While the Los Angeles Lakers were expected to struggle without LeBron James — and Rajon Rondo for that matter — some of the losses in what’s now a 3-7 stretch without the veterans have simply been inexcusable.
Never mind the fact that the Lakers have failed to get out of their own way with sluggish starts to games and poor free throw shooting. They trailed by 17 points in the first quarter to a New York Knicks team that came away from Staples Center with a win to snap a nine-game losing skid.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton said he would remind his team of their performance from that Friday night as they prepared to face the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs were without Larry Nance Jr. and mired in a 12-game losing streak.
JaVale McGee scored the first basket of the game but the Cavaliers largely took over from there. They quickly pulled ahead and stretched their lead out to 15 points on Jordan Clarkson’s 3-pointer with 3:19 remaining in the first quarter.
Walton suggested a lineup change was on the horizon as a means of addressing the Lakers’ slow starts. Lonzo Ball attributed them to a failure to make shots and play adequate defense. Brandon Ingram pointed to a change in mindset.
“We just have to have a hit-first mentality, be ready for every team’s best when they come to Staples Center and just continue to be even more connected,” he said.
“I think when you play the Lakers, you’re going to have that energy and that mental focus to be locked in and ready to go. I think we’ve been taking everybody’s first hit coming in. [Opponents are] ready to play and putting up all types of shots.”
The Lakers have a -19.9 net rating in their last 10 games, which is 28th in the league. Even with the slow start, they were in position to potentially steal the game in the fourth quarter.
Kyle Kuzma’s scoring flurry kept them within striking distance but missed free throws ultimately came back to haunt the team. Whatever the reason behind the Lakers being slow out of the gate, must be solved sooner rather than later.
They have already fallen into a tie with the Utah Jazz for eighth place in the Western Conference standings, and after facing the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, have the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors on the schedule ahead.
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