Despite jumping out to a hot start, the Lakers were unable to hold on against the Clippers in their much anticipated season opener. While they got solid showings from LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and a standout showing from Danny Green, the Lakers proved they were unable to handle the Clippers’ depth and intensity as they were essentially outworked for the vast majority of the game.
Let’s take a look at a few good things, a few bad things, and a few downright UGLY things from their opening night loss to the Clippers.
The Good From the Lakers’ Loss Against the Clippers
Danny Green’s Historic Night
Danny Green’s arrival flew a bit under the radar in Los Angeles due to the Anthony Davis trade but make no mistake, Green was brought to Los Angeles to have a major impact in the starting lineup. He did just that in his first game, going off for a team-high 28 points, good for the most by ANY Laker player in their debut with the team.
Green was lights out from three-point range, going 7 of 9 from deep and was one of only two Lakers with a positive net rating for the evening.
Despite going silent in the fourth quarter when the game got incresingly more physical, Davis still finds himself in the “good” section due to the guady stat line he put up – as well as the fact that he was the only other player outside of Green with a positive net rating on the night. Going for 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and chipping in a steal and a pair of blocks, Davis made his presence felt on both ends of the court and lived up to the hype that was built up over the offseason.
The Lakers will need to lean more heavily on Davis down the stretch moving forward as he poses a nightmare mismatch for nearly every defender in the league.
LeBron James’ Offense Through Three Quarters
Aside from a few ill-adivsed three pointers, LeBron looked very sharp on the offensive end for the vast majority of the game against the Clippers. Similar to Davis, James went somewhat quiet in the fourth quarter and while he struggled with turnovers, you can’t put him in the “bad” or “ugly” category when he puts up 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists.
Similar to Davis, the Lakers will need more production from James down the stretch.
LeBron James’ Defense Through Three Quarters
Long ragged on by analysts and the internet in general, LeBron James put forward an excellent defensive performance against the Clippers. Aside from picking up a steal and a filthy chasedown block, James drew a number of charges and seems to have a renewed focus on that side of the ball. While the Laker defense struggled as a unit, the individual showing (and heart) from James is extremely promising moving forward.
The Bad From the Lakers’ Loss Against the Clippers
The Second Unit
The Lakers’ second unit wasn’t necessarily terrible but they struggled mightily to handle the Clippers playoff-tested depth. After a hot start, Troy Daniels went quiet from deep while he and Jared Dudley would go on to post the teams’ lowest net ratings (-13 and -20 respectively).
Most teams’ second units aren’t as deep or comfortable with one another as the Clippers so this was a stiff test. Unfortunately, it was a test the Lakers’ new-look bench squad failed.
The Laker Offense with LeBron James resting
For as strong as the Laker offense looked with LeBron James on the court early on, they struggled mightily to create good looks with James sitting on the bench. Anthony Davis is certainly capable of getting his own looks but the vast majority of the other players function best with someone else facilitating the offense. Especially without Rondo and Kyle Kuzma on the second unit due to injuries, the Lakers were without a significant scoring punch.
Both teams picked up a number of turnovers in the game, though the Lakers having LeBron James and Anthony Davis lead the way with five and three respectively was far from ideal. James found himself stepping into the role of offensive facilitator much more frequently and while it lead to a number of assists and highlight-reel plays, the turnover numbers were undoubtedly problematic.
Part of this can likely be attributed to going up against Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverly, though this is something worth keeping an eye on moving forward.
The Ugly From the Lakers’ Loss Against the Clippers
The Lakers were able to close the abysmal rebounding margin they found themselves in at the half, however, the Clippers routinely came up with big rebounds to help them ice the game. While only outrebounded 45-41, the stats only tell part of the story as the Lakers came into the matchup with a perceived size and athleticism advantage that should have helped them dominate in the paint. Instead, Montrezl Harrell and Ivica Zubac gave the Lakers’ duo of McGee and Dwight Howard everything they could handle and would up significantly outplaying them.
The Lakers saw a few key players find their way into foul trouble early. Dwight got off to a strong start before quickly picking up three fouls – a few at the hands of the crafty Lou Williams – and being forced to be taken out of the game. Similarly, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope nearly fouled out while Avery Bradley had to dial back his bulldog aggressiveness on the perimeter due to picking up a quick three fouls before the half.
Fourth Quarter Execution
To say the Lakers utterly fell apart in the fourth quarter would be an understatement. On the back of a big run to close out the third and with a tie game heading into the fourth, the Lakers had snatched back all the momentum in what had been an exciting back and forth game up until that point.
As mentioned above, James and Davis both went silent in the fourth quarter as the Lakers were outscored 27-17 and wound up losing by double digits. There really isn’t much else to say except the Clippers outplayed the Lakers in every sense of the word down the stretch. The advantages in cohesion and experience for the Clippers were on full effect and it is very apparent the Lakers still have a ways to go in order to be a viable threat to contend for a Western Conference title.