Through six games of the 2021-22 season, the Los Angeles Lakers have simply not played good defense. They rank 28th in the NBA in points allowed 27th in defensive rating, and despite Anthony Davis’ defensive dominance, they are 29th in opponent points in the paint.
All of that leads them to a 3-3 record when — in reality — they could have had five wins by now. Bad defense and effort late in games cost them wins against the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Luckily, their offense has done a remarkable job carrying the load, but their defense cannot continue at this rate if they want to win a championship.
Davis did not shy away from this issue after the Lakers’ win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, starting the discussion by saying that the team currently has a communication issue. “It starts with our communication. We have a lot of different coverages for different guys and we’re just not talking, to be honest.
“We all got to be on the same page. It starts with our communication. We were talking a lot in the fourth quarter and the third. We were able to get the lead and then ultimately get the win, but it starts with our communication on the defensive end.”
But Davis also said that it comes down to energy and effort, and that defense is simpler than the team is making it. “We all know we can’t control a lot of things on the offensive end as far as shots, but we can control our effort and energy and that’s all it takes to play defense and communication.
“And if we can do those three things on a consistent basis, we can be a good defensive team. We were No. 1 two seasons ago and if I’m not mistaken I think we were two last year. We were three? So we were top five.”
The Lakers star big man also complimented the scheme put together by Frank Vogel. “Our scheme works. We just have to be committed to doing it and that takes no energy and no effort to just commit to playing defense. It’s a mindset.”
Yes, the Lakers have been without Talen Horton-Tucker, Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn for the first six games. Their returns should improve things, but Davis doesn’t see that as an excuse, instead saying that the players who are in the lineup just need to give more effort.
Offensively, L.A. is not having many significant issues. They are sixth in offensive rating and third in true shooting percentage as a team. So for them to be among the best teams in the league, the defense doesn’t even have to be top five the way it has been the last couple seasons.
It simply needs to be better than it has been, and it’s a change that starts with Davis in the middle.
LeBron James says defensive issues stem from turnovers
One of the few issues the Lakers have offensively is turnovers. L.A. commits the fifth-most turnovers per game in the NBA, and LeBron James believes it is setting their defense back even more.
“Turnovers. When we don’t turn the ball over, we’re a pretty good team. When we turn the ball over, it definitely takes the sails out of us and we have to do a better job of that, especially me for sure,” James said postgame.
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