Milwaukee Bucks wing Wesley Matthews caught himself as he started to say his team’s loss Tuesday was the biggest upset of the day. It occurred to him mid-sentence that the Lakers, the other top seeded team in the bubble, had also lost Tuesday, a phenomenon that has only occurred twice in the last 20 years.
“It’s crazy to think about, but if you think about everything going on in the world right now, not that crazy anymore,” Matthews said. “What advantage you might have had from being the one seed and all that kind of stuff, it’s a fair game now.”
He had just finished practice at the convention center of the Coronado Springs Resort at Disney World, and the Lakers were about to start a light day of practice down the hall. The Lakers had dropped the first game of their best-of-seven series against the Portland Trail Blazers the night before and set to work figuring out how to recover.
“I slept good last night,” Kyle Kuzma said. “It’s just basketball at the end of the day. Obviously it’s playoffs, it’s high pressure, but this is basketball, that’s kind of what I came up with over the last four months, this hiatus. You gotta just play the game, have fun and just play with a competitive spirit and a certain type of enthusiasm. When you do that, you go out there and after a game or you’re in bed you can say I did it all, gave all my effort, you can’t dwell on it.”
Tuesday night was Kuzma’s first playoff experience and he scored 14 points with eight rebounds off the bench. The Lakers fell 100-93 to a team that has been one of the bubble’s highest-scoring teams. They talked about being proud of their defense, despite a few late miscues that led to three-pointers by Portland’s shooters.
They went on a few short runs, namely in the second and fourth quarters, but couldn’t sustain their momentum into something bigger.
“Tactically, the things I would do different, I’ll keep those to myself,” coach Frank Vogel said.
He was asked if he would consider a lineup change, and generally how he views lineup changes during the playoffs. Vogel said he doesn’t mind making lineup changes during the playoffs but said he has confidence in the lineup he has now.
The Lakers typically start LeBron James and Anthony Davis at forward, JaVale McGee at center and Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at guard. They have some lineups that feature Davis at center with Kuzma playing forward instead.
Kuzma was the team’s third-highest scorer after James and Davis on Tuesday, and was asked Wednesday if he’d welcome the opportunity to start.
“It’s me being confident saying, ‘Yes,’ but I’m not the coach,” Kuzma said. “I’m just a player. So, I just kind of just do whatever they ask me to do. That’s my job. Starring in my role.”
As usual, the Lakers held a meeting and watched film Wednesday.
“I’m not going to share what our guys were like, but we’re optimistic,” Vogel said. “We know there are some things we could do better, but we’re very encouraged. The thing I’m most encouraged about is we have a super-talented team. When you have a super-talented team that plays like a scrappy underdog, you have a chance to really accomplish something special.”
Practice had an optional feel to it for all the players who played in Tuesday’s game. As reporters entered the gym Wednesday afternoon, the group of players who didn’t play Tuesday were engaged in a spirited scrimmage. That included Rajon Rondo, who left the bubble after the first weekend’s practices due to a broken thumb.
Rondo was upgraded to questionable for Game 2.
“We realized that we missed 11 free throws,” McGee said. “We didn’t make a lot of threes. I think our percentages of shots that we usually shoot wide open were extremely down. Not even a hot day, one of the days where we’re just shooting our regular percentages, we would hit those shots.”