- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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Laker Grades is a weekly feature that examines the best and the worst of the purple and gold from the last seven days.
L.A. blazes a trail up north to win first game at the Moda Center:
A name change did the Lakers good. After years of frustrating losses playing at the Rose Garden in Portland, the Lakers started off 1-0 at the revamped Moda Center with a 107-106 win over the Trail Blazers last week. L.A. jumped ahead to an early 15-point lead and was able to hold on late thanks to a wonderful Wesley Johnson go-ahead alley-oop layup with 6.9 seconds left, followed by solid defense by Jodie Meeks on Damian Lillard’s last-second heave. Even more impressive was the Lakers’ 32-9 advantage in fastbreak points against the young and able Blazers.
Xavier Henry rounds into form:
Henry had become the forgotten man in the Lakers’ rotation after being sidelined since Dec. 29 with a bone bruise in his right knee, but he quietly had an encouraging comeback week for L.A. The 22-year-old played just five minutes against Portland in his debut, but followed that up by averaging 13.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 16.5 minutes against New Orleans and the Clippers.
Kent Bazemore continues to produce:
As Bazemore’s sample size of games played grows with the Lakers, it’s becoming harder and harder to deny that the Lakers found themselves a deal in the Steve Blake trade. While Blake’s toughness and steady play has been missed by the Lakers’ veterans in the locker room, the point guard was set to become a free agent this summer. Rather than potentially see him walk, L.A. traded for an asset in Bazemore while saving $4 million in salary and luxury tax implications in the process. In Bazemore’s first eight games with the Lakers the Old Dominion product is averaging 16.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and an eye-popping 43.6 percent from 3.
Lakers give up 132 points to lowly Pelicans:
The Lakers had a chance to follow up wins against Sacramento and Portland by beating New Orleans at home to secure the team’s first three-game winning streak since November. It was all set up for L.A. too, as the Pelicans came into Staples Center having lost eight straight games. Not so fast. New Orleans shot 59.7 percent from the field and got whatever it wanted on offense against L.A. as Anthony Davis (28 points), Eric Gordon (28 points) and Tyreke Evans (24 points) led the way.
Lakers suffer worst loss in franchise history against the Clippers:
Never before the in 67-year history of the Lakers had the team suffered as bad a loss as it did in Thursday’s 142-94 drubbing at the hands of the Clippers. “There’s nobody happy over there and everybody knows we’re embarrassed and everybody knows that this league does not really care that we’re embarrassed,” said Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni after the game. It’s been quite a fall from grace this season for one of the league’s signature franchise. At 21-41 (.339), the Lakers are on pace to have their worst season since moving from Minneapolis, edging out the team's 1974-75 season when it went 30-52 (.366).
Laker Grades is a weekly feature that examines the best and the worst of the purple and gold from the last seven days. L.A. blazes a trail up north to win first game at the Moda Center: A name change did the Lakers good.