Following a disappointing loss in their regular season opener against the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers will host the new-look Houston Rockets on Saturday for what will be the first meaningful game LeBron James has played in front the Staples Center faithful.
The last time these two teams faced was in April, and while the Lakers had nothing to play for that night, it was still a memorable game because of G League veteran Andre Ingram, who made his NBA debut with two games left in the regular season. The Lakers ultimately lost, but Ingram’s moment much bigger than the otherwise meaningless game.
Ingram is no longer with the Lakers, which is a shame considering how much they could use his shooting against the Rockets.
In their regular season opener against Portland, the Lakers made just seven of their 30 total 3-point attempts. To put that into context, Devin Booker scored just one less 3-pointer by himself for the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday than the Lakers did as a team on Thursday.
The Lakers might be able to beat a handful of teams without shooting the 3-ball well, but the Rockets, who attempted and made the league’s most triples last season, are not one of them.
If head coach Luke Walton is looking to avoid losing his first two games of the season, he’ll consider making a few early tweaks to the starting lineup. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scrimmaged with the second unit on Friday while Hart watched from the sidelines with Thursday’s starters, but Walton vehemently denied that there was anything to it, saying that it meant “absolutely nothing” and that Hart had just been hit by a knee in the game before and played big minutes, so the team was letting him rest a bit more.
KCP is with the Lakers second unit in scrimmage today, playing alongside Kuzma, Svi, Ball, Wagner. Last night Luke Walton said “it’s a little early” to@start changing starting lineup.— Bill Oram (@billoram) October 19, 2018
However, if Hart outperforms KCP again on Saturday, it’s going to be hard for Walton to justify keeping him on the bench. Hart scored 20 points off the bench on an efficient 8-of-12 from the field, including going 3-of-5 from behind the arc in the Lakers’ regular season opener. KCP scored just 5 points in 27:18 on the floor and couldn’t find a way to contribute outside of scoring.
Maybe it’s just a matter of shaking the rust off, but the Lakers need to find shooting somewhere on their roster. Currently, Hart is the only player that has shown he can do that.
An 0-2 start to the LeBron James era in Los Angeles wouldn’t be ideal, but it’s not completely out of the question against a talented and angry Rockets squad. Hopefully the Lakers can find a formula that works, even if only for the night.
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.