LOS ANGELES — The Lakers‘ brand-new Big Three made its preseason debut in a 111-99 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. And while the result of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis‘ first court time together was another defeat to drop L.A.’s record to 0-5 in its exhibition schedule, the postgame message echoed by the stars was one asking for patience but exuding positivity.
“It’s going to take a minute for us to become the team that we know we are going to be capable of being,” said James, who put up 17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 6 turnovers. “We’re going to have moments where we’re not quite right there. We may take steps backwards. But that’s all part of … I think nothing is worth having if it’s not worth working for.”
Westbrook, who worked his way to the Lakers in the offseason by convincing the Washington Wizards to seek a deal, looked the best he has yet in purple and gold — which isn’t saying much, considering he combined to shoot 4-for-19 with 16 turnovers in his first two outings. But his speed in the open court when flanked by so much talent will be a difference-maker this season.
“We had some good spurts,” Westbrook said after finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 turnovers. “Obviously, it’s the first game. But there are some good things we can take from it. … We can be a little encouraged by it.”
For James, who comes into the season seeking a fifth ring that would tie his career total with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan, moral victories mean little. Yet the 19-year veteran pledged to guide his group through its nascent stages.
“Me, as a leader, my job is for myself not to get frustrated,” he said. “If I don’t get frustrated, I think it will trickle down to everyone else. I’ve never been a person that’s OK with not being excellent. But I understand things take time as well. As long as I keep the main thing the main thing, stay even keel throughout whatever is going on with our ballclub, then we’ll be fine.”
Davis was more than fine against Golden State, leading the Lakers with 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He was encouraged by his first glimpse of L.A.’s new-look lineup with him starting at the 5, along with James, Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Kent Bazemore.
“We saw some great things with me, Bron and Russ in action,” Davis said. “There’s endless possibilities, the things we can run and we can do. … And even though there were good things, a lot of things that we can do better.”
The Lakers close out the preseason Thursday on the road against the Sacramento Kings and have a week until the regular season opens up, back home against the Warriors again.
There is plenty of more work to do before the Lakers come close to a final product, starting with getting all their players healthy. Trevor Ariza (ankle surgery) is expected to miss at least two months; Talen Horton-Tucker (thumb surgery) will be sidelined around a month; and Kendrick Nunn (right ankle) and Wayne Ellington (left hamstring) both sat out Tuesday, along with Malik Monk (groin), who will be out about another week.
“So, if these guys don’t play, now how do we incorporate them?” Davis said. “So we haven’t had our full team where we’ll be able to look at every detail, but it looks good so far.”
With an 82-game season about to begin for a group that ultimately cares only about getting 16 wins from April to June, time is on the Lakers’ side.
“It could take all year to really be at our best, and ideally, that’s when we are at our best — going into the playoffs,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “But we have the mindset to hit the ground running and come out of the gates really strong with things clicking as best as we can. … But it’s reasonable to think that there’s going to be some bumpy nights early in the season, but we had the expectation coming in two years ago and we jumped out of the gates pretty strong. So, that’s what we’re hoping for.”
Sacramento Kings outduel Los Angeles Lakers, pull away in 3-OT thriller
In a game that saw 19 ties and 23 lead changes, the Lakers led 126-124 a minute into the third overtime when the Kings went on an 11-2 run to go up by seven with 1:54 remaining. Marvin Bagley III had five points during the spurt, including a three-point play to give Sacramento the lead.
Carmelo Anthony hit a 3-pointer with 9.4 seconds remaining to get the Lakers within a basket, but Hield sank a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession to put it away.
Tyrese Haliburton had 19 points for the Kings, who had seven players in double figures. They are 2-1 under interim coach Alvin Gentry.
The Lakers, who are 10-11 after dropping five of their past seven, had four players with at least 20 points with the first time this season. LeBron James led the way with 30 points, Russell Westbrook added 29, Anthony Davis 23 and Malik Monk 20.
The Lakers scored the first six points of the first overtime and were up 110-103 before the Kings scored seven straight, including Hield’s 3-pointer to tie it with 28 seconds remaining. Davis had a driving layup with 9.0 seconds remaining but Sacramento forced a second OT on Hield’s 18-foot jumper.
The largest lead anyone had in the second overtime was three points. James made a driving layup with 24 seconds remaining to tie it at 124. Sacramento had the final possession, but couldn’t get a shot off.
HOW WE GOT TO OVERTIME
Monk scored 11 points during a 24-8 second-half run that saw the Lakers turn a three-point deficit with 4 minutes to go in the third quarter into an 86-73 advantage with 10:02 remaining.
The Kings would counter through with a 22-5 rally, including eight points from Alex Len, to seize a 98-93 advantage with 2:26 to go. Los Angeles, though, scored seven of the last nine points of regulation to send it to overtime.
After a layup by James gave the Lakers a 100-98 advantage, Fox tied it with a layup with 21 seconds to go. The Lakers had the final shot, but James missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send it to overtime.
