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Top takeaways from the Wizards' 125-103 loss to the Lakers

Top takeaways from the Wizards' 125-103 loss to the Lakers

The Wizards got out to a blazing start. The Lakers couldn't hold onto the ball, Washington was relentless going after the team with the best record in the NBA and it looked like they could hang around for most of the night. 

Then reality set in, and the Lakers went on to smack the Wizards by 22 points. It wasn't that close either. LA led by as many as 39, strangled the Wizards' potent offense and bludgeoned them inside and on the break throughout. 

Nobody expected the Wizards to win this game on the road, but the way it went serves as a measuring stick for how far this team still has to go before they're back in contention.

Here are the top takeaways from Friday night in Staples Center. 

An unbothered LeBron James

Aside from a few turnovers at the beginning of the game, LeBron James had an easy time with the Wizards Friday night. 

That's not the worst thing in the world for Washington. LeBron has an easy time with a lot of teams. It just serves as a reminder for what stage the Wizards are in for their rebuild. Bradley Beal is great, the offense is fun and the team's playing hard. They just have a long way to go. 

And that's okay. This is what measuring-stick games are for. The next time the Wizards play the Lakers, we'll just have to pay close attention to see if they can make life harder on LeBron and Davis. That's where you can start to see the growth of a young team and start to figure out who you want to keep around long term. 

Rui not backing down

Rui Hachimura had a mammoth task in front of him Friday night in the form of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Whether he was guarding them or they were guarding him, there was no way for the rookie to avoid a matchup with one of the best players in the world. 

Impressively, Hachimura didn't back down. He came out of the gate fearless against two future Hall-of-Famers, scoring a quick eight points that mostly came against James. Those two eventually got the better of Hachimura by blocking him quite a bit, but the experience the rookie got tonight was invaluable. 

These big matchups for rookies are important for their development. They learn a lot going up against the best players in the league and it helps build confidence when they can make a few nice plays. 

Hachimura may never get to the level James and Davis are on right now, but in rebuilding year where development is the most important thing for the Wizards, getting Hachimura experience against the best forwards in the league should be a priority. 

Beal getting blitzed

Something you might have noticed this season is when the Wizards play good defenses, those teams tend to blitz Bradley Beal whenever he gets a screen. On Friday night the Lakers followed that trend and forced the ball out of Beal's hands when he was the primary ball-handler. 

That's to be expected when you have a player who's far and away better than anyone else on the roster. Teams will force you to beat them in other ways. 

It doesn't mean Beal has to struggle until someone else steps up. There are other ways to spring players free without putting them into a million pick and rolls every game. One way Scott Brooks could do it is to run him more off the ball with either Ish Smith or Isaiah Thomas initiating the offense. 

This way, he can make his catch with a defense that's already moving and reacting instead of a set front. It should give Beal just enough room for him to operate and continue to torch opposing defenses. This team has plenty of capable passers to make it happen, it's just a matter of executing those actions more throughout the game. 

Lakers feast in the paint

The Lakers entered Friday as one of the best teams in the NBA at getting points in the paint, and luckily enough the Wizards were one of the worst teams at preventing those scoring opportunities. 

In this game, the Lakers scored 56 points in the paint. They got out and ran off of Washington misses and were more than happy to go for the lob finish whenever it was available. And it was there all night. 

The Wizards were certainly bad at defending the paint in LA but I'm not sure how much they could have done against James and Davis. That's arguably the best frontcourt duo in the league and then Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee get most of their points inside as well. 

The Lakers don't have a ton of shooting, but boy can they do whatever they want inside. 

A different Dwight Howard

What a difference a year makes for Dwight Howard. There was little hope for him to even stay in the league by the time he was traded by the Wizards and then waived by Memphis this summer. 

Now he's on a one-year deal with the Lakers, he's accepted his role as a defense-first role player off the bench and he's a key contributor for a contending team again. 

Howard showcased just how effective he can be when he plays within himself to his old team. He looks like he's in great shape, he's active defensively and provides great interior defense for the Lakers high-pressure perimeter defense. 

