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The Lakers collectively agree they need to communicate more defensively

After another porous defensive showing, the Lakers nearly unanimously agreed they need to communicate more defensively.

Los Angeles Lakers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There was something mighty ironic about the Lakers in their postgame pressers after Tuesday’s loss to the Hawks. After a fourth straight night of allowing at least 130 points, defense was obviously the topic of discussion.

While there was plenty to criticize and critique about the Lakers’ play, there was one specific aspect the near entirety of the team talked about needing to be better.

Communication.

Yes, the Lakers spent much of the postgame talking about how they needed to talk more, especially with Anthony Davis sidelined.

“There’s got to be more communication throughout the course of a possession because you can have a little slippage when AD’s out there because he protects on that third line of defense,” LeBron James said. “But when he’s not out there, there has to be constant communication out on the floor so when we do have a slippage, we at least have guys that are protecting.”

“I would say more so just communication,” Jarred Vanderbilt added. “Obviously, we’re missing one of the best defenders in the league. AD’s a huge part of what we do so not having him tonight, we had to adjust. But, yeah, just play with consistency and talking, communicating and guys reacting and rebounding. I think communication, rebounding and transition defense, I those are three things that hurt us.”

It takes a lot to be outdone by a Hawks defense that escorted Luka Doncic to 73 points just days prior, but the Lakers did just that. The Hawks shot 52.5% from the field, 42.1% from the 3-point line and allowed 21 second-chance points, 68 points in the paint and 26 fastbreak points.

Even if it was the third game in four nights with the first in that stretch being the double overtime thriller against the Warriors, it was about as poor a defensive display as the team has had this season.

At a point in the season when teams should be rounding into form, the Lakers looked as lost as ever defensively. And while the big caveat of AD’s absence should be noted, the team’s defensive problem is not isolated to Tuesday’s game.

“It’s just going and executing (the gameplan),” Austin Reaves said. “And communication is probably the biggest thing on defense. The knowing of where your helps at or where your rotations going to be if someone gets beat because when you’re guarding the ball at the top of the key, you’re kind of blind. You can’t really see what’s behind you. That communication can give you the certainty to be more aggressive or, if you’re switching one through five, be aggressive to the ball screen and get under.

“But we can always do better. I’m sure the coaching staff will tell you straight up that we all can do better and that’s what we’re striving to do.”

The obvious question is why is communication still a problem at the end of January for a team that has effectively spent the last year together. It was the very question proposed to Reaves as a follow-up as well.

“If I had that answer, it’d be fixed,” Reaves said. “I think, individually, we have to sit down and look ourself in the mirror and kind of just ask what are we bringing to the table and start there. Like you said, that should have already been done. We’re better than what our record indicates, I believe. That’s a great question and if I had those answers, I don’t think we would be 24-25 right now.

“We’ll continue to try to figure that out and communication is probably the most important thing you can do as a team.”

For all the discussion of rotations and lineups and who should be starting and who shouldn’t minutes — all largely valid complaints, by the way — a lot of that doesn’t really matter if the Lakers are going to play defense as they did on Tuesday or have over the recent stretch of games.

But saying you need to be better at something and actually being better are two different things. And the Lakers are going to have a heck of a test to attempt to improve defensively against the Celtics on Thursday.

Hope that look in the mirror leads to some big changes!

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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