Coming into tonight against Dallas, the Lakers faced numerous questions already, and we’re only 3 game into the season.
Opening night versus Minnesota wasn’t so bad, since the Lakers led for a good chunk of the game. However, late game turnovers, lack of execution on the offensive end, and the constant struggle to get stops down the stretch cost the Lakers in their season opener. After the game, a few questions arose: Why didn’t D’Angelo Russell play down the stretch? Why was the offense so stagnant and iso heavy? With D’Angelo Russell being a passing savant, why was he playing off-ball the majority of the time? I could go on and on. With all of that being said, having so many new faces, and adding all the young guys to the mix, the Lakers were expected to struggle a bit. We saw those struggles against Minnesota and hoped for improvement in their next game in Sacramento.
Needless to say, Thursday night against the Kings was one of the most disappointing games I’ve witnessed since Byron Scott took over as head coach. The Lakers looked flat out uninspired and completely out of sync. Sacramento put up 132 points on L.A. (and once led by 32 points), while scoring 80 of them in the paint. The Kings also had 33 fastbreak points and 25 second chance points.
After the game Friday night against Sacramento, many were curious to see how coach Scott would react and wanted to see what changes he would make moving forward. The words, “Soft” and “We just sucked” were used by the Lakers coach to describe the performance by his team. “It doesn’t come down to X’s and O’s,” Scott said. “You have guys going at you. You have to man up.”
In the following days, Scott said he noticed his players seemed tired, fatigued and out of energy early during games and he would vow to tone practices down. However, Byron said he wanted to see results and more productive play or else he would ramp practices back up. As a result, heading into Sunday’s contest against Dallas, many were curious to see how the team would look and respond.
Sadly, L.A. looked absolutely horrible out of the gate tonight. Still stagnant, the lack of offensive flow and ball movement was again an issue. D’Angelo Russell ran a handful of pick and rolls at most, and the team still looked atrocious defensively.
Dallas jumped on the Lakers early and got out to a 15-0 lead. Throughout the first half the Lakers managed to battle back, somewhat, and only trailed by 9 at the half. Julius Randle had a phenomenal first half, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to lead the Lakers in both of those categories.
Honestly, minus Randle performing well, the Lakers played another discouraging first half of basketball. Going into the second half, the Lakers didn’t show any improvement. Countless pick and pops with Dirk Nowitzki, combined with horrible defensive switches and rotations, Dallas started pulling away, leading 81-64 going into the fourth quarter.
Led by Randle, the Lakers managed to cut the deficit to 10 with six minutes left to play in the fourth. Dallas took a timeout and quickly answered with a score, pushing the lead back to a dozen. With three minutes left, Julius Randle made two clutch free throws to cut it to seven, 96-89.
Randle was having a sensational performance, filling up the stat sheet with time still on the clock. But in the end, despite Randle having his best game as a pro (22 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, four steals and one block on a 53.6 True Shooting percentage), Dallas cruised to a 103-93 victory. The Lakers never held the lead throughout the game and barely competed tonight against Nowitzki and the Mavericks.
Going forward, the direction of the Lakers seems to be very confusing. Numerous problems have emerged and we’re not even four games into the season yet. The lack of schemes, the inability of Scott to adjust and questionable coaching decisions are becoming more and more evident.
For example, Kobe Bryant was terrible tonight. He shot three-of-15 from the field, including two-of-eight from three, while tallying just one assist. Late in the fourth, Jordan Clarkson, who was having a much better game than Kobe defensively, rode the bench while Raymond Felton and J.J. Barea lit it up. Simple coaching mistakes like that may have some worried going forward when it comes to the development of our young studs and the rest of the team. Throughout the first three games of the season, the Lakers have given up 347 points. That is completely unacceptable for a “defensive-minded” coach.
Yes, it’s early, and yes, there is still time. But words like “uninspired”, “out of sync” and “discouraging” are not terms we should be using about this team so early. These few games have really put the direction of the Lakers in question if you ask me, and it’ll be interesting to see how things unfold if these results stay consistent.