The verdict has long been out on how to beat this Lakers team, as evidenced by their record both on the season overall and in recent weeks and months. While injuries have played a big role in the season, it doesn’t absolve the team of the many mistakes and shortcomings they’ve had as well this season.
One of the most apparent and frustrating weaknesses this season has been a waning lack of effort that has come and gone at various points in the season. The Lakers have often played to the level of their opponents, which has led to them losing multiple times to the Oklahoma City Thunder while also holding multiple wins over the Jazz, Warriors and Celtics.
Of late, though, with injuries continuing to mount and the season slipping more and more away, that lack of effort has become more apparent, culminating in embarrassing losses to New Orleans and the Clippers. Following that former contest, Russell Westbrook gave a pretty honest assessment of the Lakers’ faults.
“We’re just not playing as hard as we can,” Westbrook said. “Teams are coming in and playing harder and I think that’s just kind of their scouting report is ‘Play harder than them and see what happens.’ And it’s working. Until we have a determination that we’re not going to allow it, especially on our home floor, it’s going to keep happening to us.”
While self-awareness is great, those words came on after a loss on Feb. 27 and nothing has changed with the Lakers since. They no-showed in much of the second half of the loss to the Clippers and had a lackluster effort for a good chunk of the first half against the Mavericks.
And that has been the recurring issues with the Lakers: able to detect their issues and unwilling to fix them. During his period as interim coach in December, David Fizdale noted that the Lakers didn’t have enough players willing to do the dirty work. Fast forward three months and no one appears any more willing.
Thus will be the story of these Lakers. It’s a team with enough experience to know what they should and shouldn’t be doing and a team with too many veterans to make the sacrifices to do so.