The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets entered the 2021-2022 NBA season as favorites to meet in the NBA Finals, but you wouldn’t know it by watching them play through the first five games. Both teams are under .500 with 2-3 records, coming off upset losses Wednesday night.

The Miami Heat beat the Nets in Brooklyn 106-93, leading for most of the second half. The Lakers were stunned by the Oklahoma City Thunder 123-115, blowing a 26-point lead against what’s considered to be the NBA’s worst team.

LeBron James missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Kyrie Irving hasn’t played and could be away from the team all season. The teams’ struggles, however, have much more to do with the superstars who are taking the court for Los Angeles and Brooklyn.

The Russell Westbrook experiment has gone as poorly as the detractors of the trade that sent him to L.A. predicted. Westbrook had 10 turnovers in the loss. The point guard has more field-goal attempts than points scored. His fit alongside James has been clunky with Westbrook averaging just 12 points in the three games that he shared the court with the four-time MVP.

Westbrook is second in the league with 6 turnovers per game. 

For Brooklyn, it’s James Harden who can’t seem to find his footing. The three-time scoring champ is averaging just 16.6 points per game, which is 8.5 points below his career average. Harden is only shooting 35.9% from the field. His 15.6 shot attempts per game are his lowest since he was teammates with Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City a decade ago.

Harden has attributed his poor start to the hamstring injury that cost him time in the playoffs and forced him to rehab for three months. The NBA’s new emphasis on not calling fouls when offensive players throw their bodies into defenders appears to be having a significant effect on Harden, as well.

Durant has played well for Brooklyn. His 29.8 points per game are good for second in the NBA to go along with his averages of 10 rebounds and 5 assists. 

Anthony Davis is fourth in scoring with 28.4 points per contest. Davis ranks ninth with 11.6 rebounds per game. He’s fourth with an average of 2.4 blocks.

Los Angeles appears to be taking a cautious approach with James. Both James and Davis missed a large portion of last season with injuries. 

The Lakers have given up at least 115 points in all five games. L.A. was the NBA’s No. 1 defensive team last season.

Expected to be an offensive juggernaut, the Nets rank 28th in offensive efficiency.

Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers hugs teammate Anthony Davis #3 Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers hugs teammate Anthony Davis #3. Photo: Getty Images | Ronald Cortes