After every game, we will be bringing you three things we learned the previous night about the Los Angeles Lakers. First up is Tuesday’s season-opening loss to the LA Clippers.
1. New Kids on the Block
Despite winning the title last season, the Lakers didn’t rest on their laurels and hope for a repeat. They were aggressive and went out and got Wesley Matthews, Dennis Schroder, Marc Gasol, and Montrezl Harrell. All in all, it was a mixed bag in their first regular season action for the Lakers.
Schroder was the best of the bunch, falling two assists short of notching a triple-double and was generally effective as a ball handler. Much was made of his comments about slotting into the starting lineup this season, which made that brutal first quarter particularly notable. But, he fit in pretty well in his first true action in purple and gold. While motivation and energy levels might fluctuate this season (more on that later), Schroder should be fresher and hungry given his early elimination from the playoffs and his lack of silverware.
Harrell recorded 17 points and 10 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds, and even added three assists. Gasol and Matthews both struggled, finishing with zero points each. Gasol was particularly ineffective, notching only one assist and rebound in 12 minutes of action.
Harrell and Gasol are not exactly McGee and Howard, in that their games are diametrically different from last season’s counterparts. It will take time for them to adjust, as well as for their new teammates to figure out how they want to play with and alongside them.
Given the lack of a true offseason, it’s not surprising that things weren’t perfect from the newbies. This is not the game to overreact. It will take time for the new pieces to mesh, but the early signs were mostly promising in game 1.
2. Flip the Switch
If there’s one thing about LeBron James-led teams, it’s that there’s always a switch to flip. That is why there was never a reason to panic when down 20 points at the end of the first quarter – James was never going to let this be a blowout on Ring Night. They didn’t wind up winning, but it was a positive sign that this team can blitz you at any given time.
With the lack of preseason combined with the shortened offseason, I’d expect several quarters this year where the team appears to be coasting, relying on short bursts to take out their opponents in order to save energy for what should be a second consecutive run at a title.
Target, Meet Backs
The Clippers came out in this game with a point to prove, that much was clear. However, the target is now firmly on the Lakers backs, as it is for any team coming off a title. Everyone wants to beat the champs, that’s the nature of the game. There’s 29 teams without a ring, so expect to get everybody’s best shot.