's game against the Timberwolves. James continues to appear on the Injury Report, but there isn't much of a risk of sitting out.

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See LeBron James explode for 43 points to beat Trail Blazers

Watch Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James score 43 points in beating the Portland Trail Blazers. (Author: Gardener)

LeBron JamesThe Los Angeles Lakers ended 2021 on an extremely high note, beating the Portland Trail Blazers by 33 points. Los Angeles lost a season high of 139 points, just days away from 132 in beating the Houston Rockets. James hit a season high of 43 on the 16-of-26 total shoot, including a 5-of-10 clip from downtown. Six other Lakers hit double digits to help James in the scoring column. James has now scored at least 30 points in seven games in a row, which is a ridiculous streak for a 37-year-old striker.

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Wolves travel to L.A. aiming for their third win this season against the Lakers

Wolves at Lakers 8:30 p.m. Sunday on Crypto.com Arena TV: BSN Radio: 830-AM Wolves Update: Anthony Edwards returned after six games of absence on COVID logs to score 26 in Minnesota's loss to Utah. The Wolves have beaten the Lakers twice this season, most recently on December 17th with 110-92. The Wolves also defeated the Lakers on November 12 with 107: 83 in Los Angeles. (Author: Gardener)

this seasonWolves Update: Anthony Edwards returned after an absence of six games on COVID logs to score 26 in Minnesota's loss to Utah. But they will (likely) be without Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell, who remain in the COVID logs. Jarred Vanderbilt also returned to the line-up on Friday, with five points and seven rebounds. Vanderbilt had 16 rebounds in the last matchup against the Lakers. Lakers Update: Anthony Davis went down with a knee injury in the matchup at the Target Center and is staying outside. Since the last loss to the Wolves, LeBron James has scored 30 or more points in every game, a series of seven games. He had 43 in the Lakers' 33-point win over Portland on Friday. The Lakers and Wolves have the same offensive rating (107.3 points per 100 possessions).

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Going down with LeBron James at the center has produced big results

James ’43 point, 14 rebounds, 0 turnover game against Portland is just the latest in a series of incredible games (Author: Gardener)

LeBron JamesIt took 20 different starting lineups, but the Lakers found something that could carry them through the track without Anthony Davis. One of the notable aspects of the Lakers' flaring of the Shorthanded Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night was that the Lakers started LeBron James at the center for the second time. The ultra-small ball lineup has at least given the team most of the energy it has had in weeks, going 2-0 without playing at traditional centers. Part of it, admitted trainer Frank Vogel, is that James is going crazy. His 43-point, 14-rebound, and zero-turnover game against Portland is just the latest in a string of incredible games for James: he's scored at least 30 points in seven straight, his longest such streak since 2013. But contact James at Center could also help him do supersonic. "During this stretch we really showed that this could be something that could make the game easier for him," said Vogel. “He doesn't wrestle that much and there is more space for him to be a scooter, which has a lot of positives. I can't really get away with it with certain matchups on the other hand, and of course when AD comes back he's going to play a lot at the five and then we can play that smaller lineup too. "The Lakers started in November with an overtime win over Indiana, when Davis was sick of investing more in James at the center. James scored 39 points in that game while hitting five threesomes. Since Davis was injured, the Lakers have been more concerned with it, most importantly helping them kickstart a 33-20 rally against the Nets in the fourth quarter. At 6-foot-9, James is still a strong rim protector, averaging over a block per game this season, and his communication skills help organize the defense from his back position. "I try to stay two or three paces, and even four or five paces in front of the pieces," said James. "Where I've played enough games, I've imagined enough games that I know what's going to happen or how it's going to happen if I can have two or three different reads that way." According to the stats website Cleaning the Glass, the Lakers have a plus 2.5 rating if Davis, DeAndre Jordan, or Dwight Howard aren't on the pitch, which puts James and Carmelo Anthony at 5. The defensive rating isn't ideal (110.0), but there's fertile ground to believe it can be better, Vogel said. The Lakers' offensive rating (107.3) is ranked 24th in the league, but the small ball lineups have a rating of 112.4. The Lakers can put more long-distance shooters on the ground and James and Russell Westbrook have more open lanes to the basket. It resembles the move the Houston Rockets once made in the 2018/19 season by swapping away center Clint Capela to give Westbrook a better offensive distance and play without a traditional center. Westbrook did not refer to the link but did admit that he liked the floor plan. "Keep our distance, that's great too," he said. That potential could lie in an upcoming major decision: Stanley Johnson is nearing the end of his 10-day hardship waiver contract. But assuming a planned trade from Rondo Rajon to Cleveland goes through and they cut off Denzel Valentine, the Lakers should have a roster slot they could use - possibly on Johnson. The 25-year-old has averaged 8.3 points and 3 rebounds in his four games, but it's clear the Lakers value him for his defensive versatility and how he helps unlock the small-ball lineups by going after plays in front. Vogel said one reason he started Johnson is to find a player who could be faster to double Damian Lillard. The Lakers believe Johnson can help fill it out. “What I like about Stanley is the physicality he has. said Vogel. In the meantime, the Lakers determine their starting groups night after night. "You play Houston, Christian Wood at the center, that's a resounding, 'Yeah, let's put Bron at the center.' It's easy, "explained Vogel. “Next game Steven Adams, the tallest and strongest man in the league; Let's play Dwight in the middle.

