Lakers are still trying to find their way

LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – The losses are piling up. They’ve lost four straight. The Los Angeles Lakers are not playing good basketball right now.

Adding to their woes, a franchise that has won 17 NBA titles, the Lakers got blasted in their own gym on a night when they played for the final time under the STAPLES Center moniker. 

A couple of nights after being drubbed by Kevin Booker and the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers had the chance to hit their home court and walk away with some pride as they bid farewell to the name STAPLES Center forever.

The well ran dry on that one. That opportunity came and went as the San Antonio Spurs handed the Lakers a 138-110 thumping. And it wasn’t even that close. 

“Well, one thing about the Spurs is that they’re going to execute, and they’re going to execute for 24 seconds. If you break down, they’re going to make you pay,” LeBron James said after the game in a postgame press conference. “And they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the league over the last ten games. They’ve been playing exceptional basketball and they…every mistake we had, every break down we had, they made us pay for it.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Lakers’ defense can’t guard water right now. Against the Spurs, the Lakers surrendered 30 points or more in all four quarters. San Antonio.

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Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) going to the basket against the Phoenix Suns. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

After giving up 66 points in the first half, the Lakers allowed the Spurs to do whatever they wanted as San Antonio put up 69 points in the second half, including dropping 39 in the third quarter. What helped San Antonio pull away from the Lakers was their 3-point shooting on the night. The Spurs hit nearly half (46.4 percent) of their shots from beyond the arc, connecting on 18 of the 39 treys they attempted.

“They made some tough shots, you know,” Lakers guard Russell Westbrook said. “We’re trying to figure it out. We’ve got guys in and out of the lineup, trying to figure out the best way to compete, and that’s all you can do.”   

Sentimentally, the loss to the Spurs was not a good look for a franchise that played 22 years under the STAPLES Center name. James did his part with 36 points. Westbrook had one of his better games this season with 30 points and seven rebounds, but the Lakers defense went south over the stretch of the last two quarters as it did against Phoenix.

“Just gotta figure it out. That’s it,” Westbrook said. “Like I said, I don’t panic and we got a bunch of guys in our locker room that don’t quit, never give in to what’s happening. But that’s it. It’s the NBA. Regardless if you lose by two or 28, it’s one loss. We got to turn the page, and we’ve got to figure out a way to win a ballgame. That’s it.”

The Spurs got off to a 33-24 first quarter and never looked back in a road win that took the Lakers under .500 for the season (16-17).

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Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker (5) flies to the basket. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline

With forward Anthony Davis out of the lineup for an extended time because of a knee injury, the Lakers, even with long-range shooting specialist Carmelo Anthony, are in dire need of a solid third scoring option in their rotation.

That was evident in the Lakers’ 108-90 defeat to the Suns. James scored 34 points in that game, but it was a moot point as the Lakers as a team shot 30 percent (6 of 20) in the third period and 33 percent (6 of 18) in the fourth quarter against the Suns.

The Lakers could only muster 38 points in total in the second half of that ballgame.             

“We missed a lot of shots,” Westbrook said after the loss to Phoenix. “That’s going to happen in an NBA game, and it happened. I think at times we were a little stagnant but not enough to be able to say that is a reason for our loss tonight. We live and die but some of our open looks tonight.”

Lakers acting head coach David Fizdale, speaking after the Phoenix loss,  said the team is at an inflection point. 

“We’re in the fight. That’s the bottom line,” Fizdale said. “For whatever reason, this season has just been incredibly choppy for us. We lose Bron early on. AD was sick, banged up, sick, banged up. You add Trevor [Ariza] and Talen [Horton-Tucker], Austin [Reaves], Malik [Monk] and these guys go out.

“We’re just trying to find our groove as we go through this season. At the end of the day, ultimately, if and when we find our connection, I think we’re going to be a really good basketball team and I think It’s going to come together.”

Westbrook also is not worried about the team finding its way.

“I’m very optimistic,” Westbrook said. “We’ve been through so much as a team already and are still going through it as a unit. The best part about, for me thus far, is all the ups and downs. That’s the NBA season. The most important part is that we stay together. Never divide, never panic.”

Westbrook continued, “When it comes to the people on the outside our team is saying ‘just make sure that we stay close knit’ to be able to stick together through whatever it is.’ We’re a team that doesn’t rely on excuses. We understand there are some circumstances in the locker room, we got to make the best of it. It’s as simple as that.”