The Los Angeles Lakers first shot of the 2014-15 season was a corner three, followed by a successful pick and roll with D'Angelo Russell dishing to Julius Randle for a dunk. Could the Lakers really be transitioning to a smarter style of offense?
It would be dangerous to draw conclusions from a team's first preseason game, so we will have to wait and see. However, the Lakers starting lineup of Russell, Randle, Kobe Bryant, Jordan Clarkson, and Roy Hibbert did begin the game by moving the ball better than the 2014-15 Lakers ever did, against a team that finished as one of the best and most disciplined defensive teams in the league last season. However, that defense still held the purple and gold to a subpar 33.3% from the field in the first half despite getting some good looks.
The second half began with Nick Young (10 points, 4-10 shooting) starting in place of Bryant, who sat the rest of the night as part of the team's maintenance plan. After the Lakers initally built up a 48-35 lead to begin the third quarter, Gordon Hayward (11 points, 4-10 shooting, 9 rebounds) led Utah on a 15-2 run to tie the game at 50. The Lakers were able to get their offense going again and ended the third quarter ahead 59-57 before both teams went into full garbage time/injury prevention mode in the fourth quarter (even with the Hawaiian fans starting up the annual preseason tradition of fruitlessly chanting for Kobe to come back in), with the Lakers ultimately falling 90-71.
It was a mixed debut for Russell (5 points on 3-8 shooting with 3 rebounds and 3 assists) and Randle (7 points, 7 rebounds, and better than advertised defense) who contrasted glimpses of their tantalizing potential (Russell's no-look passes, Randle's bruising but mobile offensive attack) with some poor shooting (a combined 4-18 from the field). Clarkson, the third member of the Lakers' young trio, was probably the Lakers' best player of the night, scoring 9 points on 4-13 shooting as well as improved defense, culminating in this sequence where he blocked Hayward and got a layup on the other end.
For the Jazz, Derrick Favors led the way with 11 points on 7-15 shooting and 9 rebounds.
A few additional notes:
- Russell's first basket came on his third attempt from the field, a layup over Favors and Rudy Gobert.
- Kobe's young teammates were so eager to make sure he got enough warmup shots they were repeatedly hitting him with balls before the game. Ouch
- Lou Williams (14 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists) had a nice debut, with perhaps the play of the night on this ludicrous behind the back pass to Brandon Bass to save a fastbreak possession.
These two teams will rematch in Hawaii on Tuesday at 9 pm PST. Until then, check out our new postgame show!