That was a beatdown of epic proportions. The Lakers never led, never seriously threatened and struggled to make shots. The Clippers on the other hand looked solid despite being without key players themselves. Of course the biggest difference was that the Clipper superstar duo played and ours did not.
- The name of the game is scoring the basketball. The Lakers never figured that out against the Clippers. They couldn’t hit open shots, couldn’t hit contested shots, couldn’t hit from the outside and often missed inside. We had a season-low 38 points in the first half. The Lakers just couldn’t couldn’t throw it in the ocean as a team. 40% from the field, 30% from three but, hey, 75% from the free throw line.
- The defense showed up. The Lakers defense retained it’s elite status in the face of yet another loss without AD and LBJ. We held the Clippers to 104 points, they only shot 9 free throws, and we forced 20 turnovers. Where we failed was in converting those into points of any kind. 15 points off of 20 turnovers ain’t great. Certainly did not get it done on the break with 8 whopping transition points. Allowing the Clippers to rain threes essentially sealed the loss.
- The mental game. It’s become obvious that the guys who should be stepping up (Kuzma, KCP, Schroder) aren’t. Whether they can or not has become a sort of moot point: we’re already falling in the standings, not showing up for big stretches of winnable games and in short not acting like professional sportsmen. Harrell is doing his job, guys on the bench have generally had a decent, if not totally positive, impact. But those three guys are starters right now, they all have the ball in their hands and are bucket-getters or, in theory, creators. This team has z-e-r-o chance of winning against anyone when they don’t play with the right mentality, don’t come prepared, and if they cannot make shots. We know they can but since they are not one has to assume it’s in their heads.
- Adjustments? Please, feel free to enlighten me, perhaps I’ve missed something but I don’t think I have. What adjustments has the team made on offense since James went down? To my count it would appear to be none. We run the same, silly sets we run when LeBron James is playing. But there isn’t a single player that replicates the gravity James brings to the court along with the skillset to maximize that gravity. I get it, there hasn’t been much practice time but we’re talking about a team that semi-overhauled it’s defensive identity mid-playoffs. Surely they can adapt to a life on offense without LeBron James for a few games. The answer, apparently, is no.
- The return of Drummond. The Big Penguin could be back on Tuesday and that’s a good thing. It’s one of the games I have slated as ‘winnable’ and Toronto by way of Tampa Bay isn’t killing it with size this season. So, if he gets the green light, let’s hope for better showing than in game 1 of his Laker career and get this one off right.
5 more games on this road trip. If I let the pessimist in me rule the day I say we go 1-4 and further take a tumble in the standings. But the realist (I don’t have an inner optimist) says we go 2-3. We win the bun games and lose the cheese, patty and lettuce games. So if this Laker burger can be even tastier and we end up winning some of those middle games I like our chances of getting AD back after the road trip, or soon thereafter. Although I also won’t be surprised if both sit until the playoffs.