LOS ANGELES — As LeBron James and Anthony Davis re-entered the Lakers locker room following their postgame shower, the two stars lightly ribbed each other about their shooting in the team’s 112-102 loss to the Clippers. James brought up Davis’ five missed free-throws, while Davis countered by pointing out James’ 12 missed field goals, a lack of finishing that James loudly conceded was “trash.”
The two laughed, and the whole thing was a lighthearted moment that emphasized two things: One being that the Lakers are very much treating their loss to the Clippers as just another game — just one of 82, as the team was so fond of reminding the media afterwards — with the other takeaway being that the team felt they beat themselves in their first game of the year. It wasn’t just their shooting they thought was the problem, either.
“We kind of let our offense dictate our defense and we have to be better at that,” James said. “Down the stretch we had some careless turnovers... Myself, I know I had three of them that were just very careless, and (the Clippers) capitalized off it.”
The various Lakers to speak after the game were pretty consistent in sticking to those three talking points — that their offense going cold affected their defense, that their 14 turnovers were a problem and that their 43.5% shooting was poor — and the team clearly felt like they let this one get away.
“I feel like we beat ourselves tonight. We didn’t execute our game plan on a consistent basis, and we weren’t able to get the ball in LeBron’s hands, get out in transition and let him make plays, do what he does best,” said Lakers guard Avery Bradley.
“We got good shots. They’re shots that we’ll take any night,” Bradley continued. “We just have to continue to be confident and be ready to shoot those shots.”
And while some were quick to point to the absence of a key player like Kyle Kuzma as part of the issue on a night the Lakers’ bench only managed 19 of the team’s 102 points, Davis was quick to push back on that idea.
“Obviously Kuz helps, he’s very talented, able to score, but we just missed a lot of shots,” Davis said. “We’re not down or upset, we stand level-headed and just go on to the next game, look at the film tomorrow, figure out what we can do better on both ends of the floor and make some adjustments.”
Davis also disputed the idea that the Clippers’ physicality on defense got to him.
“I don’t know what they’re trying to do. I really don’t care. I was just making the right reads. They wasn’t coming to double as much, so I was just trying to make them pay,” Davis said before reiterating that he doesn’t think the offense is the problem for the Lakers.
“I think the defense we definitely have to clean up and get better at,” Davis said.
Quinn Cook said that the team’s mindset was similarly optimistic in the postgame locker room, where the Lakers’ leaders — he didn’t specify any individual names — preached that “you can’t get too high, can’t get too low. It’s a long, long season. We play 82 games, and that was the first one.”
With that in mind, while Cook admitted that he wished he could have the two threes he missed with just over 11 minutes left in the game back, and was disappointed in himself for not communicating on defense as well as he should have, he also is trying to keep things in perspective.
“That’s why I came here, for moments like that and shots like that. I’m not going to make every one. Those two I really, really want back,” Cook said. “But my teammates, if I don’t shoot those shots they’ll be mad at me. That’s why I’m here.”
Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel frequently held court during the preseason about how quick his new team’s learning curve was, but while that may be the case, he also acknowledged after the defeat that the Lakers have “a ways to go,” citing ball movement as one specific thing the team needs to continue to improve at.
“It’s going to take time. We understand that, our guys will stay together, we’ll get back to work tomorrow,” Vogel said.
Still, James felt there was reason for optimism on that front, at least.
“I mean at times we got stagnant, but at times we still got great shots. AD had a great look off dribble penetration. Quinn had a couple looks in that fourth quarter,” James said. “We had some great looks, they just didn’t go.”
And whether it was actually the Clippers’ defense or the Lakers just missing shots — or a healthy mix of both — that led to the defeat, the team was still in good spirits and sounds ready to bounce back on Friday against the Utah Jazz.
“Definitely it’s disappointing, but the good thing about it is this is just the first game,” Bradley said of Tuesday night’s result. “We can improve, use a day like tomorrow to get better and find out what we need to do for the next game.”
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.