The Los Angeles Lakers got their 2021-22 NBA season off to a losing start as they let the Golden State Warriors mount a second-half comeback to win 121-114 on opening night.
The loss keeps the Lakers winless on opening night in the LeBron James era, despite rolling out their new Big 3 of LeBron, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.
One game is way too early to overreact to a team that featured eight players who weren’t on the roster last season, but let’s dive into the good, the bad and the ugly from the new-look Lakers’ first outing.
NBA POWER RANKINGS: Lakers open at No. 3
The Good: LeBron James and Anthony Davis
Surprise, surprise! The best duo in the NBA looked magnificent in the opener, combining for 67 points and 22 rebounds on 57 percent (28-of-49) shooting from the field!
You can’t really ask for a better start from your two best players, who raced out of the gate, combining for 20 of the Lakers’ first 25 points, including three triples from LeBron.
James, who finished with 34 points and 11 rebounds, looked fresh in his first outing of the season after injuries hampered his 2021-21 campaign, showing in Year 19 that he is still capable of his signature highlight-reel jams.
Davis, who also struggled with injuries last season was at his best, dropping 33 points and 11 rebounds, tormenting the Warriors with a string of tough jumpshots, while getting the best of Kevon Looney and Nemanja Bjielice in the paint.
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The duo combined for one of the plays of the game on the fastbreak, as LeBron found his running mate with the deftest of touch passes.
As they continue to integrate all of their new pieces, performances like this from the Lakers duo will go a long way.
The Bad: Lakers’ bench hints at lack of depth
While LeBron and Davis carried the offensive load, the Lakers’ second unit struggled to keep pace with the Warriors reserves, especially in the second half as Nemanja Bjielica, Damion Lee and Andre Iguodala came to life combining for 42 points on the night.
The Dubs trio outscored the entire Lakers bench 42-29, with the Warriors reserves as a whole, outscoring the Lakers 55-29.
Carmelo Anthony had his moments and was the best of the reserves, shooting 3-of-9 from the field for his nine points…But that kind of stells the story, with Malik Monk the only Lakers bench player to have more field goals than personal fouls with six points on 2-of-5 shooting.
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Here’s the combined shotchart for everyone not named LeBron or AD.
Having said that, the Lakers rolled into opening night shorthanded, missing key rotation players in Trevor Ariza, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and Wayne Ellington.
Despite leading at the end of each of the first three quarters, the Lakers ran out of options once LeBron and AD slowed down as the Warriors’ ball movement had them on the back foot defensively as they were forced to chase the game down the stretch after letting a double-digit lead slip.
On top of that, the Lakers, whose size advantage turned the game in their favour in the first half, fell off as the game wore on, with the Warriors eventually outrebounding them 50-45.
The Ugly: Russell Westbrook’s debut
Ugly is probably a bit harsh considering it’s the first game of the season, but Russell Westbrook’s official debut for the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t exactly go to plan.
The fit alongside LeBron James is going to take time, with two ball-dominant playmakers finding the delicate balance of not only co-existing but making life easier for each other.
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In his first regular-season game at STAPLES Center, Westbrook finished with just eight points on 4-of-13 shooting, 0-of-4 from deep, adding, five rebounds, four assists and four turnovers in 35 minutes, while the Lakers were outscored by 23 points when he was on the floor.
Westbrook eased into the game and was happy to defer to LeBron, who was lights out to start the game, but as the game wore on he struggled to put his mark on the contest, missing open looks and more notably making zero trips to the free-throw line, with the Lakers forward duo eating up most of the space in the paint.
“I just think it was first-game jitters. I don’t put too much into it,” LeBron said of Westbrook’s struggles.
“There was probably a lot going through his mind, being a kid from L.A., watching the Lakers growing up, now you’re putting on a Lakers uniform stepping into Staples Center.
“I’m not worried about Russ at all. He just needs to be himself.”
It’s going to take time for the Lakers coaching staff to figure out how to best maximise Westbrook’s skillset and while LeBron isn’t worried just yet, in a competitive Western Conference, getting out to a slow start will be less than ideal.
The good news, Westbrook and the Lakers will have a few days to regroup, before Friday’s playoff rematch against the Phoenix Suns.