Lakers vs. Warriors score, takeaways: Stephen Curry leads Golden State to opening night victory over L.A.

It might just be opening night, but the Golden State Warriors announced their re-entry into the championship picture by taking down the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday at Staples Center, 121-114. Backed by Stephen Curry's triple-double and Jordan Poole's surprising 20-point outburst, the Warriors proved that they are ready to start winning on the NBA's biggest stage yet again.

Golden State finished the win with five players scoring in double figures. The Lakers, on the other hand, got 67 combined points out of LeBron James and Anthony Davis but only 47 from the rest of the roster. They still have a long way to go before they figure out how to make the most of this roster, while Golden State only stands to get stronger when Klay Thompson eventually returns.

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Westbrook Westbricks

There's nothing all that unusual about Russell Westbrook shooting 1-of-7 from outside of the paint. You just have to bake nights like that into your expectations with Westbrook. He's going to take bad jumpers. You live with that because, most of the time, you get everything else. At his best, Westbrook is among the most exhausting players to play against in basketball, a lightning bolt in transition that punishes your rim-protectors and generates big plays through energy and ambition alone. 

The problem on Tuesday was that the Lakers didn't get any of that other stuff. Westbrook, who led the NBA in assists in three of the past four seasons, had only four against the Warriors. Not all of that is on him. Some early ball-watching was to be expected when playing with the starters. But why did Frank Vogel play him with Rajon Rondo, essentially relegating him to (ineffective) spacing duty on far too many possessions? Why wasn't he fully staggered with LeBron James, allowing each significant stretches of game time to run the offense? Westbrook wasn't put in a position to succeed as a playmaker on opening night, but he didn't do himself any favors on that front either. Westbrook is so used to dominating possession of the ball that he hasn't learned how to effectively and consistently move without it. He has 81 games left to figure that out before the postseason. If he doesn't? He's got more games like tonight coming. 

It wasn't just the awkward off-ball fit, though. You trade for Westbrook in part because of how lethal he can be at the basket. There were signs of slippage last season, though, when his restricted attempts per game fell to only five after being above 10 in Houston. He got to the rim only six times opening night and missed half of his looks there. It's too early to make any firm proclamations on how much of his nuclear athleticism he's lost at the age of 32, but at the very least, he doesn't look like he's going to have an easy time getting to the rim against the packed paints he's facing on this roster. 

Throw in his poor defense and you have a player who doesn't fully seem to grasp what his role is on this team. These are not the 2016-17 Thunder and this is not the Russell Westbrook show. The days of listless off-ball offense and undisciplined defense are over. If Westbrook is going to win a championship in Los Angeles, it is going to have to have to involve some degree of sacrifice. On some level, that came on opening night. Westbrook was deferential. He didn't monopolize the ball. But that doesn't mean he did the things the Lakers are going to need him to do to win the title. Tuesday was the worst of all worlds. Westbrook didn't do the things he usually does well, and he didn't do the things the Lakers need him to do well either.

2. Michael Jordan Poole

The Warriors lost the minutes Stephen Curry spent on the bench last season by 168 points. It wasn't an isolated incident. Even during the 2018-19 season with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson leading bench lineups, Golden State still lost the Curry-less minutes by 159 points. But on Tuesday, the Warriors won the minutes Curry sat out by three points. They did so playing every single one of those minutes against LeBron James. 

So how did they do it? Jordan Poole. That's how. Poole's emergence isn't entirely unexpected. He averaged almost 15 points per game in his last 20 appearances last season and then went on to score 21.8 per game in the preseason. He probably won't get 20 every night in games that count, but his all-around offensive game changes everything for Warriors bench lineups that have hemorrhaged points for most of Curry's career.

Poole doesn't have to be Curry. He just has to be able to run a competent pick-and-roll and show off a few of those gorgeous dribble moves in isolation for 12 minutes every night. If he can do that, the Warriors will hold their own in the minutes they play without Curry. That would be a major improvement compared to where they've been otherwise, and if they win the Curry minutes as handsomely as they've tended to over the years, they're going to be a very good basketball team this season. 

3. Long Live the King

If the Lakers are looking for a silver lining, here it is: for the 19th consecutive season, it appears as if LeBron James is one of the very best players in basketball. Yes, shockingly, the hobbled version of James that was recovering from the high ankle sprain that came as a result of Solomon Hill diving into his leg was not the true LeBron. With a compromised supporting cast, James still managed to put up 34 points on 13-of-23 shooting with 11 rebounds and five assists. His defense, especially off of the ball, remains stellar. We're only one game into the season, and the shooting likely isn't sustainable (James scored only once in the restricted area), but there is now reason to believe that the Lakers still have a version of James that is relatively close to the one they had when they won the 2020 championship. 

