The Los Angeles Lakers looked good against the Dallas Mavericks, until they didn’t. That’s happened more often than not to the team in December, where the Lakers have been the worst second half team in the league by a significant margin.
"I was expecting a little more fight when we started the half,” Luke Walton told reporters on Spectrum Sportsnet following the loss. “I was wrong."
It wasn’t the first time. The Lakers have gone an NBA worst 2-14 over the last month, and been outscored by 20 points per 100 possessions in second halves. The next worst team, the Orlando Magic, have only been outscored by 12.6 points per 100 possessions in second halves in December.
“We get off to great starts and can’t find a way to finish out the game,” said Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell. “I just feel like we go away from what we do. We come out aggressive and then in the second half teams out aggressive on us and we don’t really punch back as a team.”
Nick Young doesn’t think the problem is a lack of talent on the Lakers’ part.
“We just had too many mental lapses in the second half. It’s tough,” Young said.
Julius Randle echoed that sentiment when asked if the Lakers’ struggles were due to other teams’ adjustments.
“I think it’s more us than them,” Randle said.
The Lakers have allowed 114.3 points per 100 possessions in second halves over the past month, which somehow isn’t that much worse than their normal defensive rating of 113 over that span.
It’s the Lakers’ offense that’s hit the nitrous while already on a collision course with a wall, averaging a league-worst 94.3 points per 100 possessions in second halves during December. That mark would be by far the worst offensive rating in the NBA if prorated over the course of the season.
The Lakers scored just 32 points in the second half against the Mavericks after dropping 57 in the first two quarters. Dallas didn’t slow down, scoring 51 points while shooting 51.9 percent from three-point range.
“We wasn’t looking to pass the ball. A lot of one-on-one in the second half, and that’s weak basketball,” Young said.
“We have to stay aggressive for 48 minutes,” added Russell. “This is starting to get embarrassing on our part. We’ll figure it out, man. We got to.”
The problem is that it isn’t clear what the Lakers can figure out. The team is struggling with injuries as well as teams finally having tape on what they’re trying to do offensively. Opposing coaches additionally have plenty of film on how to expose the young Lakers’ defensive weaknesses.
There are no easy solutions. All the Lakers know is that they need to find one, and soon.
“At this rate we’re just gonna be another losing team,” Young said. “We’ve got to figure it out or we’re just going to be the ‘doormat Lakers’ again.”
All quotes transcribed via Spectrum Sportsnet, and all stats per NBA.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.