From the opening tip-off of Lonzo Ball’s NBA debut, the Lakers’ star rookie was hounded by one of the best defenders in the league.
First Team All-Defensive point guard Patrick Beverley was practically in Ball’s jersey throughout the night, barking a endless supply of trash talk the whole way.
Ball finished the night with only three points. He did, however, add nine rebounds and four assists with just two turnovers in the Lakers’ 108-92 loss to the LA Clippers on opening night.
“Beverley’s as good as anyone, if not the best, at the point guard position at getting into other people and getting under their skin,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said.
However, Walton was impressed with how Ball maintained his composure in the face of Beverley’s physicality, and didn’t speed up his game like many other 19-year-olds would in their career debuts.
Both Ball and Walton liked the looks that the Lakers were getting, putting the team’s 41 percent night from the field on shots simply not falling.
“He made the right pass eight or nine times,” Walton said. “We missed layups, we missed open 3’s. That’s not on Zo.”
But Ball did contribute to the team’s poor shooting. He sunk a second-quarter 3-pointer for the first points of his career, but missed all five of his other shots.
Beverley’s baseline-to-baseline defense was a key component to that.
“He plays 94 feet,” Ball said. “That’s what you’re supposed to do. He’s a good defender. I just tried to do what I can.”
The second-overall pick felt that he should have been a bit more aggressive and taken more shots for himself.
But those around him liked that he didn’t let an elite defender stop him from playing his own style.
“What impressed me most is he didn’t back down,” Brook Lopez said. “He kept his attitude, he kept his composure. He was good leading the team.”
After the game, Ball glossed over the pageantry of his debut — from having his name called in the starting lineup onward — instead focusing on the end result.
He has 81 games left in his rookie season and understands the high standard set for him.
“That’s what happens when you play in L.A.,” Ball said. “Everybody expects you to do well. If you don’t, they’ll get somebody (else) to do it.”
Larry Nance Jr. sent the sold-out crowd into a frenzy with the Lakers’ first basket of the season, as he soared through the air for a one-handed put-back slam in the opening minutes.
And while Nance was productive all night long with 14 points and 12 rebounds, he and his fellow bigs could not contain the Clippers’ all-star-caliber duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Griffin poured in 29 points and 12 boards, while Jordan added 14 points and 24 rebounds — the most in an NBA season opener in four years.
And though Lopez led the Lakers in scoring with 20 points of his own, it took him a while to get going, as he shot just 2-of-10 in the first half.
Jordan Clarkson (18 points) kept the Lakers with in reach before intermission, but a rough third quarter doomed the purple and gold’s chances.
Walton felt that his team’s effort was mostly there, but that fruitless opportunities on offense led to easy buckets on the other end.
“We can’t let our missed shots affect our defense,” Nance said. “That’s first and foremost for me.”
The good news for the Lakers is that a flight to Phoenix was waiting for them at LAX. The team will have a quick opportunity to make amends, as tip-off against the Suns is set for 21 hours after this game ended.
“This is one of those (performances) that I think isn’t us,” Nance said. “We just need to flush this out right away and get on the right track tomorrow.”
President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson held a halftime press conference to congratulate the Los Angeles Dodgers, of whom he is a co-owner, for their World Series berth. … Brandon Ingram finished with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists on just 3-of-15 shooting. … A crowd of 18,997 — including actors Jack Nicholson and Gal Gadot and singer Frank Ocean— filled STAPLES Center.