The Los Angeles Lakers rebuilding process may be moving along quicker than expected, as the team opened up their season with a 120-114 victory over the Houston Rockets.
They then suffered their first loss of the season as they traveled to the Utah Jazz and were defeated 96-89. Despite the loss, the Lakers competed and were in it the entire game, something that was not always the case last season.
First-year head coach Luke Walton is still trying to figure out his rotations, as he played 12 different players in the season opener and 11 players against the Jazz.
Eight different players scored at least seven points for the Lakers in the loss to Utah, with Lou Williams leading the team in scoring with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
Their road trip continues Sunday evening as they travel to the Oklahoma City Thunder as they will get their first look at OKC without Kevin Durant.
Oklahoma City features one of the best backcourts in the league in one of the top MVP candidates, Russell Westbrook, and Victor Oladipo.
The Thunder is no unquestionably Westbrook’s team after Durant left, and he is playing like a true superstar. He has led his team to two comeback victories to start the season, scoring 32 points to go along with 12 rebounds and nine assists in their season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers and then following that up with 51 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in an overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns.
The 51 points were the most in a triple-double since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975.
After struggling offensively in the first game, Oladipo had 21 points against Phoenix on 7-of-17 shooting.
Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell struggled shooting on Friday, as he scored just nine points on 3-of-14 shooting, but did have five rebounds, five assists and two steals in the game.
The Thunder frontcourt looks a lot different than a season ago, as Durant and Serge Ibaka are no longer on the team.
With the 11th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Thunder selected Domantas Sabonis out of Gonzaga, and he has gotten the first opportunity to take over the team starting power forward job. He had eight points and four rebounds against the Suns.
Additionally, Oklahoma City features two of the best young centers in the league in Steven Adams and Enes Kanter.
Adams is averaging 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds through the first two games while Kanter had 17 points and 12 rebounds off the bench in their season opener.
Lakers center Timofey Mozgov will have his hands full defensively trying to defend Westbrook and the Thunder big men on pick-and-rolls, but so far Mozgov has proved to be a force defensively in the middle for Los Angeles.
Keys To Victory:
Make someone other than Westbrook beat you: Westbrook is one of the most talented scorers in the league right now, as he is a complete threat. With Durant and Ibaka no longer on the team the Thunder do not have too many established scorers in the league other than Westbrook, so look to see a lot of double teams on Westbrook as he is the one guy on the Thunder that you can not let beat you.
Continue to improve defensively: After giving up 71 points to the Rockets in the first half of their season opener, the Lakers have improved defensively as they gave up 43 points to the Rockets in the second half, and then kept the Jazz under 100 points at 96. The goal every night for this young Lakers team should be to hold their opponent under 100 points, which will be tough against the Thunder but if they can continue to improve on that end of the floor then it will bode well for them in the future.
Los Angeles Lakers (1-1) Vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (2-0)
4:00 P.M. PST, October 30, 2016
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Thunder Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Victor Oladipo
SF: Andre Roberson
PF: Domantis Sabonis
C: Steven Adams
Key Reserves: Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler, Ersan Ilyasova, Semaj Christon
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Lou Williams, Tarik Black