When the Los Angeles Lakers started the 2021-2022 season with two straight losses—a 121-114 debacle in the hands of the Golden State Warriors on opening day and then followed it up with a 115-105 defeat to 2021 finalist the Phoenix Suns—not a few fans were disappointed. They may have thought that considering that the Lakers have just signed up triple-double machine Russell Westbrook in the summer then followed it up with the acquisitions of former All-Stars Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, and DeAndre Jordan and the reacquisition of Dwight Howard, not to mention recruiting young guns Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn, that it will be Showtime Lakers all over again, perhaps with hopes of another title run being rekindled in most fans’ memory.
But after just two games, those starry dreams suddenly crashed, and the Lakers faithful are left wondering what’s wrong with this season’s iteration of the team that seems headed to a disastrous playoff exit just two games into the season.
What’s exactly wrong with the team? What makes them not to go on all four cylinders and showcase the talent that many say could bring them to the Finals, perhaps even to the Mt. Rushmore of the NBA? Well, for one, they are still without key players in Talen Horton-Tucker, Trevor Ariza and Nunn, with all of them nursing injuries. Surely, it’s hard for the coaches to suddenly recalibrate their rotations with the three contributors still in street clothes.
Then again, even with the three in injury bay, the Lakers need to only have a break from playing the superstar teams and they can eventually hum all the way to their first win of the season. That came today when the Lakers faced the upstart Memphis Grizzlies in LA. Now, prior to the game, the Grizzlies are still immaculately clean after pummeling the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Kawhi Leonard-less LA Clippers into submission. If they are to win over the Lakers, now is just about the most perfect opportunity as the Hollywood squad is yet to jell into a championship-caliber contender. The only problem? They caught Carmelo Anthony in one of his most fiery self yet as a Laker!
Melo caught fire the moment he was inserted into the line-up, shooting 6-of-8 from the arc for an almost improbable 75% shooting, eventually leading the Lakers to their first-ever victory with his 28 points, 3 rebounds and an assist in just 28 minutes of floor time. He was ably supported by LA’s Big 3: Anthony Davis had 22 markers, 8 boards, and 2 dimes while LeBron James and Westbrook had slates of 19p-6r-6a and 13p-7r-13a, respectively. Also chipping in their share of the offense were Monk with 12 points and Kent Bazemore with 11 markers.
On the opposing side, Ja Morant continues his scoring ways with 40 points on top of 3 rebs and 10 assists, a fitting follow-up to his 37 against the Cavs and 28 versus the Clips. He just had less help from the other Grizzlies with only fellow starters—Desmond Bane, Steven Adams, Jaren Jackson Jr., and De’Anthony Melton—scoring in double-figures compared to the Lakers’ six.
Now, with the Lakers finally getting win no. 1, for sure they’d approach their match against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday with renewed spunk and determination. And it only needed a much-needed win for them to get out of their listless groove and become the team that many believe will advance to the NBA Finals sometime June of next year.