The Los Angeles Lakers were able to pick up their first win of the season, defeating the Phoenix Suns, 131-113, but there was plenty to talk about before the game tipped off.
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Lakers head coach Luke Walton decided to make a change to his starting lineup, replacing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with Josh Hart. The move was one many had been calling for considering Hart’s strong start to the season and Caldwell-Pope’s struggles.
Walton was satisfied with the play of both guards, but not with how the team came out defensively. “They both played well tonight, but again our first quarter, I thought defensively we were soft again,” Walton said following the victory.
“They both turned it on. Josh really started picking his defense up as the first quarter ended. KCP had a nice night, but we still didn’t start with the intensity I was looking for.”
The Lakers gave up 30 points to the Suns in that first quarter but then locked in from there. They limited the Suns to just 24 points in the second quarter while scoring 44 of their own to essentially put the game away by halftime.
The Lakers’ defense has been the cause for concern early on this season, but Wednesday’s win showed they are capable of being elite on that side of the floor at times.
Hart had another excellent showing in what was his first start, finishing with 15 points on 4-of-6 from three-point range while also adding two steals. Caldwell-Pope continued to struggle behind the arc, but other than that had his best outing of the early season with 14 points.
It will be interesting to see what Walton does with his lineups and rotations once Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo return from their suspensions. Figuring everything out could take some time, but the first move Walton made this season looks to be a good one.