The Laker team from last night’s win against the Clippers wasn’t the team that we expected to see this season. On the other hand, the team that got run over by the Golden State Warriors tonight was precisely who everyone expected to see this season.
It happened in a blink of an eye. A minute and a half into the game, the Warriors led 5-4. Suddenly the Lakers were staring up from a 12-point deficit in the first quarter, which turned into 25 points in the second quarter, and ballooned to 34 points in the third. It’s a shame there’s no mercy rule in the NBA, because this would have been the moment to exercise it.
Golden State, led by the hot shooting of Klay Thompson, was just too good and the Lakers just couldn’t get themselves together long enough to fight back and they lost, 94-125.
Klay Thompson – This kid is unreal. He had 11 points after one quarter, 27 after one half, and he finished with a career-high 38 points on 15-19 (!) from the field, which included 5-7 from downtown. He also only had a single turnover, which makes sense because the second he has the ball in his hands, he immediately exchanges it for points.
Warriors – The league better be ready for this team, because they’re coming after everyone this season. They shot 54% from the field, hit 15-27 from behind the arc, assisted on 34 of their 46 made field goals, outrebounded their opponents 48-39 and bullied the Lakers into a pathetic loss that has wiped out all the joy from yesterday’s victory over the Clippers. Yes, it was their season opener so spirits were riding high, but they disarmed their opponents completely in the process.
Bench – They scored 52 of the Lakers’ 94 points and their efforts, despite its futility, were still there. Xavier Henry tied Jodie Meeks (who started tonight) to lead the team in scoring (14 points). He managed to get to the line nine times and hit six of his free throws, and played the most minutes, 35:31. Four reserves scored double figures.
Pau Gasol – If ever the Lakers needed Gasol to step up, tonight would have been a great opportunity for the co-captain to do some leading. Instead, he settled for jumpers when he should have been pushing it inside to score. He shot just two free throws, collected just seven blocks and, clocking in at just over 23 minutes, didn’t even play enough minutes. It is times like this when Gasol’s leadership is in stark contrast to Kobe Bryant’s. Bryant would have probably insisted on staying on the floor as much as he needed to; to try more, to do more, to give the team just even a chance to fight back and perhaps win. When Bryant isn’t there to push Gasol, why can’t Gasol push himself? Even if he were to simply create more plays, the Lakers would have been in a less compromised position.
Offense – The Lakers shot 28% (!!!) in the first quarter, 33% for the first half, and 33% in the third. They shot 59% from the field in the final quarter, but by then, it was much too late. The ball movement was non-existent. They had just 19 assists for the entire game. For an equal opportunity offense such as D’Antoni’s, ball movement is essential. The Warriors, to their credit, did a good job closing in on the Lakers; contesting every shot and keeping watch of the passing lanes. The Lakers turned the ball over 17 times, resulting in 22 Warriors points.
Defense – As atrocious as their offense was, their defense was just as awful. It was as if they were playing Golden State for the first time, instead of the fourth time in a month. The Warriors’ strategy hasn’t changed, yet the Lakers still haven’t figured out how to defend them. Or perhaps they are aware, but can’t seem to execute the contingency plan when Warriors go on their ridiculously hot scoring runs.
Ragged and system-less offense, half-hearted efforts on defense – how else was this game supposed to end? The Lakers have a day off to think quickly before their next challenge. And it will, indeed be another challenge. The defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs are rolling in on Friday, and despite a system on the opposite end of Golden State’s, the Lakers still have to find a way to stop them and score on them. This game was just a reminder, in case we were still swimming in the glow of last night’s victory, that the Lakers have a lot of work to do.