The last time the Los Angeles Lakers shot at least 35 percent from behind the arc in a game was exactly ten days ago. In a perhaps not unrelated note, that was also the last time they won.
It is no secret the team is currently struggling to adjust and score points in a non-LeBron James world. Now 5-10 in their last 15 games without James, the Lakers have been physically and mentally beat-up during their skid.
The offense, which has fluctuated since Christmas, continues to run into problems, specifically in fourth quarters. Since the 26th of December, Los Angeles is ironically 26th in the league in fourth-quarter points, and is also shooting a woefully low 27.7 percent from three in final frames.
The Lakers’ struggles from behind the arc have been an underlying issue all season, but have been especially apparent in this latest losing stretch.
Since James went down and took his laser-targeted passing and set-up skills with him, the Lakers are converting from deep at jus a 31.6 percent clip (29th in the league) and are subsequently reported to be prioritizing shooting help at the upcoming trade deadline in hopes of addressing the issue.
In terms of getting back on track immediately in both their shooting percentages and the win column, the team’s Sunday evening matchup with the Phoenix Suns may be the quickest fix.
The lowly Suns will enter Staples Center with the worst record in the Western Conference (11-40) and as losers of their last seven games. Phoenix will also reportedly be without one of their better perimeter defenders, De’Anthony Melton, and have listed their coveted big man, DeAndre Ayton as “questionable” for the teams’ matchup.
One area where the Suns have specifically struggled of late, besides in the standings, has been defending the 3-point line. Since Christmas, Phoenix has allowed their opposition to shoot a whopping 40.5 percent from three, which is only behind Memphis (40.7 percent) for the worst mark in the league, according to Cleaning the Glass.
With the Lakers’ struggles to make their threes running into the Suns’ inability to defend them, something will have to give when something much softer than a rock meets something far from a hard place.
Making matters less simple for the Lakers is that the team will reportedly once again be short-handed. James has already been ruled out for Sunday’s home game, and Kyle Kuzma has been since listed as “questionable” after a noticeably poor performance in the team’s most recent game while he deals with hip issues.
A quick glance at the upcoming schedule and the playoff standings signals that the Lakers desperately need to win this game. Yet, taking into account how few rotation players Los Angeles will have available and that Devin Booker is expected to play for the Suns, this one may not be as much of a cakewalk as it appeared it would be when the schedule first dropped.