LOS ANGELES — After a six-point loss to the Clippers on Thursday night, the Lakers made some self-assessments.
LeBron James on the team: “I thought all night that we played the right way.”
Russell Westbrook on his own party: “Solid. Played hard. Anything you can ask for.
Coach Darvin Ham on game-to-game growth: “I’m happy. I will sleep well. I won’t be angry or depressed.
It’s presumptuous, however, to think that Lakers fans will feel the same way after an 0-2 start. The team may have played the Clippers harder than the Warriors two nights ago, but serious shortcomings were highlighted in both games — lingering preseason concerns that carry over into the games that matter.
In their first two games, the Lakers have the lowest offensive rating in the NBA (94.5 points per 100 possessions). While the small sample size came up against two expected title contenders and with a mostly redone roster, early results were shocking: The Lakers are 19 for 85 from 3-point range, contributing to their 38 .8% total shots.
The Lakers dominated key categories against the Clippers, impressively winning the turnover battle 23-10 and scoring 21 points on giveaways. At their most impressive, they were accelerating the court on quick-breaking opportunities, staging multiple comebacks from double-digit deficits.
On the other hand, there were still many points on the board: The Lakers missed 23 shot attempts directly after a Clippers turnover or a defensive rebound. Ham acknowledged those misfires that killed the momentum, but said he expects his team to resist.
“I mean, it’s human nature to be disappointed if you get a huge stoppage and you run and the ball buzzes, player against player, the guy shoots it and he doesn’t go down,” he said. -he declares. “Yeah, it stings a bit. But no one is going to feel sorry for you.
The main reason Ham has kept hope for his team is QSQ, a metric that measures the quality of shots based on a number of factors. Ham said after the season-opening loss to Golden State that the Lakers’ shooting quality was the highest of the four teams that played that night, including the Warriors.
But that might be a half-full approach to looking at the problem: According to NBA tracking data, the Lakers have only made 13 of their 58 3-pointers (22.4%) in which a defender is at. 4 feet or more. (“open” or “wide open” according to NBA measurements).
While Westbrook has garnered plenty of attention, especially following his 0-for-11 (0-for-6 deep) night against the Clippers, it’s worth noting that other alleged shooters also failed to deliver. their 3-point attempts. : Patrick Beverley (2 for 11), Lonnie Walker IV (2 for 12) and Kendrick Nunn (3 for 10). Even James, who shot nearly 36 percent from long range last season, is just 5 of 18.
The team said Thursday that the disappointing percentages haven’t changed the message: keep shooting. Ham’s system of four out, one in depends partly on the threat of the outside shot.
“We probably took a few bad shots, but that’s part of the game,” said Walker, who scored a game-high 26 points while shooting 9 of 21 overall. “We are only human. We cannot be perfect. But this is only the second game. I think as the season progresses we will find our rhythm as a team and we will connect.
That might give the Lakers more confidence if that was the only issue.
Especially against the Clippers, the Lakers also felt their lack of depth on the wing. It only got worse with an injury to Troy Brown Jr., who has already missed preseason and the first two games. Matt Ryan, who earned the last spot on the roster the weekend before the season started, played 12½ minutes. Against the 6-foot-7, 225-pound Kawhi Leonard, the Lakers have most often deployed 6-3 Westbrook and 6-6 Juan Toscano-Anderson, both of whom are at least 15 pounds lighter.
The Southern California News Group has confirmed that Moe Harkless, a 10-year veteran who was recently waived by Houston, practiced Wednesday for the Lakers, who plan to strengthen their wing defense (The Athletic was the first to report the meeting).
The most attention, of course, is directed at Westbrook, who couldn’t hit a shot at a time when notable NBA voices weigh in on his apparent lack of joy on the court. But Westbrook competed defensively with five interceptions, which was enough for James to rally support behind his beleaguered teammate.
“I had bad nights shooting. Everyone in this league has had bad nights shooting. Who cares?” said James. “I think he played a great game. Defensively, he was in tune. He was locked up. He pushed the tempo. … He just didn’t shoot. And it’s good. But flush it down the toilet and get ready for Sunday.
The Lakers might be able to flush it out in the future – but fans might not be so forgiving without a quick turnaround.
California Daily Newspapers