This was a much closer game than the season opener against the Golden State Warriors as the Lakers fought back from down double-digits twice before ultimately faltering in crunchtime and losing 103-97.
While it’s an unfortunate start to the season for the Lakers, the NBA did them no favors by scheduling arguably the best two Western Conference teams in the first two games for a brand new head coach and roster.
Still though, there were some improvements for the Lakers from game 1 to game 2 so let me break down what was different and also what stayed the same.
What was different
After the Lakers lost to the Warriors, Darvin Ham preached the importance of competing and playing hard throughout, avoiding lapses that can cost you a game.
It seems that the Lakers took that message to heart as they played extremely hard throughout this game. They were flying around on defense, making deflections which allowed them to get out on the fastbreak for a bunch of easy buckets. Even Russell Westbrook was solid on the defensive end, coming up with some big plays late on Kawhi Leonard to give his team a chance.
The Lakers are far from the most talented roster in the league, but if they compete on defense and play hard for 48 minutes as they did against the Clippers, they will give themselves a chance to win every night.
The play of Lonnie Walker IV also deserves to be highlighted here. The Lakers received a ton of criticism for using their mid-level exception on the former San Antonio Spurs first-round pick but he showed why against the Clippers. The guard finished with a team-high 26 points to go along with three rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.
Walker’s 6’10” wingspan allows him to guard some bigger players and it’s hard not to be impressed by his speed and athleticism in the open court. Ham is still figuring out what lineups work best, but Walker seems to fit in well with the Lakers’ starting unit.
What was the same
As far as what didn’t change from the Lakers’ opener to the second game – well, it’s pretty simple.
They. Have. No. Shooting.
The Lakers were 10-for-40 from 3-point range against the Warriors and after the game, many came to the conclusion that it can’t get any worse than that.
It took the Lakers all of one game to prove that it can indeed get worse as they were 9-of-45 against the Clippers. Included in that is the team’s three top guards – Westbrook, Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn – combining to go 1-for-16 from 3 and 1-for-25 overall. That seems almost impossible to do.
Some positive regression is due for this team, but even with that, shooting is never going to be something they excel at barring a trade and that is a problem in today’s NBA.
The fact that the Lakers were even in this game against one of the NBA’s elite teams despite shooting that poorly is impressive in its own right and reason for some optimism. But as long as this team remains the worst shooting team in the league, the Lakers will continue to handicap themselves and make it difficult to win regardless of how well they defend.