In the games that the Los Angeles Lakers have played without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, they’ve posted a defensive rating of 103.6, which is the third-best defensive rating in the NBA during that span. Their defense has hardly fallen off. Their offense, on the other hand, has never been worse.
Over their last eight games, the Lakers have scored 99.8 points per 100 possessions, which is the second-fewest points any team has scored over that span. On Sunday, in their loss to the LA Clippers, they scored a season-low 86 points on 40% shooting from the field and 30.4% shooting from behind the arc.
The Lakers’ 3-point shooting has been a problem since James and Davis went down with their respective injuries, but they’ve managed to steal a few wins in spite of that fact. In their wins against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic, they shot 23.1% and 27.5% from 3-point range, respectively. So what was the issue on Sunday?
Well, for starters, the Cavaliers, Magic and Sacramento Kings are all in the bottom half of the league in terms of defensive rating — the Clippers are ranked 10th on the season. But the Clippers’ defense isn’t what stood out to Kyle Kuzma in the Lakers’ loss on Sunday; it was his team’s offense.
“I don’t think we did a good enough job of playing ‘togetherness basketball’ on the offensive end,” Kuzma said on Sunday. “That’s probably the No. 1 thing that stood out from Sacramento to the Clippers. I think that for us, during this time, if we’re going to have a shot to win games, we’re going to have trust the next guy on our team and I don’t think that was the case.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope reiterated that point after the Lakers’ practice on Monday.
“I feel like (in) some stretches, we wasn’t out there playing together,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I know this stretch of games that we have with LeBron, AD and Drummond out... we have to play together as much as possible: We’ve got to pull for each other. I feel like the ball didn’t move as well in some stretches.
“We’ve got to also have great ball movement. Everybody’s got to be involved. It can’t just be one-on-ones and stuff like that, and I feel like we did that a little bit in some stretches of the game.”
Nothing supports those feelings from Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope more than the fact that the Lakers ended their game against the Clippers with a season-low 16 assists. They had more turnovers (18) than they had assists. Comparatively, they had 26 assists against the Kings on Sunday.
It will undoubtedly be a lot easier for the Lakers to share the ball and play winning basketball when James and Davis return, but Marc Gasol thinks he and his teammates can do more than they did on Sunday in the meantime.
“We’ve to collapse the defense, we’ve got to screen better,” Gasol said. “I think by doing everything a little better and sacrificing for your teammates — and by sacrificing, I mean studying, moving, burning the extra calorie for somebody else ... things like that, we’ve got to continue to do consistently.
“I think that we do it sometimes; sometimes we don’t,” Gasol continued. “And when you’re open, you’ve got to shoot it. Me or anybody else.”
With the level of competition that the Lakers are set to play over the next week, it’s important that they make things as easy on themselves as they possibly can. Hopefully, they can get back into their winning habits against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.