A night after hosting a party, the Lakers played as if they nursed a hangover.
The Lakers’ 125-94 loss Wednesday to the Golden State Warriors here at Oracle Arena looked nothing like that season-opening win the previous night against the Clippers, perhaps providing a case-study that the purple and gold’s mix of eager castoffs may produce results both exciting and head-scratching.
It didn’t help Steve Nash sat out of the second night of a back-to-back, a possible season-long experiment the Lakers may take with the 39-year-old point guard in hopes ensuring long-term health. Or that the Lakers played the second night of a back-to-back while the Warriors just opened their season.
Still, Nash played only 21 minutes in the season opener because the Lakers’ youthful and athletic bench seemingly did everything. He also dressed for in-case-of-emergency purposes, though that only applies injuries and foul trouble and not double-digit deficits. The Lakers also plan to feature an 11-man rotation to offset fatigue concerns.
It goes without saying, but the Lakers sure miss Kobe Bryant as continues to rehab his left Achilles tendon. But even with Bryant staying on the sidelines, the Lakers showed two different identities on consecutive nights.
Against the Clippers, the Lakers’ bench combined for 76 points, the team’s third highest total in franchise history. Against the Warriors, the Lakers finished with 46 bench points. The Lakers showed a myriad of ways they could score against the Clippers, including fast-break points, three-pointers and teamwork. The Lakers showed a myriad of ways of looking sluggish on offense against Golden State, including airballs and shots going off the backboard.
The Lakers’ bench even wore down the Clippers’ starters that included Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Against the Warriors? They had no answer for Klay Thompson, who exploded for a career-high 38 points on 15 of 19 shooting, including 12 in the second quarter. Or David Lee (24 points). Or the Warriors’ three-point shooting (15 of 27).
The Lakers still cracked double digits from Pau Gasol (12 points on 5 of 10 shooting shooting and seven rebounds) and the new starting backcourt in Steve Blake (10 points on only 4 of 13 shooting) and Jodie Meeks (14 point on 4 of 8 shooting and 5 of 6 from the foul line). But Gasol’s production appeared fairly quiet as the team’s featured player. The Lakers’ bench also failed to follow the blueprint they mapped out against the Clippers on how to surpass this season’s expectations.
A night after posting a career-high 22 points against the Clippers, Xavier Henry scored 14 points on only 4 of 11 shooting. A night after Jordan Farmar led the second unit with 16 points and six assists, Farmar’s 12 points on a 5 of 13 clip mostly came in garbage time. A night after compensating for his 1 of 11 shooting night by holding Griffin scoreless in the fourth quarter, Wesley Johnson’s 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting only looked mildly better.
Yet, perhaps both for better and for worse, Lakers coach D’Antoni will employ a deep rotation namely because he has no other choice.
“It’s what we’re going to do for right now,” D’Antoni said beforehand. “We have 11 guys who need to play. I think eventually somewhere during the year it’ll whittle down a little bit, but injuries will take care of that.”
That’s unlikely to change soon, though.
Bryant remains sidelined, of course, with his left Achilles tendon. As he devotes this week toward running on a weight-bearing treadmill, the Lakers have no firm date on when he will play, let alone practice. But he appeared in a good mood in the locker room before the game, watching a wide-range of NBA games while nursing his left Achilles tendon in a bucket full of ice water.
Nash will return Friday when the Lakers host San Antonio at Staples Center. But it’s possible he will sit on the second game of their 18 remaining sets of back-to-back games.
That puts the onus on the Lakers’ supporting cast to carry the load. They made that task look exceedingly difficult in completing against the Warriors despite mastering it the night before against the Clippers.
With a long season awaiting, who knows what these results ultimately mean. But it appears clear the Lakers journey will entail plenty of twists and turns along the way.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org