Through the first 47 games of the 2021-22 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers sit at a measly — and unexpected — 23-24 record and are below league average in offensive rating, defensive rating, and net rating. They sit at the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, seemingly destined for another date with the Play-In Tournament.
Another frustrating loss came on Sunday when the Lakers got thoroughly outworked by the Miami Heat outside of a massive fourth-quarter comeback. Avery Bradley — the only productive starter outside of LeBron James and Russell Westbrook — was instrumental in that comeback.
After the loss, Bradley spoke about what went into that fourth-quarter performance.
“I think the main thing was the intensity. Just a little too late,” Bradley said. “We not only dug a hole for ourselves, but I think when we tried to match their intensity, the referees I would say they weren’t ready for our intensity, it was almost too late when we tried to raise our level of play, but we were able to switch one through five. I feel like it was able to make the game easier for us. … We were to get stops and get out on the offensive end and make plays.”
Overall, Bradley was unhappy with the team’s uneven performance in the Heat loss and throughout the season. “It’s frustrating. … We have to be tied together. I feel like we’re up and down.
“We are not learning from our mistakes and as a veteran team as a team that is looking to go far in the postseason, I feel like we have to correct our mistakes and learn from those. We just have to play better. It’s unfortunate, but tonight I liked our fight, but it was too late like I said.”
Bradley echoed a familiar sentiment when asked what L.A. can do to fix these ongoing issues. “I don’t know. I think a big part of it is just our effort from night to night. I think on this team we have a lot of talented players and we all have to buy into our roles.
“My role is to go out and play hard on defense every single night,” Bradley said. “There’s night’s that I feel like I’m not and I want my teammates to be able to tell me so I can bring that. Malik [Monk] is a scorer. We need him to score every single night. Melo makes shots.”
“I think we have to understand what we can all bring to the team and bring that every single night and put that energy into each other. I feel like we can turn this season around. We can win games, play better more consistently, but it’s going to take that. It’s going to take guys being able to sacrifice, understand what they can bring.”
Everything Bradley is saying about the Lakers is not new. They have been facing struggles with effort and consistency all season long. Every time it feels as though they’ve put something together, it falls apart. L.A. has yet to accumulate a win streak longer than four games this season.
The Lakers certainly hope that Anthony Davis’ return to the lineup — which could happen as soon as Tuesday — fixes some of these issues. To date, James, Westbrook, and Davis have only played together in 15 games.
As they finish out their Grammy road trip, the Lakers have a real chance to build some momentum against high-level opponents. How they respond to this tough stretch could be very telling about their chances in the postseason.
Westbrook admits Heat played harder in win
The Lakers could not scrape together a late comeback to defeat the Heat, and Westbrook also cited early effort as the main reason why. “Just playing harder, that’s it,” Westbrook said of the comeback.
“They were just playing harder than us. When we decided to play hard, you saw a difference. I doesn’t matter in this league what a team runs or what it is, if someone is playing harder than you, you will know right away. And then that’s that. And when we decided to be able to step our intensity up on both sides, rebound the ball, defense, run, play the way we’re supposed to play, then you saw the results.”
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