Avery Bradley remembers the time when the Los Angeles Lakers sowed fear among NBA teams, putting on a defensive masterclass night in and night out during the 2019-20 campaign.
Bradley started 44 games for L.A. during the regular season, becoming one of the anchors of the Lakers’ mighty defense that played a key role in their successful title pursuit that year. Los Angeles gave up 107.6 points per game — fourth-fewest in the NBA — and boasted a defensive rating of 106.1, third-best in the league.
But in the current season, the Lakers are one of the worst defenses in the Association. They allow 113.1 points per game, third-most in the NBA.
Bradley has acknowledged L.A. is nowhere near as good on the defensive end as the 2019-20 group.
“It’s a lot different,” he said after the loss to the New York Knicks. “It’s a completely different team. We’re trying to figure out how to complement one another. Not only on the defensive end but on the offensive end as well. We’re figuring it out every single game. One thing I can say is on the defensive end it’s about effort.
“If we make mistakes, we have to go out there and have that mindset to try to play as hard as we can every single possession.”
Bradley then doubled down on his call for more effort in L.A.’s game. He pointed out the Lakers often set themselves up for failure by allowing the rivals to build a sizable advantage before they play with the necessary determination.
“Not only in this game but it’s been a lot of games,” Bradley said. “You can’t just turn it off and on. We’re not good enough yet. We have to go out there like I said and have the mindset from jump ball and play as hard as we can and have each other’s back.
“Whenever you dig a hole like that, we ran out of energy going into the fourth quarter and we just have to be better.”
Los Angeles faced a 17-point deficit in Sunday’s win over the Detroit Pistons. Meanwhile, the Knicks led by as many as 25 points when they beat the Lakers 106-100 on Tuesday.
Russell Westbrook highlights difference in Lakers’ effort after slow start against Knicks
Russell Westbrook impressed against the Knicks, registering a triple-double to lead L.A.’s surge after a dreadful start to the game. Similarly, it was the 2017 NBA MVP who launched the Lakers’ comeback rally against the Pistons two days earlier.
After the loss to the Knicks, Westbrook echoed Bradley’s words about the team’s effort issue.
“They just jumped out and made some shots, we weren’t playing hard enough, simple,” he said. “When we decided to play harder, you saw a significant difference.”
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