The Los Angeles Lakers opened the season with a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, falling asleep at the wheel after building a 16-point lead. A stagnant offense might be the everlasting image of the purple and gold drowning out in the game, but the Lakers gave up 61 points through the second half. Some of it was admittedly tough shots going in -- Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio couldn't miss -- but there were obvious breakdowns throughout the night as well. Small things, but when they pile up it amounts to too many easy points for an opponent.
That's going to happen to a team that allowed 108 points per 100 possessions last season. If you're curious, the Lakers' defensive rating was at 110.6 against Minnesota. Put simpler, Rubio dropped a new career-high. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Lakers had the kind of mishaps you can expect from a team in the state they're currently in. It's fair to expect these bumps, just as it's fair to expect improvements as this group logs minutes together. They're showing signs it's clearly going to be more work than progress through the early stages, though.
Expect defensive lapses
Sometimes it will be of the individual variety, like it does here in a sideline out of bounds play. Jordan Clarkson freezes in place, misplays Martin, and gives up a wide-open jumper:
Jordan seemingly gets lost in a space-time continuum, and there doesn't appear to be any communication between him and Lou Williams. From that perspective, it's also a breakdown on a team level that they were busted so easily. They could have switched here as well, if that was established as part of their defensive strategy. Instead they let Martin slide out for a clean look:
That it came in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, when the Timberwolves had just gone up one, made it one of the standout mistakes. That's a matter of team-wide execution and individual awareness improving over time.
Speaking of team-wide execution
One of Roy Hibbert's main priorities is directing a defense that needs directing while he's on the floor, but that's a process that will draw his attention away from protecting the rim. That's exactly what happens here, when Ricky Rubio blows by D'Angelo Russell and into daylight:
Russell got burnt, yes, but Roy's supposed to be there with outstretched arms to clean up mistakes like this. He doesn't here because he's directing traffic elsewhere, and by the time he realizes young D'Angelo is inhaling exhaust fumes, it's too late for the lad:
This single play doesn't change anything in this particular game, but Hibbert having to split his defensive awareness detracts from the Lakers as a unit. This team will need to learn together, and it's easy to see the ways the defense will suffer while they try to overcompensate for their lack of experience together.
Russell getting taken so easily by Rubio is worrying for an entirely different reason. It's great that Roy wants to take accountability as the defensive commander, but when he's doing so it allows the Lakers to be taken advantage of in other ways. The hope is obviously that the team executes better together over time, freeing Roy to focus his effort elsewhere.
National KAT Day
It's hard to call this a Lakers defensive breakdown, but sometimes you have to stop and appreciate:
Look at that space. Just look at it: