Ten days into the NBA regular season, and the Western Conference is already showing fans that it might be a lot more unpredictable this season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (0-4) fell to the Boston Celtics (3-2) at home on Thursday night, 101-95. Billy Donovan’s team has had a tough stretch of games to open the season, but their performances have nonetheless been disappointing.
Meanwhile over in Los Angeles, Lebron James and the Lakers (2-3) earned their first home victory of the season. James recorded his first triple-double as a Laker to guide his team over the Denver Nuggets (4-1), 121-114.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 26, 2018
Lakers edge previously undefeated Nuggets
To no surprise the Lakers’ 0-3 start to the season drew a lot of media attention. But James has actually never once won his first game with his new team (0-4). But also to no surprise, he and the Lakers have improved over the two games since then.
On Wednesday they took care of business in Phoenix. Seven players were in double figures on that night, and James only had to play 28 minutes in the 131-113 victory. The Lakers had a much tougher test on Thursday night.
The Nuggets came into the game at 4-0, and they still sit in first place in the Western Conference even with the loss. They’ll surely be in the thick of the action all season long.
Six players were in double figures this time for Luke Walton’s team. James also turned in his most complete and effective performance for his new team. He scored 28 points, collected 11 rebounds and dished out 11 assists. James scored eight in the fourth quarter, while Kyle Kuzma also added 22 points.
James put some context on his performance after the game.
Defensive issues are still an issue for the Lakers though. Too many times guard Monte Morris was allowed to penetrate the defense and pick his shots. Center Nikola Jokic also dominated the paint throughout the game.
It wasn’t until the Lakers went on a 15-2 run with 6:11 left to play that they got a stranglehold on the game. During that period they picked up their defensive intensity and managed to disrupt the Nuggets’ offense.
The Lakers have already shown they have plenty of depth and will be a joy to watch all season. Center Javale McGee scored 21 points against Denver and has been exceptional for his new team early on.
The Lakers get a quick shot at redemption when they visit the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.
Donovan and Thunder still searching for first win
There was a sense Paul George and Russell Westbrook would be a much more dangerous tandem in their second year together. With no more distractions revolving Carmelo Anthony or George’s contract, the two are no free to play their brand of explosive basketball.
So far this season that hasn’t quite been the case.
On Thursday night they frankly collapsed in the second half. They were outscored by 22 points in the last two quarters, and George and Westbrook combined to go 12-42 from the field on the night.
It’s worth nothing they’ve played the Clippers, Warriors and Celtics in their first four games. They played well against the two-time reigning champions, but were once again stymied in the fourth quarter against the Clippers.
George and Westbrook must be more effective from the field in order for OKC to be successful. They’ve got enough talent and depth on their roster to compete in the West.
After Thursday’s game George shouldered some of the blame for his team’s loss.
Like the Lakers, the Thunder will now have to dig themselves out of an early-season winless hole. Despite that start, an experienced coach like Donovan and his group will not panic this early.
The Thunder take on the Suns on Sunday at home. They’ll try to get their first win against the same opponent as their conference counterparts.
Fuel for Sunday. pic.twitter.com/KYnoEJJf98
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) October 26, 2018