The fact that a young team full of 1-to-3 year players with a light sprinkle of role-playing veterans was able to keep up with a high scoring team like the Rockets is impressive, especially on opening night. The same game with recent-years Kobe still on the floor results in a blowout, and no, not in favor of the Lakers. Mamba would have gone into "okay, I need the ball to score now" mode early in the fourth quarter when the score was already in the 100s.
The Lakers had their most productive quarter in the final frame defensively, holding Houston to just 18 points. But also had a great quarter offensively, scoring 30 points in the closing quarter by moving the ball.
The ball touching everyone offensively inspires better team defense. Something that Luke clearly learned in Golden State. Yes, Steph Curry shoots a lot, but it's after the ball has moved side-to-side and the whole team has touched it in the possession. No one wants to come down and watch one person hog the ball and shoot it, just to go back and defend so the same person can do it all over again.
There were many games in the past 2-3 years when the Lakers had more shots attempts than passes in the waning moments of a losing game because everyone stood and watched Kobe shoot a two-point-contested-demoralizing-fadeaway-jumper.
It was the most refreshing thing about the night, win or loss. The ball was moving. Not one Laker exceeded over 30 minutes in the game, and the highest shot total was 16 by D'Angelo Russell.
What also went unnoticed was how much Russell sat in the fourth quarter, yet all I saw him doing was cheering on his teammates. He did come back in with four minutes and some change left in the game, but it was another nod to Walton for keeping command of the team.
Every player except one, Thomas Robinson, played in the home-opener. I'm certainly not trying to push the elementary school basketball mentality that everyone should play. But there's no doubt that when everyone feels involved the wins will come a lot more often. D'Antoni had three DNPs in Wednesday night's game..my bet is that Bobby Brown would have made a three or two..just sayin'.
The Rockets had the opposite storyline. I know Harden was serving up baskets early like there's a new assist quota is in his contract, but that quickly subsided in the second half and especially down the stretch. Harden dominated the ball completely differently in the fourth, ball got sticky, less players touching it--advantage to Walton and the Lakers.
I don't know about proving his worth ($64 million), but he certainly showed his value? Okay, maybe not, but I tried.
People forget that the sting from Mozgov's signing was simply due to the timing. Hours into NBA free agency with so many big names flying around like Hassan Whiteside, Andre Drummond and DeMar DeRozan the Lakers stole the headlines with...Timofey Mozgov. Less than 48 hours later the ridiculous contracts started rolling in, like Miami's Tyler Johnson or Milwaukee's Matthew Dellavedova $50-million-plus contracts.
In 22 minutes, Mozzy looked great. Running the floor, engulfing the ball on rebounds and scoring efficiently from the floor. 12 points and eight boards, four of those rebounds coming on the offensive glass, gotta love extra possessions.
I'll take the big fella.
Can't deny the productivity of Jordan Clarkson on Wednesday night--25 points in 25 minutes on just 12 shots and 12 points in the closing frame. Not going to happen every night, but you can count on him bringing endless energy every night.
Coming off the bench, now everyone is thinking Clarkson could be the Sixth Man of the Year..typical Laker fan hopes..but he could be the league's Most Improved Player! ..yea right, I was just teasing the Laker faithful.
Awards aside, Clarkson impressed against Houston with lightening drives to the basket and quality jump shots from the perimeter.
The uptempo nature of the game was to his advantage, and definitely something Walton is used to after so much time in Golden State. Easy to flourish in a comfortable environment, but Clarkson also deserves credit for doing so when he's meant to.
Even if the Lakers lost, most of the recapping noise would have been positive, the win was whipped cream on top.