Each time the Los Angeles Lakers hit a low point in their tumultuous 2021-22 season, they appear to top themselves shortly after. This has been exemplified perfectly in their last two games, back-to-back losses to the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.
The Lakers had a chance to escape with a win against the Rockets, but Carmelo Anthony missed a potential game-winning shot in the final seconds. The game then went to overtime, where Houston’s younger legs prevailed, dropping the Lakers to an unfathomable 28-37.
Anthony explained what was happening in his mind and in the mind of LeBron James during the final possession in regulation. “I saw Bron going to the basket. I just wanted to get in his eyesight. I thought he had a layup,” Anthony said. “After watching the replay on the bench, he was off balance a little bit.
“I thought Kenyon Martin Jr. did a great job of staying down in the closeout, making me get to the one dribble off of that pass. Just kind of taking me out of rhythm on my shot.”
When asked if the Lakers lack the resilience to win close games against teams like the Rockets, Anthony viewed things through a wider lens.
“I don’t think there’s a lack of resilience. I think we just got to figure out and find ways to win the game,” Anthony said. “It’s that simple. I don’t think it’s anything else. We got to figure out how to win down the stretch, how to win these close games. Not worrying about how we’re not going to lose as opposed we’re going to win the game.”
The Lakers have not been great in crunch time this season, despite being in close games more than any other team this season. The Lakers have played 40 games that the NBA defines as “clutch” games, and they are 18-22 in those games with a minus-1.4 net rating.
Considering overtime losses to teams like the Rockets, and some close losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and other lottery-bound teams, this number is particularly disappointing.
If the Lakers have any hope to turn their season around — or even be competitive in the Play-In Tournament — it starts with having the mental fortitude to win close games. It remains to be seen if the Lakers have that in them this season.
James reiterates commitment to playing out season
Following the loss, James continued to shut down any talks of being sat out for the remainder of the season. Instead, he plans to play as long as he’s healthy enough to do so.
“I would probably be in uniform no matter what,” he said. “No matter if we were nine games below .500 or if we were nine games above .500. It’s all dependent on how it feels. My love for the game and the way I play the game and me suiting up has nothing to do with records and things of that nature. It’s just not me.”
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