After the Los Angeles Lakers blew their highly-anticipated matchup with the LA Clippers on Christmas Day, no one was more critical of their own play than Danny Green. However, with a few days to reflect and — most importantly — watch film, Green thinks the root of the Lakers’ problems can be traced back to one thing: pace.
The Lakers are ranked 18th in the NBA in pace — a stark contract from last season, when they were ranked fourth in pace. But when Green uses the word “pace,” he’s not talking about the number of possessions the team uses per game — he’s talking about the energy and effort his teammates play with, and how much the ball moves. They’re what Green calls “the little things.”
“The little things win basketball games,” Green said after practice on Friday.
According to Green, the Lakers have struggled to do the little things all season, and he thinks it hurt the team’s shooters during crucial stretches of Wednesday’s game.
“I think we had a good amount of good looks,” Green said. “I think some were just out of rhythm mostly because of the pace. We didn’t touch the paint like we normally did to start the game. We didn’t put pressure on the defense ... When we touch the paint, move and find it, we get more open looks and more rhythm shots and that starts with our pace.”
Green wasn’t the only one to point out the fact that the Lakers went away from paint touches in the second half. Following practice on Friday, Anthony Davis said he thought the Lakers got better looks from 3-point range in the first half because the offense was playing from the inside out: “It was a tale of two halves.”
If the Lakers are going to continue to play through Davis like LeBron James requested they do before the season started, Green thinks the offense needs more player and ball movement.
“I think pace more so than anything,” Green said. “Not just force feeding him in the post all of the time, but obviously getting him in pick and roll situations, getting him downhill, letting him play pick and pop. But us moving the ball faster, better and just getting up the floor faster allows the defense not to be set and also allows him to get in more pick and roll situations where he’s downhill, attacking the rim.
“I think that’s kind of why our rhythm is a little broken or shaken,” Green added. “By the fourth quarter, a lot of our guys are out of rhythm, probably missing some shots that we normally make because the ball hasn’t moved or the pace isn’t the same as it usually is to start the game.”
Green said the Lakers have had an especially hard time keeping up the pace on Sundays and in early morning games.
“I think it’s been a trend, it’s just easy to overlook it when you win games. It’s a little more glaring when you lose four in a row,” Green said.
All of this may come off as Green being frustrated with his teammates and he very well may be, but he said that the camaraderie in the Lakers’ locker room is still strong in spite of their four-game losing streak.
“I think we’re all on the same page. Our chemistry is still great off the court. On the court, it’s just keeping the rhythm,” Green said.
“Obviously, it’s December. it’s still early. We’re still trying to get there. We’re not expecting to play a full 48 minutes perfect, but we should still be a little more alert, play a little harder and more focused and locked in. These next couple stretch of games we’re probably going to have to lock in and focus more on putting two halves together.”
Green isn’t without his faults, but that doesn’t make his opinion any less valid. In fact, as the only player in the Lakers’ locker room to have won a championship this year, his thoughts hold more weight than most.
Hopefully Green’s comments inspire Vogel to make some changes leading up to the Lakers’ matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. PST.