The Lakers’ Silver Lining Playbook: ‘Three Positives From Warriors’ Loss’
While last night’s opening season loss to the Warriors was disappointing, the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans should be encouraged that it won’t take long for this team to get their act together and become a juggernaut.
Yes, there are still storm clouds circling like Westbrook’s fit and play, the lingering injuries, and poor free throw shooting. And the Warriors’ elite playmaking and shooting schooled the Lakers’ defense in the second half. But Golden State’s a legitimate championship contender this season and will be even more dangerous when Klay Thompson returns. That this was a game the Lakers could easily have won should be very encouraging.
With just three players back from last year’s squad and new offensive and defensive schemes to learn, the Lakers’ made significant progress towards figuring things out, especially defensively, despite the opening game loss.
Lakers First Half Was Best of the Season
The Lakers’ loss to the Warriors was a tale of two halves. With Bazemore hounding Curry, the Lakers’ defense dominated the first half while the Warriors’ offense controlled the second half to ultimately win the game.
The Lakers posted a 100.0 offensive rating and an 89.8 defensive rating as they built a 59–53 lead at halftime led by Davis’ 20 points and James’ 18 first half points. It was the best half of Lakers’ basketball this season. Overall, the Lakers had five steals and three blocks in the first half and held the Warriors as a team to just 4 of 16 or 25% from deep and Steph Curry to just 10 points on 3 of 11 from the field and 1 of 4 from deep.
While the Lakers couldn’t contain the Warriors’ lethal offense in the second half, they showed in the first half they can still play the kind of lock-down defense that led them to their 17th NBA championship.
LeBron and AD Look Ready to Dominate
It’s no secret the Lakers will go as far as LeBron James and Anthony Davis can carry them so having both superstars post 30 point and 10 rebound games was exactly how the Lakers wanted to start the season.
LeBron had 34 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, and four turnovers in 36.7 minutes against the Warriors while shooting 56.5% from the field, 45.5% from three ( 5/11), and 50.0% from the line (3/6). Anthony Davis posted 33 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, and 0 turnovers in 33.0 minutes against Golden State while shooting 57.7% from the field, 20% from deep (1/5), and 28.6% from the line (2/7).
While the Lakers superstars need to shoot better from the line, it has to be an encouraging sign for the Lakers that LeBron and AD appear to be healthy and ready to raise the level of their play to championship caliber.
Avery Bradley Should Be Lakers Fifth Starter
The Lakers have struggled this preseason to find 3-point shooters who can both create spacing for the team’s three superstars while also playing the kind of aggressive physical defense that coach Frank Vogel demands.
With Ariza, Horton-Tucker, Ellington, and Nunn injured, the only 3&D candidate Frank Vogel could start alongside LeBron, AD, and Russ was Kent Bazemore, who had a great game at both ends against the Warriors. When the Warriors started to rain threes in the fourth quarter, however, Vogel surprised everybody by inserting Avery Bradley, who had just been claimed off waivers from the Warriors the day before, into the game.
Needless to say, Vogel may have found the Lakers elusive fifth starter as Bradley was a huge spark, relentlessly harassing Poole and Curry with aggressive physical defense and hitting two out of three from deep.
Where Do the Lakers Go From Here?
The Lakers made great strides during their loss to the Warriors figuring out what they need to do as a team and as individuals to optimize their superstars and lineups and start playing championship basketball.
While Vogel will likely stay big for the Phoenix game Friday because of Suns’ center Deandre Ayton, he needs to start Anthony Davis at the five and LeBron James at the four to create spacing for Russell Westbrook. Starting a proven 3&D guard like Avery Bradley instead of low post center DeAndre Jordan could be the solution that leads Vogel to go modern and embrace the Lakers playing small ball with Anthony Davis at center.
With LeBron and AD playing like superstars, Bazemore and Bradley creating spacing for Russ to attack the rim and playing the physical defense Frank Vogel demands, the Lakers have a winning blueprint.
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