Markieff Morris Flourishes as the Lakers Blow Past the Rockets

Many players impressed in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 4-1 series win over the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs, namely the superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But another player to hit red-hot form was Markieff Morris, who stepped into the starting 5, as the Lakers opted to play small ball.

JaVale McGee started games 1-3, as he has been all season. However, with the series sitting at a fragile scoreline of 2-1, Frank Vogel placed Morris into the center position. In an attempt to snatch control of the series and progress beyond.

That is exactly what happened. Vogel’s decision to throw Morris into the fire paid off, with the Lakers taking games 4 and 5, 110-100 and 119-96, respectively. Consequently, the purple and gold advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 10 years, since the 2010 title-winning season with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Co.

Morris’ minutes didn’t exactly increase. As his 23 and 24 minutes in games 4 and 5, were pretty much the same as in games 2 and 3, where he played 23 minutes in each. It was more him playing meaningful minutes alongside the premiere cast.

The 31-year-old flourished on both ends of the court and proved why he could be a vital piece to the Lakers’ pursuit of championship number 17. It becomes clearer by the day how much of a bargain the acquisition of Morris was. Being brought in as a free-agent, following his buyout from the Detroit Pistons in February 2020.

Cover image credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images.

NEXT: Morris’ Offensive Prowess

Kyle Kuzma’s Increasing Maturity Is Starting to Show in His Performances

After being selected with the 27th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Kyle Kuzma was initially a relatively unknown prospect to fans of the Los Angeles Lakers. However, a stellar rookie campaign posting an average of 16.1 points per game quickly built the Flint native a reputation of being a flat-out scorer. Which was further backed by his 45% shooting from the field and 36.6% conversion rate from beyond the arc. This earned him a selection into the 2017-18 NBA All-Rookie Team.

With the addition of LeBron James on the Lakers in the summer of 2018, Kuzma’s game took a step further in his sophomore season. Where his scoring jumped to 18.7 points per game. Even though his 3-point shooting dropped to a below average 30.3%, his overall field goal percentage increased slightly to 45.6%. He even won MVP honors at the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend in the Rising Stars game, where he scored a game-high 35 points.

Going into his third season in the professional ranks, and with the addition of a second superstar in Anthony Davis, the expectation was for Kuzma’s game to step up even further. Specifically, for him to be the third scorer on a championship contender.

Long story short, it’s not been a straight road for the 25-year-old in the 2019-20 season. His scoring and shooting averages have dropped to 12.8 and 43.6%, respectively, due to streaky performances. His rebounding and assists numbers are down too. Additionally, his minutes per game have fallen to a career-low 25, as a result of him losing his starting place to Davis.

Lakers top Thunder 125-110 without LeBron, Anthony  Davis
(Image/AP Photo/Sue Ogrock)

He did show spurts of his former self however. Scoring a season-high 36 points in a road victory against Oklahoma City Thunder. In-fact, when he has started instead of Davis, he has posted averages of 20.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists, on 49.7% shooting, 36% from 3. When scoring 20+ points this season, the Lakers had an impressive 8-2 regular season record.

Although, it does need to be noticed that his game has progressed in other facets. He has realized that he isn’t a top scoring option, unlike in his first two seasons in the NBA. As the purple and gold have LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and a host of veteran options, including Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Avery Bradley.

Kuzma’s defensive rating in the regular season sat at a career-high 105.2. Some of that will be due to him having a better team surrounding him, but his intensity and focus on the defensive end has increased dramatically.

In the NBA bubble in Orlando, Kuzma finished the 2019-20 regular season in red-hot form. Shooting 44.5% from 3-point land on an average of 15.4 points per game. This led to him being part of his first ever NBA postseason, where even though his numbers have dropped again, he has flourished in his role. Doing the small things that matter.

When out on the perimeter on the offensive end, he’s been cutting to the basket often. In his first two seasons, he would have been doing this to purely receive the ball and looking to score. However, now the 25-year-old recognizes that such cuts can space the floor and create opportunities for the many shooters on the team. As well as the superstar duo of James and Davis. Alternatively, his cuts allow him to plant himself in-front of his man in anticipation of any misses, to grab the offensive board. In the 9 postseason games, to date, he is averaging 1 offensive rebound in each contest. That extra effort has been on full show in Disney World.

