Russell Westbrook’s debut in the Purple and Gold was a forgettable performance as he managed a measly eight points, five rebounds and four assists. The star guard looked out of place on several possessions and when he did have the ball in his hands, he struggled with his shot and turnovers.
However, the most disappointing aspect of the night for the Lakers was the defense as they fell apart in the fourth quarter, giving up 38 points to the Warriors. Head coach Frank Vogel offered his assessment of the team and emphasized their defensive struggles.
“We didn’t finish quarters well at all tonight,” Vogel said after the game. “I think they closed the gap at the end of the third and then obviously we gave up a 38-point fourth quarter, so you do that and you’re going to lose most nights.
“Defense is just not on a string yet. We did a good job being up on Steph [Curry], but that side was much better in the first half than the second half.”
On the bright side, LeBron James and Anthony Davis looked more like themselves as they scored a combined 67 points to go along with 22 rebounds and seven assists. Vogel praised his stars for their performance, though he did acknowledge that it will take time for the rest of the team to catch up.
“Those two guys were spectacular. Obviously, big nights for both of them. We’re going to be pretty good when we get those types of performances. We just have to be better defensively and finish in other actions. … But this is a team that is all new to each other, so everybody is finding their way a little bit. Each day we get a little bit better, a little bit more connected. Watch tape and get better from it.”
The defensive end has always come first for Vogel, and in the Lakers’ first showing they looked good in spurts but ultimately faltered down the stretch. Due to injuries, Vogel was forced to mix and match lineups more than he probably would have liked to which led to some poor spurts of basketball.
A loss was not unexpected given Los Angeles is in the middle of figuring things out together and Golden State has the benefit of continuity on their side. While the defensive woes will be something to monitor in the short term, the most important takeaway was James and Davis looked in midseason form and they will need to carry the roster until they sort everything out.
LeBron James, Frank Vogel discuss Russell Westbrook’s homecoming
Even though Westbrook ended up struggling in his debut, the Staples Center crowd was filled to the brim with energy and excitement as the star took the floor. It was an emotional night for Westbrook, and Vogel and James discussed what it would feel like for him prior to the game.
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