After a stretch where the Lakers looked as though they were turning a corner with improved play, they have lost three games in a row. In the last two of those three, the Lakers haven’t even held a lead. Considering how rare buzzer to buzzer losses are, the fact the Lakers have had two such games in a row isn’t good. At all.
This dip in team play is directly related to the dip in play from D’Angelo Russell and, to a lesser but still meaningful extent, Julius Randle. Russell has struggled as a shooter and his forays into the lane have not earned him many baskets nor free throws. As for Randle, he had an excellent first half against the Spurs, but in the 2nd half did not have near the same impact. Then, against the Blazers and Clippers he was a combined 4-16 from the field and only scored 10 total points. And while the rebounding was still there, the team needs more from Randle than to be a glass cleaner, they need his scoring and the subsequent impact that has on his ability to create shots for others.
All of this is disappointing. And while my level of patience remains at the level it has been heading into and through the first half of the season, those feelings and ones of hoping for more can both be present. No one will preach the idea of progress being non-linear more than I will, but even when understanding that it doesn’t change the natural feelings of when seeing actual progress not wanting that followed up by regressions — even if they are short-term.
The interesting thing about feeling this way is that I know disappointment isn’t just something I feel. Nor is it just limited to Lakers’ fans and their team. Look around the league and it’s easy to see teams and players who are struggling and/or underperforming. Look at today’s opponent, the Pistons, for example. Heading into the year many picked them to be a playoff team, maybe even challenging for home court in the 1st round by getting up to 4th behind Cleveland, Toronto, and Boston.
Instead, the Pistons are currently 11th in the East and are six games under .500 through 42 games. All things considered, they are one of the more disappointing teams in the league. They’ve dealt with injuries (most notably to Reggie Jackson who missed the first part of the season), but the bigger issues seem to be in the lack of growth from some of their young players — specifically Andre Drummond. The big man is still scoring alright (14.5 points a night) and remains an excellent rebounder (13.5 a night), but he’s not impacting the game defensively as much as needed and on some plays simply looks lost on that end. Considering his talent and experience level, some of these things just shouldn’t be happening.
Heading into tonight, then, I’m interested in seeing how both teams compete. The Lakers have suffered two straight blowouts and, being at home, really could use a win to settle them down. The Pistons, meanwhile, are ending a five game road trip tonight. They won their 1st game — a double OT battle in Portland — but have lost their next 3 vs. the Kings, Warriors, and Jazz. Considering their want to turn things around get back into the playoff race (they are 3 games out of the 8th spot), wins against teams with the Lakers’ profile are much needed. But at the end of a long roadie, will they have the focus and effort level they need?
One last thing — tonight will be the Lakers 45th game of the season, which will be the most of any team in the league. They’ve already had two one-game road trips to Texas, two separate four game trips beyond the mid-west, and a 7 game road trip to this point. I’m not saying they’re tired, but the schedule has not been kind to them simply from a logistics standpoint (to say nothing from a quality of opponent one). This 3 game stretch of home games which has them home through Friday, then, would be a good time to show some life.
Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.