With the entire lineup intact except for big man Dwight Howard, the Lakers came out firing on all cylinders to start the game. With the Hall of Fame backcourt combo of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash clicking, Los Angeles got out of the gates in a hurry. As expected, the offense was energetic with the starters in, resulting in a 56-49 lead heading into halftime.
Put simply, the starters played great. Nash made a few big plays during his Lakers debut, including a pass to Robert Sacre through his defender’s legs. Just as advertised during the offseason, Metta World Peace looked like a different player. He played with confidence and swagger, tying for a team-high 10 points on the night while also notching three rebounds and three steals. Even Pau Gasol joined in on the action, bringing down seven rebounds while adding nine points.
The real story of the Lakers’ preseason opener, however, was the awful showing after the starters retired to the bench.
Highlighted by the 35-0 run that the Warriors enjoyed during the second half, the Lakers’ reserves were unable to get anything going. Whether it was the ball-handling struggles of Darius Morris or the inabilities of Antwan Jamison and Andrew Goudelock to get the ball in basket, the production just wasn’t there.
Even on the defensive side, the Lakers’ No. 2’s struggled. Warriors rookie Harrison Barnes and veteran Carl Landry struck early and often, racking up 13 points apiece. The Warriors bench, as a whole, contributed 51 total points as the Lakers simply seemed overwhelmed on both sides of the court.
The lone bright spot for the Lakers bench was backup big man Jordan Hill. Showing terrific hustle and energy, Hill contributed 10 points, three rebounds and a blocked shot in 20 minutes of play. He displayed improved range, and appears to have become a more reliable offensive force.
When the final buzzer blew, the bench had allowed a seven-point halftime lead to deteriorate to a 110-83 blowout.
While the starting unit looking spectacular, the Lakers will need to get much better play from the bench as the preseason continues. Throughout recent history, Los Angeles has suffered from poor reserve play; that’s a problem that will need to be eliminated, if the Lakers have any hopes of living up to the lofty expectations that have been set for them heading into the 2012-2013 season.
It’s extremely early, so please take your palm off of the panic button. Vast improvement is needed before the regular season gets under way, though.