The debut of the Los Angeles Lakers trio was spoiled by their 121-114 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the 2021-22 NBA season opener. Despite a strong performance from LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the team’s shortcomings on both ends of the floor were simply too much to overcome.
James finished with a game-high 34 points while tacking on 11 rebounds and five assists. However, a tough night from Russell Westbrook was magnified by the Lakers’ woes on defense.
Even without Klay Thompson, the Warriors had more than enough firepower to push the pace on offense. It was only a matter of time before they started to find their rhythm as they finished the game shooting 35.9% from deep on a healthy 30 team assists.
James feels it was their inability to contain the 3-point line in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference.
“We struggled with the 3-ball. We had that neutralized through three quarters,” James said. “They did a good job in that second lineup of coming in and getting the 3-ball going. They had 55 points off the bench. … That team challenged us. There’s a few teams that challenge you more than any other team in the league and there up there in terms of challenging your defense for all 48 minutes.”
James acknowledged that while this new group is still finding its footing amid the new changes, it is important for them to start getting on the same page mentally when it comes to being a team defense.
“We’ve always been a team defense. Cover for one another. We lost two of our guys that we counted on for on-ball defense in AC and KCP. But it’s always been team defense, it’s always been if someone breaks down how can we cover for them. A lot of the mistakes that were made was mental mistakes tonight. We got to switch on a certain situation. There wasn’t a time that we should’ve switched give up a backdoor and some of them their offense just actually executed versus our defensive schemes.
“There’s a lot of things on the floor that the normal fan wouldn’t understand. They’d just say, ‘Why are you giving up another three or a layup?’ Sometimes better offense beats a great defense any time and they did a great job of executing their offense as well, so you got to give them credit.”
Although the Lakers made headlines with their notable additions this offseason, it was no secret that this new group would need some time to mesh. They may still be far from a finished product after Game 1, but it is evident that defense will once again be the focus early on.
The Lakers have the luxury of allowing the offense to be led by Davis and Anthony while Westbrook continues to find his rhythm after the pair combined for 67 points and 22 rebounds. For now, it is imperative that they get back to where they were the last two seasons as one of the best defensive groups in the league.
LeBron not concerned with Westbrook’s struggles
Westbrook’s debut with the Purple and Gold fell vastly short of expectations as he finished with eight points on 4-for-13 shooting and had a team-worst plus/minus of minus-23. While it may have been a rough outing for the nine-time All-Star, James is hardly concerned about his fit.
“It’s one game. We want to learn from it, we want to get better, but we won’t harp on it too much. We’ll get better from it, he’ll get better from it. We’ll put him in positions where it benefits him and benefits our team. I think we’ll continue to learn that as the season goes on.”
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