Warriors vs. Lakers score, takeaways: Stephen Curry, defending champs down LeBron and Co. on NBA opening night

For the second consecutive season, a Los Angeles Lakers team featuring Russell Westbrook has opened its season against the Golden State Warriors, and for the second consecutive season, the Warriors have left that opener as the victor. Golden State defeated Los Angeles 123-109 on opening night after raising the fourth championship banner of the Stephen Curry era into the rafters.

Curry led the way with 33 points for Golden State, but it was a balanced attack and, more importantly, a voracious defense that led to the win. The Warriors held the Lakers to just 25 percent shooting from behind the arc, and that poor spacing allowed them to protect the rim without worrying about the Lakers punishing them from deep. LeBron James and Anthony Davis scored their typical point totals but did so inefficiently, and the rest of the Laker roster disappointed greatly offensively.

Things don't get any easier for the Lakers, who have to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday. The Warriors have a major test of their own coming Thursday when they face the Denver Nuggets and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. The Lakers and Warriors will see each other three more times this season, and if the Lakers hope to compete with the defending champions in any of those games, they're going to need a whole lot more out of their support cast. Here are the biggest takeaways from the first Western Conference clash of the season.

Pelinka's predictable problem

Every single successful James-led team has had one thing in common: shooting. The formula is obvious. James is arguably the greatest offensive initiator in NBA history. He bends defenses to wherever he stands on the court. Put enough shooting around him and he'll either glide to the rim with little resistance or carve you up by passing to the players your help defenders have left. The Heat and Cavaliers built entire rosters around this principle. The 2020 Lakers got there eventually.

So how did Rob Pelinka build the 2022-23 Lakers? Without a single elite 3-point shooter. That is a statistical fact. Patrick Beverley entered the season with the best career 3-point percentage on this roster at 37.8 percent. The majority of the role players are well below league-average. The Lakers are overflowing with ball-handlers, a strange choice for a roster that already employs James and Russell Westbrook, but sorely lacking in shooters.

Those limitations were on full display against Golden State. The Lakers started 2-of-20 from behind the arc and wound up shooting 25 percent from deep overall. Had the Warriors not dealt with their own shooting woes early, this would've turned into a blowout in the first half. James and Davis eventually padded their stats with strong fourth quarters, but during the competitive portion of the game, they both found crowded paints waiting for them when trying to score inside.

This roster-building approach simply makes life harder for James and Davis. It made little sense in the offseason and the doubters were proven correct on opening night. Speaking of doubters, we have to address the elephant in the room here.

Westbrook Watch

All things considered, Russell Westbrook wasn't bad in the season-opener. The stat line of 19 points, 11 rebounds and three assists doesn't quite do him justice. The notable number here is 12: the number of field goals Westbrook attempted in the game. He averaged nearly 16 of them a year ago, many of which were bad shots. There were a couple of duds in this one, including an air-balled 3-pointer, but generally, Westbrook was aggressive with the ball and tried to attack the basket rather than settling for inefficient jumpers. He didn't force the issue on the bad shots he's been missing for his entire career.

That hardly makes his night perfect. Westbrook's defense remains inattentive at best. The Warriors had no fear in sagging off of Westbrook when he didn't have the ball, and we've yet to see all that much from him as a cutter. This is going to be a work in progress, for as long as Westbrook remains on the team. A lot of the bad stuff that Westbrook brought last season was absent against Golden State Tuesday. It just wasn't replaced by the good things Westbrook will need to provide to justify minutes in this rotation. By Westbrook standards, it was a quiet night. That's not perfect, but it's better than a loud night would have been.

But it's hard not to draw a connection between the shooting woes we've covered and Westbrook's $47 million salary. Having that albatross on their books is what forced the Lakers to resort to minimum-salary dice rolls and veterans on the trade market. They couldn't add the shooting they needed because Westbrook remains in place. Only time will tell if the Lakers relent on Indiana's demand of two first-round picks for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner. Tuesday did little to suggest that wouldn't be their best move right now. 

The Warriors' bench is golden

Steve Kerr said before the game that he planned to put time restrictions on Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, and that he did. Green played 25 minutes. Thompson played 20. Curry was the only Warrior to reach 30 minutes, and that had little to do with the lopsided score in the second half. The Warriors are just so deep that they can freely use 10 or 11 players.

In addition to their starters, five different reserves played at least one full quarter: Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman, JaMychal Green, Donte DiVincenzo and Jordan Poole. All but Kuminga scored at least eight points. Toss in the eight minutes Moses Moody gave the Warriors and they reached 11 players in the actual rotation. Golden State is going to be balancing all 11 of them as the season wears on, and that doesn't even account for the possibility of Andre Iguodala playing minutes later on.

