The Los Angeles Lakers endured an emotional rollercoaster during their Opening Night game against the L.A. Clippers.
After the touching championship ring ceremony, they fell behind by 20 points in the first quarter, only to rally back in the second and then floundered toward the end of the game. Eventually, the Lakers fell 116-109 in a game that ended without Anthony Davis and LeBron James on the floor
But it is unlikely anyone associated with the organization lost a minute of sleep over the loss, remembering that a year ago the Lakers launched their march for the 17th NBA title in exactly the same way: with a loss to the Clippers.
Particularly, as sloppy ball-handling and overall sluggishness aside, L.A. had reasons to smile after all. Dennis Schroder nearly finished his first competitive game in purple and gold with a triple-double, scoring 14 points on top of 12 rebounds and eight assists.
And Montrezl Harrell proved his intensity and hustle could add an extra spark to the offense which at times had gotten stagnant with LeBron James off the floor last season.
“Trezz just being that junkyard dog, going in and rebounding, making plays in the paint and doing all the dirty work,” Vogel said of the 26-year-old, who ended the night with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Worth noting were Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker, the former scoring 15 points and the latter chipping in with six.
If anything, the loss to the Clippers showed that Vogel is on the right path to figuring out the optimal rotation for this new Laker team. Hence, an unchanged starting lineup featuring Schroder and Gasol could face the Dallas Mavericks on Christmas Day.
Including James, who rolled his ankle on Tuesday but said he will play against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. “I’ve never missed a Christmas Day game and I don’t plan on missing on [Friday],” James said.
The Mavericks are coming off a 106-102 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, when they struggled from downtown, making just nine of their 37 three-point attempts, and failed to capitalize on Phoenix’s 18 turnovers.
And even though Doncic headed for a triple-double, ending up with 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists, the wunderkind also appeared as if he was stuck in a lower gear for the majority of the contest, particularly in its early parts.
Doncic undeniably missed the support from his All-Star partner Kristaps Porzingis, who is still nursing the knee injury he suffered in last season’s playoffs. But the extremely short preseason and its ripple effects more likely than not contributed to his and the team’s woes, showing the problem is prevalent in the league.
“It’s not a sprint,” James said ahead of the season opener against the Clippers. Vogel added the Lakers will experience some “ugly nights” in the coming months.
On paper, Dallas versus L.A. promises to be an entertaining clash. But if it turns out ugly after all, perhaps Vogel’s roster tinkering — which there could be plenty of as Gasol and Wesley Matthews are still finding their role within the team — can make the contest more intriguing.
Mavericks (0-1) vs. Lakers (0-1)
5:00 p.m. PT, Dec. 25, 2020
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA, ESPNR
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Dennis Schroder
SF: Wesley Matthews
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris, Talen Horton-Tucker
Projected Mavericks Starting Lineup:
PG: Luka Doncic
SG: Josh Richardson
SF: Tim Hardaway Jr.
PF: Dorian Finney-Smith
C: Dwight Powell
Key Reserves: Maxi Kleber, Trey Burke, Jalen Brunson, Willie Cauley-Stein, James Johnson
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!