In a game that was played on the offensive, the new look Los Angeles Lakers held their own against James Harden and the Houston Rockets for their first win of the 2016-2017 NBA season.
Moving past the Kobe Bryant-era were the Lakers, facing off against a familiar face in Mike D’Antoni, who coached the Lakers for two seasons, now coaching the Rockets and were in for a showdown against a potent offense that ranked fourth in NBA last season.
D’Antoni made the call prior to the season starting to make Harden a point guard and it was nothing short of outstanding as he totaled 34 points, eight rebounds and 17 assists for the entire game, with 14 of those assists coming in the first half.
For the Lakers, the struggle was trying to find a starting lineup that would match up well against the Rockets, something that Walton finally figured out hours before tipoff.
He named the starters D’Angelo Russell, Luol Deng, Julius Randle, and Timofey Mozgov. all Many were shocked when it was announced that Nick Young was in the lineup as the starting shooting guard.
While Young was subject to trade rumors and personal issues in the offseason, he reemerged as the player that most fans knew in his first season as a shooter that can heat up at any time with Walton’s new offense in place.
Young, not really known for his defensive prowess, was positioned in guarding Harden throughout the game and succeeded to a certain extent, making sure he would have to work for all his shots.
Randle kept the Lakers afloat through the second and third quarters, showing a much more composed game and taking his time posting up when he saw a matchup disadvantage or attacking the rim with his famous unorthodox methods. He finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and led the team in assists with six.
As the Rockets had an eight-point lead at the half, the Lakers had only cut into the halftime lead by two at the end of the third quarter, and it was Jordan Clarkson who would step up to rally his Lakers to a win.
While only playing seven minutes in the first half with only three points, the sixth man proved to be too much for the Rockets, scoring 22 of his points in the second half with 12 of those coming in the closing quarter to secure an opening night win.
Not only did Clarkson energize the team with his offensive play, but also defensively, having three key steals in the fourth, with one coming off a Harden post up where he poked the ball loose, and Russell diving for the ball to give Harden one of his seven turnovers of the game.
The Lakers are 1-0 and will go on an early road trip from Oct 28 to Nov 2 playing the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers and the Atlanta Hawks in that span. The team will come back home for a nationally televised game against the defending Western Conference champions, Golden State Warriors Nov 4.