Los Angeles Lakers

Three reasons why Lakers shouldn't panic just yet

On the second night of a back-to-back, coming off an overtime victory against the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers squandered a 26-point lead to the 0-4 Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder comeback victory is tied for the largest in franchise history.

Courtesy of a hot start, they jumped to an early 41-19 first-quarter lead but they were outscored in every one of the ensuing quarters including a 67-43 second half.

They were some glaring issues from this 123-115 loss, but it is still too soon for a prospective championship contender to hit the panic button.

Here are three reasons why Lakers fans should be patient with their title-contending team.

The Russell Westbrook adjustment

The former MVP came through for the Lakers in LeBron James' absence against the Spurs 24 hours earlier as he scored 15 points in the fourth quarter alone and played a huge role alongside Anthony Davis in the team clinching the road win in overtime.

In Wednesday's game against his former team, Westbrook recorded a triple-double with 20 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists - his first as a Lakers and the 185th of his career but he was also responsible for 10 of the team's 17 turnovers.

To make matters worse, which is bound to have left a bad taste in the mouth, Westbrook got ejected late after picking up his second technical when he expressed his displeasure at a Darius Bazley dunk in the closing seconds of the game, the result of which was already decided.

The quadruple-double extended his lead atop an unenvious chart.

"I got to look at the tape," Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said postgame regarding Westbrook's 10 turnovers.

Right from Game 1, after the Lakers lost to the Golden State Warriors which included a forgettable Lakers debut for Westbrook, Vogel has insisted that the 6-foot-3 guard has the most adjustments to make among the new guys and that it would take time.

Five games is a very small sample size but the Lakers have a net rating of negative 9.3 points per 100 possession with Westbrook on the floor whereas while he's on the bench, the net rating jumps to +12.7 points per 100 possession. That's a 21 point differential!

The good news for Laker fans is it's early and with time Westbrook can adjust and find his way in LA. You can't win a championship in October, the Lakers just have to be at peak performance come April.

No LeBron James

Without LeBron James, the Lakers took care of business in San Antonio but couldn't replicate that in Oklahoma City. Given his impact, while on the floor, any loss with him sidelined - even if it includes giving up a 26-point lead against a winless, young inexperienced roster - should be taken with a grain of salt.

In the last two seasons, the team's performance with James on the floor speaks for itself.

LBJ's impact on Lakers over past 2 seasons
Net Rating with LeBron Net rating without LeBron
2020-21 +9.2 -1.9
2019-20 +8.5 -1.9

He sat out these games in San Antonio and Oklahoma City due to ankle soreness, which he hurt against the Memphis Grizzlies but doesn't seem too alarming.

A ton of new guys and injuries

The nature of this loss is still borderline unforgivable but the Lakers' rotations are a work in progress.

They are currently missing wings in Talen Horton-Tucker and Trevor Ariza due to injuries, not to mention the fact that only three players (LeBron, AD, THT) are returning from last year's squad.

Last season, despite a short offseason that played its part in multiple injuries for the Lakers, the team was able to adhere to Frank Vogel's defensive philosophy and were the No. 1 ranked defence in the league because of the roster continuity.

So far, this season, the team's defensive rating ranks 24th in the league. That's not great, but having said that, with the roster turnover this team has experienced, they must be given time to build chemistry on that end of the floor. It's a marathon and not a sprint, with 77 games still left.

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