The wait for the Los Angeles Lakers' first win of the season will continue after losing 103-93 to the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on Sunday night in a game in which they trailed for all 48 minutes. The Lakers got off to yet another slow start, just as they did in Sacramento two nights ago. The Mavericks started the contest with 15 unanswered points as they had their way with L.A.'s defense. On the other side of the court, the Lakers' offense looked as stagnant as ever as they missed their first five shots and struggled to get a decent look.
After being down by 15 points early, the Lakers -- mostly Julius Randle -- started to get things going a bit. Randle had eight points and eight rebounds in the first quarter, and was relentlessly attacking the Mavs' interior defense off the dribble. He had a few acrobatic finishes around the rim, and hit a mid-range jumper too. Unfortunately, Randle subbed out towards the end of the quarter and was replaced by the Ryan Kelly and Brandon Bass front line which was a disaster again. Not because they were "soft", but rather they're not physically capable of providing adequate rim-protection and rebounding. It's a tandem that clearly doesn't work, but for whatever reason, continues to be trotted out there. The Mavs took advantage and led 32-21 after one quarter.
In the second quarter, the Lakers started to push the tempo more and good things happened, including some nice passing in transition by Jordan Clarkson. L.A. was able to cut Dallas' substantial first quarter lead to 54-45 heading into halftime after Roy Hibbert had a buzzer-beating putback as the time expired. For the most part, though, things weren't pretty. The half court offense constantly stalled and the Lakers shot just 13-43 (30.4%) in the first two quarters, while allowing Dallas to hit nine of their 17 three-point attempts. The Lakers also had seven turnovers to just eight assists. Kobe Bryant and D'Angelo Russell went a combined 0-11 from the field in the first half, and the Lakers' guards as a whole went 4-25. If it weren't for Julius Randle -- who had 15 points and 10 rebounds in 15 first half minutes -- the Lakers would have found themselves down by much more than nine at halftime.
The Lakers cut the deficit to seven early in third, partly due to two consecutive threes by D'Angelo Russell, but they wouldn't get any closer than that. Dirk Nowitzki, who was on fire all night and looked like the Nowitzki of old, took control in the latter half of the quarter, and the Mavericks pulled to a 81-64 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Nowitzki finished with 25 points on 10-13 shooting.
On the back of Julius Randle, the Lakers would attempt to make a fourth quarter comeback, and again cut the deficit to seven with three minutes left. Randle led the team in points and rebounds with 22 and 15, respectively, but he didn't get much help from his teammates. The Lakers shot 31-85 (36.5%) from the field and 10-34 from behind the arc. Kobe, who vowed to take a step back, continued to fire away and finished with 15 points while shooting a dismal
3-3582 3-15 from the field. Jordan Clarkson had 22 points against the Kings on Friday, but was relatively quiet in this one with just seven points. D'Angelo Russell struggled in the first half, but did shoot the ball much better in the second half and was able to record his second double-digit scoring game in row. He's still not handling the ball as much as he should be, however.
In the end, the Lakers have major issues on both ends. We knew talent-wise they'd be overmatched against most teams this year, but it doesn't help that their half court sets rarely produce quality shots, and their defensive schemes are non-existent. The Lakers' offense looks best in transition and on broken plays, and I don't think that's a coincidence.
The loss drops the Lakers to 0-3, and they'll again attempt to pick up their first win of the season on Tuesday when they host the Denver Nuggets, which will also be a chance for Russell to match up against fellow rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay.