LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers secured their first win of the season with a 95-86 win against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on Friday. By most accounts, it could very easily be arguable who played better. Looking at the scoreboard, the team that comes out on top, like the Lakers did, would be the obvious choice.
But looking over the final statistics, Utah seemed to have had the edge in quite a few categories during the Lakers home opener.
Percentage-wise, the Jazz shot better from the floor (41.4% to 39.5%), shot better from the free throw line (Utah: 20-21; Lakers: 19-24), outdid them in shooting from 3-point land (32% to 30%), and produced more fastbreak points (14-13). However, what did in the Jazz was the defense of the Lakers, which forced 23 Utah turnovers.
As a team, the Lakers also recorded nine blocked shots on the evening against the Jazz. Anthony Davis led the way in that category with five shot rejections.
“That’s what our defense is. That’s our defensive staple,” said Lakers forward LeBron James. “We want to be that every night and be able to hold teams under their averages. We thought we did a poor job against the Clippers in the opener; they had 112 points and they ended up with 140 points last night, but we want to continue to get better and better with our defensive strategy and our game plan and just execute that.”
In dropping the NBA’s season-opening game against the Los Angeles Clippers by a score of 112-102, the Lakers surrendered 40 points in the second quarter to their city rivals. The Lakers didn’t give up more than 20 points to Utah through the first three quarters.
Davis, who finished the game with 21 points, said the team knew they had to step it up defensively against the Jazz.
“We just knew that we had to do it defensively,” Davis said. “Obviously, Kawhi [Leonard] and Lou Will[iams] kind of hurt us, especially with the action they run. Mike [Conley] and Donovan Mitchell tried to do that tonight and we just tried to lay our hats on defense. We want to be a defense-oriented team and guys came in were pesky today. We just tried to do a good job of protecting the rim as well. Bigs were up, guards were into the ball, so we did a great job on both sides; guards and bigs tonight.”
One of the other things that Utah could not account for was James going off the way that he did. It should have been expected after James came up with just 18 points against the Clippers. The Jazz felt the wrath of James as the perennial forward clapped back with a 32-point scoring outburst against the Jazz. James almost pulled off a triple-double, recording 10 assists and 7 rebounds during the Lakers second game of the season.
The 53-point combined output by James and Davis had the biggest impact on the game. said Utah guard Mike Conley. To Conley, Davis makes matching up against the Lakers even more difficult.
“Just having him on the court, you have to pay attention to him-with him out there playing the five and him in pick-and-rolls, him guarding pick-and-rolls. He’s a tough match-up. They have him going, they have LeBron going, who’s a primary ballhandler. It made us have to adjust to that. They made more plays than we did.”