The Los Angeles Lakers are gaining momentum in the lead-up to the Play-In Tournament, picking up two important wins over the last week.
Since last Friday, L.A. has beaten the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers while also taking two losses against the Washington Wizards and the Philadelphia 76ers. But even when they were defeated, the Purple and Gold showed signs of improvement in their game, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
The Lakers boasted the third-best offense over the last week, behind the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics. Their scoring made up for defensive vulnerabilities — L.A.’s defense ranked in the bottom-5 during the same stretch — as the Purple and Gold outscored their opponents by 0.7 points per 100 possessions, recording a positive net rating among 15 other teams in the NBA.
“Well, I think our last couple of games our offensive energy has been great,” says Dwight Howard, who scored a team-high 24 points against the 76ers.
“The defensive end, doing a little bit better job. There’s still some areas that we need to clean up, but the fact on the offensive end that we’re actually playing with pace and finishing around the paint and getting to the free-throw line and stuff like that, we’ve got to continue to do that.
“Defensively, they put us in some pretty good situations. We just had to really use our intelligence to try and stop them. They did a good job on the offensive end.”
Howard admits that it took quite a long time for the Lakers to figure things out. But he adds the Purple and Gold have been trying to “play off of each other” and be as effective on the court as they can be — and the 36-year-old center thinks “it’s been working to our favor as of late.”
Regardless of how late in the season the Lakers’ form started to surge, Howard believes they still have something to play for this year.
“I’m never going to give up,” the Lakers’ big man says.
“I don’t think that any of us feel this season is just over with. We’re going to do whatever we can to make it. It’s not been the season that we’ve all wanted, and it took us a real long time to really gel, but there’s nothing that we can do now but just stay positive and keep fighting.
“We got what nine games left? The next nine games just try to do whatever we can to win those games and hopefully the play-in tournament we just really hit our stride and start winning games.”
Frank Vogel was ‘proud’ of Lakers’ performance against 76ers
Head coach Frank Vogel said it was disappointing to see the Lakers lose after putting up a strong fight against the 76ers. However, Vogel said he was “proud” of how his players competed, particularly as they had to play without LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
“We’ve got to win as many games as we can, but you play this game without LeBron [James] and AD, and you compete the way you did, you are proud of the effort and the fight,” he said.
“What you are looking for is signs of life from our group that we’re gonna have a belief and confidence that we’re gonna get in those play-in games, and win in those play-in games. I feel good about where we’re going and where our direction is and where we’re going to be 10 to nine games from now.”