Earlier this week we covered the type of offensive set which has too often been representative of what the Lakers do on that side of the ball. The slow developing, non-attacking, late clock, long jumper producing set is symbolic of all that can be wrong with how the Lakers operate offensively. The hope, of course, is we see less and less of that as the season goes on.

The flip-side of that type of action is a quick hitting, full-on attacking action which forces the defense to react, putting them in bad positions in the process. We mostly see this when the Lakers are in transition, but not as often in the half court.

Friday night’s Lakers’ loss to the Kings did not offer many highlights, but one play they did run epitomized the latter type of play I would like to see more of.

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I am not a huge boxing fan, but I have watched enough of the sweet science to know a little bit about the sport. Boxing, in the sports world, is the ultimate mano-a-mano physical endeavor. The sport in which there is no where to hide your failures; no where to escape the punishment when you face someone better than you.

There is maybe no modern superstar whose career has more closely resembled a pugilist than Kobe Bryant. He has turned so many possessions into a one-on-one battle where, like two men confined to the ring, there is no where to run from the onslaught he had prepared for his opponent. Maybe, for me, at least, that’s why his comments last night took on a familiar tone.

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There is not really much to say about Friday night’s game against the Kings. The Lakers were bad, the Kings were not. The 132-114 margin of defeat reflects that, but also all the little things which go into winning, or, in this case, losing, basketball.

The missed rotations, the easy allowance of dribble penetration, the lack of helping the helper, the shoddy work on the glass, the bad shot selection, the sloppy execution, the poor screens being set, and so many other things that I’m just going to stop trying to explain it. When you give up 132 points, you did too much wrong. Scoring 114 may look nice, but it’s really just the shiny object on the ground to distract you from the fact you’re about to walk into a wall.

Analyzing this game for what it was, then, isn’t important. The Lakers were bad. Why they were bad are reasons we already knew about — or at least had strong hints at after opening night:

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After losing to the Timberwolves on opening night, the Lakers are 0-1. The last time they were at or above .500 (0-0 does not count) was actually December 20, 2013 when they were 13-13. That…that was a long time ago. Mike D’Antoni was head coach, Pau Gasol anchored the pivot, and Kobe Bryant had already played in all of the 6 games he’d appear in that season (he broke a bone in his knee three days earlier against the Grizzlies).

That stat interests me because tonight the Lakers have a chance to get back there against the Kings. Sacramento, like the Lakers (and, if we’re honest, like the Wolves), are looking to take a major step forward this year by outperforming expectations. They hope to make the playoffs. And they assembled a veteran heavy roster and retained George Karl to get there.

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It’s hard to be too upset after the Lakers Opening Night loss – at least it is for myself. I spent the night at Staples Center in the 300 level, taking in a night of hoops, a wealth of youth, and an energy I hadn’t felt in the arena in over two years.

The lack of electricity is understandable. The team racked up 48 wins over the last two years – a total that the Lakers reached or exceeded 36 times in single seasons in the franchise history. An apparent lack of solidarity in the front office, a lack of consistency at head coach, and a general lack of health among the players led to the two worst seasons in Lakers history. And while all of the problems weren’t resolved heading into this season, there are clear signs that the Lakers are starting to move out of their funk and into a more promising era of Lakers hoops – and it was definitely felt in the 45 minutes leading up to tip-off.

Staples was near capacity before the start of the game, and the fanbase was eager to see these new-look Lakers. “I’m just happy Kobe is healthy, man,” said David, a 19-year old fan who sat in my section. “I’m excited to see the rookies, too. But I’m here to see Kobe’s return.

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Any critique leveled against any team on the second day of the season has many caveats attached to it. For the Lakers, this is especially true. Not only is the “it’s only been one game!” caveat important, so are the ones tied to the team’s youth, the high amount of roster turnover, and the resulting lack of familiarity and continuity which comes with it.

Simply put, any real criticisms should be held off on for now. We really are too early in the season to come to any lasting conclusions. Let’s see what things look like after 15-20 games to get an idea if what we are seeing are actual trends or not.

However, some of the issues we saw in Wednesday’s loss to the Timberwolves aren’t new. This is especially true on offense where the Lakers looked very much like the team they were last season in many ways. And not good ways, either.

In reviewing the game, one play stood out to me that captured many of the team’s issues and encapsulated why they can sometimes struggle in the half-court.

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Talk about a punch to the gut. On a night where the Lakers played a pretty good first half and had a 16 point lead in the 2nd half, they gave it all away over the last 15-plus minutes to lose their season opener to the Timberwolves 112-111.

While the story of the night was the collapse, the devil, as always, is in the details. The game started with a lack of flow for both teams. Coming off an emotional start to the game with an extended moment of silence for the recently passed, former T’Wolves coach and GM Flip Saunders, both teams were somewhat skittish. Shots weren’t falling, the ball wasn’t moving very freely, and guys seemed like they just couldn’t find a great rhythm.

As the minutes passed, though, both sides found their stride and an actual NBA game broke out. Fueling the Lakers was their 2nd unit. After D’Angelo Russell picked up his 2nd foul with 6 minutes left in the 1st quarter, he and Kobe went to the bench in favor of Lou Williams and Nick Young. Soon after that, Marcelo Huertas replaced Clarkson with Bass and Kelly subbing for Randle and Hibbert.

It was this bench crew that opened up the game, giving the Lakers a sorely needed boost. The ball whipped around the floor, but, more importantly, the wings were hitting shots.

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The Lakers open their season against one the few teams who have been as bad as they have recently. While the Lakers have won 48 games over the last two seasons, the ‘Wolves have been nearly as bad with 56 wins over that same period. Though, to be fair, 40 of those wins did come in the 2013-14 season which saw Kevin Love put up video game numbers.

Of course, Love is now a Cavalier. And Andrew Wiggins, the fruits of the Love trade, is a T’Wolf. He joins #1 overall pick from this June’s draft, Karl Anthony-Towns, to form what Minnesota fans hope is the inside/outside tandem that will dominate the league for years to come. The Wolves also sport lottery picks Zach LaVine and Shabbaz Muhammad as well as Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio (questionable), and Nikola Pekovic (doubtful) as core players.

With this group of elite youth and young veterans, the Wolves are a team on the rise. Add in veterans Kevin Garnett, Kevin Martin, Tayshaun Prince, and Andre Miller and this is the type of roster construction Lakers’ fans should be quite familiar with. In fact, in a way, tonight’s game offers a bit of a look in the mirror for two organizations who hope to take some major strides forward this year. Sort of fitting considering the Lakers hail from where the ‘Wolves now call home.

The similarities in roster construction make for an interesting set of match-ups and story-lines.

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