An interesting stat ran across the screen as the TNT crew talked about how LeBron James’ teams have won at least 50 games in the last six seasons – the Los Angeles Lakers have not won 50 games since the 2010-2011 season, in which Kobe Bryant was still a major part of their team.
LeBron came out to a mix of cheers and boos from the crowd in Portland as he geared up for his first game as a Laker. LA made many moves in the offseason including signings of James, Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley.
The Lakers came out looking like they had put the pieces together, but their play declined after every quarter. LeBron finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists in his debut for the Lakers, but this collective team showed that they have a long way to go. Josh Hart led the bench in scoring with 20 points, Brandon Ingram added 16 and Kyle Kuzma put up 15. These sound like fine outputs, but the stat lines do not show how much this team struggled. They made their first three pointer in the third quarter and were outrebounded by the Blazers big men.
Here is a quarter-by-quarter analysis of how the Lakers started their season:
It did not take long for LeBron to get things going, throwing down back-to-back tomahawk slams in the first three minutes of the game, instantly making Moda Center come alive. LeBron picked up right where he started as he continued to show his leadership and court vision in the first quarter. The King seemed as though he had a hand in every possession, just as he has done for most of his career. LeBron had no problems getting to the basket and continued to get the ball to his young teammates for easy scores. Taking his first break with three minutes to go in the first quarter, the Lakers went into the timeout with a six-point lead. The Blazers immediately took advantage of his absence and went on an 11-2 run to take control of the game. This development shows the kinds of game plans that Western conference teams will take against LeBron’s Lakers, while also showing just how big an impact LeBron had been having on the LA offense.
The Blazers started off the second quarter just how they finished the first. Frustration from the Lakers became evident as they turned the ball over and continued to take bad shots. The pressure mounted for the Lakers as they went down by double digits. LeBron also picked up his third foul in the first half, which did not help the Lakers’ case as they continued trying to get back into the game. The Lakers rallied as LeBron sat on the bench for the last four minutes of the second quarter, surging off of solid play from youngster Josh Hart and veteran Rajon Rondo. The entire team failed to score a three pointer for the whole first half. Despite going 0-12 from beyond the arc, they only trailed by two heading into the second half.
The Lakers continued to struggle from the three-point line in the second half, a main contributor to their loss. They saw Brandon Ingram come to life in the third quarter (off of many LeBron passes) to bring the Lakers back into the game. The third quarter turned out to be the most exciting one so far as the Lakers and Blazers both upped the tempo and traded baskets back and forth.
LA looked sloppy for the first six minutes to open the fourth quarter. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum caught fire for the Blazers as it seemed that the Lakers just did not have it. They got within two possessions throughout the fourth quarter, but just could not get over the hump. This was their 16th straight loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, but they will have three more chances to break this streak throughout the season. The Lakers and LeBron have their home debut on Saturday against the Houston Rockets.