The Brooklyn Nets scored a 91-77 preseason victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre in Shenzhen, China.
It marked the end of a two-game exhibition series in China between the two teams that became shrouded in controversy after a rift developed between the country and the NBA over a Twitter post by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of protesters in Hong Kong.
After China's state-run television network announced it wouldn't show the games between the Lakers and Nets, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement saying the league wasn't in a position to address potential human-rights issues abroad:
"It is inevitable that people around the world—including from America and China—will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.
"However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way."
In the end, the preseason games were played as scheduled, and Chinese fans showed up to the venues in Shanghai and Shenzhen to see some of the best basketball players in the world, led by the Lakers' tandem of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Nets' Kyrie Irving missed the rematch with a facial injury.
Notable Game Stats
LeBron James (LAL): 6 PTS, 4 AST, 3 REB
Anthony Davis (LAL): 6 PTS, 3 REB, 2 BLK (left with a thumb injury)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (LAL): 11 PTS, 6 REB
Avery Bradley (LAL): 14 PTS, 4 REB
Caris LeVert (BKN): 22 PTS, 5 AST, 4 REB, 3 STL
Taurean Prince (BKN): 14 PTS, 4 REB
DeAndre Jordan (BKN): 4 PTS, 11 REB
Lakers Must Clean Up Mistakes After Sloppy Loss
The Lakers were always expected to spend the early stages of the 2019-20 season building chemistry. That's usually the case when a team revamps its roster to the extent L.A. did during the offseason, and the process isn't eliminated just because the team features two bona fide superstars.
Exactly how much Los Angeles needs to do was on display in a mistake-riddled performance Saturday.
The Lakers shot just 33.7 percent from the field, including 15.6 percent on threes and 63.2 percent on free throws. They also turned the ball over 20 times as the offense looked completely out of sync at times, even when James and Davis were both on the floor before the latter's injury.
Bad shooting nights are going to happen. Even the Golden State Warriors at the height of their powers laid the occasional clunker. But the Lake Show must do a much better job of creating open looks while at the same time protecting the ball. Defensively, they need to close out on three-point shooters far quicker.
It's going to take time, and the learning curve could be slowed if Davis ends up missing time, though the injury looked minor, and his exit seemed precautionary since he initially played through it before leaving.
The Lakers have an excuse in the short term since the players are getting accustomed to each other. If they are making the same type of simple errors a couple of months into the campaign, then head coach Frank Vogel will have a problem on his hands given the team's championship-level expectations.
Nets' Depth Players Primed to Exceed Expectations
Brooklyn's outlook for the 2019-20 season is a bit unsettled. The front office made a massive offseason splash by acquiring Irving and Kevin Durant, who's expected to miss the entire campaign while recovering from a ruptured Achilles suffered during the 2019 NBA Finals.
Although that's tempered outside expectations, the Nets' depth players showed Saturday the team will have to get taken seriously in the weaker Eastern Conference, even without KD.
LeVert was the most impressive of the bunch. The 25-year-old University of Michigan product told Michael Lee of The Athletic earlier this week he's ready to emerge as Kyrie's sidekick.
"I've always felt like I was that guy," he said. "I'm at the point where now I feel I can control how good I can be. I'm going to push myself every single day and see where that ceiling is. I don't know where it is. I don't like to put limits on myself."
The Nets have surrounded Irving with a terrific shooting group. They entered the contest averaging 17.5 threes in their first two preseason games on an NBA-best 42.2 percent conversion rate from beyond the arc. They made 13 of their 35 shots (37.1 percent) from three-point range Saturday.
Add in two strong low-post defenders in Jordan and Jarrett Allen, and Brooklyn should quietly have one of the East's most well-rounded lineups this season.
The Nets may have to wait another year for Durant to return before truly moving into championship contention. But that doesn't mean they can't make some noise in the meantime.
Both teams return to the United States for the remainder of the preseason. The Lakers play three games against the Golden State Warriors beginning Monday at Staples Center in L.A. The Nets face the Toronto Raptors in their exhibition finale Friday at Barclays Center in New York City.