The Lakers are off to an 0-2 start.
Los Angeles started off their season with losses to the defending champion Warriors and their crosstown rivals, the Clippers. The Warriors loss was pretty bad but their loss against the Clippers was a lot more encouraging.
It was good to see the Lakers be active on the defensive side of the ball against those Clips. The defensive rotations were mostly crisp, they read quite a bit of the passes, they forced a lot of turnovers (22!), and the Lakers really contested some shots. Heck, the Lakers took care of the ball themselves (only 10 giveaways). Unfortunately, the Clippers were just better at making shots and the Lakers had a hard time putting the ball in the basket from distance, which has really been a recurring theme for years now. LeBron noted that he wasn’t going to harp on what they couldn’t do every single game and just focus on what they can do.
Still, these are shots that they’re going to get because teams are daring them to shoot the outside shot. And the opponents are going to keep doing that if they can’t do better than hitting a fifth of their three-pointers (9 for 45 against the Clippers; yes, that is 20 percent). It seems funny that a top-heavy team like the Lakers can’t break a hundred in today’s NBA but this is the reality as of now.
Russell Westbrook was made fun of for saying that he played solid against the Clippers. I will say that I agree on that to an extent; Westbrook played very good defense, especially towards the end. Obviously, I can’t agree fully to what he said because he didn’t make any of his 11 field goal attempts. But that’s the kind of defensive play that we want to see more of.
Lonnie Walker IV also played pretty well and he got to the rim quite a bit in that 26-point performance of his. He had a few good defensive plays as well (again, he’s not noted to be a good defensive player) and I would love to see him continue being active on both sides of the ball. LeBron James and Anthony Davis had very good games as well but I’m just hoping both of them could stay healthy this season. That fall by Davis was really terrifying.
The Lakers draw the Portland Trail Blazers on a Sunday matinee. The Lakers are 10-10 against the Blazers ever since they picked up LeBron in the summer of 2018. The teams also split their season series last year, 2-2. Unfortunately, we never really saw both teams with their all-stars in any game. LeBron and Davis played together in one game against the Blazers but Damian Lillard did not play that one (which the Blazers won, anyway). Now all three stars should be good coming into this contest.
The Blazers are 2-0 thus far. They defeated the Kings on Wednesday and the Suns in overtime on Friday (Lillard scored 41 points). Portland concentrated on defensive players in the offseason. Jerami Grant and Gary Payton II were added in the summer. Payton has yet to play this season but Grant seems to be already paying dividends with Portland. He became an honest #2 or #3 option after a two-year stay in Detroit.
Justise Winslow has not had a healthy NBA career but when he is, he can guard anybody on the floor. 6’5″ Josh Hart is willing to take on bigger guys defensively. Nassir Little got an extension in the offseason and he can continue to provide that defense the team has needed for years.
Of course, we got the core that got a bit of a change in Portland. Jusuf Nurkic is a big body and that can be real helpful in the trenches. Anfernee Simons has not shot well in his first two games (5 for 18 from 3, which is .278) but once he does, the Blazers can give anyone fits.
And Damian Lillard is healthy now and is still one of the most dangerous players in the league today. It’s Dame Time pretty much all the time in Portland. He gets 30-35 points seemingly at will. Opponents don’t want him to have the ball when the clock is winding down. Whenever he’s in, the Blazers always have a chance. You know what he can do.
Both teams didn’t make the postseason last year (mostly due to health reasons). But both teams also have something to prove this year. The Blazers are off to a better start so far than the Lakers; honestly, the Lakers really need this win. If the previous few days have been any indication, both the Lakers and Portland are going to win by trying to lock it down defensively. And again, that seems kind of hilarious considering the firepower both teams have on paper.
Well, you don’t win games on paper; you win games on the court. Let’s see what happens on the hardwood on Sunday afternoon.