On Sunday evening, the Los Angeles Lakers easily beat Maccabi Haifa 126-83 to record their first win of the 2015-16 season. No, Maccabi Haifa is not the newest NBA franchise with an odd name like the New Orleans Pelicans. Maccabi Haifa is a team from Israel full of players that can only dream of playing in the NBA and at Staples Center.
For one night, that dream came true, as the Israelis played at the famed home of the NBA's most celebrated franchise. That is about where the dream ended and reality set in for the visitors. In the blink of an eye, the Lakers led by 17 points after only 12 minutes, as Julius Randle continued an impressive preseason with six points and five rebounds in the first quarter.
Lakers rookie D'Angelo Russell got his first taste of Staples Center and liked what was on the menu. The 19-year-old, who missed the last two preseason games due to a hard fall on his backside, dished a team-high four assists for the first half and would eventually serve 11 assists on the night. At the half, the Lakers led 63-40, and the crowd could easily tell that no comeback would be forthcoming. In the third quarter, the Lakers' lead would balloon that difference to 38 points. By the final buzzer, the Lakers had led by as many as 51 points.
Kobe Bryant, who is always in the spotlight, led all scorers in the first half with 13 points on 3-6 shooting. Bryant would continue his strong shooting performance, especially from distance, in the third quarter and finish with 21 points in 19 minutes, which would be good enough for game-high honors.
Playing against lesser competition, several Lakers stood out on Sunday night. Perhaps more than any other player, Lakers center Roy Hibbert showcased his size, strength and basketball acumen with an impressive all-around game that featured the 7-footer finishing with eight points, 16 rebounds, five assists, and three block shots in 23 minutes.
However, playing against an Israeli club team does not tell any truths about how the Lakers will do against NBA competition this season. If nothing else, though, Sunday night provided the new-look Lakers with their first victory and also gave the squad a confidence boost.
Next, the Lakers continue their preseason with a trip to Las Vegas to face the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.