When Luke Walton decided to take over as the head coach of the Lakers, there was buzz of hopes and a good offense for the 2016/17 campaign. For the first time in years, there was optimism in the land of Purple and Gold, and as it should be. They ended up keeping their draft selection, taking Brandon Ingram from Duke at the second slot, while Jordan Clarkson remained and should improve, alongside D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle.
The optimism was confirmed as the Lakers won their opening game, defeating a team that many have pegged in as a playoff squad, while scoring 120. In comparison, the Lakers had scored over 120 once and it was an overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves and reached 119 on two other occasions for all of 2016. Albeit, it was against Mike D'Antoni and his notorious matador defense, its hard to take away the play of Jordan Clarkson, who scored 25 off the bench on 8-12 shooting, while Julius Randle filled up the stat sheet with 18 points, 7 boards and 6 assists on 9-11 shooting. Both played under 30 minutes as well.
"It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done," Russell said, chipping in with 20 points on 7-16 shooting, including 4 threes. "Everybody did their part tonight, and it showed in the results."
On the flip-side, Utah went into the Moda Center, came out with a 113-104 defeat after being outscored 36-21 in the fourth quarter. Being without Gordon Hayward (until November) is tough, as were the absences of Alec Burks and Derrick Favors (who is questionable for tonights outing). There was silver lining, as Joe Johnson showed he still has it, scoring 29 points on 12-16 shooting, while Rodney Hood was right behind him with 26 on 9-17.
"I want to do what I can to help this team win," Johnson said. "This loss hurts, because we were in a position to win, on the road, against a tough team. This was a tough loss but there are positives in this. We have got to grind and get better."
George Hill was solid in his debut with Utah, scoring 19 and dishing out six assists with two steals and only one giveaway. Many hoping he is the point guard the Jazz need to take the next step.
It will be an entertaining game and I'm excited to see if the Lakers can keep their high octane offense going.