Not to mention, his sheer will and desire to fight for loose balls. As displayed in Game 3 of the second-round against the Houston Rockets. Where he ran the entire length of the court to save a ball trickling out of bounds, by throwing himself to the floor and into the advertising board.

Kuzma has taken huge strides forward on the defensive end. In the postseason so far, his defensive rating is 101.5. This places him in 3rd place on the Lakers’ roster for players that have played over 15 minutes. He falls behind Alex Caruso and Markieff Morris, and sits ahead of Anthony Davis.

His agility and quick feet has allowed him to stay in front of some of the NBA’s best players. At the very least, his strong 6-foot-8 frame makes it awkward for opponents, who have to frequently alter their shots in his presence. Which has been ever-present in the series’ against the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockers. Where he has matched up against the likes of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook.

Even though everyone expected Kuzma to step-up in scoring this season, it appears that he’s stepped up in maturity, adopting a team-player mentality. He has established the ability to read the game better on both ends of the court, looking ahead at how the game will unfold. Not to mention his new-found recognition to create opportunities for others off-the-ball, through intelligent movement. Although, his scoring promise is still well and truly there. Along with the capability to light-up for 25-30+ points on any given night.

A more consistent scoring punch off the bench for the Lakers would be welcomed, as Kuzma has been very up-and-down all season long in that regard. But credit where credit is due. Kuzma’s all-round effort has improved significantly. As he has become a very important piece for a championship-contending Lakers team that has returned to the very top of the NBA once again.

Cover image credit: Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP


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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s Shooting Improvement in the Portland Series

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been with the Los Angeles Lakers since 2017 and the majority of his time in the purple and gold has been heavily criticized. Mainly due to questionable performances individually, coupled with poor team performance.

However, in the 2019-20 season, despite a poor start, Caldwell-Pope has really turned it around to deliver some of his best performances in a Laker uniform yet. Through 69 regular season games, the 27-year-old averaged 9.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. On 46.7% shooting from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc.

As the NBA season resumed in Orlando, Caldwell-Pope struggled to re-discover form, converting just five 3-pointers in 6 games heading into the postseason. Although, it is worth noting that the team as a whole struggled during this period, going 3-5 for the remainder of the regular season.

Disaster then struck in Game 1 of the 1st round of the playoffs, against the Portland Trail Blazers. As the Lakers fell 0-1 in disappointing fashion, all eyes were set on Caldwell-Pope with his 1 point on 0-9 shooting, in 29 minutes.

The purple and gold did regroup to win 4 straight and eliminate the Trail Blazers in 5 games (4-1). Along with the team regrouping, KCP was a focal point to the Lakers’ success, finding his scoring touch and staying active on defense.

Photos: Lakers vs Trail Blazers Game 1 (8/18/2020) | Los Angeles Lakers
(Image/Joe Murphy/NBA.com)

Over the course of the series, the 6-foot-5 guard’s averages bumped up to 11.2 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1 steal, in 26 minutes per game. Whilst he shot at a below average 39.5%, he did convert at a 39.7% rate from downtown. Which gets him off the hook, as his primary role is to space the floor and knock down corner looks.

On the catch-and-shoot, which accumulate a large bulk of his scoring, Caldwell-Pope shot 52% and when wide open he converted at a 40.9% rate. He was the 5th-highest on the team in plus-minus (7.8), sitting behind Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Danny Green, and Alex Caruso.

He had impressive outings in Game 2 and 5, where he scored 16 points and 14 points, respectively. Knocking down four 3-pointers in both. In the latter, he tallied 3 steals, as the Lakers rounded out the series.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may be averaging the second lowest averages of his career in points per game and rebounds, but he is arguably playing the best basketball of his career to date. His shooting numbers are at a career-high in both field goal and 3-point percentage, as he is actively contributing on a championship contender.

If he can keep up his shooting from range in round 2, and beyond, he will be a huge piece for the Lakers in chasing championship number 17.

Cover image credit: Associated Press.


Check out Lakers UK’s podcast The Lake Lake Show on all podcast platforms. Including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Lakers UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

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An Interview With Phil Handy (Assistant Coach, Los Angeles Lakers)

(Image/Nelson Chenault/USA Today Sports)

On the latest episode of The Lake Lake Show podcast, Los Angeles Lakers Assistant Coach and 2-time NBA Champion, Phil Handy, featured as a guest.