The Warriors have always relied on deep benches. Their motto is "strength in numbers" for a reason. But this season is unique in all of the youth the Warriors have accumulated. This is a somewhat transitional season for Golden State. The Warriors won the championship last season thanks largely to their veterans. Wiseman, Kuminga and Moody are going to have to transition into meaningful roles over the next few seasons. Poole already has a $140 million contract. The Warriors have to figure out, here and now, how they plan to use all of those youngsters so that they can dictate which veterans they choose to keep.

One game won't offer any meaningful insight into that thought process, but it is further proof of the ways in which the Warriors will manage its bench. They have a dozen players who are going to see minutes this season, many of whom are playing for long-term roles. That is going to mean some regular-season sacrifice, but it will be well worth it if some of those youngsters are able to contribute once the playoffs arrive. 

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That's a wrap

We are done at the Chase Center, and the defending champion Warriors have picked up right where they left off with a 123-109 victory over the Lakers. Golden State faces Denver on Thursday, while the Lakers face the Clippers.

October 19, 2022, 5:18 AM

Signs of life?

Look, the Lakers are still down 16. They have a long way to go. But a 13-2 run spearheaded by LeBron James at least shows a shred of resiliency. The Lakers need to improve if they're going to stand up to the Clippers on Thursday. Some positive momentum now will help on that front.

October 19, 2022, 4:51 AM

It's not over, but it might as well be

I suppose technically, a 20-point deficit after three quarters is not insurmountable, but it might as well be with the way the Lakers are playing. Their defense fell apart in the third quarter. Their offense continues to be unable to make long-distance shots. LeBron James is showing signs of aging. After a disappointing lottery season last year, the Lakers appear destined for an 0-1 start to this campaign. 

October 19, 2022, 4:43 AM

This feels familiar

Since we've technically crossed midnight on the East Coast, it has been exactly one year since last season's opening night loss to the Warriors. That game was followed with a blowout loss to a Western Conference rival (the Phoenix Suns). The Lakers take on the Clippers on Thursday, so thus far, this season appears to be following the same trajectory.

October 19, 2022, 4:36 AM

The Lakers can't catch a break

Just when you think the Lakers have found a bit of momentum and made a 3... it turns out, Matt Ryan's foot was out of bounds. It's been that kind of night for the Lakers. Sloppy. 

October 19, 2022, 4:31 AM

A dagger... already?

That Stephen Curry 3 caps an 18-4 run and puts the Warriors up by an even 20. You hate to say that the game is over in the third quarter, but the Lakers look utterly defeated by a far superior team. If the Lakers could make their own shots in response they might have some hope, but given how badly they're shooting, they're headed for a blowout.

October 19, 2022, 4:27 AM

The onslaught arrives

We knew it was coming. The Warriors, especially at home, are the greatest third-quarter team the NBA has ever seen. The Lakers staved off the run for a bit and even cut the lead down to six. They now 78-62 after a string of turnovers gives the Warriors the easy shots they crave.

October 19, 2022, 4:20 AM

Keep an eye on the minutes

Remember, Klay Thompson is expected to play only 16-18 minutes. Draymond Green is also on a pitch count, while Stephen Curry is free to play his usual regular-season total. Thompson is up to 13 minutes. Green is at 16. We likely won't see much more of them until crunch time.

October 19, 2022, 4:14 AM

The Lakers are making some shots!

After starting 3-of-21 from 3, the Lakers have made back-to-back 3-pointers to open the second half. Sadly, Klay Thompson is also getting hot. He has all seven points for the Warriors thus far, including a 3-pointer of his own.

October 19, 2022, 4:10 AM

Beverley in foul trouble

It only took Patrick Beverley 10 seconds to pick up his fourth foul in the second half. The Lakers sorely need him to stay on the floor. He's one of the only players on this roster than can both defend and shoot consistently. He's an incredibly aggressive player, but he's overdoing it tonight.

October 19, 2022, 4:09 AM

Pulling away

This was a relatively close game after a quarter, but we've reached halftime with the Warriors leading 59-52. That lead might not seem all that big, but remember, the Warriors are maybe the greatest third-quarter team in NBA history. The onslaught is coming. 

October 19, 2022, 3:51 AM

The Warriors are cold as well

It's not quite as noticeable since the Lakers can't hit the broad side of a barn, but the Warriors are quietly 5-of-18 from deep as well. They're having an easier time generating looks inside of the arc, but the moment the Warriors start making their 3's is the moment this game gets blown wide open. 

October 19, 2022, 3:42 AM

The Poole Party lineup

The newest iteration of the death lineup has arrived. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson will close the first half together, and already, the Lakers appeared overwhelmed by the spacing and ball-handling on that and-one from Stephen Curry.

October 19, 2022, 3:39 AM

Weird Westbrook moment

Russell Westbrook just made his second straight shot, but followed it up with a technical foul as he knocked the ball away afterward. There was no good reason for it. He just let his emotions get the better of him.

October 19, 2022, 3:37 AM

Strength in Numbers

The Warriors have 41 points as of this writing. No single player has more than 10 points. Nine different Warriors have scored. Compare that to the Lakers. Only Anthony Davis and LeBron James have made multiple field goals.

