The Lakers had an opportunity to extend their winning streak to five games on Saturday, but they slipped into old habits defensively and missed out on that chance.
There will be some adjustment that comes from integrating a new player, but Lakers Coach Luke Walton didn't accept that as an excuse for what went wrong Saturday.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers' 130-123 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
1.) Things change fast in the NBA, especially when trades are involved. Isaiah Thomas remembers going through this before. When he got traded to the Boston Celtics, he had to play the next day. This time he had one day in between the trade and his first game, but Walton gave him a hefty 31 minutes. Thomas told Walton he had no restrictions, minutes-wise, and liked the playing time.
2.) This system could rejuvenate Thomas. After shootaround on Saturday, Channing Frye said he thought part of Thomas' issue in Cleveland was the system. In Frye's opinion, the Lakers' faster-paced style of play would suit Thomas better. That will be true as long as he's healthy. On Saturday, Thomas spoke glowingly about the way the Lakers play. "I like the pace of this team," Thomas said. "I like the energy the guys bring. Coach did the best job he could for me to put me in a position to play to my strengths with only knowing a couple plays."
3.) Julius Randle had a really efficient day. He downplayed the homecoming element after the game (Randle is from Dallas), but Randle scored 23 points in the Lakers' first game in Dallas this season and 26 last night. Randle made 10 of 14 shots and had eight rebounds and seven assists. We had him on triple double watch starting in the third quarter.
4.) The Mavericks are in a position the Lakers found themselves in last year. Their draft pick is much more important than winning games this year. They didn't play their starters in most of the fourth quarter, in fact Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews got no four-quarter playing time. Of course, just because a loss is better for the direction of the franchise doesn't mean the players on the court are willing to oblige. Dallas scored a season high in points, topping their previous 128.
5.) By the third quarter it was clear that no matter the outcome, Walton was going to be furious about this game. Coaches often say it's easier to drive home a message after a loss. In this case, the Lakers weren't able to overcome their defensive lapses and communication problems. Larry Nance Jr. was a good communicator on defense, and it seems that the Lakers missed that Saturday night. Bringing a new player into the fold, one who isn't totally familiar with the Lakers' system, also presents challenges. Walton didn't buy that, though. "It should not have" affected the communication, he said. "It's as simple as calling a switch. We have words for it, but it's that simple. And a lot of times it was guys that have been here all year."