LeBron James dribbles the ball
LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball during the game against the Golden State Warriors
Kevork Djansezian

Lakers Stunned by Warriors on Opening Night

by Matthew Barrero

The last time the Los Angeles Lakers played in front of a capacity crowd at STAPLES Center was March 10, 2020, where the home crowd saw the Purple and Gold lose 104-102 to the Brooklyn Nets.

That was until Tuesday night.

As fans entered the arena, they were welcomed with a gold shirt draped over their seat. Each shirt read “18,997 Strong” in reference to the team playing at home in front of a sold-out crowd for the first time in two seasons.

Despite almost identical double-doubles from LeBron James (34 points and 11 rebounds) and Anthony Davis (33 points and 11 rebounds) the Lakers dropped the home opener to the Warriors, 121-114.

James started his night hitting going 6 for 6 from the field before a miss at the 5:55 mark of the second quarter.

“Those two guys were spectacular,” Frank Vogel said. “We’re going to be pretty good if we get those types of performances. We just have to be better defensively and just finish in other action from the rest of them. But this is a team that is all new to each other. Everybody is finding their way a little bit, each day we get a little bit better and more connected, and we’ll watch the tape and get better from it.”

For Russell Westbrook, it was not the homecoming start he had hoped for, finishing the contest with eight points and five rebounds in 35 minutes.

Vogel emphasized the importance of Westbrook needing time to adjust to the Lakers’ system and his new teammates. Davis added postgame that everyone in the locker room wants Russ to be Russ. For James, he believes Westbrook had some first game jitters and doesn’t put too much into his first performance in a Laker uniform.

“I think there was probably a lot going through his mind,” James said. “Being a kid from L.A., watching the Lakers growing up and then however many years down the road, you’re putting on a Laker uniform and you’re stepping into STAPLES Center. I can only imagine how many friends and family have contacted him over the last 48 hours wondering if they could come and see his first game as a Laker. Those demands will die down as the season goes on. I’m not worried about Russ at all.”

The Lakers carried a six-point lead into halftime and had momentum as the third quarter progressed. Los Angeles held a nine-point lead with about a minute left before Golden State went on a 7-0 run to close the third. It would carry into the fourth as the Warriors executed a 24-7 run and took an eight-point lead midway through the quarter.

The Lakers would make a 7-0 run to cut the Warriors’ lead back down to two but would get no closer as Golden State ran away with the game.

“We didn’t finish quarters well the whole night,” Vogel said. “They closed the gap at the end of the third and, obviously, we gave up a 38-point fourth quarter. So, if you do that, you’re going to lose most nights. Defense is just not on a string yet. I thought we did a good job being up on Steph, but the backside was much better in the first half than the second half.”

On the Warriors side of the ball, Steph Curry capped off his opening night with a triple-double (21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists), his first since 2016. Jordan Poole scored 20 points and Nemanja Bjelica secured a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Golden State outscored the Los Angeles bench 55-29.

The Lakers next matchup is Friday night when a familiar foe in the Phoenix Suns visit STAPLES Center. The two teams met in last season’s first round of the playoffs, where the Suns won in six games and made a memorable run that ended in a 4-2 series loss in the NBA Finals to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be televised on Spectrum SportsNet.

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