The Los Angeles Lakers are infamous for looking sluggish to start games — it’s a problem that dates back to last season. In theory, that should be a non-issue in the postseason because of how much the stakes rise, but that wasn’t the case for them last season, and it wasn’t the case for them on Sunday.
In Game 1 of their series with the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers allowed 32 points in the first quarter. The first quarter was also the only quarter the Lakers lost by more than five points. Per 100 possessions, the Suns outscored them by 24.6 points in the first. Even with three days to prepare, the Lakers clearly weren’t mentally ready for Game 1.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is confident that they’ll be able to bounce back in Game 2 on Tuesday, but he acknowledged that they can’t afford to have another slow start.
“I just believe in the group of guys that we have,” Caldwell-Pope said on Monday. “We’ve got a lot of power on the court and on the bench, and we just have got to come out with a sense of urgency. We knew they was going to come out strong. It was their first playoff series in a long time, they were going to be hungry for it.
“I feel like we wasn’t ready for what they had for us to start the game, and then we played behind the whole time. We couldn’t get over that hump. I just really believe in the guys that we have and I think we can get the job done.”
Caldwell-Pope has every reason to be optimistic. Not only does he have LeBron James and Anthony Davis on his team, but the Lakers held the Suns to 99 points in spite of their first quarter letdown.
“We kind of picked it up at the end of the second going into the halftime,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I just feel like we’ve got to come prepared. We do a lot of film work and less practice than we’ve had. So it’s a lot of film work, so we’ve got to be able to apply it to the court once we leave the film room, and I feel like we wasn’t ready at all.”
The other thing the Lakers have to look forward to on Tuesday is an evening game. On Sunday, they played at 12:30 p.m. PT, which Caldwell-Pope said may have played a role in their lack of energy.
Whatever the problem is, they’ll have a chance to address it in Game 2, and if they can’t do it then, they’ll have even bigger hurdles to clear in Games 3 and 4.