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Stanley Johnson's defense impressed David Fizdale

Johnson could be a plus defender that the Lakers certainly need. (Author: Gardener)

Stanley Johnson's© Provided by All Lakers on FanNation Johnson could be a plus defender the Lakers certainly need. The Lakers, like many teams in the league, had a litany of players searching for COVID-19 health and safety logs in late December. The short-handed Lakers signed a 10-day hardship exemption with Stanley Johnson on Christmas Eve. Johnson has received much praise in his four games with Lakers Assistant Coach David Fizdale's team. Technically, one could say that the praise came from the Lakers head coach who was active at the time. Fizdale sat in the big chair for six games while Frank Vogel also wanted health and safety protocols. Johnson's ability to guard multiple positions is a big reason why he spent an average of 26.2 minutes per game with the Lakers. The Mater Dei alum could be the main wing defender the Lakers have been looking for. The Lakers are currently in 13th place in the defensive rating (108.6). The hope would be that holding Johnson equals better defense. The former Arizona Wildcat might be the trigger, but he needs a squad spot first. Woj reported on December 31 that the Lakers "are expected to forego Valentin's partially guaranteed deal and create an open squad spot." Johnson and his defensive versatility will give the Lakers front office plenty to think about when it comes to their final spot on the squad.

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LeBron James, Lakers aim for success against wolves

LeBron James revealed that there was still much left in the tank when the Los Angeles Lakers star found another gang as he steadfastly holds on to his mission to pull the team off a two-week slide. (Author: Gardener)

LeBron JamesLeBron James revealed that there was still much left in the tank when the Los Angeles Lakers star found another gang as he steadfastly holds on to his mission to pull the team off a two-week slide. James scores the best 43 points of the season on Friday as the Lakers have only won eight games for the second time. He's vowed to stay in overdrive ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves home game on Sunday. Taking a 139-106 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, James was 16 of 26 out of the field and made 5 of 10 3-point attempts. "I still pride myself on being efficient," said James, who has averaged 36 points in the seven games since Anthony Davis with a knee injury. James became the oldest player to score at least 40 points with at least 10 rebounds since Michael Jordan in 2003. Decimated by Davis' injury and a string of COVID-19 outages, key players have begun to make their return. Head coach Frank Vogel, who was finally back on Friday after six missed games, was also back. Vogel tested positive for COVID-19 and said he "got quite sick" in his absence. Austin Reaves, Trevor Ariza and Kent Bazemore returned from the COVID-19 protocol on Friday, scoring 16 points together. All three are key to how Los Angeles wants to play defensively. The Lakers seem to need all the help they can get in defeating the Timberwolves. Their difficult eight-game stretch began with a 110-92 loss in Minnesota on December 17, in one game when Davis left with his knee injury in the third quarter and has not played since. The Wolves actually have two victories over the Lakers this season, beating them 107-83 in Los Angeles on November 12th. Karl-Anthony Towns averaged 28.5 points in the two victories, but is in COVID along with the guards -19 minutes not including McKinley Wright IV and D'Angelo Russell. Minnesota has lost four of its last five games during its COVID-19 troubles. Anthony Edwards returned after a six-game absence in a 120-108 loss in Utah on Friday, scoring 26 points. Jarred Vanderbilt also returned on Friday while Patrick Beverley and Naz Reid are two games on their return. The additional return of Towns and Russell could help the Wolves return to being the team that had a four-game winning streak earlier this month and won seven out of eight in November. (and) For me we are in the endless month of COVID, ”Finch said as the calendar turned to January. But the boys are slowly coming back. "

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Portland Trail Blazers no match for LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers, lose 139-106

The Los Angeles Lakers didn't have power forward Anthony Davis to work against the Portland Trail Blazers' lack of height at the Crypto.com arena on Friday night. But his presence was not necessary. "It was definitely a tough game for us," ... (Author: Gardener)

