LeBron James led the Los Angeles Lakers with 21 points in just 29 minutes in the season opener against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night. The Lakers, however, couldn’t quite keep up as once again the Nuggets pulled away late for a 12-point win.
The Lakers fell behind early and fought back to make things competitive in the second half. But untimely mistakes and clutch shooting from Denver ultimately secured a victory for the home team. While there were some positives for the Lakers to take away, there were certainly areas for improvement and LeBron has already pinpointed exactly what they are.
James pointed to the Lakers’ transition defense and inability to rebound the ball as what ultimately led to the Lakers coming up short, via NBA.com:
“What we got to iron out is transition. We gave up 20 in transition. And we gave up 17 second-chance points and that’s what killed us last year in the Western Conference Finals. I thought we did a good job of not turning the ball over as much we only had 12 turnovers. But when we turned it over, it allowed them to score they got 20 points off our turnovers.
“So we got to learn from that, we got to be better with our understanding, if we don’t get back in transition where they’re very good and if we don’t box out when they shoot the ball and give up second chance points, they’re already too elite offensively so you’re allowing them easy baskets in transition and you’re allowing easy putbacks on second chance points. You can’t do that versus them.”
With an offense as elite as Denver, you simply can’t afford to give them easy opportunities, and it’s not as if the Lakers did so a bunch. Like LeBron said, they kept their turnovers pretty low, but the Nuggets took advantage every time. The same can be said about the offensive glass as those 17 second-chance points came on just nine offensive rebounds. Meanwhile the Lakers mustered just four second-chance points on 13 offensive rebounds.
The end result was another loss to the Nuggets, who have now defeated the Lakers six consecutive times including the playoffs. But that history isn’t something LeBron is focused on, but rather he knows his team didn’t do what needed to be done on this night, and gave Denver credit for handling business:
“Nah. I mean we got to be better obviously when we play them. We had our chances in the Western Conference Finals, but that’s over and done with. Tonight was the only thing that was on our mind and we didn’t make enough plays offensively or defensively for stretches, long period of time to be able to close the game or to win. So give credit where credit is due to them.”
The Lakers and Nuggets won’t see each other again until February, so they will have plenty of time to fix these issues before getting the chance to show they are at the level of Denver.
LeBron James on board with minutes limit from Lakers coach Darvin Ham
James’ 29 minutes were noteworthy and head coach Darvin Ham made it clear that this is intended to be the norm this season for the Lakers’ superstar. And LeBron is on board with this plan.
James admitted that he wants to be on the floor more but knows the system that is in place and intends to follow it. He added that he talked with Ham before so he wasn’t surprised or angry by what went down.
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