Assuming he keeps playing this way, Howard could be in for a nice contract this summer. It makes you wonder what the Wizards might have been able to do last year if he played at this level. 

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Scott Brooks hilariously looking forward to the Wizards acquiring another end-of-bench Lakers player

Scott Brooks hilariously looking forward to the Wizards acquiring another end-of-bench Lakers player

The Wizards have made a habit of acquiring cast-off players from the Lakers. 

Thomas Bryant was picked up after the Lakers interestingly decided to waive the young big man before the 2018 free agent period.

Then, after the Lakers agreed to the Anthony Davis trade and were trying to clear cap space to fill out the roster, they traded Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga to the Wizards for practically nothing. 

Naturally, Scott Brooks is looking at LA's current group to see who's next in line to get shipped to DC. 

“I’ve been looking at the end of Lakers bench," Brooks said to Candace Buckner. "I’m sure we’ll be getting a couple of them next year.”

Brooks is clearly joking here, but if the Lakers ever need to offload young players to clear more cap space, it'd be difficult for the Wizards to ignore it.

They've gotten two promising young bigs that continue to improve every game and Brooks has expressed hope in Bonga figuring things out once he gets better acclimated to the league. Not only that, but they've gotten all of them for almost nothing in return. 

John Wall and Bradley Beal's salaries won't give the Wizards much flexibility when it comes to free-agent spending. The best way to build their young core is through the draft and with savvy moves like the Wagner trade. 

In the meantime, Brooks and Tommy Sheppard can scout the Lakers' reserves Friday night. 

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Wizards will have their hands full with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers

Wizards will have their hands full with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers

As the Wizards enter the Los Angeles leg of their four-game west coast trip, LeBron James and Anthony Davis present a challenge they aren't exactly equipped to handle. 

Granted they've played against the league's easiest schedule to date, the Lakers have been one of the best teams in the NBA to start the season. They're 16-2, are great statistically on offense and defense and it appears LeBron is fully engaged on both ends of the floor compared to last season's 37-win debacle. 

Outside of Bradley Beal, the Wizards' best players are in the frontcourt. Between Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans and Moe Wagner, they have plenty of players to theoretically throw at LA's huge front line. 

But they're all young and relatively inexperienced players going up against probably two of the five best players on the planet. Here's what they have to worry about with the Lakers' power-duo.

LeBron James

There's not much to say that hasn't already been said about LeBron James. He's an unstoppable scorer when he's not brilliantly setting up his teammates for open looks off his drives, and when he wants to be, he can be an elite defender with valuable versatility. 

The bad news for the Wizards is that this year, James has emphasized setting up Anthony Davis and it's allowed him to give more effort on defense. 

What's made the Lakers so hard to score on this season, besides their line of weak opponents, is their ball pressure. They put as much stress on ball handlers as possible because if they get beat, they're more than happy with funneling drivers into the lane where Davis, JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard are waiting. 

That ball pressure starts with James and Danny Green, so if the Wizards are going to put up the amount points they'll need to stay in this one, they'll have to be smart and decisive on their drives to find open looks. 

Anthony Davis

Davis has been the focal point of the Lakers offense this season with LeBron focusing on getting his new teammate comfortable. So far, Davis is averaging 25 points per game on 47 percent shooting to go along with nine rebounds and 3.8 assists a night. 

What's important to note is that Davis does not play center nearly as much as he probably should. So while his post-up opportunities are scary to think about, the Wizards should be able to send help effectively to get the ball out of his hands. 

If the Lakers move him over to the center spot and he starts running pick and roll with LeBron? Good luck stopping them on any trip up the floor. 

Hachimura and Bryant are going to be put to the test down low. While it may be an unsettling thing to think about for Wizards fans, but these are the types of matchups young players need to grow and reach a level. 

The Wizards and Lakers will face off on Friday at 10:30 p.m. EST on NBC Sports Washington. 

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