Kings: It was Fox’s second game this season with at least 30 points. He scored 37 on Nov. 10 at San Antonio. … Terence Davis had 13 points before fouling out in overtime. … Harrison Barnes (right foot sprain) and Richaun Holmes (right eye contusion) were out of the lineup.
Lakers: Anthony (16 points) was 6 of 13 from the field after going 7 of 27 the past two games. … This was Monk’s third game with at least 20 points since joining Los Angeles during the offseason. … Davis reached 800 career steals when he stripped the ball from Fox during the first overtime.
Kings: Travel to Memphis Sunday.
Lakers: Host Detroit Sunday.
‘We’re just trying to build, build’
NEW YORK — The Phoenix Suns haven’t lost a game in a month. And, after beating the New York Knicks here at Madison Square Garden Friday night, they are two wins away from equaling the franchise’s all-time consecutive win streak of 17 games.
To do so, however, the Suns will only have to beat the teams sitting atop both conferences — first facing the East-leading Nets Saturday night in Brooklyn before heading home to play the West-leading Golden State Warriors. It’ll be the first of three games in less than a month against the Warriors, culminating with a Christmas Day showdown between the league’s top two teams thus far.
But while the rest of the NBA may have the consecutive games between two of the league’s three-best teams circled at the moment, one team does not: the Suns themselves.
“This ain’t a playoff game tomorrow,” Chris Paul said with a smile after Phoenix’s 118-97 victory over the Knicks. “It’s good for us to go out there and compete, and we’re probably gonna see different coverages and all that, but we’re just trying to build, build.
“It’s not about winning a game in November.”
The Suns are focused on building toward winning games in May and June. But the whole winning games in November thing? That’s going just fine as Phoenix ripped off its 15th straight victory Friday night in a comprehensive win over the Knicks.
The game was competitive through the first quarter. But, as the game progressed, the Knicks simply melted away, unable to get anything going offensively while simultaneously giving up whatever the Suns wanted at the other end of the court. Phoenix finished the game shooting 55 percent from the field and 13-for-28 from 3-point range.
But it was Devin Booker, who finished with 32 points in 35 minutes, that stole the show for the Suns, pouring in 21 points in the first half and getting wherever he wanted against whomever Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau threw at him.
“A lot of guys say they want to play on this stage, but he really does,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “But I don’t think there’s many stages Book doesn’t want to play on.”
Booker said the aggression on his part stemmed from knowing that the Suns needed to get off to a good start after a pair of close wins over San Antonio and Cleveland earlier this week. He acknowledged Phoenix’s win streak has made them a team everyone is excited to play, and that the Suns have to match that intensity on a nightly basis.
“We just wanted to get it going,” said Booker, who shot 14-for-27 from the field and 4-for-9 from 3-point range. “It’s no secret we have a streak going, and we’re going to get every team’s best shot. The whole NBA knows about that, so we just tried to set the tone early. Come out, play team basketball … we did our job tonight.”
That’s been the case for quite some time for these Suns, who are now a pair of wins away from equaling that franchise-best 17-game win streak, which came back in the 2006-07 season.
The past calendar year has seen Phoenix return to the heights they haven’t reached since that era, when Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Mike D’Antoni turned the Suns into perennial contenders in the Western Conference.
These Suns, though, managed to do what that group never quite could last season in reaching the NBA Finals, where they lost in six hard-fought games to the Milwaukee Bucks. And after it looked like Phoenix might fall into some sort of hangover from last season with losses in three of its first four games, all the Suns have managed to do is win every game since, to the point where it enters Saturday’s game in Brooklyn having gone a full calendar month between losses.
It’s a turnaround that began with Phoenix’s acquisition of Paul via trade a year ago this month. And, as he surveyed his team’s latest win, he said it is Phoenix’s defense — which is the NBA’s third-best unit this season, and is second to Golden State since the start of the winning streak — that is the foundation for everything the Suns are hoping to accomplish.
“We talk about it all the time. [The] one thing that travels is defense,” Paul said. “I think that’s where we try to be consistent.”
The Suns will now hope to carry that consistency over to Saturday’s game in Brooklyn. What Phoenix says it won’t do, however, is think about anything beyond that.
“We do one at a time,” Booker said. “We know we have a tough opponent tomorrow that’s been waiting on us, well-rested. So we just have to come in with the same mentality, play the type of basketball that we do, defend at a high level and put ourselves in good shape to get it done.”
Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant injures left knee in 1st, out for rest of game
Morant was hurt while dribbling the ball toward the paint, although there was no contact that appeared to cause the injury. He began to limp, passed the ball and then hobbled off the floor in the middle of the play.
After briefly being attended to in front of the Grizzlies’ bench, Morant was helped to the locker room, putting no pressure on his left leg. Minutes later, the Grizzlies announced that he was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
Morant, 22, has established himself as one of the NBA’s premier young stars. He seemed to be on the path to his first All-Star appearance this season, averaging a career-best 25.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game entering Friday night.
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