Portland Trail BlazersThe Los Angeles Lakers didn't have power forward Anthony Davis to work against the Portland Trail Blazers' lack of height at the Crypto.com arena on Friday night. The Lakers got 43 points from LeBron James, who played in the middle, and as a team they shot 55.3% while making 19 of 41 threes to run away with a 139-106 win. "It was definitely a tough game for us," said reigning Blazers head coach Scott Brooks. They made many deep shots. Turnaround jump shots. We tried to go under. We tried to go under. We tried to double up. We tried to give it a bigger size that we don't have very big right now. ”Since last weekend when the Blazers roster was devastated by players who entered the NBA's health and safety logs, the team has now suffered three blowout losses. James scored 27 goals in the first half while Ben McLemore was the only Blazers player to appear to have caused damage, who scored 20 goals in the first half and ended up with 28. The Blazers were only given 18 from Damian Lillard, who made 5 of 15 shots and 1 of 8 threesomes. Norman Powell also fought off the field, making only 4 out of 15 field goal attempts while missing all five of his threesomes. With these two fighting and several key players in the logs, the Blazers stood no chance in this case. "This is a good team, they were hot," said Brooks. The Blazers (13-22) advanced to 2:13 away and have now lost four games in a row and eleven of the last 13 to Cody Zeller. The Lakers (18-19) had lost six of their previous seven games. The Lakers took the lead 12-4 in the first quarter and then hit 22-6 on a three from Malik Monk. The Blazers were 43-28 behind at the end of the first quarter. A three-pointer from James gave the Lakers a 49:29 lead at the beginning of the second quarter. "I don't think we played with enough strength," said Brooks. "They dictated this start and they attacked on both ends of the ground and we were on our heels again and you can't do that against the good teams." The Blazers were down 69:54 at halftime. While Dallas and Utah destroyed the Blazers in victories at the Moda Center inside this week, the Lakers got to work on the three-point line. They made 12 out of 25 threesomes (48%) in the first half while Portland only made 7 out of 25 (28%). Lillard scored 12 points in the first half. Nothing improved for Portland in the third quarter. The Lakers shot 63.2% out of the field while Portland shot 34.9% and only made 1 in 9 three-pointers. The Lakers won the quarter 32-23 and led into the fourth quarter with 101-77. "Not a good game for us," said Brooks. Not a good game for us. Not to say we took a big step back, but we didn't play like I imagined. ... We just made a lot of mistakes that I thought we should never have made.

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LA's exit in the first round in 2021 is ranked as the sixth largest history of the 2021 NBA season

2021 was a year to forget for Lakers fans. (Author: Gardener)

20212021 was a challenging year for the Lakers. Their attempt to win consecutive championships has been a dismal failure. Unfortunately, both Anthony Davis and LeBron James were far from healthy for the Lakers 'first-round playoff loss to upstart Phoenix Suns in the 2021 playoffs. "Bucks Win NBA Championship" was number one, while "Ben Simmons' situation “Took second place. Sirius XM NBA Radio's Frank Isola and Mitch Lawrence discussed the Lakers' six game loss to the Suns. Lawrence paid tribute to the Suns, but stated that James and Davis' injuries had helped the Suns immensely. “What eventually led to the Lakers was that LeBron was injured, [he] injured his ankle at the end of the year, and he never fully recovered. Then, during the playoffs, Anthony Davis went down with a serious injury ... Phoenix came back and won [the series], but it was helped by the two injuries in the Laker main starts. ”Davis, who was already suffering from a knee sprain, missed game 5 of the series due to a groin injury. He tried unsuccessfully to stamp it out in Game 6 when Phoenix was on the verge of clinching. Davis logged a total of 5 minutes and 25 seconds before retiring to the bench. The Suns won the series with a 113-100 victory. Isola commented on some fans and experts questioning LeBron James' skills and the legitimacy of the Lakers 2020 Bubble Championship after losing to the Suns. If the Lakers are hoping to win another championship, the first step is to have all three Superstars on the court together. Anthony Davis is currently out with an MCL in his left knee.

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Lakers Frank Vogel commends LeBron James for his efforts after the blowout win over Portland

Frank Vogel is amazed not only at the efforts, but also at the energy that LeBron James brings to basketball. (Author: Gardener)

Frank VogelOn New Year's Eve, the Lakers competed against the Portland Trail Blazers and won in style. Furthermore, this matchup was just another opportunity for LeBron James to break more records after his 37th birthday. James hit a season high of 43 points with 14 rebounds and 4 assists in just 29 minutes of play. Such a night is an important reason why he is referred to as "King James". At 37, he's still breaking records and taking his team to victory. At halftime, James was already at 27 with 10 rebounds and many began to applaud the 4-time MVP for his incredible efforts. After the game, head coach Frank Vogel praised James not only for his dedication, but also for his energy during the season. "I would say that there are two ways to separate this type of energy. One of them is to go out and play to the point of exhaustion," said Vogel. "You know what I mean? For example, 'Hey, you probably play the first eight minutes of the game, come out after about four minutes', but he plays so hard. He plays so hard that he's exhausted ... he's like, 'Hey, I need a sub.' That's how we want our group to play. This is how everyone should play the game. You know? Play the game until you are exhausted. No one can deny that LeBron James is an important player on any team. His drive and commitment not only helps him perfect his craft, but shows his teammates how much he cares. James is a teammate as well as an example of what a player should strive for. Vogel spoke more about what it's like for him to play the Lakers, mostly because of the constant criticism of L. “His energy in film sessions and all of our work outside of the game is like the mental energy he brings to our team and the positivity. His mental energy in our film sessions and trainings is another great way he has guided us. ”A massive and much-needed win at the start of the year. Now the Lakers will be back in their rebranded arena on Sunday to play Minnesota Timberwolves for the third time this season.

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