That might be all they need in the end. James won 66 games with Mo Williams as his best teammate in 2009. He made the Finals in 2007 and 2018 with rosters that almost certainly would have missed the playoffs without him. History says that a healthy LeBron James makes you a contender. It looks like the Lakers have a healthy LeBron James. They have six months to figure everything else out, but as long as that remains true, they should be considered serious contenders.

0
0
TUE 10:00 P
LAL -3.5, o226.5
TNT
LAL -3.5, O/U 226.5

Season Leaders

points
headshot-image
S. Curry 27.7 PTS, 6.5 AST, 5.6 REB
headshot-image
S. Curry 27.7 PTS, 6.5 AST, 5.6 REB
headshot-image
L. James 25.6 PTS, 6.8 AST, 5.7 REB
headshot-image
L. James 25.6 PTS, 6.8 AST, 5.7 REB
assists
headshot-image
D. Green 8.2 PTS, 7.6 AST, 8.0 REB
headshot-image
D. Green 8.2 PTS, 7.6 AST, 8.0 REB
headshot-image
R. Westbrook 20.3 PTS, 8.6 AST, 8.0 REB
headshot-image
R. Westbrook 20.3 PTS, 8.6 AST, 8.0 REB
rebounds
headshot-image
D. Green 8.2 PTS, 7.6 AST, 8.0 REB
headshot-image
D. Green 8.2 PTS, 7.6 AST, 8.0 REB
headshot-image
A. Davis 24.4 PTS, 3.1 AST, 10.0 REB
headshot-image
A. Davis 24.4 PTS, 3.1 AST, 10.0 REB
Live updates
(140)
See New Posts
Pinned
@warriors via Twitter
October 20, 2021, 5:39 AM
Pinned
@warriors via Twitter
October 20, 2021, 4:56 AM
Pinned

We're just playing the free throw game at this point. Golden State will win. Just a matter of by how much. 

October 20, 2021, 4:41 AM
Pinned
@warriors via Twitter
October 20, 2021, 4:38 AM
Pinned

Wiggins for 3. That'll be the dagger. 

October 20, 2021, 4:33 AM
Pinned

The Lakers are running out of time here. Down nine with only three minutes to play, it looks like Golden State is gonna take this one. 

October 20, 2021, 4:32 AM
Pinned

Another missed free throw by Anthony Davis. He's now 2-of-7. What is going on here?

October 20, 2021, 4:31 AM
Pinned

Warriors win the challenge. Their ball up five with 4:19 remaining.

October 20, 2021, 4:29 AM
Pinned

Golden State is challenging this out of bounds call. They think it was off of LeBron. 

October 20, 2021, 4:27 AM
Pinned

It's the Avery Bradley-Nemanja Bjelica duel we all expected. 

October 20, 2021, 4:27 AM
Pinned
@warriors via Twitter
October 20, 2021, 4:27 AM
Pinned

AVERY BRADLEY FOR 3 AGAIN! 

October 20, 2021, 4:26 AM
Pinned

Well, Stephen Curry was gonna start making shots eventually. That 3 gives the Warriors a 103-98 cushion. 

October 20, 2021, 4:25 AM
Pinned

Avery Bradley, whom the Lakers claimed YESTERDAY, from THIS VERY WARRIORS TEAM, has swung the momentum back to the Lakers. He's led the Lakers on a 6-0 run that has the game back within two points. 

October 20, 2021, 4:25 AM
Pinned

AVERY BRADLEY IS BACK BABY!

October 20, 2021, 4:23 AM
Pinned

Flagrant-1 foul there gets LeBron two shots and the ball. That could be a major momentum swing for the Lakers. 

October 20, 2021, 4:22 AM
Pinned

The Warriors have won the fourth quarter by 10 points thus far. The Lakers have had LeBron James in the game the entire time. Stephen Curry hasn't played a second for the Warriors. We're in the upside down. 

October 20, 2021, 4:20 AM
Pinned

That's 20 points for Jordan Poole, who is the highest-scoring guard in a game featuring Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook. 

October 20, 2021, 4:16 AM
Pinned

The Lakers are coming apart at the seams. Golden State leads by six and Dwight Howard responds in the most Dwight Howard way possible: with an unnecessary offensive foul. 

October 20, 2021, 4:15 AM
See More