It’s been a long six months for Laker fans, and despite an exciting draft and a peek at the young players during summer league, the new season started tonight with the first of eight pre-season games.

First opponent – the Utah Jazz.

The starting lineup tonight is what most are predicting will be the first five for this season: rookie D’Angelo Russell at the point guard position, second-year Jordan Clarkson playing the two, Kobe Bryant, playing his first game in nine months, at small forward, Julius Randle back on the court at the four, and former Indiana Pacer, Roy Hibbert in the middle.

The Lakers had a slow start, getting down 14-6 early, but a free throw from Kobe Bryant began a 10-4 run that ended the first quarter on a positive note that rolled into the second. In that quarter, the Lakers’ bench held their own, led by veteran, Lou Williams. Nick Young hit a three to end the low-scoring first half that put the purple and gold up, 38-33.

Three minutes into the third quarter, the Lakers had built up a 13-point lead, thanks to Young and Clarkson, but the advantage didn’t last long, and soon the Lakers’ energy seemed to wane and the Jazz ran off with the win, 90-71.


> HIGH POINTS <

> Lou Williams – He played like the veteran that he is, settling the offense as passer and scorer. 4-12 from the field isn’t impressive, but he led the team with 14 points, four assists, four rebounds, a steal, a block and a single turnover in almost 27 minutes of play.

> Spurts of goodness – The positives were there – Bryant and Randle are still shaking off some rust after a long hiatus from actual in-game action, but moved and played freely, with seemingly no limits to their movement; Clarkson was his same aggressive self on both ends, which resulted in fast break points; the reserves showed they could hold down the game; every player who checked in scored.

> Defense – Scarcely a high point last season, the Lakers’ efforts on the other end of the court tonight did not go unnoticed, and that’s due to the presence of Hibbert. His stat line doesn’t reflect the entirety of his efforts, but he did lead the game with 10 rebounds, handed off a smooth pass to Russell, who finished at the rim, and his stance in the paint alone altered a lot of Utah’s shots. In one possession alone, the Lakers attempted to grab the defensive board three times in a row. There’s still much to be desired, like the transition defense, but they’re on the right track.


> LOW POINTS <

> Inside production minimal – Utah only scored eight more points in the paint than the Lakers, but it seemed like so much more. The Lakers attempted 23 threes and made only six, while the Jazz launched just 15. As a result, Utah got to the free throw line 48 times, more than double what the Lakers attempted, 21. In free throws alone, the Jazz outscored the Lakers 34-13.

It’s the pre-season – the hope is that in the next seven games, there will be a clearer picture of what this Lakers team will look like this season, but until then, there were will be a slew of seemingly random line-ups, probably some rocky offense and disjointed efforts on defense. That’s what these games are for, however – to figure all that out.

Box Score

[Highlights Via YouTube – NBALakersNation]

 

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