If Wednesday felt like a low point for the Lakers, then Friday had the feeling of a gut-punch. After speaking of must-wins and rallying after the loss, the Lakers did none of that, capitulated down the stretch once more against the Grizzlies and fell for a fourth-straight time.
This one had a different feeling. Deflating. Demoralizing, in a way. At least for now, it showed the team had no fight in them.
Postgame, the reaction from the Lakers was expectedly muted. But there was a healthy bit of honesty regarding the situation, including from one of the team’s leaders in Anthony Davis.
“We’re trending in the wrong direction right now,” AD said. “The last thing we need, especially when guys are out, is to separate and fall apart. We have to stay together, for sure. Figure it out. We can’t be in our feelings. We can’t be complaining or whatever. Can’t take anything personal. We got to look – individually, myself, everyone in the locker room, coaching staff – look ourself in the mirror and figure out what we can do to individually better to help the team be better. I think then we can come out and flip things around. It doesn’t have to be anything substantial…But it has to come from within.”
As much as there may be clamoring for it, the Lakers likely aren’t going to make a trade in the coming days, nor is a coaching change coming (yet). The best the team can hope for is players return from injury, but the team was losing with them as well.
Which is why the changes have to come internally, as Davis noted. As you would want your leader to do, he’s holding himself and his team accountable. And his words carry plenty of weight given how well he’s performing of late.
But he wasn’t the only one with that message postgame either. Asked if the team had their confidence shaken or if they were wavering, Reaves was as unapologetically honest as he always is.
“We’re losing,” Reaves said. “I don’t think anybody – we shouldn’t be in a high state of mind right now. We have to figure it out. We’re not winning games. But, individually, if you go down the line, look how we’re playing, obviously we’re not getting the job done but I don’t think you can point anything out, to what your point is, of someone being less confident or whatever it is. I feel like we’re still playing confident, just not winning games.”
To a certain extent, he has a point. Looking individually at the Lakers box scores, no one jumps off as having a bad game. It’s the other team’s box score that is telling more of the story right now.
On Friday, the Grizzlies connected on 23 of their 45 attempts from 3-point range. Two nights prior, the Heat shot 16-42 from the arc. It’s a recurring trend for the Lakers presently.
“We got to do better as players to affect them to miss shots,” Reaves said. “They shot 51% from three tonight. That’s not acceptable. We have to take it upon ourselves to do better.”
For the talk of gameplans and rotations and lineups, the Lakers on the court aren’t doing enough to win games. As the minutes ticked away in the fourth quarter against Memphis, the Lakers were spending offensive possessions turning the ball over, missing free throws or taking ill-advised shots while the Grizzlies kept scoring.
By the end, a game the Lakers had led for the majority of ended in a double-digit defeat. It’s the second consecutive contest where the Lakers have lost hold of the rope down the stretch and let things get away from them late.
Now, the questions are going to grow louder, as they should. And Davis reiterated his point that the solutions have to come from the players and coaches in the locker room.
“Obviously, wearing this uniform, you get a lot of flack and guys are watching you and you’re under the microscope as a team,” Davis said. “Have a couple bad games, you lose a couple in a row, you can’t lose your confidence. Can’t be on social media and all these things listening to whatever people are saying. You have to stay together in this locker room. The guys in this locker room, the guys on the coaching staff, we all stay together and find our way out of it. There’s no help coming, there’s no calvary. We got to do it with the guys we got and remain together. I think that’s the biggest thing.
“That’s my job as one of the leaders is to help the guys and instill confidence in them still and have their back. We can’t separate. My job, Bron’s job as leaders is make sure these guys stay connected but also figuring out what we need to do individually and as a team.”
If Davis’ message sounds familiar, it’s because it’s quite similar to one he gave after the team lost in Chicago on Dec. 20. In fact, this article is largely the same tone as the one I wrote then.
At that time, it was AD and LeBron James saying the changes had to come within. This time, Davis’ message hasn’t changed and now Reaves is joining him.
But no matter how many people may say it, actions speak louder than words and the Lakers can say the right things but they also need to do them. Since that Bulls game, the Lakers are 3-6. The internal improvements haven’t come.
Now, there are very real consequences that are going to start to follow. Darvin Ham’s leash is getting shorter by the game and the trade deadline is looming. While AD, LeBron and Reaves all are likely safe from that, everyone else feels like they could — and perhaps should — be on the block.
And largely speaking, that trio is not responsible for where the Lakers are. With few exceptions, they’ve answered the bell night in and night out.
The changes now have to come from the other individuals. There won’t be any rest as the team plays regularly every other day for the rest of the month, including on Sunday against the Clippers.
And if there isn’t individual improvement then, there’s going to be another unquestionable low point yet again.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.