The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets may have decided to leave defense behind for the season opener, but the youth movement for LA notched a huge 120-114 victory to start their campaign together. Jordan Clarkson made huge plays down the stretch, including a pull-up three over his defender in the final minutes.
This was an absolutely wild start to the season as both teams rushed up and down the court. Mike D’Antoni wasted no time bringing his seven seconds or less tendencies back front and center, and James Harden looked like a machine designed to destroy the Lakers through the first half. The story before the game was D’Antoni quipping that he was hopeful Harden would average 15 assists per game through the regular season and the star guard had 14 by halftime. He ended the game with 34 points on 9-of-19 shooting, along with 17 dimes.
Julius Randle had one of his best all-around games as a Laker, playing under control on his way to 18 points, seven rebounds and a team-high six assists. Nick Young received the starting nod after Coach Luke kept everyone in suspense leading up to tipoff, trying to ride the Uncle P momentum from preseason. Young had a handful of memorable defensive sequences but struggled on the offensive end, making just one of his seven attempts. There was good, and bad, with Nick Young.
Clarkson led the Lakers with 25 points, mostly coming in the second half after he played short minutes off the bench through the first two quarters. D’Angelo Russell scored 20 points (4-of-10 from three-point range) with three assists. He did most of his damage in the first quarter, which helped weather the storm the Rockets opened with.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, but on opening night, who cares? The Lakers went out, played their tails off, put on an entertaining game ... and WON. Next up, the Jazz in Utah on Friday. Basketball is back and it feels so great.