Below are five things to take from the Lakers’ 108-94 Tuesday over the Utah Jazz at Staples Center:
1. The Lakers had a sluggish start. Chalk it to up to a lot of things. The ongoing fatigue stemmed from the China trip. The Lakers’ small lineup failure to close out in the paint and on the perimeter. And perhaps a huge reminder that this game may not win as many games as they hope. But the Lakers started off this game horribly, missing their first eight shots and going a collective seven of 20 from the field.
2. Wesley Johnson had a coming out party. Though the Lakers raved about his assertiveness, athleticism and length in practice, Johnson never really applied that in any of the preseason games. Blame part of it on sitting out three games because of a strained left knee. Blame part of it on him trying too hard. But in Johnson provided everything against Utah with a 14 point performance on 5 of 8 shooting and six rebounds.
He scored from the perimeter. Johnson drove to the basket. He assertively looked for his shot when he was open and aggressively fought for rebounds by sprinting into the lane. Johnson still has plenty to prove he can do this on a consistent basis. But at least for one night, Johnson brought back images of what he did at the Carrier Dome during a successful campaign at Syracuse.
3. The Lakers resorted to small ball Without Chris Kaman in the lineup because of persisting stomach issues, coach Mike D’Antoni featured Shawne Williams at power forward and Pau Gasol at center. The approach backfired at the beginning and then worked once the Lakers’ energy and shooting accuracy spiked up. But the small ball approached worked because the Lakers continued moving the ball and providing effort through both the good times and the bad. Rarely, did the Lakers last season adopt that mindset.
That set up Jordan Farmar (20 points on 5 of 7 shooting) and Jodie Meeks (15 points on 5 of 9 shooting) for hot shooting nights. That allowed Xavier Henry to drive to the basket with aggression en route to eight points. Young also rebounded from a poor start, finishing with nine points and four assists by passing more and finding shots closer to the basket. It set up Jordan Hill for easy buckets inside (10 points on 4 of 6 shooting), while providing a defensive presence.
4. Pau Gasol’s offense wasn’t inside. Raise your hand if you’ve seen this happen too many times. Gasol’s role becomes reduced to taking jumpers Despite starting at center, Gasol’s nine points on 4 of 9 shooting in 23 minutes came off a 3-pointer and jumpers from 23 feet, 20 feet and 15 feet. The Lakers’ small ball approach worked. But big picture, it shouldn’t come at the expense of Gasol’s inside presence. He’s way too skilled at that position.
5. D’Antoni played a tight rotation. He had hoped to do this with the Lakers beginning the last week of the preseason. But with the Lakers fighting fatigue issues, D’Antoni sounded unsure if he did. He opted for an 11-man unit, which should give the Lakers a better idea on what lineup they will field for the regular season. But it left training camp invitees Ryan Kelly and Marcus Landry with playing time only in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Steve Nash sat out the second half likely to rest and perhaps heal his wounded body parts, including his neck sore ankle and back. He finished with five points on 2 of 3 shooting in 14 minutes.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org