The Lakers have been swimming in confidence as of late. The post-championship afterglow has done wonders for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso, among others, in terms of their aggressiveness and their shooting percentages, and it’s clear up and down the roster that most of the players have some extra pep in their step.
That’s what made the final quarter of the Lakers’ loss to Golden State so puzzling. It wasn’t that the team blew a fourth-quarter lead, it was that they seemed so passive in the process.
“It wasn’t all complacency,” Vogel said. “You credit the Warriors. We didn’t handle what we felt were some bad calls. We let it distract our focus some, and offensively, we’ve been really passing the ball well and trusting the pass, but there were a few possessions where we had great possessions the guy didn’t take the shot because he was thinking one more.”
The Lakers aren’t going to sweat it if they miss some shots they expect to hit; it’s a make-or-miss league, after all. During the first part of the fourth quarter, the Lakers got the looks they wanted on offense: a Caruso corner three off a LeBron James skip pass, a Montrezl Harrell jumper on a post-up, and a Kyle Kuzma three on an Anthony Davis kick-out. Those shots were all the product of good ball movement, but they didn’t go in.
The final few minutes were more problematic. For instance, James got called for a travel with 3:44 to play, and he was incensed at Caldwell-Pope for passing up a corner three earlier in the shot clock, off of one of his passes no less. The next time the Lakers had the ball, both Caldwell-Pope and Dennis Schröder passed out of jumpers (though not the cleanest of looks), and the play ended with Kuzma committing a loose-ball foul.
James got called for one more travel two minutes later — on the play that immediately preceded Draymond Green’s shuffle that didn’t get called — and that possession once again featured multiple swings when three separate Lakers could have done something rather than getting the ball back to him. James likely wasn’t expecting get the ball back, as evidenced by his footwork failure.
The Lakers obviously had defensive challenges that compounded their failures to score; it’s much easier to beat a defense that isn’t set, and this team is fantastic in transition, but that can’t happen without stops. However, this early in the season, it’s important to get the process right, and the Lakers passivity prevented them from executive properly.
There are worse issues to have, like failing to create good shots altogether, and Vogel wasn’t too concerned postgame about the team’s offensive struggles down the stretch.
“Those are good problems,” he said, “and we’ll go to the tape and correct it.”
They’ll get their first chance to prove it against the Bucks Thursday.