The Los Angeles Lakers’ first regular season game came in a 128-119 loss to the Portland Trailblazers that unveiled the potential that the Lakers could offer, but also revealed a cause for concern on defense.
In the first quarter, the Lakers were off to a thrilling start. Rajon Rondo’s early hustle plays set the tone for what was expected of the Lakers in their first game of the season. Naturally, LeBron James’ first points as a Laker came on back to back dunks. Kyle Kuzma off the bench continued the momentum, contesting shots on defense and grabbing easy layups. At least for one quarter, the Lakers were playing full-court defense, which seemed to pay off.
After the first though, everything seemed to be shaky for the Lakers. There were missing easy rebounds, which allowed Portland to take advantage and score. Nik Stauskas had a night against this defense, making five 3-pointers, ending the night with 24 points. Before the half was over, the Lakers were able to come within two, 65-63.
JaVale McGee started off the third quarter with some momentum but it just wasn’t enough to contain Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. At that point, the Lakers were 0-14 from the three-point line. Thanks to their offensive push in the paint, Los Angeles was able to stay in the game. In the end, the Lakers were not able to deliver consistently and gave up their 16th straight loss to Portland.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
While there were definitely some glitches to the Lakers’ game, there was also glimpses of a potential playoff team.
King James is back and is still playing like himself. He finished his first game as a Laker with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists. James was unquestionably the leader of last night’s game, taking in the atmosphere and projecting his calm demeanor to the rest of the team. McGee and Josh Hart also took in the pressure of the moment and produced results.
McGee’s high energy remained the same throughout the game. Not only was he was securing his shots, but he was also making defense a priority, something that the Lakers have been preaching for this season. He ended the night with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1 steal; accomplishing these numbers in just twenty-two minutes.
Hart also had a huge impact on last night’s scrimmage against the Trailblazers. He made the first Lakers’ three-pointer after they missed their first 15 attempts. That three would also give the Lakers a 2-point lead. The lead wouldn’t last but his energy on both sides of the court was impressive. Coming off the bench, Hart scored 20 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, and 1 assist.
Turnovers. As a team, the Lakers had 15 turnovers. Most of them came in the 4th quarter when the Lakers were looking to go on a run. James had the most with 6. As a new team that is learning about one another, turnovers like the Lakers had last night can be corrected. As the season continues, chemistry will be built and passing the ball within each other will be an easier task.
The Lakers made 7 out of 30, 3-point attempts. Excluding Hart, Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the rest of the team struggled from the 3-point line. James went 0-4, Brandon Ingram was also 0-4, Kuzma was 1-7 and Lonzo Ball was 1-4.
Unlike their success in the paint, the Lakers had a tough time getting the ball in from beyond the arc. It wasn’t that their shots were being contested, they were just not going in. Most of their three-point attempts were open looks. For the Lakers to be competitors in the Western Conference, there will be a need to tweak this stat.
What To Expect This Upcoming Season
The Lakers first regular season game had a little bit of everything. The Lakers bests and worst were put on display in last night’s loss against the Trailblazers. Their lack of rebounding and slight mistakes cost them the game.
The Lakers struggling in their first game was an expected outcome and James insists, “that it [is] going to take patience from our team, from all of us just to figure out one another, [and] figure out what we are good at.”
The Lakers will be back in Los Angeles on October 20, 2018, looking for their first win of the season in their home opener against the Houston Rockets.