Russell Westbrook pushes Lakers to their first win of season

On the primary evening of the NBA season, all of it appeared like such a nasty concept.

Russell Westbrook sat at a desk simply exterior the Lakers’ locker room and mentioned that his routine was so disrupted by coming off the bench within the workforce’s preseason finale that it precipitated his hamstring to tighten up.

And whereas it’s most likely not all that controversial to suppose somebody who’d executed one thing like begin within the NBA had developed a reasonably strict routine for greater than 1,000 NBA video games, the implication across the league was that Westbrook wasn’t going to make coach Darvin Ham’s life any simpler by embracing that choice.

As a substitute, he’s given it a bearhug.

“He’s doing his thing,” Anthony Davis mentioned.

Sunday, in his second regular-season sport because the Lakers’ sixth man, Westbrook seemed extra like himself than he had at some other time in his Lakers tenure.

Westbrook received a key offensive rebound and break up the Denver protection, switching palms and scoring to ice a 121-110 win, the primary of Ham’s teaching profession.

“We needed to prove something to ourselves,” Ham mentioned.

After a sleepy Sunday evening begin, it was Westbrook who injected life into the Lakers within the first half. And within the second half, it was Westbrook orchestrating one of the best run of the Lakers’ season, trying towards the sounds and basking within the cheers whereas asking for extra.

“Whatever is needed for me to help the team win, that’s what I’ll do,” Westbrook mentioned.

Lakers ahead Anthony Davis grabs a rebound in entrance of Denver Nuggets ahead Michael Porter Jr. throughout the first half.

(Michael Owen Baker / Related Press)

The Lakers scored 17 straight factors, the workforce’s capturing lastly catching up with its defending. Matt Ryan, who earned the Lakers’ fifteenth spot in coaching camp, hit a pair of threes, and Lonnie Walker IV, who has struggled badly all season offensively, caught fireplace, all with Westbrook pushing the tempo.

He completed with 18 factors, eight rebounds and eight assists — the Lakers’ bench outscoring Denver’s reserves by 19.

LeBron James scored 26 and Davis added 23 and 15 rebounds after lacking one sport together with his ongoing lower-back points. Later Sunday, Davis appeared to re-aggravate the harm, however he remained within the sport.

After the ultimate buzzer, James and Davis met beneath the basket to shortly have a good time the win.

Lakers forward LeBron James drives to the basket past Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic during the first half.

Lakers ahead LeBron James drives to the basket previous Denver Nuggets middle Nikola Jokic throughout the first half.

(Michael Owen Baker / Related Press)

Davis acknowledged he’s nonetheless coping with fairly a little bit of ache — however mentioned that he needs to push by.

“I’m not going to let that stop me,” he mentioned.

For the Lakers, it was good to lastly reside within the second — although as a little bit of insurance coverage, the workforce took a take a look at a bit of its wealthy previous.

Earlier than the sport, James Worthy hosted a ceremony to retire George Mikan’s jersey alongside these of the Corridor of Famers who performed for the Lakers in L.A. The workforce is also placing up banners for the 5 championships the franchise received earlier than shifting to California.

Over 439 video games for the Minneapolis Lakers, Mikan averaged 23.1 factors and 13.4 rebounds, leaving the NBA as its first large star and with a namesake drill.

Right here’s the way it works: The participant stands and shoots a right-handed layup, catching the ball because it comes by the web and sliding over to the left facet to do the identical with reverse hand.

It’s Basketball 101 and with George Mikan getting his No. 99 retired Sunday, it was a pure subject of dialog earlier than the sport.

Watching the primary half Sunday, it felt just like the Mikan Drill simply would possibly come again once more on the subsequent Lakers observe.

However for the primary time this season, the workforce’s exterior capturing lifted the Lakers. They hit 13 of 30 from deep, with 5 gamers making a number of threes.

The Lakers additionally stored Denver’s stars comparatively quiet, with Nikola Jokic having 23 factors, Jamal Murray scoring 21 and Michael Porter Jr. including 17, and the position gamers principally silent.

Loads went proper — a reminder that the margins for the workforce are nonetheless a bit slim, however because the Lakers received able to seal their first win of the season, Westbrook received fouled and went to the road to cheers.

“One thing I never will let happen is people outside of my family, [the] people that support me, take my joy,” he mentioned. “Always have fun and embrace this game, and embrace the gift I’ve been given to be able to go out and compete. And yes, winning makes you feel better about yourself. But when you’re losing, it’s not as much fun. Tonight was a night where we were able to have a chance.”

As his title was introduced, the gang roared — a second the Lakers and Westbrook wanted.

“The way you’re playing, the way you’re handling is tremendous,” Davis mentioned he advised Westbrook. “…That’s truly a guy willing to do whatever the team asks.”