The final score of the Los Angeles Lakers 108-87 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers doesn’t look close, but the purple and gold actually led by two points at halftime before being doomed by yet another second half collapse in a season full of them.
But why has the team been so bad coming out of their mid-game break? Are the Lakers not making adjustments? Are they getting tired? Lakers head coach Luke Walton had a different theory.
“Maybe we got comfortable, which is not acceptable, but maybe that's what happened. I'm not sure,” Walton said, referencing the team’s two-straight wins coming into Tuesday night.
“It's frustrating to lose, but I've rarely been disappointed in our team during the season because they've given us great effort, and there have been injuries and ups and downs and they stick with it, and keep playing together, and they support each other,” Walton continued. “But this second half I didn't really recognize that team out there.”
The Lakers’ second half struggles were nothing new. The team has been outscored by an average of 5.7 points per 100 possessions in second halves this year, the sixth-worst mark in the entire NBA.
Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram had a theory on what specifically went wrong for the Lakers over the final 24 minutes on Tuesday.
"We started getting stagnant a little bit, we went away from moving the ball a little bit,” Ingram said.
The Lakers have went away from moving the ball a lot this season. The team’s 287.4 passes per game this season ranks as the seventh-worst average in the league. In a perhaps not unrelated stat, the Lakers have honored Kobe Bryant’s memory by isolating on nine percent of their possessions, the sixth-most of any team in the NBA.
It was suggested following the game that maybe D’Angelo Russell should have looked to go one-on-one even more with Damian Lillard after the two got into an altercation and the latter exploded for 18 second half points. Walton disagreed with that notion.
“The only time we’re really winning games is when we’re attacking as a team and everyone’s doing it. We’re not winning games where one guy scores 40. We’ve had nights like that too, and we lose.”
Walton also said he didn’t think Russell was the issue.
“I thought D’Angelo, even though he missed shots tonight, I thought he played good. I thought he was aggressive, I thought he was getting into their guards and fighting over screens. I was very happy with the way D’Angelo played tonight,” Walton said. “We don’t ever want it to turn into a ‘one-on-one go back at each other’ type of game. That’s not the way we play.”
Russell (and several other players) chalked the Lakers’ issues up to bad luck.
“We just didn’t make shots,” Russell said. “The world is not ending.”
If the world did end every time the Lakers missed shots in the second half of a game, the human race would be extinct hundreds of times over just from this season. The team hopes their struggles against Portland weren’t the extinction-level event.
“Hopefully it was just a little speed bump and we'll get back,” Walton said.
All stats per NBA.com. and Basketball-Reference.com. All quotes transcribed via Spectrum Sportsnet. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.