The Lakers beat the New Orleans Pelicans, 112-95, Friday at Staples Center. Here are three key observations from the game:
1. The Lakers’ defense gets a lot of attention, and rightly so. It’s currently ranked No. 1 in the NBA.
However, the team's offense should get a little more credit because of how it’s shifted and improved in the span of one season.
A year ago, LeBron James and Anthony Davis did a seemingly overwhelming amount of scoring for the Lakers. If they both weren’t on their game offensively, the Lakers could have a hard time generating points.
That fear has since dissipated. Exhibit A would be Friday’s game. Six players scored in double figures and a seventh, Alex Caruso, had nine points.
James (21 points) and Davis (17) were the Lakers’ top scorers Friday. No surprise there.
Newcomer Montrez Harrell was right behind them with 16 points, adding his usual blend of physicality and energy. Dennis Schroder, also in his first year with the Lakers, added 12 points and four assists. They’re the main reasons the Lakers’ offense is less top-heavy than last season, and why there’s no need to panic if James or Davis sit out a game or aren’t hitting their shots on a particular night.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (16 points) and Kyle Kuzma (11) rounded out the double-digit club against the Pelicans.
2. New Orleans led, 45-30, midway through the second quarter when a funny thing happened. They stopped scoring.
Of course, the Lakers’ defense had a lot to do with that. The Pelicans scored only 37 points in the second half.
Forward Brandon Ingram summarized the Pelicans’ feelings by slamming the basketball into the padded stanchion after a foul was called late in the game. He was hit with a technical foul, but the bigger picture was the symbolism of the Lakers’ absolute clampdown after that early 15-point deficit.
3. The Lakers are also a much-improved three-point shooting team, a big reversal from past seasons.
They were a bottom-10 team behind the arc the previous five years but were third in the league before Friday’s game.
Caldwell-Pope made four of six attempts from three-point range Friday and improved to 55% this season. He also moved into ninth on the Lakers’ career list for three-pointers made (423), moving past Metta World Peace.
He was asked after the game if he was a better shooter than James.
“Numbers don’t lie,” Caldwell-Pope joked. “We all know I’m the real shooter for sure.”
Kuzma was also solid from deep, making three of four from three-point range.
Mike Bresnahan is the Lakers analyst for Spectrum SportsNet.