The recent slide in performance experienced by the Los Angeles Lakers has been quite the contrast compared to the fun, exciting times at the beginning of the season. Their defense has disappeared, and now, the Lakers are finding ways to collapse late in games and rob themselves of wins.
There are plenty of directions to point an accusatory finger in, but the bottom line is that the team as a whole just hasn’t been playing at the level that they are capable of. Perhaps most frustrating is watching their style of play change as the clock ticks away. Late in the second half, they tend to resort to isolation plays rather than sticking to the ball movement that they typically have success with in the first half. Rookie Brandon Ingram recognizes the problem and mentioned it on Spectrum SportsNet, via Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters:
Brandon Ingram’s assessment on Lakers play towards end of games: "Lose our focus don’t play as unselfish as we do in the 1st half” (on SPSN)
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 23, 2016
This phenomenon isn’t something that’s unique to the Lakers. Many young teams struggle to close out games, often resorting to poor shots taken under duress because they focus more on running the clock rather than finding a good look. Ironically, a strategy used to prevent an opponent from catching back up winds up providing the opportunity for them to do just that.
It’s also strange that the Lakers troubles appear to have flip-flopped. At the beginning of the season, they started games slowly, then battled back in a race against the clock. Now, roles are reversed, with Los Angeles jumping out to big leads and then slowly squandering them until they find themselves behind when the final whistle blows.
It won’t be easy, but the challenge before them is to find a way to play at a consistent level for an entire game.