The Los Angeles Lakers have prided themselves on trying not to lose more than one game in a row all season. Prior to entering the NBA bubble at Disney World, they had only lost multiple games in a row twice all season. In the playoffs they have yet to do so.
That might explain, then, why the Lakers sounded relatively unconcerned after losing Game 3 of the NBA Finals, a frustrating 115-104 defeat at the hands of Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. To a man, the Lakers credited the Heat for stepping up and beating them, but they also know there are a lot of things they could have done better. They’re pretty confident they can bounce back in Game 4, just like they have every other time they’ve lost this postseason.
“We’ll be fine. We made shots. We didn’t defend at all tonight. They made big shots. Made some good plays,” said Lakers star Anthony Davis.
Davis struggled to assert himself in the game, only taking nine shots and scoring 15 points, with his 19% usage rate serving as his lowest of the playoffs. Both he and teammate LeBron James thought early foul trouble that limited Davis’ minutes in the first half was mostly to blame for his struggles, and agreed he has to do a better job avoiding the whistle.
“I’ll be fine. I just have to be better on both ends of the floor. Foul trouble, bringing the energy to the team — the team relies on me bringing the energy to start the game,” Davis said. “When you pick up two fouls, guys come in earlier, things like that. So I just have to be better.”
James’ issue on the night was turnovers. Despite his near triple-double, he also gave the ball away eight times, something he knows is unacceptable and took the blame for. He just says the Lakers have to look at the film and get better. He’s not freaking out after one defeat.
“I mean, it’s not like the series was over if we won tonight. We know for sure that Miami is never going to quit, even if we won tonight and they go into a Game 4 (down) 3-0. I know how resilient that bunch is, and how resilient that coaching staff is, and their franchise. I don’t ever feel like we let our guard down,” James said.
“I don’t feel like we’re concerned. We’re not concerned. We know we can play a lot better. We have another opportunity to take a commanding lead on Tuesday. You relish that opportunity.”
The Lakers were also loathe to blame effort or complacency from heading into the night up 2-0 in the series for the loss.
“That’s not the type of group we have,” said Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma. “That’s not really in our DNA. But we just had a few mental slips, for sure. That happens. You can’t be perfect. Can’t be the perfect human. Can’t be the perfect basketball player. You’re going to make mistakes, but it’s our job to limit those mistakes.”
The Lakers didn’t do that on Sunday night, which is why they turned the ball over 19 times, and why Miami now only trails them 2-1 in the series. James said he was looking forward to watching the film from the game, as he has said after every game in this series, win or lose. He says that this team’s ability to watch film is a big part in why they’ve lost more than one game in a row so few times this season.
“We learn from our mistakes pretty quick,” James said.
More specifically, James also credited the team’s ability to apply film work without practice as a key to their success in bouncing back in the playoffs so far as well. With games every other day, talking about adjustments has been the only way to implement them, and the team has generally done well at taking those conversations and applying them the next game, even with limited practice time.
If the Lakers lose Game 4 against Miami, no one is going to be talking about that. But until this team loses more than one playoff game in a row, they don’t seem to be overly concerned about the possibility of doing so.
“It’s one loss. We’re still up in the series. You know, like I said, we never want to get too high and we don’t want to get too low,” Davis said. “We’ll look at the film, and see where I can be better on both ends, see where we can be better as a team, come out Game 4 much better than we played tonight.”
Even after one of his worst games of the playoffs, he was ready to guarantee it.
“Trust me, we’ll be fine,” Davis said.