After a rough 0-5 start, the Los Angeles Lakers seemed to be turning a corner with back-to-back wins. While the team’s outside shooting has struggled, their defense has been one of the best in the league which has allowed them to stay in games.
Friday night was a role reversal for the Lakers though as they actually 48.2% from the field and 42.3% from 3, scoring 116 points. With the way the Lakers have been defending, normally that type of offensive output would lead to a win but that was not the case in this one as the Utah Jazz could not miss, scoring 130 points of their own to beat L.A.
Darvin Ham is known to be a defense-first head coach so it is not surprising that he was not pleased with how his team performed on that end against Utah.
“We took a huge step backward tonight,” Ham said after the game. “Giving up 75 points in the first half, giving them at least three 30-plus point quarters. We can’t play like that. We were good during different small stretches, but the overall picture that was painted by us defensively, sucks. And we’ll address it to film, practice. And we’ll get together tomorrow and do deep dive on why things were the way they were tonight.
“That’s got to be in your DNA. And it’s a process to get it to be that way. You want to defend at a high level night in and night out. It’s not comfortable. But it’s fun. It has to be fun. You have to enjoy getting stops, holding teams to one possession, rebounding the ball … whether you retrieve the ball or not. Just the little things that, again, keep the ball in front of you. Getting out in the stance, spreading back in transition. We have, unfortunately, a huge laundry list of things we can show him that we’re got to show them tomorrow. … It’s the first game where I felt like we weren’t there defensively.”
While the offense caused reason for Ham and the Lakers to be excited, his focus was on their poor defense and making sure it doesn’t become a theme moving forward.
“It’s one of those things, I tell my team all the time and everybody in the building, we got to have a next-week mentality. But you see a recurring theme. We scored and we’re just trading baskets, get no advantage that way. I can remember a game last year when I was in Milwaukee, same type of deal. Scoring with ease, we ended up having to play Toronto at home had 77 points in the first half, but we gave up 70 and we ended up losing the game. And that’s the thing, our defense can’t change. You can’t control when you got open looks. The jump shot can look like textbook. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the ball is going to go in the basket. Defense is something you can get down and right down to everything. And that’s what we got to focus on. That can’t wait. That can’t wait at all, no matter who’s in the game. No matter who we’re playing.
“We got to scrap, we got to compete, we got to be together. We got to be accountable on that end of the floor specifically. So it’s during the course of the game. You’re seeing it. We trading baskets. We scored 34 points in the first quarter, but we give up more. So it’s like nah, I mean, you can be excited. Like I’ve been saying our offense is going to catch up to our defense, but now our defense can’t regress. And then so I don’t want to be that type of team, where we’re just dependent on making shots to survive. We got to get stops to survive and excel.”
Up next for the Lakers
The Lakers will have a chance to respond on Sunday afternoon when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers. They will then travel to take on the Jazz once again in the second of a back-to-back on Monday.
While the Lakers are still trending in the right direction, those are two difficult matchups that they have to be ready for or they risk falling to 2-8 on the young season.
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