After an 0-6 preseason showing, the Los Angeles Lakers have a chance to put it all behind them as they open up the 2021-22 regular season on Tuesday night. The Big 3 of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are making their official debut as a trio as the Lakers face Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors and Lakers met twice during the preseason, with L.A. dropping both matchups. However, James and the Lakers have made it clear that they are not putting any weight into preseason losses. They have a chance to provide some early proof of the preseason not mattering against the Warriors.
This matchup has the potential to be a very early playoff preview, as both teams have championship aspirations this season. For the Warriors, much more is dependent on the health of Klay Thompson, who is considered out indefinitely. On Tuesday night, they are also without first-round draft picks Jonathan Kuminga and James Wiseman.
L.A. is dealing with some health issues of their own. Trevor Ariza, Talen Horton-Tucker and Wayne Ellington are all out. Meanwhile, Kendrick Nunn is a game-time decision and Malik Monk was probable but is expected to play.
James — who had a phenomenal preseason finale — is searching for his first Opening Night win as a member of the Lakers. They’ve lost their first game of the season in each of his first three years with the team.
Westbrook, James and Davis have the potential to be the best trio in the NBA this year, rivaling the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets. For their first game against the Warriors, they’ll have to put the Big 3 to an early test given the depth missing from the roster.
Offensively, the game plan should be simple. Get out and run while avoiding turnovers. Giveaways plagued the Lakers during the exhibition games, largely due to Westbrook and James. The Warriors have defenders like Draymond Green to exploit bad passes and decisions, and an explosive offense — led by Curry — to make teams pay for giving the ball up.
Defensively, the Lakers are not going to be perfect in Game 1. This is a team that — on paper — is perhaps their worst on defense in the James era, so it’s going to take time for Frank Vogel to implement a system that works for this group.
With Horton-Tucker and Ariza out, Westbrook, Kent Bazemore, the Lakers centers and new addition Avery Bradley may all have to step up on an individual level to keep the Warriors’ offense in check.
Hopefully, all of this put together can put the Lakers in the win column to begin the 2021-22 season. If not, it will be back to the drawing board. Either way, no one on the Lakers is going to make any sweeping conclusions from Tuesday’s meeting with the Warriors.
Lakers (0-0) vs. Warriors (0-0)
7:00 p.m. PT, Oct. 19, 2021
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Kent Bazemore
SF: LeBron James
PF: Anthony Davis
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: Carmelo Anthony, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn, Austin Reaves, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo
Projected Warriors Starting Lineup:
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Jordan Poole
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Draymond Green
C: Kevon Looney
Key Reserves: Otto Porter Jr., Andre Iguodala, Moses Moody, Nemanja Bjelica, Juan Toscano-Anderson
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