The Los Angeles Lakers lost, 128-119, to the Portland Trailblazers in their season opener on Thursday night, but despite the defeat still made some history. The loss was the fastest-paced game LeBron James has played in over his entire 16-year career.
Some discrepancy between pace statistics on https://t.co/HbzTMXqxMf and Basketball-Reference. But still.— Adam Fromal (@fromal09) October 19, 2018
Fastest-paced games of LeBron James' career:
1. 10/18/18 vs. POR: 113.5 via https://t.co/HbzTMXqxMf
2. 3/13/18 vs. PHO: 113.1 via B-R
3. 1/6/17 vs. BRK: 109.3 via B-R
Defensive rebounding, defending screens both on the ball and off of it, and 3-point shooting plagued the Lakers all night, but the beginnings of a devastating transition attack were on display at the Moda Center as the Lakers put up a whopping 34 fast break points.
Let’s take a closer look at how LeBron fully embraced this style of play in his Lakers debut.
His one-man stampede on coast-to-coast drives is nothing new. Defenders have been making business decisions to stay out of James’ way when he has a head of steam since his rookie season. The Lakers’ ball-handlers, however, allow him to not worry about advancing the ball up the court on every possession and fill the wing. He brings gravity with him everywhere he goes, and he frees up teammates by barreling down his lane and drawing the attention of transition defenders.
He is a — how do I put this politely — less enthusiastic transition defender. The apologist in me says that he understands that the cost vs. benefit of busting his tail to get back in transition in certain situations isn’t worth the wear and tear over the course of the season. The high school coach in me who never coached anyone remotely as talented hates it. And both of those voices are probably right to some degree, but this is part of what the Lakers signed up for when they inked LeBron.
Portland has always been a house of horrors for the Lakers and last night was no different, but the outline of a clearly defined style emerged in the very first game, with LeBron James embracing a fast-paced approach as he never has before.