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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