Handy speaks briefly about the NBA season resuming, his first spell with the Lakers (2011-13), his return to Los Angeles, and the difficulty in leaving Toronto after the Raptors’ title-winning season.

Other topics include the Lakers’ chemistry this season, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, and his playing days in the United Kingdom with the Manchester Giants in 2000.  

You can check out the interview on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Spotify. As well as on YouTube, through the link below, where the visuals are available.


Check out Lakers UK’s podcast The Lake Lake Show on all podcast platforms. Including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Lakers UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

Fanatics UK: http://tinyurl.com/y4vjv32b and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout to receive 10% off. This is not limited to just NBA apparel, but the discount can be used on MLB, NFL, NHL, Football/Soccer gear also!

NBA Store Europe: http://tinyurl.com/y585vud9 and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout. This is not limited to Lakers gear, the discount is available site-wide on any product you wish to purchase!

 

Checking in on South Bay: Kostas Antetokounmpo

(Image/Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

One of the Los Angeles Lakers’ two-way players this season, is Kostas Antetokounmpo. The surname is recognised worldwide, for obvious reasons. But Kostas’ talent, upon signing with the purple and gold, was relatively unknown.

Due to the Lakers’ deep veteran roster, Antetokounmpo, alongside fellow two-way player, Devontae Cacok, have had limited looks in the NBA thus far. Instead, developing their craft in the G League, with the South Bay Lakers.

Antetokounmpo has been called-up and featured in 3 NBA contests this season. With his debut coming against the Utah Jazz back in October. Followed by an appearance against the Charlotte Hornets, just 2 days later. His most recent playing time for the Lakers came against his former team, the Dallas Mavericks, in January.

In those 3 games, he’s only played in late-game situations. Averaging just 1.7 minutes per contest. He’s yet to record an NBA point for the Lakers. He was set to most likely to receive more playing time towards the end of this season, but the suspension stopped that. For the time being anyway.

Let’s continue and dig into Antetokounmpo’s progression in the G League throughout the 2019/20 campaign. Where he averaged 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.3 blocks. All through 38 games (25 MPG).

Select the link below to navigate through the pages to see Kostas Antetokounmpo’s progress this season.

NEXT: Antetokounmpo’s Consistent G League Season

Checking in on South Bay: Talen Horton-Tucker

(Image/Brandon Dill/NBAE/Getty Images)

He became a high-school legend in his native Chicago. He impressed in the collegiate ranks at Iowa State University. Talen Horton-Tucker then jumped to the NBA after being selected with the 46th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers.

At the high-school level, Horton-Tucker won 3-straight city championships with Simeon Career Academy. For Iowa State, where he spent just the single-season, he averaged 11.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals, in 27 minutes per game.

To most Laker fans he was a relatively unknown prospect upon signing. But when you dig deeper, his unique 6-foot-4/234lb frame, along with his elite 7-foot-1 wingspan really does catch attention. His wingspan was the largest of any prospects at the 2019 Draft Combine. He’s also the second-youngest player on an NBA roster this season.

However, with the Lakers’ holding a deep, talented roster, full of veterans, 19-year-old Horton-Tucker has been assigned to the G League for the majority of the season. To develop and work on his craft.

Through 38 games (29.8 MPG) for the South Bay Lakers, he posted averages of 18.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1.4 steals. This is on 42.5% shooting from the field, 30.9% from 3-point land.

Select the link below to navigate through the pages to see Talen Horton-Tucker’s progress this season.

NEXT: Horton-Tucker’s Slow Start to the Season

An Interview With Devontae Cacok (LA Lakers/South Bay Lakers)

(Image/Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

In the latest episode of The Lake Lake Show podcast, Los Angeles Lakers and South Bay Lakers two-way player, Devontae Cacok featured as a guest.

Cacok spoke about keeping fit during the NBA suspension, when he got signed by the Lakers, being around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, his progression in the G League this season, and much more.

In 33 games for South Bay this season, Cacok is averaging 19.4 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steals, in just 23.9 minutes per game. With a conversion rate of 65.9% from the field.

You can check out the interview on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Spotify. As well as on YouTube (link below), where there are visuals of the conversation.

