At 3-3, the Lakers' season has been a frustrating start. While you can contextualize an average start with a tough opening week schedule and injuries to key players, one of the biggest culprits in the Lakers not picking up where they left off last season has to be their opening quarter performances.
Through six games, the Lakers have a point differential of -61 in the first quarter. This puts the team in a hole they have to dig themselves out of the entire game, forcing them to rally back in the fourth, which has resulted in LeBron James playing heavy minutes late in games.
Some numbers explaining the Lakers' awful first quarters. They're league-worst for first quarter 2nd chance points allowed (7.2), or their own 1Q 2nd chance points (1.0). Combined with a 1Q FG% of 41.7 while opponents are hitting at 55%, and the slow starts are predictable. AK— Kamenetzky Brothers (@KamBrothers) November 5, 2023
The same thing occurred on Saturday on the road versus the Magic when the Lakers allowed Orlando to score 39 points in the opening frame. Los Angeles had a couple of scoring bursts but never got within striking distance, ultimately losing 120-101 to kick off their four-game road trip.
"Thirty-nine (points allowed) in the first quarter? We're a defensive team," Anthony Davis said postgame following the defeat. "We don't allow – we can't allow. I can't say we don't allow because we have. We can't allow ourselves to have those type of defensive quarters. We continuously dig ourselves a hole in first quarters, put us behind the eight ball and now everything has to go perfect.
“Even when we did make a run, they make a 3, we miss, they make a layup, it's like 'Alright, it's trending the other way again.' We have to better in our first quarters and it starts with the first five."
So far, the Lakers have only used two different starting lineups. The first featured Davis, Taurean Prince, LeBron James, D'Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves and the second swapped out Prince for Cam Reddish due to injury.
The Lakers have only outscored their opponent once in the first quarter this year. Per NBA.com, the original starting five has the most minutes played at 55 with a plus-minus of -23 and the Cam lineup isn't much better, clocking in 26 minutes together with a plus-minus of -2.
Either these lineups have to get better, or Darvin Ham might have to see if any other units are better to start the game with. Maybe just getting the injured players back solves this, or perhaps Ham tries a new lineup to start games and try to alleviate the issues.
Either way, Davis is right. It starts with the starters and, more importantly, it begins with him. He's the star and the defensive anchor. He needs to set an example, establish his presence and make sure his teammates are matching his energy. That's what leaders of franchises do. They lead the team and steer it towards the right direction.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.