Lakers’ Russell Westbrook, LeBron James struggle in preseason debut against Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO — The best thing about LeBron James’ and Russell Westbrook’s first showing as teammates? It doesn’t count.

Preseason statistics erode from history and memory quickly, which is fortunate given how the Lakers’ All-Star duo began their tenure. They didn’t make a shot for the first 10 minutes and coughed up eight combined turnovers in the first half of an unsightly Friday night tilt with the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center. Neither played in the second half in a game the Lakers eventually lost, 121-114, falling to 0-3 in the preseason.

More sporting eyes were focused on the show just half a mile north, as the Dodgers battled the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. James and Westbrook will have a little more time – blessedly out of the spotlight – until their prime-time season opener against the Warriors at Staples Center in less than two weeks.

There will be much to pore over. Both teams’ offenses started in a funk, tied 9-9 with 2:39 left in the first quarter. After playing in the Lakers’ first two preseason games, All-Star big man Anthony Davis took the night off – and was missed.

The chemistry that the Lakers have lauded on the practice court did not translate on Friday night. Westbrook particularly struggled, turning the ball over six times in the first quarter alone as he sought a sense of timing with his fourth franchise in three years. Aside from a second-quarter layup, he was rusty from the field, missing the rim altogether on multiple attempts.

In his second-quarter stint, Westbrook still couldn’t find his shot, but he did find his teammates. In sequence, he hit Kent Bazemore in the corner for a 3-pointer, then found DeAndre Jordan on a reverse dunk. Westbrook finished his 17 first-half minutes with two points on 1-for-7 shooting and four assists.

James finally found the net with 2:01 left in the first quarter on a contested layup that he converted for a 3-point play. He had nine points in his 18 first-half minutes on a rugged 4-for-12 shooting night.

Steph Curry was the best of the available stars, warming up after a slow start to get 20 points by halftime and finishing with 30. Jordan Poole supplied 28 points, expected to keep the shooting guard spot warm until Klay Thompson returns from injury around midseason.

The best of the Lakers’ scorers in the first half was Kent Bazemore, who was a Warrior last season. He was 3 for 5 from 3-point range to start the game. Dwight Howard wound up with 23 points and 12 rebounds, playing long stretches of the fourth quarter when the Lakers pulled within three points.

You can’t always trust what you see in the preseason. In that sense, Warriors coach Steve Kerr warily expects the Lakers to come out roaring one of these days.

“I mean they’ve got a lot of great players and they had a lot of change over the summer,” Kerr said. “And like all of us when we make big changes, you just have to work and see where it all goes. That’s to be determined for all of us.”

The only other Laker who missed the game besides Davis was Trevor Ariza, who will be out for at least eight weeks following his ankle surgery on Wednesday. Coach Frank Vogel said the injury became apparent only after Ariza started training camp going through non-contact drills and was sidelined thereafter.

“Trevor did everything he could to see if he could get through the injury without missing anytime, without any procedures,” Vogel said. “So, ultimately it came down to just making sure that we got it cleaned up and hopefully we’ll get him back as soon as we can.”

Vogel didn’t commit to playing larger lineups with Davis and a traditional center without Ariza, saying the Lakers will determine their rotations throughout the preseason. The Lakers still not have played James, Westbrook and Davis together through three preseason games.

The Lakers’ next preseason game is Sunday at 7 p.m. when they host the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center.

Older Post Newer Post