Before Sunday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, it had been a while since the Los Angeles Lakers lost — 19 days to be exact. They had their close calls, but they managed to extend their win streak to seven games, tying their longest winning streak since the 2010-11 season.
But while the streak may be over, and they no longer hold the best record in the NBA, the Lakers aren’t in panic mode. In fact, after their loss to last year’s league champions, LeBron James said he sees Sunday’s loss as an opportunity to get better.
“Win or lose or draw, when you win games there’s room for improvement, when you lose games there’s room for improvement. So we’ll definitely look at the film tomorrow and see ways we can improve. Especially with it being early in the season, so that’s always good,” James told reporters on Sunday night.
It’s not just the losses the Lakers draw from, though. Danny Green said the team still has plenty to improve upon in spite of their strong start to the season, with transition defense standing atop the list.
“We take away the same things from wins and losses,” Green said. “We’ve been pretty solid on the defensive end for the most part until tonight. What hurt us was transition, that’s been hurting us. Someway, somehow we gotta fix that, and also try to keep them off the free throw line.”
Through nine games, the Lakers are ranked No. 29 in the NBA in opponent fast break points per game (20.4), The only team allowing more fast break points per game than the team are the New Orleans Pelicans, who are ranked No. 29 in defensive rating this season.
On the opposite side of coin, Green said that he liked the way the ball moved to close the game, even if the Lakers didn’t capitalize on the looks they got. To head coach Frank Vogel, those habits are just as meaningful as the winning streaks.
“Whatever happens after each game, we remove the result from our process of building habits, and we go back tomorrow and we teach and we try to get better. So I really wasn’t locked into the winning streak or when it would end or anything like that. You know, just stay locked into the process,” Vogel said.
That’s not to say wins don’t mean anything. At the end of the day, the Lakers still need to be one of the eight best teams in the Western Conference to snap their six-season playoff drought. But in order to build something sustainable, they need to clean up the mistakes they’ve been making in both wins and losses, which is what Kyle Kuzma thinks Sunday’s loss will help them do.
”I mean you can’t win ‘em all. We just won seven straight, so it’s a hiccup and it’s time to refocus a little bit. We obviously went on a seven-game win streak, but we know throughout that win streak we didn’t really play as well, and that kind of caught up to us tonight,” Kuzma said.
“But hey, you can’t go 82-0.”
The Lakers will look to bounce back against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. 82-0 might not be realistic, but 80-2 is still in play.