The Los Angeles Lakers loss to the Boston Celtics had a simple culprit, and it’s an area that’s been a problem for the team for their last several games.
"In the second quarter as a team, I thought we got selfish,” Lakers head Luke Walton told the media on Spectrum Sportsnet following the game. “We stopped moving the ball, we stopped trusting each other. Because of it, we're not making shots and then our defense gets lazy.”
The stats backed up Walton’s claim. The Lakers outscored the Celtics by six points total in the first, third, and fourth quarters, but lost the second quarter by 12.
“For a while there it was the third quarters, and then we got better at the thirds and now it feels like the second quarter lately,” Walton said. “That's a really good team, and if you take most of a quarter off it's going to be tough to come back and win that game."
The 12-point deficit in the second quarter actually represents progress for the Lakers over the last ten games, in which they’ve been easily the worst fourth quarter team in the league. The Lakers have posted been outscored by 30.1 points per 100 possessions in second quarters over that span, nearly 14 points worse than the 29th ranked Milwaukee Bucks (net rating of -16.4 during the same sample).
This isn’t a matter of the Lakers being the worst in every quarter during this stretch, either. They have ranked 25th, 11th and 25th in net rating, respectively, during first, third and fourth quarters over the last ten games.
The problem for the Lakers in second, as always, has been defense. The team has allowed 118.3 points per 100 possessions in the second quarter over their last 10 games, nearly eight points worse than their average of 110.9 over that sample.
“I thought we were great to start the game, and then it stalled out in the second,” Walton said. “We’ve got to get better at putting whole games together.”
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.