Before leaving for their road trip on Friday, the Los Angeles Lakers had the second-best defensive rating (100.5) in the NBA behind the Utah Jazz (100.2). For most of the season, they’ve been the best defensive team in the league.
In the two games they’ve played since Friday, they’ve fallen to the No. 6 spot after allowing an average of 117.5 points, including 127 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder. While the Lakers won both of those games by narrow margins, they weren’t happy with the way they competed defensively.
Following the Lakers’ 109-108 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, LeBron James acknowledged the team’s digression on the defensive end and said they have to avoid those slippages if they want to be legitimate title contenders this season:
“We’ve got to get our defense back together. We’ve been taking some big hits defensively … We’ve got to be able to contain guys and control the ball … The good thing is it’s all correctable and we’re still getting wins, but when it comes to late in the season, playoff time those are going to turn into losses, so we’ve got to make sure we fix that.”
Anthony Davis also stressed that the Lakers are a long way from where the way want to be, but he also said he’s happy with the way they’ve played to start the season:
“I’m very impressed with where we’re at right now, but at the same time we need to improve every part of our game. Defensive side, offensive side, execution … We’re playing good basketball but we’re nowhere near where we want to be, so we need to continue to get better.”
That mentality is what’s going to push the Lakers to reach their full potential. As promising as their 14-2 start has been, a lot of the games they’ve won have been tight and they could have just as easily been 11-5.
At this point of the season, it’s important not to get too low on the losses or too high on the wins, and continue to build championship habits like consistent defensive effort. The Lakers know they have all of the talent in the world, but they have to put in the work, too.