James only played a handful of minutes, as was expected going into the game, but the 33-year-old looked like himself in the brief time he was on the court, putting up 9 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds in just 15 minutes.
He was also just one of four players who played at least 10 minutes to end with a positive box plus-minus (+1), with the others being Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (+3), JaVale McGee (+5) and Rajon Rondo, who ended the night with a team-high +7 BPM.
With Lonzo Ball sidelined for Sunday’s contest, the Lakers relied heavily on Rondo’s playmaking and he delivered, dishing out 11 assists and only turning the ball over twice. However, beyond Rondo, Lakers head coach Luke Walton struggled to get any semblance of playmaking from either guard spot with Lonzo Ball sidelined for Sunday’s contest.
Walton attempted to aid his woes at the point guard position by plugging in Lance Stephenson at the one, but the experiment was short-lived, as Stephenson had as many turnovers as he had assists. He also ended the game with a team-low -28 BPM in 20 minutes.
Although there were some spacing issues with Rondo in the starting lineup, he proved to be a capable starting point guard. However, when Ball makes his highly anticipated return, the Lakers’ offense should look a lot more fluid.
The place the Lakers saw the most consistency was at the starting center position with McGee. Much has been made about the team’s situation at center, and rightfully so, but McGee put some fans at ease, scoring a team-high 17 points to go along with 7 rebounds.
You know, like everyone everyone predicted.
Meanwhile, third-year center Ivica Zubac was unable to make a case for a spot in the rotation in his limited time on the court. Michael Beasley showed some promise as a backup five, but he left the game with a head laceration he suffered in the first half.
It definitely wasn’t the start the Lakers were hoping for, but then again, they have only been together in a controlled setting for less than a week. Their struggles might carry into the regular season, but there’s no reason to believe they can’t clean it up sooner rather than later.
The Lakers will see the Nuggets again on Tuesday, this time at STAPLES Center. Hopefully by then, the team will have a few key players back on the bench.