October 19, 2022, 3:35 AM

Donte's Return-o

Is that header an obvious enough Donte's Inferno pun? Well now I've spelled it out for you. Donte DiVincenzo is coming off of a terrible year. After the Bucks won the championship without him, he struggled to return from the injury that kept him out of the 2021 playoffs and was eventually dealt to Sacramento at the deadline. That allowed the Warriors to sign him for a discount, and man, thus far, that move is paying dividends. DiVincenzo can obviously shoot, but his defense and playmaking have shined thus far as well.

October 19, 2022, 3:32 AM

Darvin's defense

The Lakers are losing the game, but it should be noted that most of what Darvin Ham spent the offseason trying to install has largely worked. The Lakers are playing very well defensively. The offense is moving well through Anthony Davis as has been the plan all along. It's not Ham's fault this roster desperately lacks shooting. The Lakers look well-coached thus far.

October 19, 2022, 3:26 AM

Westbrook Watch

Through one quarter, Russell Westbrook has as many turnovers (two) as he does points. Sadly, the decline of a former MVP will seemingly continue unabated. The Lakers were unable to trade Westbrook this offseason, so he remains in place until something changes. 

October 19, 2022, 3:20 AM

The offenses go cold in the first quarter

The Warriors went nearly five full minutes at the end of the first quarter without making a field goal. The Lakers are 1-for-the-night from behind the arc. After one quarter, we have a relatively light 25-22 score in favor of the Warriors.

October 19, 2022, 3:17 AM

Challenge: successful

Russell Westbrook initially appeared to have drawn a foul on that drive, but upon review, he was not actually tripped. He just slipped on the floor. So the foul is overturned and Golden State gets the ball.

October 19, 2022, 3:14 AM

Shooting struggles

The Lakers move to 1-of-7 from behind the arc in one of the more predictable struggles you'll see all season. Remember, this roster does not have a single player who has shot better than 38% from behind the arc for his career. This is a horrific shooting team that isn't making shots.

October 19, 2022, 3:08 AM

No LeBron? No problem!

The Lakers have gone on a 9-0 run... since LeBron James went to the bench. That's a testament to how good Anthony Davis has looked. Thus far, everything has run through the big man.

October 19, 2022, 3:04 AM

Warriors using the whole bench

We're not even a quarter into this thing and nine Warriors have already played. In addition to the starters, we've seen Jordan Poole, James Wiseman, JaMychal Green and Jonathan Kuminga. Expect to see another two or three reserves as we go. Steve Kerr said before the game that he does not yet feel comfortable playing Klay Thompson or Draymond Green major minutes.

October 19, 2022, 3:03 AM

Wiseman schooled by the old man

James Wiseman just came in for his first NBA minutes in over a year, and LeBron James immediately takes him to the basket. That's going to happen. Wiseman struggled mightily in his rookie season, and the Warriors are going to be patient with him. The goal is to have him ready for the playoffs, no matter how many regular-season mistakes it takes.

October 19, 2022, 3:00 AM

Welcome to the Poole Party!

That's two quick 3's for Jordan Poole, one of which came with LeBron iso'd against him defensively. Golden State leads 19-10, and thus far, it's so evident how much deeper they are than the Lakers. Everyone is chipping in for Golden State.

October 19, 2022, 2:56 AM

Steph borrowing from... Hakeem?

Stephen Curry and Hakeem Olajuwon don't have much in common. After all, one is nearly a foot taller than the other. But Curry reached into Olajuwon's bag of tricks early with this gorgeous little dream shake.

October 19, 2022, 2:53 AM

A packed paint

In theory, one of the benefits of starting Anthony Davis at center should be creating more space inside. Well, we just saw LeBron James try a drive and find very little space. He had Russell Westbrook and Lonnie Walker for that. Even small, these Lakers are such poor shooters that the Warriors can sag off of them with impunity.

October 19, 2022, 2:49 AM

First Laker off the bench

Interesting note considering how many guards the Lakers have: Austin Reaves is the first reserve to enter the game after two Patrick Beverley fouls. Reaves, an undrafted free agent who was one of the lone bright spots of last season, competed for a starting spot throughout camp.

October 19, 2022, 2:46 AM

Running the offense through Davis

The Lakers made it clear before the season that they wanted the offense to run through Anthony Davis. Thus far, that has largely been the case. He's gotten multiple touches in the post, and LeBron James has been largely uninvolved.

October 19, 2022, 2:44 AM

Davis at center

Remember, the Lakers have finally taken the plunge and moved Anthony Davis to center. That's going to make the Lakers faster and give Davis more space to work inside. That leads to his first bucket of the night, but the tradeoff, aside from the punishment Davis has to take, is that the Lakers are playing a very small lineup right now. That should make things easier for the Warriors on offense.

October 19, 2022, 2:42 AM
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