After seemingly taking a huge step forward as a team on Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers took two steps back with a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday.
As if just losing to the 27-34 Pelicans wasn’t embarrassing enough, New Orleans managed to upset the Lakers on their home floor while resting their leading scorer, Anthony Davis. It was a frustrating loss, to say the least, but not a particularly surprising one.
Throughout this season, the Lakers have dropped a handful of games they should have won again lesser teams, and that hasn’t sat well with Kyle Kuzma, who said there’s been an alarming lack of urgency in the locker room (via Kyle Goon of the OC Register):
“I have no idea, honestly: We’ve been like that all year,” Kyle Kuzma said. “We play a big game against a big team and then play a team that’s lesser and we play down to their level. Our sense of urgency isn’t there. There’s no way we can compete and try to win like that.”
Kuzma isn’t speaking in hyperbole, either.
The Lakers are 13-6 against the bottom-10 teams in the NBA, and 6-3 against the bottom-five teams. Those are winning records, but also disappointing ones for a team with playoff hopes, and that's without mentioning that a few of those losses have came after some of their best wins of the season.
For example, in December the Lakers beat the Hornets 128-100 behind a pair of triple-doubles from Lonzo Ball and LeBron James. They became just the eighth pair of teammates in NBA history to accomplish that impressive feat.
The following game, the Lakers were blown out by the Washington Wizards, who were missing two of their starters due to injury and a pair of their key bench players because of a trade. Does that sound familiar? It should.
Granted, every good team has a few off nights and every bad team has a handful of good games, but a team like the Lakers, who are fighting for their postseason lives every game, can’t afford to let the “easy” ones slip away.
If the Lakers finish with 42 wins instead of 45, these will be the games we look back at.
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