LeBron was predictably very good in his first game with the Lakers – 26 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, though he did have six turnovers – but LA lost an early lead and were defeated for the 16th straight time to Portland, 128-119. There’s no reason to draw any major conclusions from the game – LeBron did lose his debuts in Miami and when he returned to Cleveland – but people will anyway.
Overall, there was plenty to be excited about, from Rajon Rondo’s play (13 points, 11 assists) to the strength of Josh Hart off the bench (20 points, three steals), but ultimately, two things cost the Lakers a chance at the win: Three-point shooting and interior defense.
`The Lakers missed their first 15 three-pointers and finished 7-for-30 (24%). At one point late in the 3rd quarter, Portland’s Nik Stauskas — who probably had the best game of his career (24 points 5-of-8 three’s) — had more three-pointers made than the Lakers. This was the final carnage:
Kyle Kuzma 1-7
Brandon Ingram 0-4
LeBron James 0-4
Josh Hart 3-5
Lonzo Ball 1-4
Lance Stephenson 0-3
Meanwhile, Portland shot 13-of-37 from deep.
The other problem for LA that will be an issue is interior defense. When the Lakers went small, Portland posted up Evan Turner against a guard, Zach Collins against a forward, or Jusuf Nurkic against a forward.
LA only had one center who played heavy minutes. JaVale McGee, who was effective (13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks) in 22 minutes, but when he was out, LA tried Kuzma at center. LA gave up 14 offensive rebounds.
When these two things didn’t go their way, and Portland made 27-of-29 free throws, LA lost. Next up is Houston on Saturday. The Rockets also lost opening night, and the loser of that one will be 0-2, and the media narratives will be hot and heavy by Monday morning.