The Los Angeles Lakers won their first game of the season in a festive atmosphere at Staples Center, which rather oddly featured Mike D'Antoni bringing fast-paced, exciting basketball to Staples Center, which was sold as the reasoning for the Lakers hiring him in 2012. Thankfully for the Lakers, D'Antoni was on the opposing sidelines, and Luke Walton got his first win as the Lakers' coach in LA's season opener.
Two road games later, Walton and the Lakers have lost two games. In Utah, Walton said enough that a fine by the NBA would not have been shocking. In particular, he seemed upset about a call where the officials went to the monitor to check whether the shot was a three-point make or two-point make during a break in the game play. When they referees returned, the review apparently showed that the player had stepped out of bounds before stepping into the made shot.
"They said he stepped out of bounds. If that's the case, you should review the entire game all game long,” Walton spouted venom with Spectrum Sportsnet cameras present to capture the complaint. "And any time they miss something, keep coming back and take stuff away."
Walton added, "That doesn't make any sense to me."
And so, Walton's Lakers suffered their first defeat in Utah. Two nights later, Oklahoma City featured former UCLA Bruin Russell Westbrook scoring 33 points, passing off 16 assists and pulling down 13 rebounds in 34 minutes that made a strong case for aliens walking among us. Westbrook is an elite athlete that stands out in a league full of elite athletes.
With special talent at every stop, the young Lakers are learning that winning in the NBA is not easy, regardless of which coach is standing on the sidelines. Winning on the road consistently is the mark of a good team, which the Lakers aren't close to being as yet.
Three games into the 2016-17 season, the Lakers are a work in progress. Winning the first game of the season took a great deal of energy from the crowd and the team rode the Opening Night wave to victory. That wave will not be present in Indiana on Tuesday or Atlanta on Wednesday, just as it was not present on Friday in Utah or Sunday in Oklahoma City.
On Halloween night, Metta World Peace shared via his Snapchat that he had been joking about being touched by ghosts in Oklahoma City's haunted hotel. The former Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers, incidentally, returns to one of his old haunts on Tuesday evening. LA will make its annual pilgrimage to the home of the Pacers, the Fieldhouse—Bankers Life Field house, these days. Entering Tuesday night, the Lakers have not won in Indiana since March of 2013.
Following Tuesday in the Midwest, the Lakers play against Dwight Howard and the Atlanta Hawks in Georgia on Wednesday, which is the first back-to-back of the season. Historically, the Lakers receive strong support at Phillips Arena, so Howard could be in for a rather awkward night if he is greeted by a cacophony of jeers rather than the usual home cheers. After all, Howard is playing for his home town team, but fans of the Lakers tend to not be fans of Howard.
The Hawks will be heavily favored on that night, as Atlanta enters Wednesday's game with an extra night of rest and on the back of three straight nights at home. After starting 3-0, Atlanta is one of only six unbeaten teams remaining in the NBA, along with the LA Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Before the date with Howard, however, LA has to deal with Paul George and the Pacers. Indiana is 1-2, but both defeats came away from the Hoosier State. In Las Vegas, the Lakers come into the contest as nine-point underdogs. That gap should be even wider on Wednesday night in Atlanta, which may as well be counted as a scheduled loss.
As the purple and gold beg for mercy and familiar bedding, the NBA sends the Lakers home to be slautered with a national audience watching. In their third game in four nights in three different cities, the Lakers host Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors on Friday night at Staples Center.
The Lake Show is in for a long week. Thankfully for Walton, the Lakers won their season opener.