The Los Angeles Lakers are now on a five-game losing streak after losing on Christmas to the Brooklyn Nets, 122-115.
The Nets hadn’t played in over a week due to game postponements caused by COVID-19 surges around the league, yet Brooklyn dropped 38 points in the first quarter.
Los Angeles responded with a 39-point second quarter to make the game interesting at halftime, and after once trailing by 17 points, L.A. took the lead in the first few minutes of the third.
However, L.A. reverted to old third-quarter woes and mustered just 20 points in the period and trailed by 23.
Again, the Lakers flipped the script and made a miraculous comeback in the fourth quarter. LeBron James, Stanley Johnson and Malik Monk were all key to the 22-3 run, but once L.A. tied the game at 115, it didn’t score again. Russell Westbrook missed point-blank shots near the rim, and Brooklyn escaped with a win despite scoring only 20 points in the final 12 minutes.
Here is how the Lakers, now 16-18, graded individually from the loss:
Russell Westbrook: F
If an F-minus was possible, that’s what Russell Westbrook truly received from this loss. He posted a 13-point, 12-rebound and 11-assist triple-double but shot 4-of-20 overall and 0-of-3 from deep. The Lakers stormed back into the game in the fourth when Westbrook sat on the bench, but when he returned, he tried to be the hero; it did not end well.
That, and he kept ball-watching on defense instead of guarding a red-hot Patty Mills on the perimeter, and it deeply cost L.A. Terrible game for Westbrook, though his work on the offensive glass (five rebounds) deserves credit for keeping possessions alive.
Wayne Ellington: F
Wayne Ellington played just 14 minutes in this game despite getting the start. He played most of his minutes in the first half but didn’t return until the final seconds when the Lakers needed a triple to keep the game close. Ellington struggled on defense, particularly against James Harden, and shot 1-of-4 overall.
Talen Horton-Tucker: C-minus
Talen Horton-Tucker had a better game compared to recent shaky performances, though he wasn’t perfect. A lot of his struggles could be pointed to the lineups he plays in. Tonight, though, he put up 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting and 4-of-4 from the charity stripe, two rebounds, two assists and a steal.
LeBron James: A-plus
LeBron once again put the team on his back. His 39-point performance (14-of-25 FG, 3-of-9 3P, 8-of-9 FT) makes it 10 out of 14 games with at least 30 points for James. He added nine rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block in 40 minutes. The Lakers still struggle to sustain quality offense when he’s on the bench. James was the biggest reason behind Los Angeles’ late comeback with clutch shotmaking and passing. He definitely looked gassed near the end, but it was a valiant effort.
Dwight Howard: N/A
Dwight Howard got the start but played just six minutes. He wasn’t a good matchup in this game, and DeAndre Jordan also didn’t play. The Lakers went small to have a chance, so Howard doesn’t receive a grade for that.
Carmelo Anthony: B
Carmelo Anthony made some questionable shot selections, but he still turned in a strong game. In 39 minutes, he finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals. He shot 6-of-15 overall and 2-of-7 from deep, so a more efficient night could’ve helped. Still, Anthony had a solid all-around effort and gets a passing grade.
Malik Monk: A
Malik Monk just returned from protocol and instantly delivered a big game off the bench. He played 35 minutes and scored 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting overall and 3-of-7 from deep. He added four rebounds, three assists and a block, but his ability to create and move off the ball with slip screens worked well with LeBron. Monk definitely kept the Lakers in this game and helped James a ton.
Stanley Johnson: A-plus
This was Stanley Johnson’s first NBA game of the season, and he made sure he stood out. The 25-year-old forward got the Harden assignment and provided energy and a relentless motor all night. He stayed true to his strengths and didn’t force jumpers when they weren’t there. Johnson finished with seven points — all came in the first half — but he definitely impressed enough to remain in the rotation moving forward. He was simply incredible beyond the metrics.
Darren Collison: F
Darren Collison also had his first NBA action — his first in two years. But, unlike Johnson, it was a night to forget. Collison missed all three of his shots, including two 3-pointers. He also fouled 3-point shooters back-to-back, giving up seven points because Harden missed the and-1 free throw. Collison definitely had rust in his 12 minutes, so it’ll be interesting to see if he gets more burn in the next game.