The Los Angeles Lakers got their season off to a good start Wednesday night as their first game without Kobe Bryant was a win. They defeated the Houston Rockets 120-114 at Staples Center and the win was a big one for the rebuilding Lakers as it was a game that they likely would not have won last season when they went a franchise worst 17-65.
Other than the Philadelphia 76ers the Lakers had the worst home record in the league last year at 12-29, something that Lakers fans have not been accustomed to.
Staples Center returned to life Wednesday night though, as Lakers fans watched the team’s young players blossom into stars right before their eyes. Point guard D’Angelo Russell, who had 20 points and three assists in the win, said that it actually felt like a home game, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
“I’ll tell you what it felt like: It felt like a home game,” guard D’Angelo Russell told The Vertical outside his locker on Wednesday night. “Last year, we had Kobe and the fans. We had some diehard Lakers fans, and Kobe fans. But we had so many guys who didn’t have identities for the fans to recognize. But today, it felt like a home game.
“You go to Utah, or Houston – and they’re rooting for their team. Here, this is the home of the NBA. People come to the see the show, too. Don’t get me wrong: They’re all Lakers fans, they’re incredible, but they want to see the show, too.”
Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle also both had impressive showings as Clarkson scored 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting off the bench and Randle had 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists. 23 of Clarkson’s 25 points came in the second half.
The win was Luke Walton’s first as an NBA head coach, although he went 39-4 as the interim coach of the Golden State Warriors last season but those wins were credited to head coach Steve Kerr. If Walton can continue to build off of this one, expect that Lakers crowd to continue to be loud and raucous.