Opening Night was a chance for the Los Angeles Lakers to send a message to the rest of the league and, especially the defending champion Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately for Darvin Ham’s team, they fell behind early and were unable to overcome that early deficit, falling to the Nuggets by 12.
While there were positives, much of the focus for the Lakers will be on what the team needs to improve in order to reach the level of the defending champions. Ham has already identified the main issues that he believes cost the Lakers in their first game.
Ham spoke specifically about the Lakers’ rebounding as well as some untimely turnovers as really hurting the Lakers, but insists that the team will get better as the season moves forward, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“It’s difficult when you’re trying to fight uphill. They came out, they was scorching there for a second, made some big shots in some key moments. And obviously they’re riding off their championship high, but at the end of the day it’s a lot of things, obviously first game of the season we have to get better at and improve. But against a team like that you make any mistake, you come out flat they’re gonna make you pay for it.
“So our biggest thing again is meeting aggression with aggression. Some things we definitely could’ve controlled a little better. Those guys getting offensive rebounds, we had some untimely turnovers and they capitalized on turnovers and them getting offensive rebounds, our lack of ability to be able to defensive rebound. But it’s the first game, we’ll get better. Trust me.”
This is a case where the numbers don’t tell the whole story. The Lakers actually out-rebounded Denver 44-to-42 and had a 13-to-9 advantage on the offensive glass. But Denver executed far better than the Lakers, owning a 17-to-4 advantage in second-chance points. Turnovers were also even at 11 apiece, but as Ham noted, the timing of the Lakers’ miscues were critical.
One thing Ham was happy with was the effort of the Lakers defensively as the game went on. The Lakers coach loved how the team came out of the locker room locked in:
“Second half way better. Way, way better. We were trending in the right direction for a while there. Each quarter we had given up less and less and then they kinda just blew the game open. But I was proud our guys responded coming out of halftime with a focus to be better on that side of the ball and we were.”
As Ham noted, the Nuggets point total dropped from 34 to 29 to 24 over the first three quarters and the Lakers quickly cut their deficit to five in the first moments of the third quarter after trailing by as many as 18 in the first half.
The result wasn’t what they wanted, but the fight in the Lakers never wavered despite the slow start and that is encouraging. Now it will be on Ham to figure out how to shore up the other issues, but he is confident that will happen.
Lakers’ Darvin Ham hopes to keep LeBron James’ minutes around Opening Night total
One thing that Ham does want to continue going forward was the minutes of LeBron James. LeBron played 29 minutes on the night and Ham says that the plan going forward is for that to remain around that level.
James is on board with the plan even though he admitted he wants to be on the floor more as is the case with any competitor. The key, however, will be the Lakers’ performance in those non-LeBron minutes as they were outscored by 19 with him on the bench against the Nuggets.
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