LeBron James said the Los Angeles Lakers have ‘a lot of room to improve’ following their Opening Night 112-102 loss to the LA Clippers.
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James contributed 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in 36 minutes of play but could not prevent the Lakers from sliding to defeat against their city rivals, who were led by a game-high 30 points from Kawhi Leonard.
Speaking in the Lakers locker room after the game, James refuted the suggestion that his team had failed their first major test of the 2019-20 season.
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“I disagree on how big of a test this game was,” he said. “The NBA is back and everyone is trying to have the narrative of a rivalry game and that it is a huge test. Both teams are not who they want to be.
“We have a lot of room to improve. We are a new group that is coming together. We have a new coaching staff. We have a new system. It’s not a rivalry. We’re trying to get better every single day. We did some good things tonight. We did some not-so-good things tonight. That happens in Game 1, especially for a new club. We look forward to getting into the film room tomorrow and seeing some of the mistakes we made.”
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James felt the second quarter, in which the Lakers conceded 40 points, and sloppy play late in the game led to the Lakers’ defeat.
“The second quarter, they made some tough shots. We let their offense dictate our defense – we have to be better at that. Forty points in any quarter is too much,” he said. “Down the stretch, we had some costly turnovers when we were making a run. I had three of them which was very careless. They capitalised off that.
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“We had some great looks in the fourth quarter, but they just didn’t go. It’s easy to point out the times when we didn’t score, but we had some good dribble penetrations and good kick-outs, the shots just didn’t go for us. We are always a pass-first team, we want to get whoever is open a great look. We’ll live with the results.”
The Lakers’ season opener was the first competitive game James had played since March 29 and, while he was thrilled to be back on the court, he admitted to being a ‘little rusty’ in some aspects of his game.
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“Ecstatic. I was so excited to get back in the floor,” he said. “Little rusty, as far as my perimeter shooting and not being in a game situation for a while. I haven’t played that many minutes in quite a while.
“But to be able to go out there, to fly around once again, to jump high and be at 100 per cent, something I worked my tail off to do after the groin injury in December. I’m just trying to get back to who I am.”
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