After a chippy game with the Houston Rockets, which included players like Rajon Rondo, Brandon Ingram, and Chris Paul brawling it out, the Lakers have dropped to 0-2 for the season. This game was very telling and have shown that the Lakers can compete with some of the best teams in this league. At the same time, there were many things that didn’t work out in the Lakers favor.
It’s probably weird to have the refs as a takeaway from this game between two teams that competed as much as they could. However, this has been an ongoing issue that has been noticeable for this season and the entire pre-season. The refs have blown their whistles many times and it seems like it’s at an all-time high this season. Sometimes, the refs just need to let the players play it out and need to stop interfering. The Rockets had 30 free-throws, while the Lakers had 18 and it definitely seemed that James Harden was getting too many free-throws. We all understand that it’s his play-style for him to create contact, but some of the calls for him were just flat-out ridiculous. This is a huge reason many teams are scoring 120+ points every game. Just a decade ago, it was rare to see teams score 100 and nowadays if you don’t reach that amount, it simply means that your offense was not good.
2. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope struggles
KCP has flat-out played like garbage this season as he hasn’t been productive in these first two games of the regular season. Coach Luke Walton insists that starting Pope at the shooting guard position is the right thing for the team, but many disagree with that. Second-year player Josh Hart has played fantastic as of yet due to his consistency of play. Hart shoots the ball well and can defend the ball just as well as KCP this season. There should be no reason for KCP to start anymore due to the fact that he has been inconsistent and overall hasn’t been effective this year. It also appears that whenever Hart comes into the game, the Lakers overall as a unit become more efficient on offense and run the fast-break better. It makes sense for Hart to start because he has shown the ability to play with the starters and for Pope, he could provide a spark off the bench. If the Lakers want to win in the future, they need to bench KCP and start Hart.
3. Small-ball lineup isn’t working
Just to be honest here, the small-ball lineup for the Lakers isn’t working. We all understand that Coach Luke Walton is trying to implement a small-ball lineup that features Kyle Kuzma at the center position. This would allow the Lakers to run the fast-break more efficient and allow easy transition points. However, that has easily backfired due to the fact that the small-ball lineup struggles to grab defensive rebounds and can’t shoot the ball consistently. If a small-ball lineup can’t do either of those things, then there is no point in trying to implement a lineup of that sort. Many great teams have lengthy centers as the Rockets had Clint Capela and he just flat-out dominated the small-ball lineup. Luke Walton needs to be his own coach and needs to stop being like Coach Steve Kerr. The Lakers aren’t successful when it comes to their small-ball lineup and need to just stick with a regular line-up until players like Moritz Wagner return to action.
4. Shooting struggles
The Lakers are known to not be a great shooting team as on paper, they don’t have many shooters on the team. We don’t understand why the Lakers are attempting so many even when they’re not consistent with it. They shot 8/32 from downtown and struggled to find successful from the perimeter. Shooting poorly is one thing but shooting poorly while taking many shots is what cost the Lakers ultimately. Through these first two games, the Lakers have shot 15/62 from downtown and have not found any success from shooting from the three-point line. They need to be more consistent driving into the paint and get their points there as they have found success from doing that. If it’s an open three-point shot available, the Lakers should definitely take it, however, taking the perimeter shot is something they shouldn’t force themselves in doing. Just think about it. The Lakers lost by 9 points to the Trail Blazers and to the Rockets and have shot 15/62 from downtown combined in those games. If they made just a few more threes or even attempted less threes and more got more points in the paint, this is a team that could’ve ended up being 2-0.
Currently, the Lakers are 0-2 and it seems that many are beginning to worry about how this team will function in the long-run. However, as sloppy as things may have gotten with this team so far, the good thing is that they have competed. They competed with a Portland team on the road that has been known to be a consistent playoff team and we all know that playing in Portland is a tough environment to play in. The Lakers also competed with arguably the second best team in the Western Conference and a title-contender in the Houston Rockets. It’s only two games in the season and we can only expect them to make adjustments and improve from this point on.