Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel sent a clear message to his players after L.A. fell to 0-4 in the 2021 preseason on Sunday.
“We got to be better,” he said following the 123-94 loss to the Phoenix Suns. “We haven’t played great.”
The Lakers get another shot at redemption on Tuesday night as they host the Golden State Warriors for the second time this month.
The lead-up to the 2021-22 campaign’s tip-off always promised to be a bumpy road considering only three players from last season’s roster remained at Staples Center. But a few expected the Lakers to remain winless with just a week until they set off for another championship pursuit.
An early injury wave has contributed to L.A.’s false start — an all-familiar issue that ended the team’s title hopes last season. The Lakers face the Warriors without Talen Horton-Tucker, who had to undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.
The young guard will join Trevor Ariza on the sidelines, ruled out with an ankle injury for at least eight weeks, as well as Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn, who struggle with short-term injuries.
However, Vogel is deploying his newly-created Big Three for the very first time this preseason. LeBron James and Russell Westbrook already shared the floor when the Lakers fell to the Warriors 121-114 on Oct. 8.
But Anthony Davis enjoyed a night off that day after playing as starting center against the Suns about 48 hours earlier.
Wayne Ellington and the highly-praised Kent Bazemore could complete the starting line-up with Vogel hoping that the hustle and physicality of the formation would make up for the lack of size on the floor.
However, expect DeAndre Jordan to pair with Davis in the frontcourt if the Lakers head coach decides to wait for Ariza’s comeback before he turns to small ball, featuring the 28-year-old All-Star at the five on a nightly basis.
Nevertheless, it’s about time James, Westbrook and Davis start clocking in some serious minutes on the floor together. It speaks volumes that in his two premiere games as a Laker, the 2017 NBA MVP registered more turnovers (15) than scored points (10).
Overall, a glaring lack of rhythm on the offensive end has been a common denominator for L.A. in the first four preseason outings, highlighting the urgency in addressing the in-game chemistry issue as well as the lingering rustiness.
The Warriors clash can provide L.A. with a perfect opportunity to do just that as the so-far unbeaten Golden State are playing without its two All-Stars, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.
With their opponents’ firepower limited, the Lakers can charge at the Warriors with zeal and courage from the moment the ball is tipped off, putting on a show in the Bay Area. With the amount of talent and potential that the Lakers boast, finding their groove could be just a few highlight plays away.
And then no one will remember that L.A. embarked on this journey with a poor 0-4 streak.
Lakers (0-4) vs. Warriors (3-0)
7:30 p.m. PT, Oct. 12, 2021
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TNT, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Kent Bazemore
SF: LeBron James
PF: Carmelo Anthony
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, DeAndre Jordan, Joel Ayayi, Austin Reaves
Projected Warriors Starting Lineup:
PG: Avery Bradley
SG: Jordan Poole
SF: Otto Porter Jr.
PF: Nemanja Bjelica
C: Kevon Looney
Key Reserves: Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damion Lee, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Jordan Bell
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