Supporting the Lakers From the United Kingdom

(Image/Express)

On the latest episode of The Lake Lake Show podcast, the founder of Lakers UK, Matt Evans, is joined by Jonathan Kiernan (Managing Editor) and Cole Pollard (Lead Writer) for a UK special.

All three talk about how and when they became Laker fans, along with their routines for watching games in the early hours. As Laker home games frequently tip-off at 3.30am UK time. Other topics include their favourite moments while supporting the Lakers and the NBA’s growth in the UK and Europe.

Check the episode out below.


Check out Lakers UK’s podcast The Lake Lake Show on all podcast platforms. Including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Lakers UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

Fanatics UK: http://tinyurl.com/y4vjv32b and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout to receive 10% off. This is not limited to just NBA apparel, but the discount can be used on MLB, NFL, NHL, Football/Soccer gear also!

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Frank Vogel on the NBA Suspension, Returning to No Fans

(Image/Loop Haiti)

In a recent interview with Spectrum SportsNet on April 2, Los Angeles Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel spoke about the NBA suspension. Specifically how it halted the Lakers’ 49-14 season, with the team sitting top of the Western Conference by 5.5 games.

“Yeah it’s disappointing. Obviously when you’re going well you want to keep going, when you’re struggling that’s when you don’t. You really try to have the mindset as a team to focus only on what we can control. This is something that’s not controllable by us, so we’re going to make the best of a difficult situation.”

Vogel added: “We’re hopeful that we’re able to resume at some-point, if it’s safe for the world, for us, to resume. Hopefully to have a chance to finish what we started. All of that’s going to play out in the coming months.”

Frank Vogel and the Lakers' staff will lead Team LeBron at 2020 ...
(Image/Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

Another topic of the Spectrum SportsNet interview was surrounding an NBA return with no fans in the arenas. When asking about whether he’d thought about such a return, Vogel responded with: “I have. I can’t really put myself in exactly what it would feel like. It would be extremely unusual.”

The 46-year-old went on to mention that he feels that he would have a “baseboard” for experiencing games with no fans due to his past experiences at the NBA Summer League in Orlando. Where he described the games just being attended by team executives.

Frank Vogel implied that in the meantime, with the NBA’s short-term future being wildly speculated, that he and his team will continue to follow protocol and will be prepared to be called upon when needed.

“We don’t know, everything’s up in the air right now. We don’t know if that’s down the road for us or not. We’re going to continue to follow the league’s lead and do whatever is best for our league, whilst staying in line with what’s socially responsible and doing what’s safe for the world.”

Catch the full interview with Frank Vogel on Spectrum SportsNet here.


Check out Lakers UK’s podcast The Lake Lake Show on all podcast platforms. Including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

Lakers UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

Fanatics UK: http://tinyurl.com/y4vjv32b and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout to receive 10% off. This is not limited to just NBA apparel, but the discount can be used on MLB, NFL, NHL, Football/Soccer gear also!

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Frank Vogel on Player Contact During the Suspension

(Image/Adam Pantozzi/NBAE/Getty Images)

In an interview with Spectrum SportsNet on April 2, Los Angeles Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel spoke about the methods he uses to keep in contact with his players during the current NBA suspension.

“We call them. We text them. I’ve been in touch with all of our players. We’ve had conference calls with Rob Pelinka and myself without players. Trying to stay together.”

Tuning into the interview via webcam whilst at home, Vogel stated his concerns about players falling out of shape, as well as dieting concerns. He did add what the Lakers are doing to combat those worries using Zoom technology.

“In the meantime, the big concern is; are guys going to commit to staying in shape, we challenge them to put a big focus on just their physical conditioning. Do as much basketball stuff you can do at your house. Whether it’s dribbling drills or whatnot.”

“Using the Zoom technology to get everyone together, to work out at the same time. To be able to talk with each other and compete with each other on certain drills. That’s something we’re really excited about as well.”

Catch the full interview with Frank Vogel on Spectrum SportsNet here.


Check out Lakers UK’s podcast The Lake Lake Show on all podcast platforms. Including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

Lakers UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

Fanatics UK: http://tinyurl.com/y4vjv32b and enter the promotional code LAKERSUK10 at checkout to receive 10% off. This is not limited to just NBA apparel, but the discount can be used on MLB, NFL, NHL, Football/Soccer gear also!

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