Getting back to Portland, just because the Lakers have the chance to do some of these things doesn’t mean it will happen easily. The Blazers are a bad defensive team, but have enough offense to turn the tenor of a game into a shootout where they can thrive. Further, that type of game tends to throw off game plans and get players into the type of mindset where they think everything will come easy. Until it doesn’t. Which is how a nice chunk of Lakers’ leads have been blown of late.
That is from yesterday’s game preview for the game against the Blazers. A game the team lost after going cold in the 4th quarter and struggling with general flatness and poor execution to start the 3rd quarter. It was a game the Lakers had a double digit lead in (again), but lost (again). This is frustrating for many. I know. I have a comments section and a twitter account where people like to show that frustration.
Anyways, I block quote the above because it’s sort of what happened in the game. The Lakers had a nice flow in the 1st half, getting to the FT line to stay in the game through the 1st period and then opening up a lead when their attacking of the Blazers’ soft defense finally started to result in made baskets during the 2nd period. All was good. Until it wasn’t.
Here’s the thing about the Lakers, you can ask whether they are the team which blows leads or the team which builds them. If you think they’re the former, you probably have an overall negative view of this group’s ceiling — and I don’t mean that as a group, I mean that as the team’s young foundation. If you think they’re more of the latter, you probably think a bit more highly of this group’s future. That’s a generalization, but it probably holds up well. The sampling from the comments and my twitter mentions leads me to believe this, anyway.
Me, my view is a bit different. I think the best way to view this team is through the prism of youth, inexperience, and the ongoing attempt to build good habits. In other words, they are clearly both a team of talented players who can take a lead on anyone as well as a group of young and veteran players with some flaws coached by an inexperienced coach, who have been succumbing to their youth, flaws, and inexperience in giving up the gains made by reverting to a style which runs counter to what they did to get them the lead in the first place.
I am someone who believes they will, at some point, become more of the team who builds leads for longer stretches, ultimately finding ways to win more of the games they are currently losing. I believe that because I’ve seen bad teams play basketball and bad teams consistently play bad; they barely take leads at all and they lose games big by folding when things get hard. If this doesn’t sound familiar, I’m assuming you did not watch the Lakers last year. Or the year before that. This team plays well, takes leads, then finds ways to lose. Again, at some point they’ll stop finding ways to lose. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.
Anyways, tonight the Lakers play the Heat in LA. When the Lakers played the Heat in Miami, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, they took a big lead early and then found a way to lose! I know, I am just as shocked as you. That team, though, had Justise Winslow. This team does not after he suffered a shoulder injury and has been ruled out for the year. That team also had an engaged Hassan Whiteside. I don’t know if he’ll be engaged for this game. I don’t know if anyone knows — or, even, if they can know. He may not even play due to an eye injury that has kept him out of the lineup. They do have Goran Dragic, however, who continues to play well enough. But this Heat team is depleted, is 11-26, and before a win vs. the Kings on Wednesday were losers of 6 straight.
I don’t know if this means the Lakers “should” win tonight’s game, but I know they have a better chance of doing so than some of the other games they’ve played lately. And considering the way the team has battled and continued to put in some good efforts — efforts which have led to some really good stretches and leads being taken — I’m hopeful they can pull this one out.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.