If the Los Angeles Lakers’ season opening win over the Houston Rockets showed that this team is going to be fun, their loss to the Utah Jazz served as a reminder that the purple and gold won’t be going undefeated this year. The young Lakers fought valiantly, but ultimately couldn’t get past an injury bug ridden Utah squad, falling 96-89.
It was the Lakers’ first loss of the season and it certainly won’t be their last. Use any adjective you want: young, fun, promising, full-of-potential; but “victorious” won’t be a word used to described the Lakers very frequently this season.
Former Lakers guard Jerry West spoke to D’Angelo Russell and the rest of the Lakers about the importance of having grit last week, and the Lakers put it into action against the Jazz. The team will face plenty of adversity as they continue their rebuild, but unlike last season, the team seems to be far more prepared to rally against it.
Randle: "Last year if we would’ve gotten down 11, we probably could've crumbled into 20-30 easy but we kept fighting back.” (on @SpectrumSN)— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) October 29, 2016
Fight back the Lakers did, and they even had a four-point lead with 8:04 seconds to play. Unfortunately for them, the Jazz’s stable of veterans outscored them 24-17 the rest of the way to earn the victory. Utah’s defense left the Lakers looking completely out of tune, with Russell and Jordan Clarkson shooting a combined 5-23 from the field to score 13 points.
Aside from the loss, the Lakers didn’t escape the game unscathed. Adding injury to insult was rookie forward Brandon Ingram being held out of the second half after injuring his knee, Julius Randle picking up a technical foul, and Luke Walton (most likely) set to get fined for his comments on the officiating after the game.
Still, the Lakers new, more positive culture was on display for all to see:
Some leadership moments: Russell encouraged Randle as they walked off court. Deng pulled Russell to side in locker room & gave advice— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 29, 2016
Larry Nance Jr. said Lakers are now playing "for one another" and called it the right way to play.— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) October 29, 2016
"It hurt. But there’s nothing we can do about it. ... When we lose we can’t be separated, that’s when we gotta come together." - @Dloading— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) October 29, 2016
The Lakers will have to come together plenty this season, but night’s like Friday are basically the ideal situation for this still very young team. With a rebuilding team like the Lakers, it’s usually fun to scan the box score after the game to see which member of the team’s core popped off the page with an eye-popping stat line.
On Friday night there were no such examples for the Lakers. Even when taking into account that it’s only the team’s second game of the season, the fact that the lack of positives still left the Lakers feeling positive would seem to indicate forward thinking from the team. The Lakers showed fight and ultimately came up short against everyone’s favorite dark horse team, and still chose to value process over results.
Just like the fight Randle cited from the team even when they fell behind, it’s a far cry from the last several years. A loss to the Jazz aside, the comments from the team should be music to Lakers’ fans ears.
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.