The Lakers are in the midst of a 6 game losing streak. Sunday’s game against the Knicks saw the return of D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young, but both were limited with their minutes and Russell struggled with his shot mightily while looking rusty in general. The team’s defense continued to be terrible, switching excessively and then not containing dribble penetration in the half court or transition.
Despite all that, the Lakers lost by 6 points and had a real chance to take the game in the final 5 minutes. Again, they had a chance to win the game. In other words, there are lots of things to work on with these Lakers and I can understand there being a certain amount of targeted concern. I also think the team is going to get back on the right track now that the injuries are clearing up. Now if only Tarik Black can come back soon.
Tonight the Lakers are back in action, though, so if there was ever a thought about worrying too much about where they stand or what’s going on, there’s really no time for all that. The team is in Sacramento, facing a Kings team which has given them issues of late, using DeMarcus Cousins as a battering ram who can also hit threes and Rudy Gay’s wing scoring to supplement the hammer.
The Lakers pulled out the last match up against them by swarming Cousins in the post and forcing his teammates to win the game instead. They could not do it. Down the stretch of that game Timofey Mozgov was a key player, playing Cousins tightly and bodying him from behind while allowing the help to take away other scoring angles. One has to wonder if Walton will charge his players with doing the same tonight, forcing the other Kings to be the drivers of offense rather than the best player on either team.
For the Lakers, there really isn’t much new to say. They simply need to play better on both sides of the ball. We all know their defense has been terrible of late — they have fallen to last in defensive efficiency in the entire league. They need to communicate better, need to help each other better, and need to execute the scheme better. Walton, too, could do better by not having his players switch so much and by diversifying how they play the P&R by changing up against who and how often they go over screens. I understand there are limitations to making tactical changes when the team barely has any practice time, but it’s difficult to see opposing offenses get what they want so consistently.
Regarding the Lakers’ offense, they need to move the ball more and simply have more patience in how they attack. Too often during this losing streak players have had tunnel vision, looking to get their own baskets rather than working together to try and get those buckets. Only Lou Williams has had much success with this and while I love watching Lou get buckets, I think the team would be better off if his teammates jointed him at the party.
Having Russell back will help. The spacing Young provides can also help get guys back on the right track. But it’s not just going to happen because guys return to the lineup. No, it will take the guys playing together, looking for each other, and following through by actually, you know, moving the damn ball. And it needs to start sooner than later.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.